The Modern Indian’s Guide to the 15 most used Ayurvedic Herbs & their benefits
Ayurveda is one of the oldest and comprehensive systems of healing and healthcare known to humanity. The ayurvedic practice is around five thousand years old and works on three basic principles or dos-has (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), which are derived from the five elements of the world. According to Ayurveda, these principles are the regulatory factors for the fundamental physiological processes in living beings and diseases occur due to imbalance in the factors. The traditional medical system seeks to normalize body functions with varied techniques including food and activity, Panchakarma purification treatments, surgical methods, and internal herbal preparations. Therefore, herbs are a vital part of the Ayurveda and its treatment processes.
Importance of Ayurvedic herbs
Right from the ancient times, Ayurvedic herbs offered a solution to all kinds of diseases, some of which were considered impossible to treat by other fields of medical sciences. They are derived from a plant source, where the leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, roots, bark and resin are used to prepare medicines. These herbal medicines have the potential to maintain a balance between the mind and the spirit. Some of the commonly used Ayurvedic herbs and their importance are mentioned as follows.
Ajwain is a member of the Apiaceae family and is related to carrot, cumin, coriander, anise, asafoetida, etc. Ancient Egyptian civilizations used it as a medicine as well as a culinary spice. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it is known to treat asthma, persistent coughs, flatulence, and indigestion.
Benefits of Ajwain –
- Ajwain consists of active compounds, thymol, and carvacrol, that have powerful antibacterial and anti fungal properties
- It may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and prevent heart diseases
- It can reduce high blood pressure or hypertension
- Ajwain is commonly used as a household remedy for digestive issues and may help fight peptic ulcers
- It is known to prevent coughing and improve airflow
- It is a strong nerve stimulant and effectively draws out deep-seated toxins from the body
Ashwagandha is highly regarded in the traditional Ayurvedic medicine system. It is a small and woody shrub of the Solanaceae family that is found in India as well as in Africa and a few parts of the Mediterranean continent. Ashwagandha gets its name from two Sanskrit words – Ashva, meaning horse and Gandha meaning smell. Its roots have a strong aroma that is described as “horse-like” and is also said to bestow upon its user the vitality and strength of a horse.
It is commonly used as an adaptogen to help the body cope up with stress and increase its energy and vitality. It also assists the body in preserving and sustaining adequate energy levels throughout the day while promoting restful sleep at night. Traditionally, the roots and berries of the Ashwagandha plant are used for preparing Ayurvedic remedies.
Benefits of Ashwagandha –
- Enhances memory and cognition
- Supports healthy weight management
- Helps maintain normal thyroid
- Helps enhance cardio respiratory endurance
- Helps maintain healthy testosterone in men
- It offers proper nourishment to the tissues, especially muscle and bone as the body ages
- It helps to maintain a healthy immune system and promote muscle strength to support the comfortable joint movement
- It is considered as the best herb for calming Vata and promoting sexual function in both men and women
Brahmi also called Bacopa monnieri, herb of grace, thyme-leaved gratiola, is one of the best Ayurvedic herbs that has been in use from ancient times to treat neurological disorders. It can be found in wet and tropical environments and can also be used as an Ayurvedic remedy for improving memory, reducing anxiety and treating epilepsy. Certain researches have pointed out that it may be effective in boosting brain function as well. The leaves of the plant are considered as highly sattvic or pure and were eaten by yogis to assist in meditation in olden times.
Benefits of Brahmi –
- It is a brain tonic that enhances memory, intelligence, and concentration
- Supports proper function of the nervous system
- It decreases the cortisol levels in the body and reduces stress and anxiety
- It is a natural blood purifier and helps support clear, healthy skin, and is good for hair as well
- Brahmi supplements are cooling and relaxing in nature and are an excellent tonic for Pitta people with overactive minds
- The antioxidants in Brahmi are helpful for general well-being and removing free radicals that can mutate into cancer cells
- It calms the Va ta in mind and reduces excess Kapha in the body
Cardamom is one of the ancient spices of the world. It grows wildly in the Western Ghats of Southern India and in Guatemala, which is the largest producer and exporter of this spice. It has a strong aroma like that of cloves and is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Benefits of Cardamom –
- Cardamom works as a natural tranquilizer
- It is commonly used to treat indigestion, asthma and bad breath
- Due to its antioxidant and diuretic properties, it assists in lowering blood pressure
- It is rich in compounds that protect cells from damage and prevent inflammation
- It can also be used to fight fungal infections and food poisoning
- Cardamom is known to lower blood sugar levels
- It protects the liver by preventing liver enlargement and reducing the risk of fatty liver disease
Native to the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia, cumin is a spice that comes from the Cumin um cyminum plant. It is quite popular in many food cultures and is used as whole dried seeds or ground powder, especially in Indian, Mexican, African and Asian cuisine. In the Middle Ages, when spices were relatively rare, cumin was believed to promote love and fidelity. People would carry it in their pockets and bring it to weddings. Apart from this, cumin has been widely used as a medicine to treat different ailments in many parts of the world for many years.
Benefits of Cumin –
- Cumin is beneficial in assisting people to manage their body weight
- Consumption of cumin can increase levels of high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol
- Its antimicrobial properties reduce the risk of certain food borne infections
- Studies have shown that people using cumin oil had improvements in signs of insulin resistance. Therefore, cumin is an excellent Ayurvedic herb for diabetes management
- The antioxidants in cumin can stabilize free radicals and prevent inflammation and DNA damage
- Cumin seeds may also help in reducing addictive behavior and withdrawal symptoms
- It is one of the most preferred Ayurvedic herbs for digestion and metabolism. It also helps the body with nutrient absorption
Licorice has been around as a common ingredient in many natural medicines. The ancient Greeks used it for treating cough, and it was also found among the many treasures in the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb. Licorice comes from the juice of the roots of the plant Glycyrrhiza Glabra. It is also used as a sweetener in candies and beverages.
Benefits of Licorice –
- Licorice root extract can soothe gastrointestinal problems and provide relief in cases of stomach ulcers, food poisoning, and heartburn
- It contains glycyrrhizic acid, which can subdue the functioning of toxic bacteria, H. pylori and prevent it from growing in the gut
- It can be taken as an oral supplement to enhance the body’s production of healthy mucus for the proper functioning of the respiratory system
- Licorice supplements can offer relief to the adrenal gland that has been exhausted by constantly producing adrenaline and cortisol
- Due to its antibacterial properties, licorice can be used in topical gels to treat eczema
Manjistha is a perennial climber that detoxifies the body by purifying the lymph and blood. The lymphatic system drains out wastes from the body and regulates the immune system. As lymph is pumped through muscle contractions, sedentary lifestyles may result in improper functioning of the lymphatic system giving rise to increased toxic levels in skin, joints, muscles and other tissues. Manjistha is a potent lymph mover that calms aggravated Pitta and breaks up congested Kapha. Many pitta-aggravated imbalances in the body, especially the ones related to the blood, may be supported by Manjistha. It is an effective Ayurvedic medicine to clean the liver, regulate kidney functions and clear acne.
The word “Neem” is derived from the Sanskrit Nimba – which means the bestow er of good health. Through the ages, the neem tree has been revered by Indians for its miraculous healing powers. Its medicinal properties are well documented in ancient Sanskrit texts, and it’s estimated that it is used in one form or another in almost 75% of Ayurvedic compositions.
Benefits of Neem –
- Neem leaves have antiseptic, antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Unlike its synthetic equivalents, neem is gentle and doesn’t produce side effects such as allergies and rashes
- It is a potent blood purifier and detoxifies and works well to treat acne, eczema, skin diseases, skin damage and wounds. It is extremely useful for alleviating Pitta disorders as well
- Consumption of neem tea helps to reduce fever, particularly malaria fever
- The twigs of the neem tree can be used to maintain proper dental hygiene and care
- Neem paste is used as a natural hair conditioner. It strengthens hair roots and promotes healthy hair growth
Shatavari or Asparagus racemosus is an adaptogenic herb that promotes fertility and offers a myriad of health benefits, particularly for the female reproductive system. It is high in saponins, compounds with antioxidant abilities.
Benefits of Shatavari –
- Shatavari can reduce inflammation in the body without causing any serious digestive side effects
- It helps in enhancing immunity
- Shatavari root juice is known to be effective in alleviating cough
- It may be suggested as a diuretic to help the body get rid of excess fluid
- Helps in the treatment of stomach, intestine or esophagus ulcers
- It may help maintain blood sugar
- The antioxidants in Shatavari reduce the free radicals that lead to skin damage and wrinkles. It may also help in preventing collagen breakdown and maintaining the skin’s elasticity
Turmeric is one of the most popular and widely researched Ayurvedic spices in the world. It is native to South Asia, particularly India, but is also cultivated in other warm regions of the world. The Latin name for turmeric is “Curcuma longa”, derived from “Kurkum”, which is the Arabic name of the plant.
Turmeric, belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, goes by many names in Sanskrit, such as Kanchani or the Golden Goddess, Haridra or the yellow one, Gauri or the one who has a shining face.
Benefits of Turmeric –
- Turmeric purifies the blood and channels of the body. It enhances the complexion of the skin and circulating blood and nutrients to the skin
- It consists of compounds that help preserve brain function
- As it is anti-inflammatory, it works well to treat acne-prone skin
- It balances Pitta because of its blood and liver cleansing properties
- It helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels
- Strengthens the immune system
Historically, the use of Haritaki for healing and higher consciousness of mind for thousands of years has been documented in India, Nepal, Thailand and many other regions of southeast Asia. Due to its potential to increase energy, intelligence, and awareness, it was referred to as the “King of Herbs” in the Ayurvedic and Siddha healing systems of India.
Haritaki was so popular in the Buddhist culture that it was referred to as “The Supreme Nectar That Illuminates the Mind”. For medicinal purposes, the dried fruit of the tree is used. Haritaki has a bitter taste and is rich in vitamin C and substances with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Benefits of Haritaki –
- Haritaki supports and enhances the vital functions of the body, such as strong digestive fire, adequate nutrient absorption, healthy waste elimination, etc.
- Although it is well-known as a quintessential Va ta-balancing herb, it is effective in pacifying all the three Dos has
- It may help to reduce cholesterol levels in the body
- It prevents lung infections in individuals with cystic fibrosis
- It is beneficial in neuron-muscular weakness and diminished vision
- Haritaki is used in formulations to promote a healthy digestive system and support the liver and kidneys
- It bolsters heart health and protects against blood disorders
Guduchi or Tinospora cordifolia is one of the highly revered herbs in Ayurveda for its rejuvenating, detoxifying, immune-boosting, and anti-rheumatic properties. The name “Guduchi” means the one who protects. Originating in India, the herb can also be found in Sri Lanka and Burma.
According to Ayurveda, guduchi is considered to be one of the three amrit (nectar or ambrosia) plants, the other two being garlic and haritaki. Generally, the roots, stem, and leaves of the guduchi plant are used for medicinal purposes, but the bitter starch of the plant holds the most importance.
Benefits of Guduchi –
- Guduchi is quite effective in the treatment of digestive ailments, such as hyper acidity, colitis, abdominal pain, appetite loss and liver ailments like hepatitis.
- The starch of the plant can be used as a home remedy for treating chronic fever while enhancing appetite and energy.
- It can help in reducing the levels of blood urea and get rid of renal calculi.
- It can be used in combination with sunthi for the treatment of gout and rheumatic ailments. Santhwanam oil by Kerala Ayurveda can be quite effective in the treatment of rheumatic conditions.
- Diabetes can be managed by the mixture of guduchi, nimba and vasa. You can also try out the Glymin tablet with proper consultation for the management of diabetes, kidney and heart problems in the Ayurvedic way
- It is a restorative herb that reduces oxidative stress in humans
- It promotes a healthy inflammatory response and reduces excess Pitta in the body
Amalaki is considered as a powerful rejuvenating herb in Ayurveda. It is commonly known as Indian gooseberry or amla, and is used as an Ayurvedic herb for hair growth and to boost the immune system of the body. Amalaki is native to tropical Southeastern Asia and can be found in different regions of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Mascarene Islands. In Sanskrit, Amalaki means “the sustain-er”.
Benefits of Amalaki –
- Amlaki has rich antioxidant content and promotes detoxification. As one of the three ingredients in Triphala, it nourishes the tissues and eliminates toxins
- Its cooling action is helpful to pacify excess Pitta in the gastrointestinal tract, thereby supporting a healthy stomach lining and proper functioning of digestive acids. Moreover, it also cleans the colon and promotes healthy bowel movements
- It acts as a brain tonic and is the best Ayurvedic herb for memory and concentration
- It stimulates digestive fire without aggravating Pitta
- It strengthens the nervous system, enhances the health of sensory organs and supports the liver and uterus
- Amalaki is used in Ayurvedic herbal hair oils for healthy hair.
- It also works wonders to promote healthy eyes, nails, and skin.
- It builds Ojas to support a healthy immune response and youthfulness.
- By stimulating micro circulation, Amla builds Ojas to promote healthy blood sugar levels and balance Pitta
Aloe Vera or Ghrita Kumara in Sanskrit was considered as the “plant of immortality” by the Egyptians. Aloe was recognized in ancient Indian, Greek, Chinese and Roman civilizations for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Benefits of Aloe Vera –
- Aloe Vera juice helps in digestion and absorption of nutrients
- It maintains blood sugar level, increases energy production and promotes cardiovascular health
- It supports smooth menstruation
- It is a bitter tonic that has a mild laxative effect
- It helps to purify the blood
- It is used to treat many skin conditions and hair problems
- It offers relief from non-cystic acne and bloodshot eyes
Guggulu or Commiphora mukul is a potent purifying herb, which comes from the flowering Mukul myrrh tree found in arid climates in India. Ancient Ayurvedic texts have mentions of Guggulu as a purifying herb that protects from diseases. For thousands of years, it has been in use to cure sinuses, treat obesity, soothe inflamed joints and relieve chronic skin disorders. It is also prescribed as a recommended treatment for the obstruction of channels caused due to lack of exercise and excessive consumption of fatty foods.
Benefits of Guggulu –
- The herb is known to cleanse unhealthy tissues and increase the white blood cell count within the body
- It is beneficial for any condition characterized by congestion and stagnation
- It promotes detoxification and rejuvenation
- It has the potential to carry other herbs deep into the tissues
- It assists in the maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels and weight management
- It supports healthy muscle and nerve tissues and promotes the comfortable movement of the joints
- It helps to maintain bone porosity in old age. For the treatment of osteoarthritis naturally, you can go for GT Capsule by Kerala Ayurveda. It consists of a potent form of herbs like guggulu, neem, guduchi, patola, vasa among many others to fight cervical and lumbar spondylosis and other degenerative diseases as well
- Guggulu is one of the best Ayurvedic supplements for people who have accumulated toxins in their body due to stress or serious illness
- Its purifying properties help people recover from drug or alcohol addiction
- It can also be used in mouthwash to treat canker sores and gingivitis
Triphala is an Ayurvedic medicine composed of three medicinal fruits, namely amla (Emblica officinalis), bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica), and haritaki (Terminalia chebula). It has been an important part of Ayurvedic practice for thousands of years. Its uses have been mentioned in the Sushrut Samhita, which dates back to 1500 BC.
Benefits of Triphala –
- Triphala is an excellent digestive tonic that improves the digestion process and cleanse the digestive tract
- It is a natural laxative that helps to reduce constipation, flatulence, abdominal pain while improving the consistency of bowel movements
- It may reduce the inflammation caused by arthritis and prevent the growth of certain types of cancer
- As Triphala improves metabolism, it is good for weight loss and management
- It is known to fight fatigue and lethargy and boost the energy levels of the body
- Triphala is rich in antioxidants that help fight free radicals and oxidative stress
- Dermatological problems like acne and eczema can also be treated with Triphala
- It consists of many nutrients that preserve the health and beauty of hair and skin
Pure Triphala blended with musta, lashuna, yashtimadhu, maricha, and pippali can be found in Alsactil herbal tablets that work naturally to provide relief from hyper acidity, flatulence, gastric ulcer, heartburn, etc
Ayurveda literally means “the science of life”. Ayush Herbs, Inc. was founded by Ayurvedic and Naturopathic physicians who believe in healthy living in body, mind and spirit. From the very beginning in 1988, they have shared their knowledge of Ayurveda and demonstrated the incredible healing power of Ayurvedic medicine.
And knowing how critical it is to have absolute uncontaminated, unadulterated herbal products for the health of their patients, they decided to grow and harvest their own herbs in the most pristine region of India next to the Himalayas. They then developed unique, effective and safe formulations that have become the foundation of the Ayush Herbs’ continued success.
2019 thus far seems to be the year of “what’s old is new again.” The Mediterranean diet has made a comeback, people are starting to be okay with carbs again, and Cookie Monster (yup, the very same) is suddenly a wellness icon. And when it comes to your health, more people than ever are dabbling in Ayurvedic herbs—one of the oldest wellness practices of all.
“Ayurveda is an ancient system of complementary medicine that originated with the Tamil Siddhas in the the south of India 10,000 years ago,” says Martha Soffer, Ayurvedic doctor, MACA (Maharishi Ayurvedic Clinic Administration), MAT (Maharishi Ayurvedic Therapist), and founder of Surya Spa in Los Angeles. “Ayurveda can return us to balance, health, and vital well-being. It’s a beautiful and easy-to-apply self-care tool.” The ancient healing practice is known to be good for all sorts of things including skincare, easing period cramps, and better digestion.
And while they’re popping up in supplements, foods, and even beauty products, herbs are a fundamental part of Ayurvedic healing. “Ayurvedic herbs are herbs that have been used in Ayurvedic lineage for 5,000-plus years and grow in India and surrounding areas,” says Sahara Rose, certified ayurvedic health counselor and author of Eat Feel Fresh and Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda. “Each herb is unique and can help with physical or mental ailments.”
But before you dip your toes into Ayurvedic herbs, Soffer says you should see an Ayurvedic doctor to help you access your imbalances and understand your health. She recommends looking for someone with years of experience who’s trained with Maharishi University of Management, National Ayurvedic Medical Association, or Kerala Ayurveda. “It’s a science that one develops like an art, with that level of attention, awareness and diligence,” Soffer says.
Your practitioner can work with you to find the best healing herbs that will help you re balance. They can also help you ensure that the herbs you take are in the proper amounts and don’t interfere with any existing medications you’re taking. (For example, St. John’s Wort, a popular herbal remedy for depression, has been shown to interfere with birth control pills.)
As for how to use Ayurvedic herbs, “some herbs are taken internally, while others [are applied] externally,” Rose says. “And they have a wide range of uses from teas to herbalized oils to skin care to supplements.” Or, you can go the old-fashioned way, Soffer says, and just mix them with a little water and chase them with ghee and honey to help with digestion and absorption. “Fats help with assimilation and honey increases the ‘Agni,’ the fire of digestion,” Soffer says.
Got all that? Great. Now, here’s your primer on some of the most popular (and useful) Ayurvedic herbs:
Ashwagandha is a shrub originally grown in India. It’s name literally translates to strength of a stallion, Rose says.
Ashwagandha is said to increase vitality, balance stress hormones, help with adrenal fatigue, and increase energy. “It is an adaptogen, meaning it adapts to what your body needs,” Rose says.Rose suggests adding a powdered ashwagandha to your morning tonic or taking it as a supplement.
The benefits: Cardamom can help remove excess Kapha, one of the Ayurvedic dos-has (your Ayurvedic body type, based on your physical and emotional makeup), from the system. “Kapha is not bad,” Rose says. But she says having too much can cause problems like mucus, phlegm, weight gain, lethargy, clammy hands, or a sluggish metabolism.
“You can cook with whole cardamom pods or use them in your teas,” Rose says. Or, you can add ground cardamom powder to your AV-spiked black tea or get your dose of the aromatic seed in beauty products.
What it is: Like cardamom, cumin is also a spice. It comes from the seeds of the cumin-um cyminum plant originally grown in Asia, Africa and Europe.
Cumin is great for digestion. Rose says it helps remove excess Vata, the dos-ha associated with air and space. An excess of Vata can look like bloating, gas, constipation, anxiety, insomnia, cracking joints, cold body temperature, and dry skin and hair.
How to use it: Rose says you can get your dose of cumin in a digestive-enhancing tonic mixed with coriander and fennel. It can also add a healthy touch to your cocktail.
What it is: Manjistha is a vine with heart-shaped leaves and a bright red root that grows in mountain regions.
“Manjistha purifies the blood with its cooling properties that work on the plasma and blood dhatus (organs), with a dry and pungent quality,” Rose says. She says it’s great if you have a Pitta imbalance (the dos-ha associated with fire and water), which can look like inflammation, hyper-acidity, feeling hot all the time, foul-smelling sweat, oily skin, rosacea, hives/rashes, anger, impatience, and irritability. Manjistha is also an anti-inflammatory, helps clear acne, and regulates liver and kidney function, she says.