From healing different illnesses to promoting optimal health, medicinal plants and herbs are often used for their many benefits. Because Ayurvedic medicine dates back centuries, it’s often used as a way to treat problems in the body-mind-spirit to rebalance our focus, improve energy and optimize our health. While modern medicine may offer some solutions over-the-counter or by prescription, the problem is these may come with adverse side effects.
Because Ayurvedic medicine is based on principles that help us draw closer to nature and its powers, Ayurvedic plants offer alternatives that don’t have harmful side effects (or require additional medicine to combat them).
Benefits of Ayurvedic Plants
Medicinal herbs, roots and plants are natural ingredients that symbolize safety and are not hazardous to your health. However, to first understand how Ayurvedic plants can optimize your health, it’s important to explore the benefits that herbal plants have.
Ayurveda is traditional Indian healing medicine that targets steps to optimize health and wellness to preserve life. It focuses on the mind, body and spirit to increase the balance in these areas while reducing and preventing diseases. To achieve this, it’s best to approach holistic healing from every aspect, i.e., diet, mental and physical health, lifestyle changes and exercise. Ayurvedic plants and herbs are essential because they can improve mood, aid in digestion and have other health benefits.
Rewards from using medicinal plants include:
- Aside from being holistic, medical plants are easier to digest and absorb into the bloodstream and skin
- Plants can boost your immune system and are routinely used in preventive and allopathic medicine
- Some plants are so strong they are recommended for treating certain chronic or metabolic conditions like autoimmune diseases, cancers and fevers
- Non-toxic and harmless to the body, plants don’t have side effects
Ayurvedic Herbs and Their Uses
Have you ever done an online search for the best herbal medicine plants? Able to treat a host of symptoms and different diseases, Ayurvedic plants, medicinal herbs and roots might include ginger, turmeric, aloe, elaichi and more. Medicinal plants are rich sources of vitamins, nutrients and minerals. They can treat a host of skin disorders, stomach ailments and improve digestion.
Some plants have antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Hence, they are recommended because they are natural alternatives that won’t harm the body. They are also more likely to work with nature and improve your health faster than synthetic medications. Ayurvedic plants and herbs are also more ideal for long-term usage.
Ayurvedic plants aren’t limited to medicinal purposes, but they’re also found in dyes, food store items and some are even used for pest control. Some people plant peppermint which can ward off mice and other rodents from their homes or gardens.
A tiny herbal plant, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is native to North Africa and India. As an adaptogen, it helps to manage stress, lower cortisol and decrease anxiety. It can improve sleep and help reduce anxiety. Additionally, it’s used to build muscles, improve memory, lower inflammation, improve sleep, boost immunity, improve fertility in men and lower blood glucose levels.
Resembling a bumpy zucchini, bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is commonly found in Asian cuisine. It’s loaded with antioxidants and nutrients and helps lower blood glucose levels. It can even decrease LDL and triglyceride levels.
Referred to as Indian frankincense, Boswellia or olibanum is derived from tree resin. It’s woodsy and spicy in aroma and is used to reduce inflammation and improve digestion. It’s also a non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory that reduces pain, increases range of motion and can improve mobility. And, like oil pulling, it’s also useful for fighting gingivitis and fighting infections.
A commonly used herb, Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is an anti-inflammatory that reduces ADHD and impulsivity. It reduces anxiety and stress and can improve brain function.
The queen of spice, cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is used to lower blood pressure and can increase oxygen in the lungs. It’s also used to block stomach ulcers and can decrease them by 50% and then eventually remove them.
Native to Southwest Asia and the Mediterranean, cumin comes from the Cuminum cyminum plant. While spicy, nutty and earthy in taste, it’s used in a variety of recipes. However, medicinally it has other benefits. It’s used to fight diabetes and can fight against heart disease.
Essential in fighting irritable bowel syndrome, it also combats bloating, stomach pain and can help release bile in the liver. As a way to fight foodborne infections, it’s also used to improve cholesterol levels as it can raise HDL while decreasing triglycerides.
Sometimes sold as a digestive disorder supplement, this powerful herbal plant isn’t limited to aiding in digestion. It’s often used to help treat asthma, gout, diabetes, eye problems and fevers. Hence, it’s included among the many Ayurvedic plants that have multiple benefits.
Eating fresh ginger or adding ginger powder to your tea each day has several medicinal purposes. It’s an anti-inflammatory that is heart-healthy and can alleviate arthritis pain and joint stiffness. Hence, Ayurvedic plants have therapeutic value and are included in a host of home remedies. And you can even grow your own medicinal herbs at home! Insert Grow Your Own Medicinal Garden video here
The tiny, fan-shaped green plant, Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), is considered the longevity herb. It’s odorless and tasteless and found near bodies of water. Used to improve memory after a stroke, it can lower anxiety and decrease depressive moods and stress. When added topically to the body, it can help diminish psoriasis and eczema, heal wounds, decrease varicose veins and reduce stretch marks.
Native to Asia and Europe, licorice which comes from Glycyrrhiza glabra plants, fights inflammation, lowers viruses and decreases bacteria. It can improve oral health as it protects against candida and cavities, and provides relief from sore throats. Additional purposes include alleviating ulcers, nausea, gas, belching and heartburn. It can also relieve minor skin irritations, and treat indigestion and infections.
Peppermint whether raw as a leaf, ground or in an extract has several medicinal properties. It treats indigestion, improves the skin, helps combat headaches, colds and flu and can reduce nausea. It also heals wounds and is used for stopping diarrhea and cough. Its soothing effect can release mental pressure and stress.
These medicinal fruits include Amla (Emblica officinalis) which is Indian gooseberry, Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica, Sanskrit: Bibhitaka बिभीतक,) and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula). Triphala is an anti-inflammatory that can help fight certain cancers. It’s a natural laxative, stops flatulence and stomach pain and improves digestion and bowel movements.
Other purposes it serves include promoting oral care. It’s useful for decreasing plague and mouth bacteria and reducing inflammation in the gums.
Used to color curry, turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that also fights heart disease. As a way to treat depression, it can preserve brain function and reduce inflammation in the body. However, it might cause diarrhea/stomach upset.
Examples of Ayurvedic Plants, Herbs and Spices and Their Medicinal Benefits
Ayurvedic plants have so many medical benefits. Hence, it’s important to speak to an Ayurvedic practitioner who can help you with making dietary changes to help optimize your health.
Here are a few examples:
- To treat sores, wounds and boils: Use spices, plants and herbs like aloe, cinnamon, red clover, black pepper, burdock, safflower and burdock
- To improve blood circulation: Use peppermint, ginger, basil, coriander or chamomile
- To improve digestion: Try Aswatha, Ajwain or Amalaki
- To improve the taste of food: Try adding turmeric, cloves or peppermint
- To reduce heat in the body and lower fevers: Use black pepper, sandalwood or Chirata
- To create an astringent: Use cinnamon or sandalwood
- To create an antiseptic: Use turmeric, Sheetraj Hindi, aloe, or Khare Khashas
The Ayurvedic Health Trend in the US
Plants have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries because healing herbs include all kinds of medicinal powers. And yet, it’s only been in the past few decades that people are starting to turn to herbs for healthier living.
Perhaps it’s because of the yoga trend in the United States, but many people are adopting better eating and living practices and they’re seeking out natural products without harmful chemicals, hormones and dyes. They appreciate clean living with natural herbs and roots. And, when consumed on a regular basis, there’s a better body-mind harmony that can keep the doshas in balance.
A medicinal plant can rejuvenate your entire body instead of an over-the-counter drug that may only treat a specific symptom or body part.
They include Ampalaya (stops diarrhea, upset stomach), Tsaang Gubat (Carmona retusa), Niyog-niyogan (anthelmintic), Akapulko (Cassia alata, antifungal), Sambong (diuretic, antipyretic, decreases blood pressure), Yerba Buena (reduces pain, colds, cough, nausea), Garlic (lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity), Guava (anti-diarrheal, antiseptic), Ulasimang Bato (reduces uric acid) and Lagundi (diuretic, antioxidant).
10 herbal medicines have been approved by the Department of Health (DOH). These are helpful herbs that can fight different ailments and reduce symptoms and diseases.
– Akapulko (Cassia alata L.) is an antifungal used for athlete’s foot and ringworm.
– Ampalaya (Momordica charantia (L.) DC) is used to regulate blood sugar.
– Bawan (Allium sativum L.) is garlic and is used to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
– Guava (Psidium guajava L.) is an antiseptic and anti-diarrheal.
– Lagundi (Vitex negundo L.) treats colds, headaches, coughs, asthma and fever.
– Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis Indica L.) is an anthelmintic used to treat worms.
– Sambong (Blumea balsamifera L. DC) is used to reduce kidney stones and lower hypertension.
– Tsaang Gubat (Carmona retusa (Vahl) Masam.) is used in oral care because it has a high fluoride content. It’s also used to stop stomach aches and diarrhea.
– Ulasimang-Bato (Peperomia pellucida) is used to lower uric acid levels and treat rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
– Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii) is used to treat headaches, arthritis, colds, coughs, toothaches and gas pain. It’s also used for treating insect wounds and to prevent fainting or stop nausea.
Certain herbs can counteract each other and should not be taken together. These include Vitamin D, E and K. K’s benefits are depleted if you take it with fat-soluble vitamins like E and D. Take them about 2-hours apart for maximum absorption. Ginkgo Biloba and fish oil shouldn’t be taken together as both are blood thinners and you don’t want uncontrollable bleeding or decreased clotting. Vitamin B12 and C should also not be mixed together as vitamin C can cause B-12 to break down in the digestive tract. Hence, C can reduce the efficacy of B-12.
Zinc and copper shouldn’t be taken together as zinc can disrupt the absorption of the copper so wait for 2-hours. Taking green tea and iron together is another no-no. Green tea can lead to iron deficiency while iron can decrease the efficacy in green tea. Calcium, magnesium and your multivitamin are others you shouldn’t mix as they deplete or compete for absorption. Instead, follow the directions and take them about 2-hours apart.
Turmeric is considered the most powerful herb as it includes several compounds that have medicinal properties. It includes Curcumin which is a strong antioxidant that boosts antioxidant enzymes in the body.
Yes. Read the label carefully as herbs can cause side effects. Guava or bayabas, which is an anti-diarrheal, can cause constipation if too much is eaten. Other herbs like garlic should also be eaten in moderation. While it can lower blood pressure, eating it raw in large quantities can cause stomach ulcers.
Garlic should never be taken with aspirin. Aspirin works as a blood thinner and taking garlic can affect how your blood clots. Hence, people on aspirin, Clopidogrel (Plavix) or Warfarin should avoid taking garlic supplements.