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Ayurvedic herbs

The science of Ayurveda is a unique holistic system, based on the interaction of body, mind and spirit. In Ayurveda, the origin of all aspects of existence is pure intellect or consciousness. Energy and matter are one.


Energy is manifested in five elements; ether, air, fire, water and earth, which together form the basis of all matter. The treatment of Ayurveda is based on Indian herbs, which has a healing energy. Herbs are green in colour and are tender. They have a unique flavour and intoxicating aroma.


Ayurveda has focused on the various aspects of herbs and their practice in our day-to-day life. Specific emphasis is given on the preparation and storage of herbs followed since ancient time. Each Indian herb has a distinct quality and each of them is used for different purposes. There are mainly three different categories of herbs: mild, strong and toxic.


Herbalists mainly use mild herbs because they have nutritive, energetic and therapeutic values without causing reactions or toxic effects. Each of the herbs has their own distinct flavour, which are caused by specific biochemical agents. Sweet indicates there is sugar in the herb, sour indicates the presence of an acid, bitter means it possibly contains an alkaloid, and salty indicates sodium or mineral salts are present. There are various qualities of a herb. They are regarded as the most friendly way of treatment by the healers around the world. Herbs are applied to treat diseases solely according to their therapeutic properties and chemical constituents. Treatment include washes and enemas or the application of poultices as well as massage with warm herbal oil, burning incense, the use of precious stones and metals, and ritual purification for imbalanced mind and emotions.


Traditional cultures throughout the world apply herbs according to their energetic effects on the body. Today, Ayurveda flourishes side by side with Unani Tibb and Western conventional medicine and is actively encouraged by the Indian government as an inexpensive alternative to Western drugs.


Ayurvedic herbal treatment is the most natural way of curing a disease, as it has no side effects and after treatment complications. That's why it is regarded as the safest and most inexpensive healing method.



Herbal Effects and Usage:


Various herbs have various effects on our body. Herbs work by supplying the body with many different nutrients that tone and revitalize. Because of their diverse chemical formation, they are effective in small doses and produce few side effects. Some herbs work as general tonics that cleanse, nourish and rebuild on a cellular level. Others have an affinity for a specific system or organ, and may be used to treat related imbalances or symptoms. They work gently and naturally to support the body's own healing process. Medicinal plants are classified on the basis of their action.


Keeping in mind their composition they are divided into


.         Doshprashaman (Pacifying the doshas)

.         Dhatupradushan (Vitiating the dhatus)

.         Swasthahita (Maintaining and propagating health)


Herbs help in various functions of the body systems. Like for example; the herbs help as an appetizer, they help in the digestive process, they help in the absorption of food etc. Herbal treatment is a gentle, effective and non-invasive form that works best for non-life threatening situations.


Herbal treatment can be quite effective if it is used in the proper manner.

Right herbs should be given for the right kind of disease. Herbs can be used as a preventive medicine. It is used to strengthen the immune system. They may also provide a boost to the immune system when under attack by flu, viruses or bacterial infection. For serious illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and autoimmune disorders, herbal treatment can serve as a very effective complimentary therapy to allopathic treatment. They provide nourishment and support for the body as it undergoes more intense forms of treatment that may reduce life force. Herbal treatments are available in a variety of forms, for both internal and external use. Internal forms include taking tinctures, teas, encapsulated herbs, fresh herbs, flower essences, and essential oil dilutions. External forms of treatment include using herbal and essential oil blends, liniments, salves and lotions topically, as compresses with heat or cold, in baths, as massage oils or body wraps, and through inhalation. Looking at various aspects of herbal treatment it can be said that that herbal treatments are good in various cases compared to other forms of treatment as it has less of side effects.




Kinds of Ayurvedic Herbs:


Herbs can be classified into five types: according to origin, according to habitat, according to various actions, according to action on doshas and according to their use.


Classifications of herbs according to origin are as follows:


Dravyas are constituted by panchamahabhootas (five elements). A dravya is said to be of a particular mahabhoota if it forms a major constituent of the dravya. There are five types of dravyas:

.         Parthiv

.         Apaya

.         Taijas

.         Vayaveeya

.         Akasheeya

Classification according to habitat, family, morphology and life span of herbs (dravya)


.         Sthalaj - Plant and trees that grow on land, e.g. Haritaki, Amalki


.         Jalaj (Aquatic) - Plants that grow in water, e.g. Lotus, Spyrogyra.

.         Vruksharuha (Epiphytic, living on the surface of trees) - Plants

that grow on other trees but do not depend on that tree for their nutrition, e.g. Rasana.

.         Vrukshadan (Parasitic) - Plant that dwells on another tree and

obtains its nutrition from its host.

Types according to the action on doshas

.         Shaman - Dravyas which equate the vitiated dosha without purifying

the doshas or disturbing the equilibrium.

.         Kopan - Dravyas which vitiate the doshas in equilibrium.

.         Swasthahita - Dravyas which have a tendency to increase or decrease

vatadi doshas but do not produce vitiation of these doshas in a healthy person.

Types depending on their use

.         Aushadh dravya (drugs)

.         Ahar dravya (diet)



Medical Properties of Ayurvedic Herbs:


The treatment of Ayurveda is totally based on natural herbs. And each herb has certain medicinal value or property. Medicinal value of the plants mainly depends upon the season in which they are grown and collected. Our ancestors generally preferred the use of fresh plants but they also instructed that if it was not possible to collect fresh plants then the preserved or well stored drugs, not more than a year old could be used.


Dravya-guna-vigyan has been formulated in context with swasthya (health) and rugna (disease). The basic ideas have been developed keeping the patient in mind. Dravya-guna-vigyan is thus a science of treatment. Ayurveda is the system of traditional medicine prevalent in India since 2000 B.C. Ayurveda means the 'science of life'. Ayurveda derives medicine from Nature. After thorough study, experimentation and documentation of hundreds of plants over a period of more than a thousand years, India's ancient sages have come to accurate conclusions about the efficacy of different plants and herbs.


Although efficacy of Ayurveda for a variety of human ailments is well known in and around India, most of the world is not aware of the benefits that could be derived from this unique Indian system of medicine. Most of the Ayurvedic medicines are free from side effects or reactions. Ayurveda provides rational means for the treatment of many internal diseases, which are considered to be obstinate and incurable in other systems of medicine.


All the Ayurvedic medicines are made from natural medicinal herbs of Indian origin, which are used as herbal medicines, herbal extracts, herbal cosmetics, nutritional foods and other alternative medicines and herbal remedies for natural healings. Life according to Ayurveda is a combination of senses, mind, body and soul. So it is clear that Ayurveda is not only limited to body or physical symptoms but also gives a comprehensive knowledge about spiritual, mental and social health. Ayurveda is a natural form of treatment by natural remedies, which makes use of the power of nature to restore human beings to a state of balance.



Ayurvedic Herbal Properties:


Ayurvedic herbs are categorized according to their herbal properties and functions. Each herbs are used for each specific disease or treatment. It is important for the Ayurvedic practitioner to know, which herb should be used for a particular disease. By analyzing the symptoms and constitution of the patient, one determines the prevalence of each of the physical manifestations of the doshas (and the degree of influence exerted by the non-material aspects of each of the doshas), and selects herbs or prepared herbal formulas to harmonize the influences and correct the physical imbalances, based on the characteristics of the herbal materials. A single herb may have multiple properties and one specific property may be present in many herbs. Based on their characters they are classified into three main



Vaisheik gunas (related to the sensory organ)


Samanya gunas (general)


Atma gunas (related to the soul)


One of the major descriptions of herb properties is based on the taste of the herbs, i.e. Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.


The effects of each of the taste group are as follows:


Sweet: it improves the complexion, strengthens the body, heals wounds and ulcers, and purifies the rasa and the blood.


Sour: carminative, digestive and accumulates secretive impurities (waste material that is secreted) in the tissues to aid elimination.


Salty : purifies tissues, digestive, relaxing, separates impurities, accumulates excretions in the system, causes the body to lose tone (relaxes it), clears the outlets of the system, produces softness of all the structures of the body


Pungent: increases digestive power, purifies the body, prevents obesity, causes relaxation of the ligaments and of the system in general; diminishes formation of milk, semen, and fat


Bitter : separates the doshas, appetizing, digestive, and purifying, improves secretion of breast milk, and reduces the quantity of feces, urine, perspiration, fat, marrow, and pus


Astringent: heals ulcers, checks all discharges, separates impurities from tissues, reduces obesity and excessive moisture.



The properties of herbs and effects of the doshas are taken into account in designing the Ayurvedic herb formulas. So it is important to know the details of the herbal properties so that it can apply for a specific treatment area






Published with the kind permission of Dr. Sachin Dua


Dr. Dua has a tremendous passion for Ayurveda, believing that it is by far the best preventative healthcare system known to man. He holds a B.A.M.S. Degree from M.D. University, Rohtak, Haryana. He is committed to academic excellence and his ongoing goal of providing the highest level of Ayurvedic training outside of India.  

He teaches both the public and professionals such as; physicians, chiropractors, osteopaths, psychologists and other professionals in the basic principles and practices of Ayurveda.


Dr. Dua may be emailed at: sachin_dua1979 at yahoo dot co dot in


Copyright © 2006 Dr. Sachin Dua. All rights reserved.


This article was published on Friday 08 May, 2009.
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