Ayurveda is best understood as a way of life. But that does not prevent us from applying its basic principles to your everyday life, in order to benefit from them.
Each and every herb in Ayurvedic herbology has a multitude of benefits – for the mind, body, and spirit. Herbs can be used internally or externally or even used in aromatherapy. From weight loss to beautiful skin to overall vitality, herbs can transform our health in so many ways! Here are some highlights of some of the Top 10 herbs in Ayurveda and easy ways to incorporate them into the daily routine.
1. Ajwain (Carum copticum) – WEIGHT LOSS It tastes like caraway or thyme, only stronger. The seeds are small, gray-green in color and quite peppery when raw, but milder when cooked. Ajwain is helpful for pacifying Vata and Kapha, and increases Pitta. It contributes the pungent taste, with a slight bitter undertone. Ajwain is a strong digestive and nerve stimulant. It functions as a weight loss herb by drawing out deep-seated toxins from the body. Ajwain also heals painful joints – it is an excellent herb to address Vata issues. Consume 2-4gm daily or as water extract from 10mg of Carom. However, contraindications include avoiding eating carom in following conditions – Stomach ulcer, Internal bleeding, Ulcerative colitis (acute phase) & Mouth ulcer
2. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)- VITALITY One of the best anti-aging herbs, Ashwagandha enhances vitality. This herb is crucial for people suffering from too much stress, or who are overworked. Take 1/2 teaspoon cooked in milk (sweeten with 1 tsp of raw honey). Note that Ayurvedic herbs are fat soluble, and are able to go deeper into the tissues and cells when taken with a healthy fat (such as ghee, butter, or raw whole milk). Ashwagandha is used to tone, support, and revitalize bodily functions. It has been revered over time for its dual capacity to energize and calm at the same time. Stress can cause fatigue, often manifesting as “hyper” signs like agitation and difficulty sleeping.
3. Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) – TRANQUILIZER According to ayurveda, cardamom is tridoshic (good for balancing all three doshas), but people trying to keep Pitta in balance should eat it in smaller amounts. Cardamom is considered an excellent digestive, especially beneficial in reducing bloating. Cardamom is a natural tranquilizer, bringing clarity and joy to the heart and mind. It neutralizes the acidity of coffee and caffeine – it also neutralizes the mucus-forming properties in milk. Add the pods or powder to coffee as you are brewing it, or boil cardamom in warm milk before bed. Cardamom tastes best freshly powdered. It combines well with other sweet spices such as fennel and with pungent spices such as cloves. It can be used in baking, in sweet sauces and puddings, and in milk shakes that include fruits and nuts.
4. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)- ASSIMILATION Cumin enhances the digestive system and metabolism. It helps the body with nutrient absorption. Cumin can be especially useful for new moms after giving birth, as it cleanses the reproductive organs and improves milk secretion. Use cumin while cooking to assist in the assimilation of micronutrients.
5. Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)- BRAIN TONIC Brahmi is the #1 tonic for the brain and nervous system. Brahmi balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and decalcifies the pineal gland. It is tridoshic, but is especially beneficial for balancing high Pitta conditions. Brahmi removes toxins and blockages from the nervous system. It helps with depression, enhances intelligence and improves memory and concentration. Brahmi enhances the overall cellular wisdom in the body. It also happens to be great for hair growth! Take Brahmi every morning to rejuvenate the body-mind. Ways to take it: boil in water (as a tea), boil it in milk, or make Brahmi ghee. It can also be used as a medicated oil for the hair, and the nutrients will seep into the brain cells via the crown chakra. Bacopa extract is POSSIBLY SAFE for adults when taken by mouth appropriately and short-term, up to 12 weeks. Common side effects include increased bowel movements, stomach cramps, nausea, dry mouth, and fatigue.
6. Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia)– PURIFYING This bitter, astringent herb was traditionally used and valued for it extreme effectiveness in cleansing and purifying the blood, liver, and lymphatic system. Manjistha is a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. It has been used as a muscle relaxant; to ease stress, anxiety and depression; heal bruises and reduce arthritic pain and swelling; and relieve digestive issues, allergies and skin-related issues, such as acne. It enhances circulation, helps to process and remove toxins from the body, and has even been used to dissolve tumors. Overall it is a powerful immune stimulant that deserves a place in your herbal medicine cabinet!
7. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)- REJUVENATOR Licorice is a rejuvenating herb that is commonly used in both the East and West. It rejuvenates all systems of the body and reduces acidity. It calms the mind and nurtures the spirit. Add licorice root to hot tea as a sweetener, in the place of honey or sugar. Or, boil powdered licorice root in a milk decoction. Licorice root is contraindicated, or dangerous to consume, if you are pregnant or have heart or blood pressure problems and certain chronic illnesses. Over-consumption can lead to perilously low potassium in your blood.
8. Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) – FEMALE VITALITY As a reproductive tonic, Shatavari is relied on heavily for all stages of a woman’s reproductive cycle, beginning with the menarche (start of menses), supporting the female system through menses, ovulation and fertility, uterine strength during pregnancy, childbirth and ample lactation (flow and quantity of milk), and hot flashes, irritability, irregular memory and dryness during menopause.But the benefits extend to the male reproductive system, too. Its unctuous properties increase all the reproductive fluids, supporting a healthy sperm count and regularity in men.Perhaps not surprisingly, Shatavari helps to build ojas, the precious fluid in the body that governs vitality, virility, immunity and sleep. Shatavari, as part of the asparagus family, should be avoided by anyone with an allergy to asparagus. Some say that asparagus can have a diuretic effect, and therefore, shatavari should be used with caution in people taking diuretic drugs.
9. Neem (Azadirachta indica)- DETOX Neem is one of the most powerful blood purifiers and detoxifiers in Ayurvedic herbology. Best for skin diseases, wound healing, and skin damage (especially from the sun), neem is useful for all Pitta disorders (such as skin and eyes). It works wonders for eczema and psoriasis skin flare-ups. It is also useful for joint and muscle pain. Use neem on the skin in a medicated oil.
10. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)- THE SPICE OF LIFE Turmeric purifies the blood and the channels of the body. It improves the skin’s complexion, bringing circulation and nutrition to the skin. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and is a perfect remedy to treat acne-prone skin. Turmeric balances all the doshas, but it balances Pitta the most because of its blood-cleansing and liver-cleansing properties. Try to incorporate turmeric into your daily life in literally any way you can. Ideally use 1 tsp per day in some form: whether on the skin, or in the diet. Throw some in as you are sautéeing veggies in coconut oil to throw over quinoa. Boil some turmeric in goat milk with honey before bed. If you consume turmeric on a regular basis, you will notice your health improve in a multitude of areas.