Indian Medicinal Herbs: An Introduction to Ayurvedic Herbs

Since ancient times the subcontinent of India has used a system of medicine called Ayurveda, meaning the book or science of life. This practice believes in the philosophical idea that the body, the mind, and the spirit all work together to maintain optimal health in an individual. While Ayurveda is concerned primarily with the physical body, it also understands the links between the health of the body and the health of the mind and spirit. Using herbs to promote healing and help the body maintain a healthful balance is an essential element of Ayurvedic medicine. Yoga, massage, and a healthful diet also play important roles in this system. They act to strengthen the bonds between mind, body, and spirit.
In the West, Ayurveda is considered complementary and alternative medicine. Practitioners are not available everywhere, but Ayurveda herbs and formulas are easily obtained through internet sources. People in the West are turning to herbal products in record numbers as a source of alternative medical therapy.

Ten Indian Medicinal Herbs

Aloe Vera: The gel from inside the leaves of this plant is primarily known for its healing properties when treating burns to the skin. It is also useful for insect bites, rashes and other skin disorders. It heals wounds by preventing infection. Taken internally, aloe vera has been shown in scientific studies to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. Said to rid the body of toxins and sooth the digestive tract, it has been used to alleviate ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. It cleanses the liver, kidneys, stomach, bladder, and colon. It may also help boost the immune system.
Ashwagandha: This herb is an adaptogen; a substance that has no toxicity, works to balance all body systems rather than targeting a specific organ, and aids in normalizing body systems when under stress. A shrub native to both India and North America, it has been used traditionally by Ayurvedic healers and Native Americans to treat inflammation, boost the immune system, increase mental activity, and provide for overall wellness. Recent studies show its usefulness for these purposes along with its role in decreasing stress and acting as an antioxidant.
Bacopa: Used medicinally for millennia in India, bacopa functions as a nerve nutrient, cognitive enhancer, and nerve tissue healer. It is used in Ayurvedic formulas for mental exertion.
Basil: Well known in the West as a seasoning, basil is used in India to treat skin disorders. It detoxifies and purifies the blood. The tea from the basil plant can sooth an inflamed throat.
Chamomile: Used extensively to induce a calm state, chamomile is also effective in warding off depression. It has antibiotic and disinfectant properties and is said to kill lice and mites when applied to the hair and scalp. Certain varieties have anti-inflammatory properties and can relieve pain in muscles and joints. Chamomile also helps in the elimination of toxins from the system, purification of the blood, and promotion of healthy circulation.
Ginger Root: Best known as a substance that prevents nausea, ginger is used in India as a drink to reduce the effects of the common cold.
Licorice: This plant used to flavor candy is one of the most ancient and widely used medicinal plants on earth. It is a powerful antioxidant and has been used to treat ulcers and sooth inflamed tissues in the mouth and throat. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Licorice should not be used if pregnant or if you have high blood pressure.
Neem: Neem is very effective in treating all types of skin disorders.
Triphala is composed of the dried fruits of Amla, Bibitaki, and Haritaki. These three fruits together are a detoxifier and tissue regulator. Widely used in India to improve digestion and regularity, this blend also reduces blood levels of cholesterol, improves circulation, lowers high blood pressure, and acts as a tonic for the liver.
Turmeric: The bright yellow seasoning found in curries is turmeric. It has been used for centuries to fight infections and is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

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