Ayurvedic Herbs

The ancient Indian medicinal system, Ayurveda, has a focus on many healing herbs. Read on to learn about the most popular, which have been used for centuries to promote holistic well-being.

| September/October 2017

  • Ayurveda looks at holistic human health, combining the mental, physical and spiritual.
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  • Alongside diet, meditation and exercise, a key component of Ayurveda is herbs.
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  • To take powdered trikatu, combine it with honey and then add it to tomato juice.
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  • In Bangladesh, bitter melon is typically stir-fried with garlic, potatoes and chilies.
    Photo by iStock/ShikharBhattarai
  • Triphala and trikatu are digestive aids that can work well together when combined.
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  • Famed for its medicinal benefits, turmeric may be best utilized when consumed as food.
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  • Stress managemant is a key component of Ayurvedic health.
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  • Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is a widely-used and hugely beneficial plant when it comes to health.
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  • Although modern science has yet to research the herb shatavari in depth, in Ayurveda it is considered the premier herb for women in all stages of life.
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  • Though you should always consult a professional before giving medicinal herbs to kids, brahmi has been found to improve memory and concentration in children.
    Photo by iStock/FatCamera

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal system, has been used for thousands of years to naturally support human health. Many of its main components focus on a healthful diet and the use of medicinal herbs. Read on to learn about some of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs, all of which have been used for centuries to promote holistic well-being.

The ancient medicinal system known as Ayurveda looks at human health holistically, combining the physical with the mental and spiritual to create a sophisticated picture of health that encompasses all parts of a person. Some of the most critical components of Ayurveda include diet, meditation and exercise — all of which are used to achieve balance in the body. Health is optimized when a person finds balance among the three doshas, or energies: vata, associated with respiration, circulation, elimination, movement, creativity, enthusiasm and the nervous system; pitta, associated with transformations including metabolism, digestion, vision, body temperature, intellect, courage and cheerfulness; and kapha, associated with growth, lubrication, patience, fluid balance, compassion and understanding.

According to Ayurvedic theory, all people are made up of some combination of the three doshas. Most people have a dominant dosha, although some may be tri-dosha, or a fairly even combination of the three. To discover your own dosha, look for an entertaining online quiz such as the ones available from Nature’s Formulary or Maharishi Ayurveda. To seek medicinal advice based on Ayurvedic theory, consult a trained Ayurvedic specialist.

Used alongside diet, meditation and exercise, the primary form of medicine in Ayurveda is herbs. Ayurvedic herbal medicines have been used to balance the doshas and promote health for thousands of years. Many people find these herbs’ tonic effects beneficial — and they’re especially relevant today as many are helpful for managing or reducing stress, regulating blood sugar and hormones, and aiding in proper digestion. It is a credit to the deeply holistic nature of Ayurveda that many of its primary objectives are equally or more important today as they may have been thousands of years ago. Read on to learn a bit about some of the premier herbal medicines recommended in Ayurveda. All of these herbs are generally safe and have been used for centuries — however, as always, exercise caution in the use of medicinal herbs, especially if you have chronic medical conditions, take prescription medications, or are pregnant or nursing.



Trikatu

Trikatu, translated to “three pungents,” is a blend of black pepper, long pepper and ginger. Considered medicinal and culinary, trikatu is said to be stimulative in nature, good for the liver, spleen and pancreas, and to increase bile production, aiding digestion. Because it contains piperine, it’s frequently used in Ayurvedic formulations to help increase absorption of other medicines and is suggested for weight loss, to boost metabolism, and for diabetics. Trikatu is often used in concert with triphala; triphala is said to benefit the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract, while trikatu is said to enhance digestion in the upper GI.

To use: Combine powdered trikatu with honey, then take straight or add to green tea. Or add it to tomato juice. You can also find capsules. A typical dosage is 125 to 500 mg twice daily, with food. Dosages beyond 1 gram daily may cause heartburn; do not exceed 1,000 mg a day.



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