Super Herbs

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Super Herbs of Ayurveda: The Healing Powers of India’s Most Revered Medicinal Plants

You’ve likely heard about them. Perhaps you’ve even experimented with one or more from time to time. Their healing powers have become so legendary, their unique qualities so unusual, that they are revered by herbalists and healers across the planet.

Ayurveda includes a vast collection of herbs within its rich tradition. However, there are some herbs that stand on their own as extraordinary treasures. They are the superstar herbs of Ayurveda. If you take the time to discover their powers, if you learn how to use them properly, they will change your life.

Often we hear about the latest product or “super food” that is going to take away all our ailments and give us long lasting vitality for the rest of our days. Perhaps we try it out, we wonder if we are receiving its benefits, and all too often we allow it to sit peacefully in the far corner of our cabinet never to be opened again!

My friends, what I’m going to be sharing with you is time-tested. These herbs are not part of a coming-and-going fad. They’ve been used for hundreds of years with great success by skilled healers taking care of their patients, wise sages aspiring to the highest potential of human life, as well as everyday people wishing to alleviate the suffering from their lives.

What I’m not going to be sharing with you is a “quick fix.” If you’re looking for an instant solution to your challenges, this isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to dig a bit deeper and really work to make a substantive change for yourself, then keep on reading!

What Is a “Super Herb”?

For starters, we need to first clarify what makes up a super herb. It’s not enough to classify an herb as “superb” without being specific as to what constitutes that classification. In order to do so in a complete way, we have to take a dive (or at least a dip) into the magnificent ocean of dravya guna, or in other words, the wisdom teachings of Ayurvedic herbology.

The 4 Key Energetic s of Every Super Herbs

So for now, consider this. In Ayurveda, every super herb has four primary characteristics which make up its healing constitution. Every super herb has:

  1. A dominant taste
  2. A dominant energy
  3. A dominant post-digestive effect
  4. A dominant special effect

If you understand the main characteristics of an herb (or food for that matter), you will have a very good understanding of how that herb will operate in your body and mind. While there may be several so-called “super herbs,” by understanding these aspects, you’ll be able to determine which of these super herbs are going to be ideal for you and your life.

The first way to investigate an herb is through its taste (rasa). Its taste will give us clues as to that herb’s energy (virya). Its energy will tell us if the herb is either heating or cooling to the body/mind. It will tell us if the herb is going to dilate the channels of the body or constrict the channels of the body, speed up your digestion, or slow it down.

The taste and energy of the herb will give us insight into its post-digestive effect (vipak). The post digestive effect tells us whether that herb is going to cause a net gain or a net loss to your organism. Some herbs are going to have an overall strengthening effect on your tissues, while others will have a purifying effect.

Finally, each super herb has its special effects (provably). This tells us what unexpected organs and areas of the body the herb works on or has an affinity towards. Does the herb alleviate mucus from the respiratory system? Does the herb build sexual stamina? Will it help you rest easy at night after a stressful day? These are examples of the herb’s special effects. Many herbalists deal primarily with the special effect but overlook the other important energetic of the herb (taste, energy, and post-digestive effect). Only with all four aspects do we possess holistic and powerful knowledge about that herb!

The Sweet Taste of…

For example, take one of my favorite herbs licorice. Licorice has a primarily sweet taste (rasa). Most herbs with a sweet taste, licorice included, also have a cooling energy (virya). Herbs with a sweet taste and a cooling energy typically will have a nurturing/strengthening effect on your tissues (vipak). It’s typically a predictable pattern.

How about ginger? Ginger’s taste is primarily pungent, or spicy. Most herbs with a spicy taste, ginger included, have a heating energy. Herbs with a pungent taste and heating energy tend to have a purifying post-digestive effect. Another predictable pattern that we find in most cases for most plants that we use for medicinal purposes.

However, sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. In rare circumstances, we discover an herb that doesn’t follow the normal patterns. These unusual occurrences are eye-opening to herbalists and alchemists alike. And this herbal outlier is the first qualification of our super herbs.

The Supreme Vitality Herb

One example of a uniquely patterned super herb is ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Ashwagandha’s taste is primarily sweet. While most sweet herbs have a cooling energy, ashwagandha’s energy is warming. Its post-digestive effect is strengthening/nurturing. The vast majority of herbs that are sweet and strengthening are typically cooling in nature and thus more difficult for the body to metabolize. Not so for ashwagandha! Its gently warming energy makes it easier to digest and easier for the body to benefit from its profound special effects!

Using Herbal Magic

If you think about it, herbs are indeed magical. Why do some herbs support the heart, while others support the liver? How are certain herbs able to promote a healthy prostate gland, while others could focus on an ulceration in the small intestine? Herbs can be extremely specific, and surprisingly intelligent. This is the herb’s special effect (prabhav) or its unique intelligence.

The second qualification for a super herb is a wide variety of effects on a wide variety of tissues and/or organs. While many common herbs have one or two primary effects on an organ system or tissue layer within the body, the super herbs could almost be considered panaceas in and of themselves.

For a super herb, such as ashwagandha, the question is not what does it do? The question becomes what doesn’t it do?

Super herbs often possess polarized benefits. For instance, ashwagandha is famous for its ability to both calm and energize. Turmeric can both warm your digestion and cool excess heat. Triphala both detoxifies and rejuvenates. It is likely the uncommon energetic patterns which these herbs possess that gives them the phenomenal ability to provide healing in an opposite yet complementary direction!

The Spiritual Herbology

The final qualification for a super herb is, for me, the most important. We’ve already covered the energetic patterns of an herb, but there is also a subtle energy that is of critical importance…a vibration al frequency per se, that determines its effect on the mind and psycho-magnetic field of a human being.

While certain herbs can have powerful therapeutic effects, we must also consider their vibration-al impact. Valerian is a rocks tar when it comes to deep sleep, yet its vibratory impact is dulling to the mind and body.

Cayenne pepper is in the upper echelon of circulatory stimulants, yet its energy is so powerfully active that if it were overused, it could disturb the most meditative of minds!

The super herbs all possess what Ayurveda calls a sattvic vibration. In other words, they encourage clarity, compassion, and calm within the mind and body of the person who ingests them. Their clarity producing powers support a person recognizing their true nature, which Ayurveda teaches is the primary path to maintaining health and balance.

For this reason, yogis, mediators, and seers have revered these super herbs for time immemorial. I invite you to study these herbs with reverence, integrate them into your life, and allow them to work their healing magic within you.

10 Delicious Herbs and Spices With Powerful Health Benefits

The use of herbs and spices has been incredibly important throughout history.

Many were celebrated for their medicinal properties, well before culinary use.

Modern science has now shown that many of them do indeed carry remarkable health benefits.

Here are 10 of the world’s healthiest herbs and spices, supported by research.

1. Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Has a Powerful Anti-Diabetic Effect

Cinnamon is a popular spice, found in all sorts of recipes and baked goods.

It contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde, which is responsible for cinnamon’s medicinal properties

Cinnamon has potent antioxidant activity, helps fight inflammation and has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).

But where cinnamon really shines is in its effects on blood sugar levels.

Cinnamon can lower blood sugar by several mechanisms, including by slowing the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract and improving insulin sensitivity (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).

Studies have shown that cinnamon can lower fasting blood sugars by 10-29% in diabetic patients, which is a significant amount (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

The effective dose is typically 0.5-2 teaspoons of cinnamon per day, or 1-6 grams.

You can read more about the impressive health benefits of cinnamon in this article.

2. Sage Can Improve Brain Function and Memory

Sage gets its name from the Latin word Salver, which means “to save.”

It had a strong reputation for its healing properties during the middle ages, and was even used to help prevent the plague.

Current research indicates that sage may be able to improve brain function and memory, especially in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is accompanied by a drop in the level of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain. Sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine (12Trusted Source).

In a 4-month study of 42 individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, sage extract was shown to produce significant improvements in brain function (13).

Other studies have also shown that sage can improve memory function in healthy people, both young and old (14, 15Trusted Source).

3. Peppermint Relieves IBS Pain and May Reduce Nausea

Peppermint has a long history of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy.

As is the case with many herbs, it is the oily component that contains the agents responsible for the health effects.

Many studies have shown that peppermint oil can improve pain management in irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).

It appears to work by relaxing the smooth muscles in the colon, which relieves pain experienced during bowel movements. It also helps to reduce abdominal bloating, which is a common digestive symptom (19Trusted Source, 20).

There are also some studies showing that peppermint in aromatherapy can help fight nausea.

In a study of over 1,100 women in labor, peppermint aromatherapy caused significant reductions in nausea. It has also been shown to reduce nausea after surgery and C-section births (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).

4. Turmeric Contains Curcumin, a Substance With Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color.

It contains several compounds with medicinal properties, the most important of which is curcumin (25Trusted Source).

Curcumin is a remarkably powerful antioxidant, helping to fight oxidative damage and boosting the body’s own antioxidant enzymes (26Trusted Source, 27, 28, 29, 30Trusted Source).

This is important, because oxidative damage is believed to be one of the key mechanisms behind ageing and many diseases.

Curcumin is also strongly anti-inflammatory, to the point where it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs (31Trusted Source).

Given that long-term, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic Western disease, it is not surprising to see that curcumin is linked to a variety of health benefits.

Studies suggest that it can improve brain function, fight Alzheimer’s, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and relieve arthritis, to name a few (32,

5. Holy Basil Helps Fight Infections and Boosts Immunity

Not to be confused with regular basil or thai basil, holy basil is considered a sacred herb in India.

Studies show that holy basil can inhibit the growth of a range of bacteria, yeasts and molds (37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).

One small study also found that it can boost function of the immune system by increasing certain immune cells in the blood (39Trusted Source).

Holy basil is also linked to reduced blood sugar levels before and after meals, as well as treating anxiety and anxiety-related depression (40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source).

However, these studies were quite small, and more research is needed before any recommendations can be made.

6. Cayenne Pepper Contains Capsaicin, Which Helps Reduce Appetite and May Have Anti-Cancer Properties

Cayenne pepper is a type of chili pepper used to prepare spicy dishes.

The active ingredient in it is called capsaicin, which has been shown to reduce appetite and increase fat burning in many studies

For this reason, it is a common ingredient in many commercial weight loss supplements.

One study found that adding 1 gram of red pepper to meals reduced appetite and increased fat burning in people who did not regularly eat peppers (48Trusted Source).

However, there was no effect in people who were accustomed to eating spicy food, indicating that a tolerance to the effects can build up.

Some animal studies have also found capsaicin to combat certain forms of cancer, including lung, liver and prostate cancer (49Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).

Of course, these observed anti-cancer effects are far from being proven in humans, so take all of this with a big grain of salt.

7. Ginger Can Treat Nausea and Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Ginger is a popular spice used in several forms of alternative medicine.

Studies have consistently shown that 1 gram or more of ginger can successfully treat nausea.

This includes nausea caused by morning sickness, chemotherapy and sea sickness

Ginger also appears to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, and can help with pain management (59Trusted Source).

One study in subjects at risk for colon cancer found that 2 grams of ginger extract per day decreased markers for colon inflammation in the same way as aspirin (60Trusted Source).

Other research found that a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, mastic, and sesame oil decreased pain and stiffness experienced by those with osteoarthritis. It had a similar effectiveness as treatment with aspirin or ibuprofen (61Trusted Source).

8. Fenugreek Improves Blood Sugar Control

Fenugreek was commonly used in Ayurveda, particularly to enhance libido and masculinity.

While its effects on testosterone levels are inconclusive, fenugreek does seem to have beneficial effects on blood sugar.

It contains the plant protein 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which can improve the function of the hormone insulin (62Trusted Source).

Many human studies have shown that at least 1 gram of fenugreek extract per day can lower blood sugar levels, particularly in diabetics (63Trusted Source, 64Trusted Source, 65Trusted Source, 66Trusted Source, 67Trusted Source).

9. Rosemary Can Help Prevent Allergies and Nasal Congestion

The active ingredient in rosemary is called rosmarinic acid.

This substance has been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion.

In a study with 29 individuals, both 50 and 200 mg doses of Rosmarinic acid were shown to suppress allergy symptoms (68Trusted Source).

The number of immune cells in nasal mucus also decreased, with reduced congestion.

10. Garlic Can Combat Sickness and Improve Heart Health

Throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its medicinal properties

We now know that most of these health effects are due to a compound called allicin, which is also responsible for garlic’s distinct smell.

Garlic supplementation is well known for combating sickness, including the common cold (70Trusted Source, 71Trusted Source).

If you often get colds, then adding more garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful.

There is also convincing evidence for beneficial effects on heart health.

For those with high cholesterol, garlic supplementation appears to reduce total and/or LDL cholesterol by about 10-15% (72Trusted Source, 73Trusted Source, 74Trusted Source).

Human studies have also found garlic supplementation to cause significant reductions in blood pressure in people with high blood pressure (75Trusted Source, 76Trusted Source, 77Trusted Source).

In one study, it was just as effective as a blood pressure lowering drug (78Trusted Source).

Covering all the incredible health benefits of garlic is beyond the scope of this article, but yo

11 Super Herbs and Spices for Your Health

There’s a reason explorers traveled thousands of miles and crossed oceans for herbs and spices. Besides making cuisine more delectable, they’ve been long used to promote health and cure disease.

1. Turmeric:

Heavily produced in India and Pakistan, turmeric is a plant (commonly seen as a powder) that has been used for thousands of years in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, but also as medicine. Studies indicate that it’s anti-inflammatory and probably effective for an upset stomach or pain caused by osteoarthritis. The host of antioxidants found within, including curcumin may also help to ward off cancer-causing free radicals and Alzheimer’s. (Image via Nourish Medicine)

2. Garlic:

With it’s pungent odor, foods heavy on garlic may not be the best choice for a first date, but there’s a reason it’s nicknamed the stinking rose. Allicin, a sulfur compound found within may help prevent hair loss. Garlic’s antioxidants can help kill the bacteria that causes acne and are rock stars at preventing the common cold. (Image via DishbyDish.net

3. Ginger:

Love or hate that fresh ginger side with your sushi, this root is really good for you. It’s been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and among the potent claims are improved circulation, strengthened immunity and defense against motion sickness. The oils in ginger are antiviral and contain antioxidants. (Image via Knox News)

4. Cinnamon:

Praised by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for boosting appetite and relieving indigestion, some recent studies show that the spice may be a natural way to lower blood sugar and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind, think L for lethal). Cinnamon also contains anti-infectious compounds which suggests it can be used as part of a healthy diet to prevent getting sick. Add cinnamon to treats and they won’t be just empty calories. (Image via Wikimedia)

5. Saffron:

Long used in traditional medicine, saffron is a great source of Vitamin C, Potassium and has a plethora of health benefits. It’s relatively expensive, but the carotenoid compound found within may help fight disease and inhibit tumors. Other benefits include lifting one’s mood, decreasing anxiety and protecting vision by stopping the degeneration of the retina. (Image via NPR)

6. Cloves:

‘Tish the season for cloves which have an active component called eugenol that guards us from environmental toxins and acts as an anti-bacterial agent. Cloves are also nutrient dense in manganese, Vitamin K and C. (Image via BHL Europe)

7. Oregano:

Another important culinary herb that provides flavor, but also fiber, iron, Vitamin K and high concentrations of antioxidants. Oregano is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and may even prevent or slow the progression of some cancers. Use it liberally, but don’t carry it in little bags through airport security 😉 (Image via Organic)

8. Sage:

Also well-respected throughout history, sage’s name comes from the Latin word salvere, which means “to be saved”. Rosmarinic acid found within acts an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory sidekick. I feel cheesy saying this, but it’d be sage advice to use the herb as a brain-booster. In some studies, participants consuming sage had better short-term memory that those who did not. (Image via Dognapper)

9. Thyme:

Ready for a creepy Halloween-related fact? Ancient Egyptians used thyme as an embalming agent for their mummified pharaohs. But if I had to sum up thyme’s medicinal history, I’d say it specializes as a respiratory aid. Besides being nutrient dense in Vitamin K, iron and manganese, thyme has oil and flavonoid components that help with coughs, bronchitis and chest congestion. (Image via The Cilantropist)

10. Rosemary:

Native to the Mediterranean, rosemary has an ample supply of iron, calcium and Vitamin B6. Muscle pain, low immunity, poor circulation and hair loss are just some of the maladies people relied on it for. Today we know rosemary may actually be beneficial in those areas because of its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. More recent studies even credit rosemary with neurological protection and as an effective anti-tumor agent. (Image via Spice Ame Cooks)

11. Chili Pepper:

Whether you crave spicy foods or not, chili peppers may be good for what ails you. Aztecs and Mayans considered it an aphrodisiac and while I can’t vouch for that, we do know chili peppers are high in an antioxidant called capsaicin that can temporarily curb appetite and warm the body. In studies with mice, capsaicin helped kill off cancerous prostate, pancreatic and lung cells. Don’t gorge on chili peppers to prevent cancer, but try and use them if you love spicing up your meals. (Image via Top News)

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