7 Powerful Ayurvedic Herbs with Great Health Benefits
Formed from two Sanskrit words, ‘ayur' meaning life and ‘veda' – knowledge, Ayurveda is an Indian alternative traditional medicine system believed to help create a balance between the body, mind, and soul. Over the years, this pseudoscientific system has found its way into mainstream medicinal shelves. As proof of this, this alternative treatment's global market value stood at $4.5 billion in 2017 and is expected to increase. Have you ever considered what herbs are often used in these Indian treatments? Find out some here.
The first sighting of the ashwagandha plant dates back to over 6000 years ago in India. It is a small woody plant that bears berries with medicinal properties. Its roots are also notable additions in Ayurvedic preparations. In the scientific world, the Ashwagandha is known as “Withania Somnifera.” In Latin, ‘somnifera' alludes to inducing sleep, but that’ll be discussed in subsequent paragraphs.
This Ayurvedic remedy is classified as a member of the nightshade family. The most important information about its classification is its popularity as an Adaptogen, meaning its herbal properties aid in effectively managing stress in humans. According to medical research, the Ashwagandha has properties that drastically reduce the stress hormone Cortisol. Although its scientific name indicates a predisposition to induce sleep, there’s no known evidence yet to prove that fact.
Nonetheless, in traditional Indian settings, this herb is believed to improve sleep, especially among persons with anxiety disorders. Regarding fertility, it’s instrumental in boosting male sexual potency. People with diabetes also attest to its ability to lower blood sugar levels. Additionally, it reduces inflammation, improves brain function and enhances muscle growth. With this information, it's impossible to ignore ashwagandha uses and health benefits to the human body.
Contrary to popular belief, this herbal spice is not only restricted to food preparation. Cumin is an earthy spice native to India and known for its intense flavor. In Ayurveda, it aids in the proper digestion of foods, purifies the blood, cleanses the skin, and relaxes the muscles. Two main characteristics of Cumin are its drying and warming effects. This herb or spice is made from the Cuminum cyminum seeds, which are distinctly spicy and nutty.
According to some American and European medical research, Cumin's medicinal properties act on the body's digestive enzymes, which in turn, expedites bile release from the liver. Because bile plays a significant role in food digestion, Cumin further doubles its ability to break down fats in the digestive tract safely. That explains why most Ayurvedic medicines that target indigestion issues contain Cumin.
Moreover, its positive ripple effect extends to relieving bloating and minimizing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. This wonder herb also improves insulin sensitivity, making it an excellent supplementary drug for persons with Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, it burns off bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing HDL. This dual function makes it a potent herb that helps to minimize the chances of developing heart diseases.
This spice is also known as the Indian Gooseberry or Amla and is sourced from fruit trees native to India’s tropical areas. The Amalaki is highly regarded in alternative Indian medicine because it possesses five of the six known Ayurvedic flavors. They’re sour, bitter, and astringent, while the remaining two are sweet and aromatic.
These tastes make the Amalaki a holistic fruit providing the perfect balance for the doshas (forces believed in making up the human body). Regarding its health benefits, the Amalaki boosts the immune system and promotes internal organ function. Amla berries contain antioxidants that contribute to fighting chronic health conditions as well. Moreover, they’re rich in Vitamins E, C, A, Calcium, and Iron. Ayurvedic supporters believe the Amla is an elixir.
This herbal plant dates back to ancient Egypt, when they found the seeds in Tutankhamen's tomb. Fenugreek comes from the same family as soy and can be used in its natural state, dried or boiled. However, in Ayurvedic treatments, the Fenugreek is notable for its ability to increase breastmilk production in nursing mothers. In traditional Indian settings, new mothers boil the Fenugreek seeds and drink them as herbal tea rather than supplements.
In Ayurveda, Fenugreek is believed to spark an internal fire which subsequently eliminates the cold. For unknown reasons, this bitter herb tends to concentrate its warmth only in the lower half of the body. Perhaps, that explains its cleansing and calming effects on the kidneys, lower back, legs, and pelvic areas. Despite its therapeutic effects on the lower regions, it aids in expelling excess mucous from the body as well.
Indian frankincense or Olibanum are other names the Boswellia serrata tree goes by. The Boswellia plant is spicy with a woody aroma which gives it a distinctive look. This herb remains one of the topmost ingredients in Ayurvedic medicines and acts as a barrier against Leukotrienes (inflammation-causing chemicals in the body). Indeed, it’s as potent as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs but with fewer (and almost non-existent) side effects.
During Ayurvedic treatments, Boswellia herbs are boiled and drank as a remedy to improve mobility in persons suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Again, due to its antioxidant properties, it fights against gingivitis and other oral infections. On the other hand, in people living with Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis, this herb helps improve digestion. Boswellia contains an acid that acts as an anti-inflammatory agent in the lungs., making it an excellent choice in improving breathing in Asthmatic patients.
Although it has other beneficial purposes, this perennial creeping herb is used specifically to treat neurological disorders. It goes by several names; water hyssop, Bacopa Monnieri, thyme-leaved gratiola, etc. The Brahmi thrives in wet environments and even underwater, and its leaves are regarded as pure with potent medicinal value. Some of its medicinal benefits on the brain are:
- Enhances memory and concentration
- Refines the nervous system
- Minimizes ADHD symptoms such as impulsiveness.
This herb targets free radicals in the body usually linked to chronic ailments, due to its antioxidant properties. According to science, free radicals are naturally attracted to fat molecules, and through a process called lipid peroxidation, they cause damage to the body. Therefore, with Brahmi herbs, you could say these medicinal plants act as soldiers fighting against invaders.
The Shatavari belongs to the Asparagus family. Affectionately described as the ‘queen of herbs,' this medicinal herb certainly takes the crown in Ayurvedic treatments. Just as the Ashwagandha boosts male fertility, the Shatavari is beneficial to the female reproductive system. This female-friendly herb helps regularize the menstrual cycle, improves female fertility, strengthens the immune system, and relieves stomach acidity.
Furthermore, when taken in moderate doses, it acts as a diuretic. Once again, just like the Ashwagandha, Shatavari herbs are adaptogens, making it a stress-relieving herb coupled with all its other great benefits. With its anti-wrinkle properties, it’s understandable why the Shatavari is hailed as a ‘female friendly' herb.
As a precaution, avoid taking any Ayurvedic drug which contains Shatavari if you're already on other diuretic drugs. Ingestion of this herb can affect the normal functioning of other medications you're already on. Therefore, as with all other medicines, always seek clearance from a certified physician before consuming them.
Ayurvedic herbs drive the efficacy of this alternative Indian medicinal treatment. Unfortunately, these drugs’ effectiveness makes users assume that’s all it takes to correct a health problem. Unfortunately, that’s not so; Ayurvedic treatments employ a holistic approach to work properly. You’ll need to combine a good diet, regular exercising, and an appreciable lifestyle change to facilitate this alternative treatment.