Posts Tagged ‘ Ayurveda ’

Jamun (Eugania Jambolana)

Jamun: fruit and medicine

Phalendra means the king of fruits, and that is how jamun is described in the Bhavaprakash Nighantu, Ayurveda’s classical treatise. Described by many names as nandi, rajjambul and surabhipatra, this purple and small fruit, more commonly known as Jambuphalam in Sanskrit, became synonymous with the landmass geographically described in ancient times as Jambudweepa, which included the Indian subcontinent. Botanically known as Eugania Jambolana, its appearance coincides with the season’s first showers.

Ancient exponents of Ayurveda praised the prophylactic and therapeutic properties of jamun and described it as the panacea for summer and monsoon ills. It has been mentioned as a delicious and detoxifying appetiser.

Jamun has properties which prevent excessive urination or sweating and it is also a thirst-retardant and blood-purifier.

Jamun alleviates kapha and pitta and, to top it all, it is a very popular herbal medicines that controls diabetes.

Almost all parts of the jamun tree , such as the bark, the leaves , the fruit and the seed are known to possess medicinal properties. The bark is acrid and bitter in taste and is a very good astringent. It is used in diarrhoea and dysentery and also in conditions where the patient passes blood-mixed stool. The ash of the jamun leaves is an essential ingredient of many popular tooth powders and is a very effective remedy for spongy gums. Its fragrance helps cure bad breath.

The jamun fruit has more varied uses than any other part of the tree. its fruit is largely eaten raw and its peculiar pulp leaves a dark purple tinge on the tongue for several hours. Apart from containing oxalic and tannic acids and certain alkaloids, it is also rich in carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. The ripe fruit is a carminative, digestive, coolant and liver stimulant. The jamun vinegar has similar properties. As a home remedy, jamun is used in a number of conditions.

Here are a few tips:

People in the countryside use 10 to 20 ml juice of jamun leaves to control non-specific epistaxis ( nasal bleeding). The same juice is effective in the case of nausea and vomiting caused by indigestion and gastritis.

Due to its astringent properties, its bark is used in ulcerative colitis. Taking one gram of its dried powder along with the bark of the kutaj tree twice a day controls stool frequency and also helps reduce bleeding from intestinal ulcers.

The ash of jamun leaves mixed with an equal amount of the ash of hard almond shell makes an excellent manjan. Its regular use strengthens the teeth by checking bleeding and gum infection. To curb bad breath, a little peppermint can be mixed in this tooth powder.

Jamun seeds are used to control diabetes since time immemorial. After being powdered, they can be used independently or with any other antidiabetic medicine.

The famous Basant Kusmaker Rasa, if used with one gm of powder of jamun seeds, besides controlling the frequency of urine, helps in lowering the sugar level both in urine and blood. However, unripe jamun should not be eaten. Overeating of ripe jamun can cause hyperacidity and retention of gas in the abdomen. To counter these conditions half teaspoonful of the roasted jeera powder and a pinch of black salt should be taken with warm water.


Neem (Azadirachta Indica)

Neem: Nature’s pharmacy

THE medicinal properties of neem have been known to Indians since time immemorial. The earliest ayurvedic literature refers to the benefits of all parts of this majestic tree — fruit, leaf, bark, flower and root. Its scientific name, azadirachta indica, has been derived from the Persian word azadiracht-e-hind which means a freely growing tree of India. Due to its immense utility to mankind, today the saga of neem has spread to the far corners of the globe.

Ayurvedic texts describe neem as tikta and kashaya ( bitter and astringent) in taste and laghu and sheet a ( light and cold) in effect. It allays kapha and pitta but aggravates vata. Modern studies have resulted in finding various alkaloids, volatile oils, tannin and traces of calcium, potassium and iron in it. Neem seeds yield a non-volatile oil which is of high medicinal value.

Bhava Mishra, the ancient ayurvedic scholar, has attributed different properties to the various parts of the neem tree. While , in general, neem has been described as an anti-pyretic, an anthelmenthic and a blood purifier, its bark is cool, astringent and the healer of wounds.

Neem leaves are carminative, anti-bacterial and anti-diabetic. Its fruits are bitter and have purgative, anti-haemorrhodal and anthelmenthic properties whereas the flowers and seeds are an antacid and a blood purifier respectively. The use of neem oil is indicated in a wide range of skin disorders.

Neem has also fascinated the exponents of modern medicine and it has become a subject of scientific research in many parts of the world. Although it has proved to be an excellent upkeeper of the environment, an effective pesticide and a useful element in veterinary medicine, modern studies have come close to the findings of ayurvedic seers regarding its benefits for human health. The use of neem is indicated in a number of diseases ranging from fever, skin troubles, acidity, piles and liver diseases to conjunctivitis, alopecia and certain fungal and viral afflictions. Since neem also has spermicidal properties, experiments are being carried out to use it as dependable contraceptive.

Neem has been an indispensable part of our home remedies for ages. Here are some simple ways to use it in everyday life.

Boil neem leaves in water and add it to the bathing water along with rose water for relief for itching, excessive perspiration etc.

Use pure neem oil mixed with coconut and sandalwood oil for treating hairfall, premature greying, lice infestation, dandruff and other scalp infections. For acne, pimples and skin infections, apply neem leaf powder mixed with water to the affected area.

Chewing four or five neem leaves regularly helps in cases of hyperacidity and diabetes. In jaundice, taking on an empty stomach 10 to 20 ml of juice of neem leaves along with one teaspoonful of honey for seven days is beneficial.

While in the sophisticated market the use of the active principles and extracts of neem in soaps, shampoos and tooth pastes is not new, one can see persons regularly using simple neem twigs living a very healthy life. Classical ayurvedic literature mentions a large number of neem formulations. Apart from the famous Nimbadi Churna, there is another formulation known as Panchnimb Churna which contains all the five parts of the tree.

An Introduction to Neem Rasayana

Neem, also known as nimba or margosa, is regarded by the ancients and modern science alike as a powerful healing herb with diverse applications. Described in the Ayurvedic texts as sarva roga nivarini—that which keeps all diseases at bay or arishtha—reliever of disease—Neem has been used in the Ayurvedic tradition for thousands of years to maintain health. The roots, bark, gum, leaves, fruit, seed kernels and seed oil are all used in therapeutic preparations for both internal and topical use.

Specific benefits of Neem

Neem is regarded as a powerful supporter of the body’s natural defense mechanisms. Thus it helps support natural immunity, and helps protect the body from free radical damage. Free radicals have been implicated in a number of diseases as well as premature aging.

Because it offers the bitter and astringent tastes, Neem is especially helpful for balancing Pitta and Kapha doshas.

Neem leaves are regarded by Ayurvedic healers as an effective internal cleanser. Neem leaves have a powerful purifying effect on the blood and help cleanse the liver and skin of toxins. Neem leaf tea with a dash of honey can help soothe a dry irritated throat.

Neem bark is cooling and astringent, and is particularly helpful when taken internally for Pitta-related issues such as excess stomach acid and premature thinning and graying of the hair. It is also helpful in alleviating tiredness and helps maintain oral health, including healthy gums. Externally, Neem bark has been used for centuries by people in India to clean the teeth and gums. It helps maintain oral health and purifies the breath because of its anti-bacterial property.

Neem’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties have been well known for centuries and find extensive application today in soaps, shampoos and other skin formulations.

Neem is regarded as a twacha rasayana in the Ayurvedic literature—an herb that is excellent for the skin. Neem has a purifying and clarifying effect, drawing out excess oil and smoothing out blemishes, so it’s wonderful for persons with Kapha (earth or water predominant) skin. It is also soothing for dry, irritated skin when combined with Aloe Vera or rose water. Because its cooling nature, Neem is also helpful for Pitta-related skin inflammation.

Neem also helps maintain healthy nails. Neem oil can help restore damaged cuticles or brittle or yellowed nails with regular use. Taking Neem internally also helps keep skin, hair and nails healthy. In addition to maintaining the color and strength of hair, Neem can also help with a dry, flaky scalp and lice. Mix a few drops of pure Neem oil with a base oil such as coconut for Pitta and sesame for Kapha and apply comfortably warm oil to the scalp, covering the hair strands as well. Wrap your hair in a warm towel and leave on overnight or for as long as you can before you shampoo.

Neem is also regarded as chakshushya—an herb that is good for the eyes.

With so many therapeutic applications, little wonder that Neem has been called “the village pharmacy” in India and is gaining increasing attention from researchers all over the world.

– Shreelata Suresh
November 7, 2004

Disclaimer: The above article is educational in nature, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, please consult your physician.
Shreelata Suresh is a yoga instructor from the Bay Area, and she writes on yoga and Ayurveda for different publications.

Guduchi, Giloy (Tinospora Cordifolia)

Glad with giloy

GILOY is a well-known name in Ayurvedic medicine. It has references in the Ramayana and the Durga Saptashati. Almost all ancient acharyas of Ayurveda have studied and analysed its remarkable healing properties and called it amrita (nectar).

Giloy is famous for its usefulness to man by its conduct of strengthening the immune system and keeping the functioning of various body organs in a balanced state. Due to these unique properties, it continues to get an exalted status and trust and respect from physicians and patients.

Known by many names in Sanskrit such as gaduchi and kundalini and scientifically called Tinospora cordifolia, its climber is a common sight in the countryside of tropical India. Growing spirally and clinging on to big trees, and sometimes even to electricity poles, it throws aerial roots, gradually covering the host. The stem and leaves of giloy are of medicinal importance.

Its chemical composition consists of various alkaloids, glucocides, fatty acids and volatile oils. Ayurvedic texts describe it as bitter and astringent in taste and heavy, unctuous and hot in effect. It pacifies all the three doshas. Vaidyas accustomed to the practice of pharmacology apply a specific method to derive a starch-like substance from the pieces of its stem which is known as satva (extract). This satva has the same properties but is considered to be cold in effect.

The medicinal plant has been described as an anti-pyretic and anti-arthritic, a stomachic, a blood purifier, a nutritive agent and a bitter tonic. It is useful in fever, rheumatism, gout, dyspepsia and urinary diseases. It is also an immuno-modulator, an anti-oxidant, a rejuvenator and a restorative tonic. Being an efficacious drug, and because of its abundant and easy availability, giloy is a household name. Some of its common uses are as under:

Chronic and intermittent fever: Its watery extract is known as Indian quinine. Taking 10 to 20 ml of it twice a day is an effective home remedy in non-specific febrile conditions.

Rheumatoid arthritis: As an immuno-modulator giloy is well-known for its recuperative role in the treatment of RA. Many acharyas have written that taking one gram each of the powder of giloy and sonth twice a day along with the chosen guggul preparation is a simple and effective treatment of amavata.

Gout and raised uric acid: There is no better herb than giloy to lower the raised level of the uric acid. Patients of gout can regularly take 20 ml fresh juice of giloy (stem and leaves). A decoction of dry giloy and gorakhmundi is an excellent adjuvant. Kaishore guggul is another medicine for gouty arthritis.

Acid dyspepsia: Take half a gram of giloy satva with a piece of amla murabba daily on an empty stomach. It is also a very good medicine for the burning hand and feet syndrome. Diabetics can take it in one gram of dry powder of amla.

General weakness: During convalescence, the use of giloy satva expedites the normal functioning of the body. It is a drug of choice in a number of other problems like the malfunctioning of the liver, urinary tract ailments and sexual diseases. It gives excellent results as an anti-oxidant and herbal rasayana.

Giloy is used in countless classic Ayurvedic formulations. Nowadays, more and more multinational pharmaceutical companies are in the race for coming up with new-fashioned derivatives of giloy. But none of these segregated extracts should be confused with or compared to the composite use and broad efficacy of the traditional giloy satva.

Jatamansi (Nardostachys Grandiflora, Nardostachys jatamansi) (Spikenard)

Jatamansi: The psychotropic drug of Ayurveda

WHILE classifying the diseases according to adhishthana (place of origin), sages of Ayurveda have broadly put them in two types: sharirik (physical) and manasik (mental). Apart from the medicines which act on different systems of the human body, there are various herbs which have been described in the texts as sangyasthapaka and manasdoshhar a (psychotropic). Jatamansi is the foremost of these herbs.

Found at high altitudes in the Himalayas and also known as sulomasa, bhutjata and tapaswini in Sanskrit, Jatamansi truly resembles the uncombed hair of an ascetic. It has been described as a combination of three tastes — bitter, astringent and sweet. Jatamansi is light, unctuous, sharp and cold in effect and it alleviates all the three doshas, specially kapha and pitta. Its chemical composition consists of a volatile oil and two alkaloids besides an acid which is known as jatamansic acid.

Jatamansi is famous for its soothing and sedative action on the central nervous system. With an Ayurvedic perspective, pranavata is an important depiction of vata dosha which is responsible for all mental functioning and giving tone and tenor to emotions whether negative or positive.

Jatamansi is the most effective herb for putting an end to its imbalance. It is also an anti-convulsant, a memory booster and a brain tonic. In addition, Jatamansi has carminative, anti-spasmodic, diuretic and emmenogogue (that which promotes the menstrual discharge) properties.

Since ancient times, Ayurvedic physicians are using Jatamansi in a number of diseases like unmad (insanity), apasmar (epilepsy) and yoshapsmar (hysteria). Due to its sedative action it is very effective in chronic anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraine and tension headaches. In the menopausal syndrome it is used in combination with other nervine tonics.

Jatamansi is also effectively used as an aromatic and cosmetic herbal drug to promote and protect skin health. Here are some of its common uses .

n In chronic anxiety and depression, mix one gram of the Jatamansi powder, 250 mg each of akik, jaharmohra and praval pishtis and 60 mg of mukta pishti. Regularly taking it twice a day controls hyper excitement and anxiety. This formulation is effective not only in restlessness and palpitation but also in mild hypertension.

n To counter stressful conditions, take 2 grams of ashwagandha powder along with half a gram each of the powders of jatamansi and brahmi. Taking it twice a day, preferably with milk, is a good recipe for treating depression, insomnia, nervous exhaustion and psychological upheavals of the menopausal phase.

n Patients of migraine and tension headache can try powders of jatamansi and pipplamoola, one gram each, added with half a gram of godanti bhasma twice a day for a couple of weeks.

Various classic Ayurvedic medicines such as mansyadi qwath and rakshoghna ghrit contain jatamansi as the main ingredient. The short-term therapeutic use of Jatamansi is generally safe but its prolonged use may need observation by a physician.

Vacha (Acorus Calamus)

Vacha: brain tonic

VACHA is one of the most renowned herbs used for mental disorders and diseases of the nervous system. In Sanskrit vacha literally means speaking. It is a strongly aromatic, semi-aquatic perennial herb with a ginger-like stem which spreads into the ground. This rhizome part of the plant is of medicinal use.

Vacha (botanically known as Acorus calamus; Hindi — Bach) is one of the rare medicines which find mention in the Vedas. Laterday acharyas worked to find more of its benefits not only to the brain and the nervous system but also to other parts of the body. It has been described as bitter and pungent in taste and hot, sharp, dry and light in effect. It alleviates kapha and vata but aggravates pitta. Dry rhizomes of vacha contain a yellow aromatic oil which is volatile. It also has a bitter substance known as acorin.

In the ayurvedic system vacha is used as a nervine tonic and an anti-stammering drug. Experimental studies have shown that it is a potent psycho-pharmacological agent having a positive effect on the memory and the learning process. Many ancient texts have described vacha as an anti epileptic and anti-hysteric herb. It is also known to possess carminative, digestive, diuretic and mildly sedative properties.

Though as a psychotropic medicine vacha is beneficial in cases of anxiety and depression, it is best used as a nervine tonic.

Ayurvedic texts suggest that it is the premium herb to be used in cases of mental retardation, stupor, syncope and epilepsy. It is helpful in many other problems like anorexia, chronic gas trouble, hypertension, sluggishness of the liver — and also in skin diseases. As a household remedy some of the common uses of vacha are as under:

Combine in equal amounts the powders of vacha, shankhpushpi and brahmi. Half a teaspoonful of this powder mixed with one teaspoonful of honey, if taken daily, is a good adjunct in the cases of epilepsy and mental retardation. Taking with warm water, half a pinch of the vacha powder works well in the loss of appetite, flatulence, distaste, dull abdominal pain and worms. It is a herb of choice to be used in the case of loud eructations.

The powder of vacha and white sandal makes a very effective face-pack in the treatment of blemishes and pimples. In many Indian homes, customarily, vacha is administered with honey in a minute quantity to infants on the 11th and 21st days of birth. It is believed that this practice helps the child to be mentally active and vocal.

Classic ayurvedic formulations like sarswatarishta and sarswata churna contain vacha as the chief ingredient and are used for the promotion of memory and also in the treatment of many psychiatric problems. As a single drug, the dose of vacha powder is 125 mg to 500 mg. Its overdose can induce vomiting and such a situation can be managed by giving the powder of saunf with lime water. Different varieties of vacha are available in the market, but the best of them is known as ghorha bach.

Kali Mirch (Piper Nigrum) (Black Pepper)

Black pepper – spice and medicine

The western world knows black pepper only as a condiment but in India it is also one of the foremost indigenous medicines. Known as Marich in Sanskrit and Piper nigrum scientifically, its popular name is kali mirach. Black pepper is a native of the Western Ghats. In the medieval era its fame as a spice attracted traders from all parts of the world. Nowadays, it is cultivated in other tropical countries also.

Right from the writings of Charaka and Sushruta to the works of other acharyas, black pepper has been amply described in almost every ayurvedic text. It is pungent in taste and light, sharp and hot in effect. It placates vata and kapha but aggravates pitta. The modern analysis of black pepper shows it as consisting of a volatile oil, a few alkaloids besides moisture, protein, minerals, fibre and carbohydrates. Rich in vitamin B-complex, it contains traces of calcium, iron and phosphorus.

Carminative, stimulant, aromatic, digestive, diuretic, tonic and anti-coagulating agent — this how the curative properties of black pepper have been described in Ayurveda. It excites the salivary and sweat glands besides killing intestinal worms and propelling a downward movement of abdominal wind.

Black pepper is also one of the few herbs which Ayurveda describes as pramathi (helping to open obstructions in different channels of the body).

Black pepper has been used for various health problems. Starting from common cough and cold, sinusitis and bronchitis to indigestion, distension of the abdomen, colic and conditions involving sluggishness of the liver, black pepper is used singularly and also in combination with other herbs. Though in almost every Indian home black pepper is present as an important culinary item, given below are some simple tips to gain its medicinal benefits.

To promote appetite and allay distension, a quarter teaspoonful of the powders of both black pepper and white jeera should be taken with butter milk an hour before lunch. Pepper is beneficial in the treatment of cold and fever. In the case of acute running nose accompanied by a headache and bodyache, taking for two or three days warm milk boiled with a pinch of the powders of pepper and turmeric is a tried home remedy. Pepper powder and common salt are an excellent dentifrice, which prevents dental caries, foul breath and painful gums.

Ayurvedic texts says that after mixing black pepper, dry ginger and piper longum (pippali or magh) in equal parts a distinctive combination is achieved which is known as trikatu. Having multiple uses like triphala, trikatu is the drug of choice for diseases like sinusitis, bronchitis, indigestion, urticaria, obesity and many other kapha and vata disorders. To be avoided in severe acidity, it can be taken mixed in honey in a dose of one to two grams twice a day.

There are numerous classic medicines showing the use of black pepper, including the famous Marichyadi Tailam, which is applied externally in various skin diseases. As a single drug dose of black pepper is half to one gram and to counter any troublesome effect, desi ghee is considered to be its anti-dote.

Erand (Ricinus Communis)

The wonder shrub (ricinus communis)

ERAND is an ordinary-looking tall shrub that sometimes grows to the height of a small tree. Known as gandharva hasta in Sanskrit and ricinus communis botanically, the plants are usually seen growing wild near habitations and wasteland. But these are also cultivated as a commercial crop. Though the oil of erand which is known as castor oil is largely used as medicine, the leaves and the root of the plant also possess curative properties.

One of the foremost herbs to treat vata disorders, erand has been mentioned in almost all the ancient ayurvedic texts. It has been described as sweet and pungent in taste but hot, sharp and heavy in effect. The seed of the plant, which yield the oil contain alkaloid ricinine and toxalbumine ricin. All over the world, castor oil is commonly used as a safe purgative.

The oil has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and carminative properties. However, in Ayurveda, it is best known for its anti-rheumatic action. It is also used in a number of diseases like the Sciatica-Lumbago Syndrome, paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, constipation and many skin problems. Here are a few tips indicating its common use in different diseases:

Rheumatism: The use of castor oil forms the basic treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in ayurveda. In its early stage taking 10 to 20 ml of castor oil and two grams of the powder of dry ginger with a cup of warm milk daily for a fortnight at bedtime reduces inflammation besides the early morning stiffness of the joints which is a characteristic feature of the diseases.

Chronic backache and sciatica: The kheer of erand seeds, after boiling them in milk, is a famous household remedy for the Sciatica-Lumbago Syndrome. The same recipe is given to patients of other vata diseases like hemiplegia and Parkinson’s disease.

Constipation: Varying in dose from patient to patient, castor oil is a simple and harmless purgative. Usually, 20 to 60 ml of it can be taken at bedtime with lukewarm milk. Castor oil works faster if it is taken during daytime.

Skin diseases: Castor oil and its leaves are used in many poultices which are applied over inflammed conditions of joints, boils and the enlargement of lymphnodes. Its application is also beneficial if it is done on the cracked skin of the feet.

Since erand is a drug of choice in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, there are various ayurvedic medicines containing castor oil and the bark of the erand root. Sinhanad Guggul, Rasna Saptak Qwath, Erandpak and Brihad Saindhvadi Tailam are a few famous classic medicines.

Caution: An overdose of castor oil may cause nausea, vomiting and griping in the abdomen whereas its habitual use results in rebound constipation. Castor oil should also be used with care in pregnant women.