Posts Tagged ‘ Health ’

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.

Jaiphal (Myristica Fragrans) (Nutmeg)

Juvenating jaiphal (nutmeg)
JAIPHAL, known as nutmeg in English, Myristica fragrance botanically and Jatiphal in Sanskrit, is the dried kernel of the fruit of a tall and evergreen tree found in southern parts of India. The fruit has a yellowish red covering which, if dried and peeled, is called mace or javitri. Both jaiphal and javitri have been used for centuries in Ayurveda.

Pungent, bitter and astringent in taste and light, sharp, hot and unctuous in properties: that is how jaiphal has been described in ayurvedic texts. While aggravating pitta, it calms down vata and kapha. The chemical composition of jaiphal includes volatile oils, protein, starch and minerals. It also contains an aromatic oil and an active principle known as myristicin.

Commonly used in kitchen preparations, jaiphal is digestive, appetiser, aromatic and astringent. Ayurveda attributes various other efficacies to it like anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrhoeal, analgesic and kamottejak and shukrastambhak (sex-stimulant and averting premature ejaculation). Though sedative in high doses, this fruit is considered to be a bitter tonic. Jaiphal is known to have numerous therapeutic effects. It is one of the very useful drugs which helps to control diarrhoea and dysentery, stimulate liver functions and cure chronic nasal discharge, insomnia and headache. Some of its common uses are as under:

Digestive upsets: Take one fourth of a teaspoonful of jaiphal powder with a little jaggery. It will promptly control diarrhoea. Adding a pinch of its powder to peppermint tea or taking it with honey relieves the symptoms of hiccups, gas, nausea and vomiting. It is also a well-known home remedy for recurrent loose motions of infants. After rubbing this nut in water, a paste–like material is obtained and given to children. Joint pains — Medicated sesame oil, prepared with the dried powder of jaiphal, is applied on inflamed and painful joints. Similarly, the application of the watery paste of jaiphal is very effective in the case of headache arising from exposure to cold.

Insomnia — Jaiphal powder is a remedy for sleeplessness. For this purpose, half gram of its powder can be taken mixed with honey. Its paste, in a very minute quantity, can also be given for inducing sleep to infants who cry at night for no apparent reason.

Other uses — Jaiphal is a commonly used ingredient in herbal cosmetics, mouth freshners and complexion promoting packs. In the case of diminished libido, one eighth of a teaspoonful of powdered jaiphal can be taken mixed in a little honey in the evening.

Jaiphal should only be taken in the prescribed dosage and that too not for a prolonged period. Its average daily dose is up to one gram. An overdose can produce toxic symptoms like severe acidity, nausea, giddiness and hallucinations. Javitri has properties similar to that of jaiphal but it is more of a carminative than anti-diarrhoeal. The ancient ayurvedic scholar, Sharangadhar, has written about Jatiphaladi Churna and Jatiphaladi Vati — the two classic medicines which contain jaiphal as their main ingredient.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)

Ashwagandha – Indian ginseng

Ashwagandha is one of those ayurvedic herbs which have attracted worldwide attention for its salutary effect on the human body. Popularly known as asgandh and scientifically called With ania somnifera, it has been held in high esteem by the leading lights of Ayurveda.

Described in ancient texts as balya (tonic), rasayan (rejuvenating) and atishukrala (potent spermatogenic), ashwagandha is sweet, bitter and astringent in taste; and light, unctuous and hot in effect. Its small plant grows wild throughout drier regions of India but to meet the increasing demand in the domestic as well as international market, better varieties of ashwagandha are favoured for cultivation. Though all parts of the plant have medicinal properties, it is the root which constitutes the main drug.

Ashwagandha is a highly acclaimed herb for its tonic effect on the brain and the nervous system. Detailed clinical investigations have shown that it acts as an anti-stress and adaptogenic medicine. Ayurvedic texts describe it as having anti-inflammatory, diuretic, analgesic, aphrodisiac, diuretic and mildly sedative properties. Modern research has found several types of alkaloids in it of which somniferin and withaniol are responsible for its multiple actions.

Ashwagandha is also a proven immune-modulator, antioxidant and hormone precursor which tends to regulate important physiological functions. It is used to cure a number of ailments like nervous and psychiatric disorders, arthritis, low backache, emaciation, impotency, hypertension and insomnia. Ashwagandha improves general alertness and prevents all types of weakness. It increases one’s strength and stamina.

By virtue of its uses ashwagandha is often referred to as the Indian ginseng and assuredly prescribed by experts for all people — young but tired or old and retired.

The present-day competitive and fast lifestyle subjects us to tremendous mental and physical stress resulting in disturbed psychosomatic equilibrium, the loss of energy and reduced body resistance. Similarly, in middle age problems, the menopausal syndrome and conditions involving chronic fatigue and senile debility, there is no better natural remedy than ashwagandha. Scientific studies have found it to be endowed with anti-tumour, anti-ulcer properties and also a good adjunct in wasting diseases. The use of ashwagandha during the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis also helps one to gain fast relief from inflammation, stiffness and pain in the joints.

Ashwagandha is best used in its powder form. Readily available as a classic medicine called Ashwagandha Churna, this powder can be taken in the dose of one to three grams at bed time preferably with warm milk. This helps induce sound sleep besides giving other therapeutic benefits. In weak and emaciated children, a small dose of ashwagandha is given mixed with butter, sugar and a few pieces of peeled-off almonds.

There are several other classic ayurvedic medicines which include ashwagandha as an important ingredient. For example, in Ashwagandhadi Churna, another herb called vidhara is equally mixed with ashwagandha and it is an effective medicine for male sexual insufficiency. Ashwagandha ghrit and Ashwagandharishta are well-known medicine which have been used since ancient times. Though the therapeutic use of ashwagandha is generally safe, for its long-term utilisation patients are advised to consult a physician.

Nariyal (Cocus Naucifera) (Coconut)

Coconut is not merely a large nut!

OFFERED on happy occasions and at festivals and considered auspicious coconut represents the blissfulness of Indian culture and tradition. It is scientifically called Cocus naucifera. Its Sanskrit and Hindi names narikela and nariyal literally mean a water-containing fruit.

Ayurvedic texts describe three stages of the coconut fruit — bala (unripe), madhyama (ripening) and pakva (ripened). At the unripe stage, water is the only consumable thing in it whereas later the quantity of water becomes small and soft, and fleshy pulp comes up. The fruit becomes hard and devoid of water in its ripened stage.

Coconut is sweet in taste and heavy, unctuous and cold in effect. Coconut water alleviates vata and pitta.

Ancient acharyas have depicted coconut water as cool, freshening, digestive, and antipyretic. It also has balya (tonic), diuretic and wound-healing properties. The ripe fruit is considered to be stimulant, hot in potency, and the reliever of pelvic spasms. Coconut oil has been described as keshya (hair-nourishing), good for the skin and possessing many other qualities similar to that of cod liver oil. The water of the fresh, unripe fruit contains protein and glucose (sugar) besides chlorides and phosphates. Vitamin A and B are also found at this stage.

Coconut has a lot of medicinal properties. Fresh coconut water is given to the patients of dehydration and sunstroke. It allays excessive thirst and pacifies the burning sensation. It is an acclaimed medicine. In acute and chronic gastritis. While reducing acidity, coconut water also helps in healing gastric ulcers. Due to its diuretic action, it is beneficial in burning micturation and urethritis. Dried coconut kernel is considered to be an aphrodisiac and hot in effect.

Since time, immemorial, coconut continues to be a part of many ayurvedic formulae and is a popular household remedy for a number of problems.

Here are a few tips
Patients suffering from stubborn acidity and gastric ulcer can take 100 to 200 ml of fresh coconut water of the unripe fruit two times a day. It is a trusted natural remedy for increased acid secretions. In hiccups, it can be given as an adjunct. During convalescence, coconut water does excellent replenishment. In diarrhoea, dysentery, infections of the urinary tract and febrile conditions, the use of coconut water helps restore normalcy. The massage of the scalp with coconut oil nourishes the hair. It forms the base of many popular brands of hair oil. Coconut oil is also used in allergic skin conditions, eczema, burns and scalds.

Though leaves and roots of the coconut tree are also used as medicine, it is the fruit which finds a more exalted status. Coconut pulp is eaten raw and is used in culinary items like chutneys and curries. Ayurvedic texts mention Narikelkhand, Narikelalavan and Narikelamrita as classic medicines which contain coconut as their main ingredient.

Dhania (Coriandrum Sativam) (Coriander)

Coriander cure

The ordinary Indian kitchen, which exudes a lot of warmth and aroma, is also a place where the traditional knowledge of the relationship between food and health is passed from generation to generation. Along with turmeric, ginger, pepper and many other day-to-day kitchen items, coriander is also a herb which is frequently used in our food — not only due to its pleasant smell but also for its many corrective and restorative medicinal properties.

Popularly called dhania, coriander is known as dhanyaka in Sanskrit and Coriandrum sativam scientifically. It is used in two forms — as a fresh and tiny leafy plant and also as dry seeds. Ayurvedic texts have described it as astringent, bitter and sweet in taste and unctuous and light in effect. Green plants of coriander are considered to be cold, whereas dry seeds have been described as semi-hot.

It alleviates vata, pitta and kapha — all the three doshas of the body. It is antipyretic, anti-flatulence, diuretic, carminative, digestive, anti-diarrhoeal, and a killer of intestinal worms. Fresh and green coriander is rich in moisture beside having protein, minerals and carbohydrates. Coriander seeds are dried when they are ripe. These seeds give an aromatic odour and spicy taste.

From ancient times, coriander is used as a medicine in Ayurveda. Its use is indicated in treating a number of diseases like indigestion, diarrhoea and dysentery, piles, intestinal worms, fever resulting from a heat stroke, migraine and cyctitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder). Interestingly, it is one of those few herbs which have been described as anti-aphrodisiac.

In everyday practice, coriander can be used as a very good home remedy for many health problems. Here are a few tips:

Diarrhoea and dysentery: To treat diarrhoea and dysentery bilgiri (the dry pulp of bael), coriander, dry ginger and nut grass (nagarmotha) should be crushed and mixed in equal quantity. Take one teaspoonful of this powder with warm water two or three times a day. This helps in relieving stubborn complaints of passing mucuous-mixed stool.

Indigestion: Simply chewing a few leaves of fresh coriander helps to overcome abdominal distress caused by acidity and gas intention. Taking one or two teaspoonfuls of its juice allays excessive thirst.

Headache: Many people complain of headache occurring at a specific time of the day. In Ayurveda, this type of headache has been described as suryavabhedaka. Take one gram of coriander powder, five crushed pieces of black pepper and the powder of two grams of ustakhadoos. Soak these overnight in a cup of water. After filtering and adding one teaspoonful of sugar, take this liquid empty stomach — preferably before sunrise. Many Unani texts recommend this formulation for the treatment of migraine also.

Coriander controls non specific excessive menstrual discharge. It is also used as a medicine to control hyper sexual excitability in both males and females. Ancient ayurvedic texts describe Dhanya Panchak Qwath which is a very good adjunct in the treatment ofchronic colitis.