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Ayurveda, Ayurvedic Medicines, and Important Herbs
What is Ayurveda and its importance?
Ayurveda is a traditional holistic medicine. Translated from Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “the science of life”. ayur means “life” and veda means “science”. Indian system that largely depends on the support of plants to form a big chunk of its medicine. Most of the herbs, spices, seeds, roots, leaves, stems, petals and flowers are deeply embedded in every Indian household where “home remedies” are popular. Even some family members in some families are adept at curing even complex disorders by simple and cost effective formulations which at times have shown wonderful and amazing results.
All over the world today we are looking for a natural system of healing which is comprehensive and complete, which is not just a curious form of folk healing, but a real and rational system of medicine which is sensitive to both nature and to Earth. This is exactly what Ayurveda has to offer, as it has a clinical tradition of thousands of years and a comprehensive natural treatment method ranging from diet, herbs and massage.
With Ayurveda we learn the right diet for our individual type, how to improve our immune system, the keys to the proper use of sexual energy and rejuvenation, and a mindful lifestyle that can elevate us to a new level of consciousness in all our endeavors.
Without such natural wisdom as Ayurveda, we could end up not only unhealthy, but also unhappy and spiritually confused.
Principles and theory of Ayurveda
The Ayurvedic system is the main user of herbs and its basic theory revolves around the imbalance and vitiation of the three humors (Doshas).
Ether (Akash), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jal) and Earth (Prithvi) are the five great elements that underlie all living systems. these elements are constantly changing and interacting and can be simplified into three vices (doshas). When these doshas remain in harmony and balance, the health of the body is not disturbed, but when their balance is disturbed, a diseased state sets in.
The three doshas are vata (Wind), Pitta (Bile) and Kapha (Phlegm) and due to the predominance of one dosha, a person’s personality is determined i.e. ‘Vata-Prakriti’ , ‘Pitta-Prakriti’ or ‘Kapha Prakriti’
Vata, formed from ether and air, governs all movements of mind and body and must be kept in proper balance.
Pitta formed from fire and water, governs “all heat, metabolism and transformation of mind and body
Kapha formed from earth and water, cements the elements of the body, providing the material for the physical structure
Each person has an individual blend of all three doshas, with one or sometimes two doshas predominating.
Common herbs used in Ayurvedic medicines
Amalaki (Amla or Indian Gooseberry or Emblica officinalis) – The fruit is reputed to have the highest vitamin C content of any natural substance found in nature. It maintains the balance between the three doshas and effectively controls digestive problems, strengthens the heart, normalizes cholesterol, prevents cancer, builds and maintains the defense mechanism, improves eyesight and detoxifies the body.
Amla is said to have 20 times more vitamin C than an orange. The vitamin C content of amla is between 625 mg and 1814 mg per 100 g. Other studies show that amla increases the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin. A research team has found that when Amla is taken regularly as a dietary supplement, it counteracts the toxic effects of prolonged exposure to environmental heavy metals, such as lead, aluminum and nickel.
Ashwagandha (Winter Cherry or Withania Somnifera)– Ashwagandha is one of the main herbs for promoting ojas and rejuvenating the body in Ayurveda. It is a well-known sperm promoter and it treats impotence and infertility.
Clinical studies show that Ashwagandha has antibacterial, antitumor, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. Strong anti-stress actions, increase memory and learning abilities. It has also been found useful in rheumatic and arthritic disorders like pain, swelling, etc.
In summary, it is a powerful aphrodisiac and has immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-stress properties, which clearly shows why Ayurveda has such a high opinion of this herb as a general tonic.
Arjuna (Terminalia Arjuna) – It is a high quality heart tonic. Terminalia arjuna, has been known to be beneficial for the treatment of heart disease since 500 BC. Clinical research has indicated its usefulness in relieving angina pain and in treating coronary artery disease, heart failure, and possibly high cholesterol.
“Terminalia arjuna bark extract, 500 mg every 8 hours, given to patients with stable angina with provocable ischemia during treadmill exercise, resulted in improved clinical parameters and treadmill exercise versus placebo treatment.” Result on the clinical research conducted.
Improved function of the heart muscle and subsequent improvement in the pumping activity of the heart appear to be the primary benefits of Terminalia Arjuna.
Brahmi (Bacopa, Gotu Kola) – Brahmi is known as “brain food”. Traditionally, Brahmi is used as a mental tonic, to rejuvenate the body, as a memory promoter, and as a nerve tonic. It promotes a calm and clear mind and improves mental function.
Modern research claims that brahmi improves memory and helps overcome the negative effects of stress. Brahmi is particularly suitable for students as it improves the mind’s ability to learn and concentrate and for an elderly person wishing to regain their memory. It is unique in its ability to invigorate mental processes while reducing the effects of stress and nervous anxiety.
As a nerve tonic, Brahmi has been used to help those affected by stroke, nervous breakdown or exhaustion and attention deficit disorder. The best Ayurvedic formulas for the brain and memory contain brahmi, as do many compounds that promote long life.
Guggulu (Shuddha Guggulu, Guggul, Commiphora Mukul) – Modern research shows that it is the main Ayurvedic herb for treating obesity and high cholesterol. Studies show that guggulu lowers serum cholesterol and phospholipids, and it also protects against cholesterol-induced atherosclerosis. Guggulu has been found to decrease body weight in these clinical studies.
Guggulu also has anti-inflammatory properties and is effective in treating arthritis and other joint pains.
Karela (bitter melon, bitter gourd, momordica charantia) – At least three different groups of constituents have been reported to have hypoglycemic actions in Bitter Mellon. These include a mixture of steroidal saponins known as charantin, insulin-like peptides, and alkaloids. Scientific studies have consistently shown that bitter melon lowers type 2 diabetes blood sugar levels.
This could probably reduce the consumption of anti-diabetic drugs by patients. Bitter melon also contains two proteins believed to suppress the AIDS virus.
Recently, the Philippine Department of Health recommended bitter melon as one of the best herbal medicines for diabetes management.
Neem (Azadirachta Indica) – Neem is an amazing blood purifier, good for all skin diseases like acne, eczema, psoriasis and teeth and gums. Neem is included in most Ayurvedic skin products because it is as effective when applied externally as it is for internal indigestion.
In Ayurveda, it has been used safely for over five thousand years and is a good immune booster to prevent colds, fevers, infections and various skin diseases.
Shilajit (Mineral Pitch, Asphalt) – Shilajit is one of the main Ayurvedic compounds for rejuvenating the body. it is an aphrodisiac, anti-aging herb and for treating diabetes and debilitating urinary problems.
The Charaka Samhita states that a person must use shilajit for at least a month before beginning to realize its rejuvenating effects. It is also used to treat impotence and infertility. it is well known that Shilajit would bring people’s libido back to teen level.
There is a folk saying of the indigenous people who live in the Himalayan region that Shilajit makes the body as strong as rock. It is an adaptogen, (Rasayna), which helps with immune disorders, urinary tract disorders, nervous disorders and sexual dissatisfaction.
Shallaki (Boswellia Serrata, Salai Guggul) – Modern research indicates that the herb Boswellia can help with joint mobility, pain, and may be a helpful remedy for a variety of inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. A recent clinical trial suggests positive effects of Boswellia serrata extract in knee osteoarthritis.
Boswellia has also been shown to be helpful for a number of other disorders and best for treating back pain, knee pain, joint pain and arthritis. This herb has also been proposed as a possible therapy for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Triphala (Amalaki, Bibhitaki, Haritaki) – Triphala has the properties of three famous nutrients: amla, haritaki and bibhitaki. The advantage of this formula is that it is gentler in action and more balanced than any of the three alone.
It has a cleansing and detoxifying action. Used regularly, it is good for a gentle and slow detoxification of the digestive tract and then of the deep tissues. It also has the ability to normalize all three moods with continued use.
As a daily supplement, triphala is hard to beat; that’s why in India they say “even if your mother leaves you, everything will be fine if you have triphala”
Tulsi (Holy Basil, Ocimum Sanctum) – Its very name Saint Basil attests to its sacred character. It is a sacred plant revered in many Indian homes and a must in every Hindu’s home.
Holy basil is also a major ingredient in many Ayurvedic cough syrups. it is a good stress reliever, and modern research has found it to be good for respiratory problems, colds, fevers and all types of coughs.
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