Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices with Health Benefits
Ayurveda, the oldest known traditional medicine system, views health on a holistic level and believes that the mind, body and soul have to be in harmony for all round wellbeing. Ayurveda has long advocated the use of plants as natural remedies for various ailments. Ancient Ayurvedic texts such as Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita and Ashtanga Hridayam mention the scientific knowledge and process of formulating Ayurvedic medicine based on naturally found herbs and spices. As per these texts, specific herbs and spices have a spiritual connection with the human mind and body, with the plant cells believed to impart wisdom as well as healing vibrations.
These Ayurvedic spices and herbs can be used internally or externally (via the skin) and have proven to have numerous benefits. Read on to find out the important ayurvedic herbs, spices and their multiple advantages…
Ayurveda weight loss herbs
Turmeric or Haldi – one of the most important spices in all Indian kitchens, it helps balance the tridoshas (vata, pitta & kapha). Turmeric or haldi has multiple health benefits, it helps suppress fat tissue (medo dhatu) growth and also prevents insulin resistance to help control weight.
Ginger or Adrak – balance the vata & kapha dosha, has anti-inflammatory properties, aids digestion & prevents overeating. Also helps balance blood sugar levels.
Garlic or Lahsun – known blood purifier, garlic helps balance the vata dosha (but can aggravate pitta dosha due to its heat element), burns calories as well as boosts the metabolism. Eating 2-3 cloves of garlic on an empty stomach can help burn belly fat and also the overall weight.
Lemon – Rich source of vitamin C, antioxidant properties, promotes digestion and helps detoxify & burn fat. Also, lemon or nimbu balances the kapha dosha due to its ushna/hot property and fights against cough and cold as well as helps boost immunity. Drinking a mixture of lemon and honey on an empty stomach in the morning is one of the best-known home remedies. It helps control the appetite, cleanses the body to aid weight loss.
Triphala – improves digestion and helps to cleanse the body. Triphala also strengthens the Ojas or vital energy to nourish the body tissues and strengthens immunity.
Ashwagandha – powerful antioxidant with anti-bacterial properties, Ashwagandha is a powerful herb that helps in stress management by rejuvenating and calming the body, thus aiding weight management.
Guggul – one of the best herbs for ideal weight control, Guggul promotes liver health, detoxification, and maintaining triglycerides & cholesterol levels.
Methi or Fenugreek – Methi seeds are known to improve digestion and help reduce weight. Mix powder of roasted methi seeds with water and consume it every morning on an empty stomach. Or soak methi seeds overnight and drink that water and chew on the soaked seeds first thing in the morning to lose weight.
Cinnamon or Dalchini – a useful spice that is used regularly in Indian kitchens, known to improve metabolism and aid weight loss.
Kalonji or Black Cumin Seeds – helps maintain a healthy body mass index and promotes weight loss.
Ashwagandha has a host of other benefits too, it helps improve memory & metabolism, reduces inflammation, helps stimulate the endocrine system (maintains normal functioning of thyroid & reduces cortisol), increases testosterone levels & improves sperm quality, helps protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals as well as acts as a pain reliever.
Amla or Indian Gooseberry – the superfood of Ayurveda, Amla is the most potent Ayurvedic herb to control diabetes. Super rich in Vitamin C & a powerful antioxidant, amla can neutralize free radicals and helps with insulin secretion. Mixing 2 tbsp of amla juice with water and drinking it on an empty stomach helps in managing blood sugar levels.
Tulsi or Basil– powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, it helps lower blood sugar levels (type II diabetes) by improving pancreatic beta-cell function and insulin secretion. Drinking 2 tbsp of tulsi juice on empty stomach is beneficial for diabetic patients.
Kadhipatta or Curry Leaves– a spice used almost daily in Indian food, curry leaves have natural anti-diabetic properties. Chewing a few leaves daily in the morning can help control as well as prevent diabetes.
Mango Leaves (tender ones) – are excellent for treating early diabetes, hyperglycemia and regulation of insulin levels. A very useful home remedy for lowering blood sugar levels, boil around 15 mango leaves in water and drink a glass of that filtered mixture in the morning.
Methi Seeds or Fenugreek – along with weight loss, methi seeds are beneficial in controlling blood sugar levels as well.
Dalchini or Cinnamon – dalchini is useful in weight management as well as lowering blood sugar levels.
Karela or Bitter Gourd – although a vegetable, bitter gourd has excellent diabetes control properties. One tbsp of karela juice in the morning helps to reduce blood sugar levels in the urine.
Neem – one of the most potent ayurvedic herbs, Neem or neemba in Sanskrit, is known to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and immuno-stimulant. The bitter herb regulates inflammation, helps detox the body and fights free radicals to boost immunity. Neem leaves are useful for treating vata disorders and muscular pains.
Triphala – a powerful immunomodulator, triphala (a mixture of bibhitaki + haritaki + amalaki) is a powerful antioxidant that balances the tridoshas (vata, pitta, kapha) and supports healthy regulation of cytokines (crucial in controlling the growth and activity of other immune system cells and blood cells), increases release of neutrophils and t-cells to strengthen immunity. Consuming Triphala Churna daily can help flush out body toxins thus helping maintain a healthy immune system.
Guduchi – referred to as the root of immortality, Guduchi has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Ayurvedic treatment for its antioxidant and immune supporting properties. Guduchi helps blood purification, toxin removal as well as protects cells against free radical damage.
Pushkarmool – Mainly found in India & Nepal, this herb helps respiration function and improves immunity.
Katuki – Another herb unique to the Himalayas, Katuki helps support a healthy immune system as well as protects the liver, regulates spleen, kidney, and gallbladder functions, helps control cholesterol & blood sugar levels.
Neem also has many other benefits including curing burns, infections, skin troubles (itching, eczema, ring worms), toxin/ama removal, treating ulcers, ear infections, eye irritation as well as dandruff.
In addition Tulsi/Basil (balance kapha dosha, known immunomodulator & stress reliever), Haldi/Turmeric (the golden spice has curcumin that promotes immunomodulatory effect), Amla/Indian gooseberry (known rasayana with restorative properties that improves immune function), Dalchini/cinnamon (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties help support immune function) are other herbs that very useful in boosting immunity.
Related: Boost Your Immunity with Ayurveda
Ayurvedic herbal remedies for skin are popular, effective and suggested as per the person’s dosha. As they are formulated using natural plants, they don’t harm the skin and can be used without any side effects, unlike chemically loaded beauty products. Ayurvedic herbs help unclog the skin pores, promote production of natural oils and have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties that keep the skin clear and glowing.
Some well-known herbs used in skincare include
Chandan or Sandalwood – known for its cooling & skin lightening properties, Chandan prevents skin inflammation, reduces pimples, acne and rashes. Applying Chandan paste (sandalwood powder + rose water) on the skin, cleanses it and has a rejuvenating effect.
Ghritkumari or Aloe Vera – One of the most widely used herbs in skincare, aloe vera has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and cooling properties. Aloe vera has a soothing effect and leaves the skin without blemishes.
Jasmine or Chameli Leaves – known for its gentle fragrance, Jasmine leaves also have antiseptic properties that protect the skin from rashes, infections, and help control sebum production (good for people with oily skin).
Kesar or Saffron – antifungal properties prevent pigmentation, acne, pimples, blackheads and blotches. Also known for skin lightening abilities.
Moringa – Moringa leaves have anti-aging, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that cures premature wrinkles, rashes, acne or pimples.
Neem – antifungal, antibacterial properties, natural exfoliator, helps opens clogged pores.
Turmeric – one of the best-known natural skin care herb since centuries, curcumin in haldi prevents premature aging, antibacterial & antifungal properties prevent skin rashes and infections.
Amla – anti-aging agent, helps skin tightening, protects skin against stress.
Tulsi – known to fight against wrinkles and aging lines, nourishes the skin and gives it an even, smooth tone.
Ashwagandha – stress reliever, skin rejuvenator, rich in antioxidants helps fight against free radicals.
Ayurvedic herbs for hair growth
Brahmi – known to help balance the tridoshas but especially pitta dosha, Brahmi is the best herb to stimulate brain and nervous system functions as it removes toxins and blockages. It helps enhance intelligence, improves memory & concentration and reduces depression.
Bhringaraj – the King of hair care, Bhringaraj is a natural cure for hair loss. It promotes blood flow to the scalp and follicles, activates the hair roots to stimulate natural hair growth.
Shikakai – one of the most well-known hair-care herbs, Shikakai is rich in antioxidants, has great hair cleansing properties and helps nourish hair naturally.
Moringa – a powerful herb for hair care, Moringa is full of Vitamin A, B and omega 3 fatty acids that help promote hair growth. it also helps improve blood circulation to the scalp that allows strong growth of hair follicles.
Neem Oil – Neem is known to treat many skin infections, its oil also promotes healthy hair and is known to be a scalp rejuvenator.
Methi Seeds/Fenugreek – rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin K, folic acid and proteins, especially nicotinic acid, methi seeds are quite effective against hair fall and dandruff, and various types of scalp problems.
Brahmi is also the wonder herb of Ayurveda for hair care. Brahmi oil is traditionally used for hair growth & thickening. Brahmi prevents hair loss, treats dry scalp, reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.
Other important herbs & spices that provide health benefits
Manjishtha – the best blood purifying Ayurvedic herb, it has anti-inflammatory properties, helps cure pitta dosha related skin disorders such as acne, cleanses the liver, detoxifies blood, regulates kidney function.
Shatavari – the most effective herb for female vitality, Shatavari cleanses the blood and supports the functioning of the female reproductive organs.
Elaichi or Cardamom – a known natural tranquilizer, Cardamom brings calm and relaxation, reduces excess kapha dosha from the lungs & stomach.
Ajwain or Carom seeds – aids digestion, is a strong nerve stimulant, helps weight loss, heals joint pain as well as balances the vata dosha .
Jeera or cumin – strengthens the digestive system, boosts metabolism and micronutrient absorption. Especially for new mothers, it helps improve milk secretion & cleanses the reproductive organs.
Many of these natural plant based ayurvedic remedies are easily available – spices in most Indian kitchens & herbs in Ayurvedic pharmacies. So, incorporate these Ayurvedic herbs in your daily routine and get numerous benefits to lead a healthy lifestyle.
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