Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants - Some Useful Herbs
Looking for information on some common Ayurvedic medicinal plants?
Ayurveda literally translated meaning the "science of life". The medical system originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, (about the same time as yoga, which is an integral part of a complete Ayurvedic lifestyle) and stands as the world's oldest continuously practiced medical system.
Ayurvedic practitioners use a wide range of medicinal plants in healing remedies, in addition to specific dietary practices, detoxification processes, yogic philosophies, and various hands-on therapies to bring about an individual's complete health and vitality. One should keep in mind that a successful Ayurvedic lifestyle entails a holistic approach, encompassing not only the physical, but the spiritual and mental aspects as well.
Likewise, remedies may differ based upon an individual's unique mind-body type, or prakriti, which is a combination of the doshas (the Kapha-Vata-Pitta elements you may be familiar with if you have read about Ayurveda before) that each individual has at conception. And one's vikriti (the imbalance of doshas that comes with daily living) will influence which herbs to take when.
The Ayurvedic medicinal plants and herbs listed include several that can be used for a variety of treatments, and to restore balance to the system regardless of an individual's prakriti. As with the purchase of any health product, be sure to purchase from reputable suppliers, preferably selling remedies that have been grown using sustainable farming methods. The environments of many Ayurvedic medicinal plants and herbs have been drastically reduced in recent years, so this caution is especially applicable. The products should be 100% organic as well.
This list includes the most commonly available Ayurvedic medicinal plants and herbs in the West, readily purchased through a variety of holistic and Ayurvedic health suppliers.
Ayurvedic medicinal plants and herbs
Amalki (Embilica officinalis)
Also called Indian gooseberry, amalaki balances all three doshas, and can be used as arejuvenator, aphrodisiac (India originated the Kama Sutras, so it is hardly surprising that many of the prized Ayurvedic medicinal plants have this characteristic), brain and heart tonic, and skin disorder remedy. The equivalent of Indian ginseng, amalki has antioxidant effects, has approximately 20 times the vitamin C of a lemon, and cleanses the liver and arteries.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
With its beneficial influence on the nervous system, this remedy successfully treats chronic stress and fatigue. People who have difficulty concentrating and generally feel unbalanced or ungrounded benefit from taking this supplement. One can mix it with warm milk before bedtime to eliminate insomnia and anxiety. Ashwagandha also has been reputed to work as a rejuvenative in conditions of nerve and muscle weakness. Ayurvedic healers often prescribe it to men and women who are having trouble with fertility. The Sanskrit name of this Ayurvedic medicinal plant means "sweat of the stallion", so that should give you an idea of its legendary powers inspiring vitality and strength.
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)
A nervine tonic, diuretic, sedative, brahmi can be useful in the treatment of depression, as well as mental fatigue.
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
Also called Indian pennywort, gotu kola can be likened to gingko biloba in Western herbal medicine. The leaves of the herb resemble the cerebellum, and Ayurvedic healers use it to improve concentration, alertness, and memory retention. Students often take it in India as they prepare for final exams. It also works well in treating stress or emotional distress. Some women also take it to treat cellulite and varicose veins.
Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)
This herb has only recently come to the Western market. It is usually a component of Ayurvedic formulas designed to enhance immunity and modify a person's response to stress. Its traditional role has been in the treatment of infectious illnesses, ranging from colds to syphilis.
This Ayurvedic medicinal plant has a detoxifying as well as rejuvenating effect. Guduchi is often a component of formulas used in the treatment of chronic skin disorders such as psoriasis. It is also useful for acne and is reputed to be one of the best herbal medicines for gout.
Boswellia, also called Salai Guggal (Boswellia serrata)
An antiarthritic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory, Boswellia is an Ayurvedic herb known as Indian frankincense, traditionally used to treat disorders of the digestive system, respiratory ailments, and joint diseases. Clinical studies are now confirming that many of the traditional uses for the Ayurvedic herb Boswellia, including treatment of asthma, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases. From an Ayurvedic perspective, Boswellia treats a variety of health concerns. It is said to have stimulating properties, can help mobilize and help eliminate phlegm in respiratory conditions, and treats digestive upsets, from heart-burn to diarrhea. This Ayurvedic herb is also part of several obesity formulas designed to enhance metabolic activity and rapidly lose weight safely and naturally.
Shatavari herb Asparagus racemosus
A galactogogic, antispasmodic, antidiarrhetic, and demulcent, shatavari is one of the prime rejuvenating herbal medicines in Ayurveda. It is considered particularly helpful in conditions affecting the female reproductive system, including infertility. One of its names means "having one hundred husbands", which highlights its reputation as a fertility enhancing plant. A member of the same family as the common asparagus, shatavari has many nutritive properties. It cools an irritated digestive system and relieves heartburn, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. Nursing mothers often use it to improve the production of breast milk. The soothing effect of this Ayurvedic medicinal plant will heal inflammatory conditions or irritated tissues, and its cooling influence can reduce the occurrence of hot flashes in menopausal women.
Shikakai means "fruit for hair" and is a traditional shampoo used in India. This Ayurvedic medicinal plant is made from Acacia concinna, a shrub native to central and south India.
Triphala, formulated by Ayurvedic physicians thousands of years ago, can be considered the most effective colon tonics by most health care practitioners. Triphala's mild, non-addictive, cleansing effect makes it much easier and safer to use than many other colon prescriptions. Triphala consists of three potent healing herbs:
- Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), a great rejuvenator and a strong natural antioxidant, also helps to boost the immune system and balances Pitta (one of the three doshas, or elements).
- Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), a classic heart-brain-longevity tonic, and often depicted in the extended palm of the Buddha. Prescribed to balances Vata (the air dosha).
- Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica), a powerful rejuvenative that reduces heart and liver disease, and can also improve speech and vision. It is also used to promote hair growth and to balance Kapha (the last of the three elements).
Demulcent, expectorant, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, anthelminthic. Also called Holy Basil, and an herb sacred to Hindus.
The following is a more comprehensive list of Ayurvedic medicinal plants or herbs in the West.
- Ajwan (Apium graveolens) also known as wild lettuce.
- Anantamool (Hemidesmus indicus) also known as Indian Sarsaparilla.
- Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna).
- Ashoka (Saraca indica)
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- Babul or Babool (Acacia nilotica): The bark, fruit and gum resin of Babul are used in various Ayurvedic herbal preparations. Babul bark is used in oral and dental hygiene products, burn injuries and in skin diseases.
- Bala (Sida cordifolia): used for bronchial asthma and nasal congestion
- Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa)
- Bhringaraj or Bhringraj (Eclipta alba )
- Bhumiamla (Plyllanthus amarus)
- Bhumyamalaki (Phyllanthus niruri)
- Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica) -- found in Triphala
- Bilwa (Aegle marmelos)
- Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): nervine tonic, diuretic, sedative
- Chirayata (Swertia chirata)
- Citrak or chitrakmool (Plumbago zeylandica)
- Clover protein concentrate (Trifolium alexandrianum)
- Datura (Datura metal)
- Devadaru (Cedrus deodara)
- Gokshura (Tribulis terrestris)
- Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)
- Guggul (Commiphora mukul )
- Hapusha (Juniperus communis)
- Isabgol (Plantago ovata)
- Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi)
- Kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata)
- Kanchnar (Bauhinia variegata)
- Kantakari (Solanum xanthocarpum)
- Kapikachehha or Kaunch (Mucuna pruriens)
- Katela - Momordica charantia -
- Kumari (Aloe barbadensis)
- Kutaj (Holarrhena antidysenterica) is an Ayurvedic medicinal plant or herb that has alkaloids
- Kutaki or Kutki - Picrorhiza kurroa
- Manjishta (Rubia cordifolia)
- Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica) - Gotu kola
- Meshasringi - Gurmar (Gymnema sylvestre)
- Methi (Trigonella foenum-gracum)
- Mulathi or (Mulethi Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Musta (Cyperus rotundus)
- Neem (Azadiracta indica) or (azadirachta indica): skin disease, blood disease, antibacterial
- Nirgundi (Vitex negundo)
- Noni - Morinda citrifolia
- Pashanbheda (Bergenia ligulata)
- Pippali (Piper longum)
- Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa): this Ayurvedic medicinal plant or herb is a diuretic, expectorant, laxative
- Safed musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum)
- Salai Guggal (Boswellia serrata)
- Sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina)
- Senna (Cassia angustifolia)
- Shankhapushpi (Evolvulus alsinoides) - also spelled Shankhpushpi
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
- Tagar (Valeriana wallichii)
- Tejpatra (Cinnamomum tarnala)
- Triphala: consisting Amalaki (Emblica Officinalis), Haritaki (Terminalia Chebula) and Bibhitaki (Terminalia Belerica)
- Vacha (Acorus calamus): nervine, antispasmatic, sedative, stomachic, expectorant, emetic, laxative, diuretic
- Vasaka (Adhatoda vasica)
- Vidanga (Embelia ribes)
- Vidari (Ipomoea digitata)
- Vilayati imli (Garcinia cambogia)
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