Results tagged “Health”

Opening to New Challenges


Playing the Irish Washerwoman

The summer before last, I was staying with my sister Kate in rural Donegal, in the West of Ireland. One morning, I heard my brother-in-law, Sean, playing Irish fiddle while my niece, Emily, played penny whistle. I stepped into the room and began accompanying them with claps. "I know that song, The Irish Washerwoman," I remarked. "I must have played it long ago for my violin grade exams." At that, Sean thrust a fiddle into my hands.

"Play it! Play The Irish Washerwoman!"

Sean had thrown me a challenge. True, after years of instruction and thousands of hours of practice, the violin wasn't exactly new to me. But there had been a multi-decade gap since my violin student days. And, even for an adept classical violinist, Celtic fiddle is a chance to begin anew, with fresh styles and techniques. Would I take up the challenge and make room in my already full life for something new and different? Or, once I returned to my normal routine in America, would I go back to 'business as usual'? Would Irish fiddle be anything more than a holiday fling?

What makes us respond to new challenges? And what holds us back, keeps us in the same rut, doing things because we always do it that way? When we take on something new or do things differently, our entire mind-body complex has a chance to grow, developing fresh roots and branches. Underused muscles are trained, fresh synaptic connections made, new friendships created. If the call of the new is relocation or travel, new vistas open up to us. If we undertake something novel in our current location, we discover unforeseen venues and social circumstances, experiencing our old hometown in a different way.

Yet paradoxically, we may be avoiding new challenges precisely because of the potential benefits they offer. More often than not, we cling to old patterns that have long reinforced our sense of identity--ahamkar, the illusory identification. We hold these patterns in our musculature, resisting the new yoga class or exercise routine that could help to re-pattern us. We cling to old emotions in our fat, continuing to eat the comfort foods that fill our fat cells. We create routines and thought patterns that may not serve us but promote our sense of me and mine. "Me, I'm so busy. Me, I'm so overworked. Me, I'm so undervalued. Me, I'm so important".

Opening ourselves to new challenges and letting go of old patterns are two inner revolutions that go hand in hand. We need to let go of habits that don't serve us in order to make room for new interests and activities. And we need fresh stimulus and new input to divert us from the deeply-rutted road of old habits. For example, we could take a morning walk with a friend instead of meeting that friend for coffee. According to Ayurveda, unhealthy habits are best reduced gradually and healthy habits are best introduced slowly. If we typically eat out, we could begin by planning one day a week to cook. Perhaps we cook with our significant other as a social activity and enjoy a meal together. Gradually we acquire kitchen utensils and ingredients and begin collecting recipes. The food is better and less expensive and soon we are cooking twice a week, then three times a week. Cooking becomes a hobby, then a passion and eventually we find we have become a gourmet cook and we're giving dinner parties and organizing potlucks. Now eating out is just an occasional treat and home-cooked food is our lifestyle. We have a new skillset and a deeper appreciation for food and eating.

Although there can be many benefits to taking on a new challenge, not everything that is novel is necessarily beneficial. As we all know, 'New!' is a favored hype word in the world of marketing. As a society we have taken on an attitude of 'because we can.' We have dammed rivers, built vast cities, conquered space, split the atom, cloned sheep and genetically engineered our food 'because we can.' When faced with the opportunity to get out of a rut or break a pattern, it's important to ask why. What is the benefit of this new activity? For people leading a mediocre and stultifying life in the late fifties and early sixties, 'wife-swapping parties' came into vogue--still known and practiced today as the Swinging lifestyle, perhaps because the latter phrase sounds less sexist than 'wife swapping', which implies that women are property. No doubt Swinging is challenging, at least at first, and no doubt it is perceived as something new. The question is--does it benefit? Is it a challenge worth taking?

Opening our lives to new challenges requires discrimination as well as willingness and perseverance. In Vedic dharma we are taught that there are four legitimate aims of life--dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Of these aims of life, artha or wealth and kama or pleasure are pursued under the umbrella of dharma, that is, in accordance with the divine order, or in alignment with the true nature of things. Dharma is an overarching principle that invites us to free ourselves from the sway of craving, anger and ignorance. Dharma can only be set aside when we enter the dynamic of moksha or liberation. Within the dynamic of moksha, our whole being is consumed by the passion for the welfare of all. Rules no longer apply only because we have no inclination at all to do anything that would harm another being. As St Augustine said, 'Love and do what you like.'

In the two examples given above, home cooking and 'wife swapping', kama or the pleasure principle is involved. Once we begin to derive pleasure from cooking at home, we want to do it more and more. This starts to benefit our health, our pocketbook and our relationships, as we take up the challenge of pursuing kama in accordance with dharma. In the 'wife-swapping' example, there is an opportunity to pursue kama outside dharma. Fuelling our craving, we soon become satisfied only by more and more extreme stimuli, becoming enslaved to that which we supposed would 'free' us.

The call of the new can be the clarion call of awakening or the siren song of seduction. When our life is shallow, when we live on the surface and lack meaning, we yearn for the new, yet we often choose the siren's song to lull us asleep amid the mediocrity. Instead, we can hold ourselves ready for invitations to deeper meaning. Sometimes, 'do what most you fear to do,' can be a good guideline; inviting courage, revealing a profound challenge that leads to growth. Overcoming our fears and limitations, we become stronger and fuller, living life with more depth and enthusiasm. But first we need to check in and see what part of us is fearful. There is no need to do what our conscience fears, but every reason to do what our old patterns dread.

A new year is a time to experience a sense of willingness to take on new challenges, readiness to encounter what these challenges bring up and discrimination to discern how to respond to the various challenges and invitations that present themselves. Is this a life-giving opportunity or a diversion from our path?

Eighteen months after my visit to Donegal, I'm still practicing fiddle daily and connecting with Sean on Skype for lessons. Despite all the difficulties of taking on something new, I am making time to renew my childhood love affair with the violin. I'm gaining upper body strength, honing my musical skills, nourishing my Celtic roots and making some great new friends. And I'm working on my classical violin skills as well. Slowly I'm overcoming performance anxiety and letting go of the fear of failure. I have a wonderful new stress release activity at end of a busy day. I'm glad I took up a challenge, because it has brought more joy into my life!


I was gifted this Zephirin Amelot violin when I was ten years old!

Making Merry: Ayurveda and Alcohol

Wine in Crystal Glass by Candlelight preview image.jpg

In a previous blog, we looked at how various meats and alcoholic beverages are recommended for use in the winter months. Today, let's take a look at some Ayurvedic perspectives on alcohol.
How and why might we use alcohol in an Ayurvedic context?

One of the most important texts of Ayurveda is Charak Samhita. Charak takes a nuanced view of alcohol use and abuse. Wine, "is like a nectar when someone drinks it in the proper manner, in the proper quantity, at the proper time, with wholesome food, adjusted for the strength of the individual and with merrymaking. On the other hand, it acts like a poison when one indulges in drinking wine of poor quality, or in the context of a disorderly lifestyle or excess physical exertion." This same dilemma confronts us to this day. Alcohol can be a pleasant or even beneficial component of a celebratory meal, or it can be the destroyer of lives and families.

Wine has ten properties: it is light, sharp, hot, subtle, sour, quickly absorbed, quick acting, drying, sedative and rough. These ten qualities are exactly the same as the ten qualities of poison. When consumed in great excess, alcohol can cause coma and death. It is a notorious liver toxin and brain poison. Regular excess consumption can cause hepatic cirrhosis and eventually alcohol dementia. But, in line with Charak's nuanced approach, the same qualities that make alcohol a poison also render it a yoga vahi, an excellent vehicle for introducing medicines into the tissues. This is the rationale behind the use of tinctures, as well as the various medicated wines used in Ayurveda, known as asavas and arishtas. The most well-known and commonly used outside India is drakshasava, a wine made from dark grapes or raisins and spices such as cardamom.

Because wine is an intoxicant, Charak gives importance to set and setting for consuming alcohol. This is not something to be done casually, nor when alone, nor when sad or stressed. Make sure your body is externally and internally clean before partaking. Dress up nicely, in clean clothes and jewellery and wear essential oils suited to the season. Recline on a comfortable couch with cushions. Your environment should also be uplifted, with flower arrangements and incense. Drink in a pleasant social setting, with guests whose company you enjoy. Sincerity and affection are key qualities in this context.

Charak actually recommends using a gold wine-cup, like the Mycaenean one pictured here.


This makes sense in that gold only dissolves in aqua regis and hence would not contaminate the wine or impart a metallic taste. Nowadays we are more likely to use crystal (or cut glass, for UK readers). My father used to emphasize polishing the wineglasses nicely so they were not just clean, but sparkling. Charak would agree. And Charak also gives importance to pairing good food with good wine, mentioning fruits, green vegetables, well seasoned dishes and roasted meats.

In ancient times a libation was offered before drinking wine. Today we might make a toast, or do kiddush, or at least say "Cheers" or
sláinte (in Irish,) santé (French), or l'chaim (in Hebrew). In other words, there should be some sense of sacredness, offering, blessing or well-wishing before partaking.

Finally, Charak offers some special precautions for each dosha.

Vata: Wine is drying for you. Make sure you get an oil massage (or self-massage) and hot shower or steam before drinking. Have warm and oily food before taking wine. Prefer sweet to dry wines.

Pitta: Wine is heating for your constitution. Take a lukewarm or cool bath, use a rosewater spritzer, wear sandalwood or vetiver essential oil and loose clothing. Select a menu of sweet, bitter and astringent foods such as green vegetables, sweet potatoes etc. Choose red wine or mead (honey wine).

Kapha: Wine adds extra calories to your meal. To get your metabolism going, season your food with black pepper. Use kapha-soothing grains such as barley or quinoa.
Choose red wine or mead (honey wine).

Next week, we will look at some of the latest medical research regarding alcohol. Is it beneficial? Is it safe? We'll find out next week.

We use wine for merrymaking (sometimes in excess)

Merrymakers, 1870, Carolus Duran, Detroit Institute of Arts

And for rituals as well, like Kiddush.


Painting by Hevda Ferenci.

Ayurvedic Self Care for Winter


Winter in Massachusetts by Sadananda

During winter, our strength is increased because the cold constricts our skin capillaries. The heat doesn't dissipate as it does in other seasons and agni, the digestive fire, is much stronger. If we don't take care to eat heavier foods and larger portions in winter, the increased digestive fire starts to consume our tissues. This is particularly dangerous in the case of elderly people, whose tissues can't build up as well as they used to. The vata, or bodily wind, helps agni digest the tissues. So it's important to eat warm, well cooked foods and to make use of the three tastes that calm vata--sweet, sour and salty. At Alandi Ashram, we make big jars of kimchi in winter for a sour, salty and warming condiment and eat miso soups. We bake winter squashes and use sweet potatoes, yams and squashes in our soups and dals to bring in the sweet taste. We also enjoy warming antiviral teas like tulsi tea and ginger tea.

On winter mornings, calm vata with an abhyanga (oil massage) using oil medicated with vata-soothing herbs such as ashwagandha and bala. Recommended oil blends are Ashwagandhadi tailam or Ashwagandha Bala Oil.

After the long winter night, you will probably have a keen appetite for breakfast following your yoga or morning exercise.
Take a warm, nourishing breakfast such as oatmeal with toasted almonds, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Other ideas are uppama, Spicy Quinoa Breakfast Burrito, Spicy Scrambled Eggs or Kitcheri.

The ancient Ayurvedic texts recommend chicken soups or meat soups in winter, meat curries, sweet wines, cordials, urad dal, semolina dishes, milk products, and use of ghee and oils like mustard oil and sesame oil. Some readers might be surprised to see meat and liquor being recommended, although there is no doubt these are heating foods. In subsequent blogs we will explain more about how and why to use or abstain from these foods.

Avoid drafts, making sure your house is well-insulated. Wear warm boots, thick sweaters and cozy socks and use warm slippers indoors. Wool and cotton blankets are recommended. And keep warm beside the one you love. The Ayurvedic texts recommend sexual activity in winter, when our strength is increased. So cuddle up to your honey--and remember to practice safe sex!

Trident in the snow at Alandi Ashram photo by Alakananda

Eggplant Sabji.jpg

According to Ayurveda, A balanced meal should include all the six tastes--sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. In this blog we'll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each taste and look at how to plan a menu that includes all six tastes for optimum health and nutrition.

The sweet taste is building and nurturing and calms pitta and kapha. This does not mean you have to eat a lot of sugar. Many staples such as rice and wheat, as well as vegetables such as sweet potato, provide the sweet taste in your meal. But a hint of intense sweetness, such as a date chutney, can lift the enjoyment of the meal. The sweet taste in not beneficial to kapha, which is why we suggest that kapha individuals limit starchy and sweet foods such as rice, bread and desserts. And ancient Ayurvedic texts point out that excess of the sweet taste is associated with diabetes and obesity. Hence some of us who are blood sugar-challenged may choose to substitute mashed cauliflower for rice.
In the thali pictured above, rice and bottle gourd provide a mild sweetness and apple chutney provides a hint of intense sweetness.

The salty taste is an essential component in giving taste to food and promoting digestion. But ancient Ayurvedic texts suggest that excess salt consumption may be related to aging and cancer. Salt your dishes such as dal, kitcheri, sabji, soup, lightly--just enough to bring out the flavour. Then put a salt shaker on the table for vata. A bit of the salty taste helps vata digestion. But pitta and kapha should stay away from the salt shaker, as the salty taste is injurious for them in excess. In the thali pictured above, the dal and sabji are lightly salted.

The sour taste improves the taste of food, helping us to feel satisfied more easily. It helps kindle the digestive fire and expel gas. When a meal lacks the sour taste, we may eat more, because our senses have not been pacified by the enjoyment of the meal. In Ayurveda we provide the sour taste by using lemon or lime as a seasoning. Tomato is also a source of the sour taste. In addition, vata can eat lime pickles, since the sour taste is good for vata. The sour taste is too hot for pitta and too moist for kapha, so pitta and kapha should not eat strong tomato sauces or a lot of citrus fruits. In the thali above, lemon has been used as a seasoning in the dal. The fruit chutney provides some sourness and so does the home made fresh turmeric pickle, which is marinaded in lime.

The bitter taste is detoxifying, antibacterial, cleansing to the liver and blood. It clears the palate, enhancing the other tastes, and improves digestion. It is the best taste for pitta and kapha.The American and British diets tend to be deficient in the bitter taste, leading us to crave coffee. The bitter taste can be provided by using fenugreek seeds as a seasoning, as well as by including bitter greens in the diet. A special vegetable, bitter melon, also known as karela or bitter gourd, provides plenty of the bitter taste in the meal. In the thali pictured above, Eggplant sabji with bitter melon provides healthy bitterness!

The astringent taste is anti-inflammatory and very good for pitta and kapha. However, it is challenging for vata, which is why astringent foods such as beans and lentils must be well-seasoned with tastes that are good for vata, such as lime, fresh ginger and jaggery (raw sugar). In the thali above, the dal and the fresh turmeric chutney provide astringency.

The pungent taste helps kindle digestion and hence should be included in moderation in every meal, to balance the heaviness of the sweet taste. The use of fresh ginger and mustard seeds as seasonings and the addition of chutneys and pickles to the menu bring the benefit of the pungent taste. Kapha can have a larger spoonful of pungent seasonings since the pungent taste is very good for kapha. In the thali above, the chutneys provide pungency, as does the turmeric pickle, which contains fresh ginger and yellow mustard powder.

Recipes pictured on this thali: Eggplant sabji with bitter melon, Chana Dal Puree with Tender Bottle Gourd Cubes, Turmeric Pickle, Apple Chutney.

Tumeric Pickle


Known in Sanskrit as haridra and in Hindi as Haldi, turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-allergic, anticancer, blood purifier and digestant. Gain the full benefits of turmeric by including fresh turmeric in your diet. This recipe marries the benefits of turmeric with the anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antiviral and digestive properties of fresh ginger-- and adds additional curcumins from yellow mustard.


1 cup chopped raw turmeric
1 cup chopped ginger
1/2 cup lime juice
chopped green chilies as per the taste
salt to taste
1 tsp dried fenugreek seeds
1 tsp asafetida
1/4 cup mustard powder


  • Fry fenugreek seeds and asafetida in a little oil until golden.

  • Cool and powder.

  • Mix mustard powder, fenugreek seeds and asafetida powder well.

  • Apply the powder to turmeric and ginger.

  • Pour lime juice and salt over it.

  • Add chopped green chilies to the mixture.

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil until smoking and pour over the pickle.

  • Store it in a sterilised glass jar.
  • Serve it after 8 days.


After doing the work of regaining balance, the next step is managing your constitution. And here it is good to remember that, although your predominant dosha is the one most likely to go out of balance, the other doshas can also be thrown off as well. To avoid disturbing the other doshas, stay away from extremes such as severe heat or cold, foods that are very salty, oily, pungent, or sour, consumption of large amounts of sweets or drinking too much alcohol.

If your constitution is vata, your best tastes are sweet, sour and salty. But this doesn't mean that you can eat a lot of sugar. Grains and many vegetables fall under the sweet taste, and are much more balanced than cookies and candies. Try to avoid excess travelling and high impact exercise. Yoga, swimming, strolling and low impact forms of dance are ideal for you. Since vata is dry, remember to do self massage with sesame oil or ashwagandhadi tailam.

Next, let's turn to pitta. You need to avoid hot, sharp, salty and oily foods, drinks and situations. Sweet, bitter and astringent tastes are best for you and summer season is your most challenging time. Eat plenty of bitter greens seasoned with turmeric, coriander and cumin and keep hydrated with cumin-coriander-fennel tea or hibiscus tea. Cool your head with coconut brahmi oil. Choose early mornings or evenings for exercise and walk in the moonlight whenever you can.

As for kapha, everything that is good for vata is bad for you! Your best tastes are bitter, pungent and astringent. Barley is your best grain if you tolerate gluten, while buckwheat or quinoa are alternatives. Start your day with a cup of spice tea including ginger, cardamom and cinnamon and take some brisk exercise before you start work. A sedentary lifestyle is your greatest enemy and simple things like using the stairs instead of the elevator can make a difference to your wellbeing.

Considering the tastes and lifestyle factors needed for your constitution can make a difference in how you feel on a daily basis, so plan your menus and daily activities accordingly! An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you with menus, recipes and lifestyle plans to maintain optimal health.


According to Ayurveda, balance comes from applying opposite qualities to those of the imbalance. If vata is cold, light, dry, rough, mobile and clear, then a vata imbalance can be helped by the use of warmth, heavier grounding qualities, oiliness, smoothness, and stability. If you are vata imbalanced it is good to receive treatments like oil massage, herbal steam and shirodhara (oil stream to the forehead) as well as to eat warm, moist, smooth, well-cooked foods and to take vata balancing herbs like ashwagandha. Warm spices like cumin and cinnamon also help balance vata.

Pitta is hot, sharp, light, motile and sour and can best be balanced by its opposite qualities such as cool and dull. How about a cup of warm milk at bedtime, spiced with cardamom? The milk has cool, dull and heavy qualities ideal for pitta. Coconut oil or brahmi oil in a coconut base also has cool, dull and heavy qualities ideal for a head massage to calm pitta. Coriander is a wonderful spice to bring pitta back into balance. And among pitta soothing herbs, shatavari has pride of place in carrying the opposite qualities to pitta.

Kapha is cold, heavy, oily, cloudy and sticky, so one of the best ways to calm a kapha imbalance (such as head cold) is to go off wheat and cow dairy for a time, since both these foods share similar qualities to kapha. Foods that are light, dry and spicy do well for kapha and so do ginger baths, using a mixture of dry ginger powder and baking soda. Dry ginger is also useful as a tea for kapha imbalances.

In the event that you are uncertain which dosha is imbalanced, try remedies that balance the qualities of all three doshas. You can drink cumin-coriander-fennel tea and take triphala to help balance the qualities of all three doshas. Remembering the simple principle of using one quality to bring down another, you can work towards regaining balance.

English: Dhanvantari (धन्वंतरी), known as an a...

Where am I right now? In balance or off balance? Here is a simple way to keep in touch with your current Ayurvedic condition.

  • Observe your stools
  • Observe your tongue
  • Observe your energy level
  • Observe your mood
  • Run through your body for pain or tenderness
  • Observe your appetite
  • Observe the taste in your mouth

Your stools should be light tan colour, about the consistency of a ripe banana and should float. Hard, dry or dark stools show that your vata is off, while loose stools indicate a pitta imbalance. Oily stools could be a kapha problem.

Your tongue should be clean and pink after you use your tongue scraper. If it is coated, you have toxins in your system.

Moving on to more subtle observations; notice whether your energy level is consistent. If you feel unusually wired or have uneven energy, your vata may be disturbed. If your energy feels intense, perhaps you are pitta imbalanced. If you feel heavy and sluggish, this could be a manifestation of kapha or of toxins.

Now, notice your mood. Anxious, nervous or spaced out? It sounds as if you have a vata imbalance. Irritable or frustrated? Pitta may be too high. Feeling like sitting around watching TV and snacking? You could have a kapha imbalance.

Next, checking through your body for pain or tenderness, you might notice low back pain or achey joints, a signal that vata is imbalanced. If you feel tenderness in your upper abdomen or are experiencing heartburn, it's time to think about pitta. Tight chest or sinus pain? Maybe kapha is disturbed.

Considering appetite next, if you find you are skipping meals or forgetting to eat, this is another vata indication. On the other hand, if you are hungry all the time and craving sweets and starches, pitta is playing up. And if you have a low appetite, feel a bit nauseated, don't want breakfast and get sleepy after lunch, this is a good indication of a kapha imbalance.

Take a moment to notice the taste in your mouth. Bitter could be vata, sour taste could be pitta and sweet or salty taste in the mouth could signal kapha issues.

With this self-check under your belt, you're well on the way to taking charge of your daily wellbeing. Work with your Ayurvedic practitioner to develop self-care strategies to use amid the daily fluctuations of vikriti, your current imbalance.

Lord of Ayurveda,Dhanvantari

Lord of Ayurveda,Dhanvantari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever wondered why you tend to run late and often feel rushed? Ever wished you could be more easygoing, yet know you typically strive for perfection? Ever puzzled about your slowness? As you come to understand your Ayurvedic constitution, you will gain a fresh understanding of what makes you tick.

If you are vata, you may have a hard time budgeting either time or money; trying to run around to too many places too quickly, or impulse-buying things you don't really need. If you are pitta, you may have noticed that you have high ideals and expect a lot of yourself. If you are kapha, you may find that although you have plenty of stamina, it can take you a while to get going. When I was in school, I always wished I was one of the big, strong athletic girls with long thick hair. At the same time, many of those girls probably wished they were me and could excel in study. As we come to understand our constitution, instead of wishing to be different, we can learn to enjoy who we are--with a touch of humour--and seek out the things that will balance and support us.

If we are vata, we can take delight in our creativity and sense of fun. At the same time, we can find ways to slow down, relax and create routine and structure. Recognizing that we tend to be nervous and anxious, we can find simple ways, such as oil massage, to soothe our system. If we are pitta, we can appreciate our high ideals and desire for excellence, while making space in our lives for some cooling gentleness with ourselves. Irritability and frustration may seem to be an inevitable part of our lives, but often all we need is a little self-nurturance, like taking time to sip a cup of brahmi tea. And if we are kapha we can enjoy our calm, steady and nurturing qualities while remembering to find opportunities for challenge and change. Understanding that we tend to become sluggish or stuck, we can make sure to plan some yoga classes, brisk walks and other strategies to get us going.

So many of our problems come from wishing to be like someone else! With the added self-awareness that we get from understanding our Ayurvedic constitution, rather than trying to be different, we can enjoy being who we are.

Quick online quizzes give only a vague idea of prakriti. Without expert guidance, it is easy to confuse longstanding imbalances with inherent constitution, or to go with the constitution you wished you had rather than the genuine one. An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you determine your prakriti and take charge of your wellness through using your knowledge of prakriti to gain greater self-awareness and understanding.

The three dosha's and the 5 great elements the...

The three doshas and the 5 great elements they are composed from (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Knowing your prakriti or Ayurvedic constitution offers many benefits. Although you will often read or hear of the one diet or the one exercise program that is ideal for everyone, Ayurveda offers the consideration that people are different and have different needs. The diet that worked for your best friend could be harmful for you. By knowing your constitution, you are in a position to tailor your diet, exercise, daily supplemental Ayurvedic herbs, massage oils and other aspects of life to your individual needs.

Your constitution can give you important clues about your relationship to the seasons. For instance, if you are vata, autumn is likely to be your most challenging season. So it could be important to do warm oil massages and take Ashwagandha at that season. If you are pitta, summer brings the most challenges, while if you are kapha, you will need to take extra care in winter and spring.

Your constitution also tells you about your sensitive time of day. From two to six in the morning and afternoon are sensitive for vata, who can get very stressed and anxious at these times. The times around midnight and noon are dangerous for pitta events such as anger outbursts or midnight snacking. And sleeping after sunrise or eating heavily in the evening can make kapha sluggish and slow.

Knowledge of your constitution can assist in your relocation plans, your career choices and your clothing and décor selections. For example, Vata is dry and if relocating should choose a moist climate. Kapha will become lazy in a repetitive job and pitta should avoid choosing bright red clothing or décor with hot colours.

These are just few of the many benefits of knowing our constitution. Ayurveda, like the Oracle at Delphi, offers us a great invitation: "Know thyself!"

Quick online quizzes give only a vague idea of prakriti. Without expert guidance, it is easy to confuse longstanding imbalances with inherent constitution, or to go with the constitution you wished you had rather than the genuine one. An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you determine your prakriti and create lifestyle habits that support your wellbeing, based upon knowledge of constitution.

Skin Inflammation

by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Skin inflammations are quite common conditions, with atopic dermatitis or eczema affecting 10-20% of all children and 1-3% of adults (1) and psoriasis affecting between 2 and 2.6% of the US population. The prevalence of atopic dermatitis has doubled or tripled in industrialized countries during the past three decades. The visible and often disfiguring nature of skin inflammations leads to far greater levels of distress and depression than would be experienced with a more severe but less disfiguring condition. (2) Because a number of patients are suspicious of cortisone creams prescribed for them by their family practitioner or dermatologist, they may frequently present for Ayurvedic care as an alternative.

According to Ayurveda, skin has seven layers, corresponding to the seven dhatus. Similarly, in modern physiology, skin has been found to have seven layers, stratum corneum, on the surface, stratum lucidum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum, stratum basale, the basement membrane and the dermis. (For a diagram of the seven layers of the skin, click here.) At the same time, the epidermis of the skin, as whole, is seen as an upadhatu of rasa dhatu, and the dermis as part of mamsa dhatu. Skin belongs to bahya marga, the external pathway of disease, and as such is very vulnerable to toxins carried by rasa and rakta dhatus during the prasara stage of disease, accounting for the relatively common nature of skin inflammations.

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Sinus Infections

by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

In the Ayurvedic approach to sinusitis, exposure to an infective agent such as pathogenic bacteria is just one factor in the development of the illness. Of far greater significance is the build up of excess doshas in the body, due to incorrect diet and lifestyle. Once excess doshas have built up and become prevalent due to repeated errors in daily regimen, they are readily carried by vata upwards to the head, where they lodge in any weak spot, creating acute illness. Unfortunately, due to today's polluted environment, the integrity of the mucus membranes of the nasal sinuses is under constant attack. Thus weakened, the sinuses are particularly vulnerable to invasion by provoked doshas. It is the unwholesome situation created by a combination of weakened sinuses, accumulation of doshas and build-up of ama or toxins in the body that provides a fertile ground for the multiplication of pathogens.

Sinusitis, as an inflammatory condition, always involves some component of pitta, the fiery humour. However, provocation of either vata or kapha within the sinuses can give rise to pitta irritation of the mucous membranes. Sinus infections thus can be regarded as either vata, pitta or kapha in nature, each type having specific causative factors and symptoms.

Kapha Toxins: Candidiasis

by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)
Candida, Liquid-based Pap

Candida, Liquid-based Pap (Photo credit: euthman)

In this article, we will consider candidiasis as a condition of kapha ama, reviewing the epidemiology, diagnosis and Ayurvedic management of this common condition.

Candida is a unicellular yeast whose cells reproduce by budding. A normal flora which can under certain circumstances become an invasive pathogen, it can flourish in most environments. Candida species frequently colonize the oropharynx, skin, mucous membranes, pranavahasrotas (lower respiratory tree), annavahasrotas (gastrointestinal tract) and mutravahasrotas (genitourinary tract). Candida can be found on foods, countertops, air-conditioning vents, and floors (6).

A discussion of candidiasis leads us to larger look at considerations of the ways in which epidemiology has changed from classical times until now. Many factors pertinent to the development of Candida overgrowths are relevant to modern industrial society and were not in effect in ancient times. These factors include a diet high in refined sugar and refined flour products, antibiotic therapy, environmental stresses that weaken immunity including EMFs (1), ELF radiation (2), chemical toxins and increased background radiation; sedentary lifestyles (3), epidemic obesity (4), development of immunodeficiency diseases such as HIV, and medical use of immunosuppressant therapies including inhaled corticosteroids. All these factors play a part in the frequency with which candidal conditions are seen in a typical Ayurvedic practice setting. Patients with endocrine disorders including diabetes, hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency are at increased risk for Candida overgrowth (6).

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Green Peas and Cancer

Peas in pods.

Peas in pods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always eat my peas with honey;
I've done it all my life.
They do taste kind of funny
but It keeps them on my knife.

My father used to enjoy reading me this rhyme from the Penguin Book of Comical and Curious Verse. He also loved to grow peas in the garden of our Victorian house. We would shell them and eat them lightly steamed with butter and mint.

As a teenager I used to volunteer for Help the Aged by visiting a ninety year old widow, Mrs Scopes. She loved to tell me 'Old Wive's Tales'. One oft-repeated saying was "Peas give you cancer, my father said." As it turns out, this adage could not be further from the truth. In fact an unique constituent of green peas, coumestrol, is being investigated for its benefits in preventing cancer. A Mexico City study pointed to the potential of green peas in preventing stomach cancer (1). And the Prostate Cancer Sweden Study points to green peas as helpful in preventing prostate cancer (2). The antioxidant components of green peas may also be helpful in breast cancer (3) as well as in preventing heart disease.

According to Ayurveda, green peas are pitta soothing and laxative, beneficial for purisha vaha srotas or the colon. Enjoy green peas with rice, in kitcheri,in a sabji or vegetable curry with cauliflower and potato or in matar paneer. Or serve them like my father did, lightly steamed with butter and mint

1. Hernandez-Ramirez R, Galvan-Portillo M, Ward M et al. Dietary intake of polyphenols, nitrate and nitrite and gastric cancer risk in Mexico City. Int J Cancer. 2009 September 15; 125(6): 1424-1430. 2009.
2. Maria Hedelin, Åsa Klint, Ellen T. Chang, Rino Bellocco, Jan-Erik Johansson, Swen-Olof Andersson, Satu-Maarit Heinonen, Herman Adlercreutz, Hans-Olov Adami and Henrik Grönberg, et al.  Dietary Phytoestrogen, Serum Enterolactone and Risk of Prostate Cancer: The Cancer Prostate Sweden Study (Sweden) Cancer Causes and Control

Volume 17, Number 2 (2006), 169-180, DOI: 10.1007/s10552-005-0342-2
Pamela J. Magee* and Ian R. Rowland Phyto-oestrogens, their mechanism of action: current evidence for a role in breast and prostate cancer British Journal of Nutrition (2004), 91, 513-531

Kumari: Aloe Vera

Aloe vera

Aloe vera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Nellie Shapiro

instructor Alakananda Ma

Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula




Common Name: Aloe Vera


English Names: Barbados Aloe, Curacao Aloe, Indian Aloe, Jafarabad Aloe


Sanskrit Names :Kumari, Kanya,  Ghrita-kumari, Vipulasrava, Sthuladala, Dirgha Patra, Mandala.


Hindi Names: Ghee-kunwar, Ghee-kuvar, Gvar patha


Family: Liliaceae


Habitat: Aloe Vera grows wild predominantly in India, Central/South America , Africa, Arabia, also cultivated in Europe.                                                                                   

Part usedWhole plant

Aloe Vera is a coarse-looking perennial plant with a short stem.

Widely prized in the ancient world as "plant of immortality".  Ancient Egyptians buried it with pharaohs in tombs. Cleopatra and Queen of Nile used it for bathing. Many ancient physicians, such as Galen, Pliny, Dioscorides as well as Surushta and Charaka, praised its values. It was brought to the USA from Africa in the sixteenth century. In many countries it has become a common household remedy for the variety of uses.

Ayurvedic Herbal Energetics

Rasa                  Tikta,Madhura

Virya                  Shita

Vipaka                Madhura

Gunas                Guru, Picchila, Snigdha



Karmas of Aloe Vera

Vranaropana (wound healing activity), Rasayana(rejuvenative for the skin, intestines, female reproductive system),Artavajanana (promotes menses),Dipana (enkindles the digestive fire),Visphota (removes pustules), Bhedaniya Purgative - powder), Raktapitta (alleviates bleeding),Amapacana (clearing ama),Visahara (destroys poison), Llihayakrdvrddhihara (reduces inflammations of spleen and liver), Granthi(clears tumor).(1)


Aloe Vera works on all dhatus and following srotas: digestive, circulatory, female reproductive, excretory.




Aloe vera contains B12, vitamin A and E, iron, potassium, calcium, protein, folic acid, chromium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, essential fatty acids and amino acids.



In human clinical studies, the juice of the Aloe plant aids digestive irritations like colitis, IBS and soothes stomach ulcers because the plant extract encourages the release of gastric juice enzyme needed to aid digestion called pepsin.

 Aloe Vera gel is an excellent tonic for the liver and spleen, for the female reproductive and blood system. Chromium--the mineral that researchers found in the Aloe plant--is known to benefit patients suffering from circulatory problems, as well as cardiac disease. It was found that high concentrations of the Aloe gel stimulated the production of white blood cells in the body.

For 5 years, studies of five thousand patients with atheromatous heart disease were done, adding the 'Husk of Isabgol' and 'aloe vera'  to the diet. A noticeable reduction in total serum cholesterol, serum triglycerides, fasting and post-prandial blood sugar level in diabetic patients, total lipids and also increase in HDL were noted. Also, "the clinical profile of these patients showed reduction in the frequency of anginal attacks and gradually, the drugs, like verapamil, nifedipine, beta-blockers and nitrates, were tapered. The patients, most benefitted, were diabetics (without adding any antidiabetic drug)." The exact mechanism of the action is not known, but probably it is working because of high fiber contest. No side effect was noted and all the five thousand patients are surviving till date.(3 )

Chinese scientists researched antioxidant properties and cell protective effects of a polysaccharide from Aloe vera.  The result suggested that it "could be a preventive and therapeutic significance to some free radical associated health problems such as coronary heart ailments, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Furthermore, the finding shed as well fresh light helpful for a better understanding of the health-benefiting potential of the edible plant consumed by the Chinese people for a couple of centuries."(4)

It supports the immune system and healthy breathing. Pacifies all agnis, reduces and rejuvenate Pitta. 2t of it can be taken 3 times a day, with a pinch of turmeric as a general tonic (2). Externally, the gel has been used in many ways: cosmetics, wound-healing, psoriases (5). "Freeze-dried Aloe vera extract is a natural effective ingredient for improving skin hydration, possibly through a humectant mechanism. Consequently, it may be used in moisturizing cosmetic formulations and also as a complement in the treatment of dry skin."(6,). Separate studies revealed that adding aloe vera gel in the sunscreen  increases efficiency of the formulation more then four times. (6)


Aloe latex is officially approved as a laxative in the US, Germany, England. It is recommended for such conditions as hemorrhoids, fissures, after rectal and anal surgeries. Externally, latex is used as a soothing agent in treating burns and mild cuts in a gel form (7).

Aloe Vera gel showed significant results in treating diabetes mellitus, asthma, and peptic ulcers

In animal studies, aloe gel showed wound healing, anti-inflammatory, gastro protective, spermicidal, antiviral, as well as cholesterol lowering and immune-stimulating qualities (8, 9 ).

Wound healing. A recent study showed aloe is more effective than conventional treatments for burns, frostbite, and intra-arterial damage.

Antiviral and spermicidal effect was shown in an in vitro study. The authors concluded that it might be useful as a contraceptive, especially in preventing the transmission

of HIV.

Gastro protective properties. When aloe gel was given to rats before ulcer inducing stress, the number of ulcers decreased by 80%. After developing ulcers, the animals given aloe vera gel recovered 3 times faster compare to the control animals (9).

Immune stimulation. When given orally to animals, it was shown to lower cholesterol.

Animal studies found antitumor and anticancer activity in alcoholic extract of aloe.



Recent human clinical studies of external use of aloe vera gel for wound healing and psoriasis showed that aloe accelerated healing by 72 hours (patients after dermabrasion).

The wounds of patients with frostbites and burns healed faster and had less tissue loss and fewer complications compare with conventional methods (10).

The internal use of the gel has been studied for treating asthma; diabetes mellitus and peptic ulcers showed and reported positive results ( 8 ).


In addition to gel and powder form, tincture and fermented gel are being used.

The famous classic Ayurvedic medicine,  Kumaryasava, uses fermented aloe gel to make a tonic herbal wine, such a wine which is normally flavored using  jaagery or honey and varied spices. It is used as a remedy for the treatment of anemia in patients; in the treatment of the digestive system, various female reproductive and liver disorders.

"...This recipe increases strength, color, digestive capacity, weight and taste, acts as a aphrodisiac, relieves pain of indigestion, eight kinds of udara (abdominal inlargment ), severe kshaya (consumption), twenty kinds of prameha (diabetes ), udavarta ( reverse peristalsis ), apasmara ( epilepsy ), sukra dosas ( disorders of the semen ), ashmari ( urinary calculus ), krmi ( parasites ) and raktapitta ( purpura ) without doubt (18-27)." (11).


Aloe can be combined with shatavari as a nutritive tonic, with gentian as a bitter tonic, with manjista as an emmenagogue (12).


Contraindications: pregnancy (powder), powder in vata constipation.

Aloe Vera is contraindicated in cases of known allergy to plants in the Liliaceae family.



Aloe vera is well known and used worldwide as a medicinal plant.

The external use of aloe vera for minor wounds, burns (including radiation burns), and frostbites has been established through extensive use and clinical and pharmacological studies. The internal use of Aloe vera for peptic ulcer, diabetes type 2, asthma, HIV and many other potential uses needs additional studies. Since ancient time, aloe has provided humankind with numerous valuable medicinal products. Human studies continue to confirm its therapeutic use.





1.  Dr.Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine. Livingstone: Elsevier, 2006.

2.. Frawley, David, and Dr. Lad ,Vasant. The Yoga of Herbs. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press ,       2008

3. Agarwal , OP. "Prevention of atheromatous heart disease". Angiology 1985 Aug;36(8):-: 485-492.

4. Wu JH, Xu C, Shan CY, Tan RX, "Antioxidant properties and PC12 cell protective effects of APS-1, a polysaccharide from Aloe vera var. chinensis". Life Sci. 2006 Jan : 622-630.

5..  Bruneton,J. 1995. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medical Plants. .Paris Lavoisier Publishing.

6. Dal'Belo SE, Gaspar LR, Maia Campos PM., "Moisturizing effect of cosmetic formulations containing Aloe vera extract in different concentrations assessed by skin bioengineering techniques.". Skin Res Technol. 2006 Nov;: 241-246.

7. Bradley,P.R.,1992.British Herbal Compendium.Vol.1.Dorset:British Herbal Medicine Association

8. Davis, and wound healing activity of a growth substance in Aloe vera.J.Appl.Hort.,2(1):10-14

9. Danhof,I. 1991.Potential Benefits from Orally ingested Internal Aloe vera Gel. Irving, Texas: International Aloe Science Council 10th Annual Aloe Scientific Seminar

10.. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, Vol 79, Issue 11 559-562, Copyright © 1989 by American Podiatric Medical Association

11. Bhavaprakasa of Bhavamisra. Chwkhamba Krishnadas Academy

12. "HerbMed". Alternative Medicine Foundation, Inc. 03.29.10 <>.


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Withania somnifera- Ashwagandha

by Shaw Lathrop

Instructor Alakananda Ma

Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula

This herb -Withania somnifera was photographed...

This herb -Withania somnifera was photographed at Pune. Common name- Ashwagandha. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Common Names


Ashwagandha, winter cherry, "Indian Ginseng", also known as Physalis somnifera


Regional Names


Sanskrit- Turangi-gandha; Hindi- Punir, Asgandh; Bengali- Ashvaganda; Marathi- Askandha tilli; Gujarati- Ghodakun, Ghoda, Asoda, Asan; Telugu- Pulivendram, Panneru-gadda, Panneru; Tamil- Amukkura, Amkulang, Amukkuram-kilangu, Amulang-kalung, Aswagandhi; Kannada- Viremaddlinagadde, Pannaeru, Aswagandhi, Kiremallinagida, Punjabi- Asgand, Isgand


Other names


Achuvagandi, Ajagandha Alkekengi,Amikkira-gadday, Amukkira-kilzhangu,  Amukran-kizhangu, Asagandha, Asundha, Bladder Cherry, Chinese Lantern Plant, Fatarfoda, Hirimaddina-gadday, Hirre- gadday, Pevette, Physalis, Sogade-beru, Withania, Kanaje, Samm Al Ferakh.




The Sanskrit name, Ashwagandha, comes from the unusual smell of its root, which is similar to that of a sweaty horse. Ashua= horse Gundha=smell.

The species name somnifera means "sleep-bearing" in Latin, indicating it was considered a sedative.


Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Withania
Species: Wilthamnia Somnifera


Ecologic Status


Ashwagandha is native to the dry regions of south central Asia, and thrives in a Mediterranean-type climate such as Southern California.  It grows prolifically in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It is commercially cultivated in Madhya Pradesh (a state in India).


Here is a list of where it is found natively-

Macaronesia: Cape Verde; Spain - Canary Islands
Northern Africa: Algeria; Egypt; Libya; Morocco; Tunisia
Northeast Tropical Africa: Chad; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Somalia; Sudan
East Tropical Africa: Kenya; Tanzania; Uganda
West Tropical Africa: Liberia; Mali; Nigeria
South Tropical Africa: Angola; Malawi; Mozambique; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Southern Africa: Botswana; Lesotho; Namibia; South Africa - Cape Province, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Transvaal; Swaziland
Western Indian Ocean: Mauritius

Arabian Peninsula: Arabia
Western Asia: Afghanistan; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Lebanon; Syria; Turkey

Indian Subcontinent: India; Pakistan; Sri Lanka

Southeastern Europe: Greece; Italy - Sardinia, Sicily
Southwestern Europe: Spain

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Plant Parts Used

Dried roots are used in Ayurveda in various formulations. Powdered roots are also used for its nutritive properties.



Ashwagandha root has been used in India for at least between 3,000-5,000 years, to enhance libido and sexual vitality, improve fertility and overall reproductive health, and to reduce stress. In ancient times it was drunk in buffalo milk.

Robin Lane Fox, an English scholar, mentioned Ashwagandha in his biography about Alexander The Great. According to the biography in the time of Alexander, wine prepared from Ashwagandha was in wide use. He and his army use to prepare this wine to gain energy and get rid of various ailments.

According to Anne Van Arsdall, a scolar of Medieval herbal remedies, Ashwagandha was called apollinaris and also glofwyrt in The Old English Herbarium, and had a legend that Apollo found it first and gave it to the healer Aesculapius.

Ayurvedic Herbal Energetics


Rasa: Madhura tikta, kashaya
Guna: Laghu, Snigdha

Vipaka: madhura
Virya: ushna
Karma: medhya, nidrajanana, stanyajanana, vedanasthapana, balya, vajikarana, rasayana, Vatakaphahara




Ashwagandha was traditionally available as powder that was made after crushing roots of the plant thoroughly and then sieving it through a very fine cloth. Various other preparations were being made using this powder that is mentioned below. In today's global market Ashwagandha is available in powder, capsules, syrups and tablet forms. It is readily available.


Ayurvedic classical preparations


Ashwagandharista -a decoction preparation that is being prepared with Ashwagandha as a main ingredient.

Ashwagandhaghrta - an Ashwagandha preparation in which it is processed in the ghee.

Ashwagandha churna- a powdered preparation of Ashwagandha root.

Ashwagandhavaleha -a classical preparation in which Ashwagandha along with other herbs are processed to make it in a paste texture that can be licked.

Saubhagyasunthipaka - a preparation in which Ashwagandha and sunthi (dried ginger) are taken in major proportion with other herbs taken in smaller amounts.

Sukumaraghrta - an Ashwagandha preparation made in ghee. It is generally prepared for children.

Maharasnadi yoga - a Ashwagandha preparation that is widely used as pain killer by ayurvedic practitioners.


Dosage of various forms of Ashwagandha is given below considering a person of normal weight and height. These can vary from person to person.

Churna (powder) - 3 to 6 grams

Arisht (decoction) - 15 to 20 ml

Ghrit (ghee) -3 to 5 ml

Capsules -(350 to 400 mg) - 1 or 2

Syrups -5 to 10 ml

Avleha (paste) - 3 to 6 grams



ADD/ADHD, Anorexia, anti-oxidant, asthma, bronchitis, cancer, consumption, cough, leucoderma, edema, asthenia, anemia, exhaustion, aging, immune dysfunction, impotence, infertility, insomnia, repeated miscarriage, paralysis, memory loss, multiple sclerosis, neurological diseases rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago.




Caution should be used with clients on anticonvulsants, and barbiturates. Ashwagandha is traditionally avoided in lymphatic congestion, during colds and flu, or symptoms of ama.

Ayurvedic Uses

-It is used in formulations for its excellent anti inflammatory & pain relieving properties.

-Application of soft paste or poultice made of leaves or roots or both of Ashwagandha is indicated in cases of goiter & glandular inflammations.

-Oil prepared with infusion from roots of Ashwagandha is recommended in 'Daurbalya' (general weakness) to rejuvenate muscles & to strengthen joints and associated tissues and in Vata related disorders.

-It is a rasayana herb & is used for rejuvenation and revitalization of musculo-skeletal system.

-It is used in circulatory disorders for its hypotensive, brady-cardiac & depressant properties. It helps to control cardiac inflammation.

-It helps in congestion & helps in breathing difficulty. Widely used in Ayurvedic formulations for asthma, chronic cough, allergic cough.

-Ashwagandha has excellent diuretic properties. In females it is used in formulations for uterine inflammation, leucorrhea and menstrual disorders.

-Ashwagandha is widely used in Ayurvedic formulations as a tonic for stimulating male genital system and in conditions such as loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, oligospermia & impotence.

-It has sedative & mild hypnotic properties.

-Root and bitter leaves are used as a hypnotic in alcoholism and emphysematous dyspnea.

-Root is used in doses of about 30 grains in consumption, emaciation of children, senile debility, rheumatism, in all cases of general debility, nervous exhaustion, brain-fag, low of memory, loss of muscular energy and spermator rhoea. It infuses fresh energy and vigor in a system worn out owing to any constitutional disease like syphilis, rheumatic fever etc., or from over-work and thus prevents premature decay.

-Leaves are used as an anthelmintic and as an application to carbuncles.

-Fruits or seeds are used as diuretic, and to coagulate milk.
-Root is used as an application in obstinate ulcers and rheumatic swellings.

-Ashwagandha is an ingredient in chyavanaprash. Chyavanaprash is used as a treatment for kasa (cough), svasa (dyspnea), kshaya (consumption), svarabheda (voice problems) and hrdroga (heart problems). It is also used in a special type of rasayana therapy called kutipraveshika, employed after pancha karma, whereby the patient is housed in a specially constructed hut and consumes nothing except Chyavanaprash, rice, ghee for a specified period of time.

Ashwagandha is frequently a constituent of Ayurvedic formulas, including shilajit.



Specific Ayurvedic Remedies


-A decoction of Ashwagandha root is useful as nutrient and health restorative to pregnant and elderly people. You can also take its powder with milk as an alternative. 

-Ashwagandha Ghrita promotes the nutrition and strength of children. For improving the nutrition of weak children, give for two weeks.
-For curing the sterility of women, Ayurveda practitioners often prescribe a boiled down decoction of Ashwagandha, milk and ghee. Take this for a few days, soon after the menstrual period.

-For involuntary loss of semen, and loss of strength, a powder consisting of Ashwagandha, sugar, ghee, honey and long pepper is often given daily, with a milk and rice diet.

-Ashwagandha root taken with milk or clarified butter acts as an aphrodisiac and restorative to old men. Ashwagandha - Vidari Combination is a herbal remedy for this condition.

-The powder of Ashwagandha and rock candy, in ghee is often prescribed for lumbago, pains in the loins or small of the back. 
-Fresh green root of Ashwagandha reduced to paste with cow's urine or with water heated applied to the parts affected is useful for glandular swellings. 
-Narayana Taila, an Ayurvedic herbal remedy containing Ashwagandha, is useful for consumption, emaciation of children and rheumatism and as an enema in dysentery and anal fistulae.

-A ghrita prepared with a decoction and paste of Ashwagandha root is used internally and an oil prepared with a decoction of the root and a number of aromatic substances in the form of a paste is used externally for rheumatism. 

-For skin diseases apply Ashwagandha powder well mixed with oil to the skin.

-Also for skin diseases make a paste of 1 tsp Ashwagandha, 1/2 tsp Manjistha, and 1/2 tsp  Turmeric. Apply to Scaly eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.      

-For improving eyesight take a mixture of Ashwagandha powder, licorice powder and juice of amla.

-Apply drops into the nose in deafness, and as an ointment over the body in hemiplegia, tetanus, rheumatism, and lumbago. 
-Use a decoction of the roots of Ashwagandha, and licorice, with cow's milk to promote lactation. 

-For vitiligo mix 1 tsp Ashwagandha and ½ tsp Red Sandalwood. Take internally + externally.

-For Tuberculosis make a Yakshma, 1 tsp Ashwagandha boiled with goats milk, 1/16 tsp pippali

Take 1 cup goat's milk, add 1 cup water, put 1 tsp Ashwagandha + 1/16 tsp pippali, boil milk back to one cup. Give 1 cup morning + evening



Medical research



Researchers found that rats treated with an extract of Ashwagandha showed better stress tolerance in cold water swimming tests, a classic experimental model of adaptogenic activity (Archana and Namasivayam 1999).


An extract of the aerial parts of Ashwagndha had excellent anti-inflammatory effects in rats subjected to having cotton-pellets surgically implanted under their skin (al-Hindawi et al 1992).  An extract composed 80% of Ashwagandha displayed significant anti-inflammatory activity on rats that were exposed to a substance called carrageenan which is used to induce paw swelling (al-Hindawi 1989).


A root extract of Ashwagandha prevented the rise of experimentally induced free radical build-up in rabbits and mice (Dhuley 1998a). In tests conducted on rats' brains with an extract taken from Ashwagandha root, it was found that there was significant increase in three natural anti - oxidants. The natural antioxidants found were glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase. This ratio was constant in various repeated tests conducted. (Bhattacharya et al 1997).


The administration of Ashwagandha rasayana (an Ayurvedic formulation containing Ashwagandha) significantly reduced the lung tumor nodule formation by 55.6% in experimental animals (Menon et al. 1997).  An alcoholic extract of the dried roots showed significant antitumor and radio-sensitizing effects in experimental tumors in Chinese hamster cells, without any noticeable systemic toxicity (Devi 1996). Ashwagandha displayed significant antitumor and radio-sensitizing effects, inhibiting tumor growth and increasing survival in Swiss mice inoculated with Ehrlich ascites carcinoma, a specific type of cancer (Devi et al 1995; Sharad et al 1996).  The administration of an extract of Ashwagandha was found to significantly reduce induced leucopenia in lab animals, indicating its usefulness in cancer therapy (Davis and Kuttan 1998). 

-Central Nervous system:

Isolated constituents of Ashwagandha increased neuron receptor capacity, partly explaining the cognition-enhancing and memory-improving effects traditionally attributed to Ashwagandha (Schliebs et al 1997). A commercial root extract of Ashwagandha used repeatedly over nine days lessened the development of tolerance to the pain-killing effect of morphine and suppressed morphine-withdrawal jumps (Kulkarni and Ninan 1997).


The hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effects of roots of Ashwagandha were assessed in six patients with mild Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus and six patients with mild hypercholesterolemia.  The treatment consisted of the powder of roots over a 30 day period.  At the end of the study, researchers noted a decrease in blood glucose comparable to that of an oral hypoglycemic drug, and a significant increase in urine sodium and urine volume, coupled with a decrease in serum cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL (low density lipoproteins) and VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) cholesterol, with no adverse effects noted (Andallu and Radhika 2000).


Myelosuppressed mice (those with decreased production of red blood cells) treated with an extract of Ashwagandha showed a significant increase in hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell count, white blood cell count, platelet count and body weight as compared to control groups. (Ziauddin et al 1996). Mice infected intravenously with Aspergillus fumigatus (a fungus which causes strong allergic reactions) and treated for 7 consecutive days with an oral preparation of an extract of Ashwagandha displayed increased white blood cell activity and prolonged survival time (Dhuley 1998).  The antifungal activity of Ashwagandha has been confirmed elsewhere, attributed to a component it contains known as withanolides (Choudhary et al 1995).


A formulation containing roots of Ashwagandha, the stem of Boswellia serrata (Indian frankincense), rhizomes of Curcuma longa (Turmeric ) and a zinc complex (Articulin-F), was evaluated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, cross-over study in clients with osteoarthritis.  The results produced a significant drop in severity of pain and disability, although radiological assessment did not show any significant changes.  Side effects were minimal and did not necessitate the withdrawal of treatment. (Kulkarni et al 1991)


Classical References


Bhavaprakasa, Karsyadhikara, 40-9


Bhavaprakasa, Karsyadhikara, 40


Bhavaprakasa Nighantu, Guducyadi vara, 190


Bhavaprakasa, Rasayanadhikara, 73-13


Bhavaprakasa, Snayukarogadhikara 57-8


Bhavaprakasa, Yonirogadhikara 70-26




Cakradatta, Rasayanadhikara, 16


Cakradatta, Vatavyadhi cikitsa, 22-90


Cakradatta Vatavyadhi cikitsa, 22/141-145


Cakradatta, Yonivyapata cikitsa 26


Caraka Samhita, cikitsa 17-117


Caraka Samhita, cikitsa 27


Caraka Samhita, Siddhi 10-3


Caraka Samhita, Sutra 3-7, 8, Vimana 8-144 etc. Cikitsa 2-1, 34 etc. Siddhi, 3-37 etc.


Kaiyadeva Nighantu, Osadha varga, 1045-1047


Raja Nihantu, Satahvadi varga, 112


Raja Martanda





Acharya Deepak Dr., Sancheti Garima Dr., Pawar Sanjay Dr., Shrivastava Anshu Dr. 2006-11-24. Traditional medicines of Gonds and Bharias - 28 - Herbal medicine for Paralysis


Abraham, A., I. Kirson, E. Glotter and D. Lavie.1968. A chemotaxonomic study of Withania somnifera (L) Dunal . Phytochemistry, 7: 957-62.


Al-Hindawi, M.K., I.H. Al-Deen, M.H. Nabi, and M.H. Ismail. 1989. Anti-inflammatory activity of some Iraqi plants using intact rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Sep; 26(2):163-8

Andallu B, Radhika B. 2000. Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root. Indian J Exp Biol. Jun;38(6):607-9

Aphale A.A., A.D. Chhibba, N.R. Kumbhakarna, M. Mateenuddin and S.H. Dahat. 1998. Subacute toxicity study of the combination of ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in rats: a safety assessment. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol Apr; 42(2):299-302

Archana, R. and A. Namasivayam. 1999. Antistressor effect of Withania somnifera. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan; 64(1):91-3

Atal, C.K. and Schwarting, A.E., 1961. Ashwagandha - An ancient Indian drug. Economic Botany, 15: 256-263.


Bhattacharya, S.K., K.S. Satyan and S. Ghosal. 1997. Antioxidant activity of glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera. Indian J Exp Biol. Mar; 35(3):236-9

Choudhary, M.I.,  Dur-e-Shahwar, Z. Parveen, A. Jabbar , I. Ali, Atta-ur-Rahman. 1995. Antifungal steroidal lactones from Withania coagulance. Phytochemistry Nov; 40(4):1243-6

Dash, Bhagwan.  1991. Materia Medica of Ayurveda.  New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers.


Davis, L. and G. Kuttan. 1999. Effect of Withania somnifera on cytokine production in normal and cyclophosphamide treated mice. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol Nov; 21(4):695-703

Davis L. and G. Kuttan. 1998. Suppressive effect of cyclophosphamide-induced toxicity by Withania somnifera extract in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct; 62(3):209-14
Devi, P.U. 1996. Withania somnifera Dunal (Ashwagandha): potential plant source of a promising drug for cancer chemotherapy and radiosensitization. Indian J Exp Biol. Oct; 34(10):927-32

Devi, P.U., A.C. Sharada, and F.E. Solomon. 1995. In vivo growth inhibitory and radiosensitizing effects of withaferin A on mouse Ehrlich ascites carcinoma. Cancer Lett. Aug 16; 95(1-2):189-93

Dhuley, J.N. 1998. Effect of Ashwagandha on lipid peroxidation in stress-induced animals. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar; 60(2):173-8

Dhuley, J.N. 1998b. Therapeutic efficacy of Ashwagandha against experimental aspergillosis in mice. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. Feb; 20(1):191-8

Ayurvedic Pharmacopiea of India. E-book


Frawley, David and Vasant Lad. 1986. The Yoga Of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine.  Santa Fe: Lotus Press.


Kulkarni, S.K. and I. Ninan. 1997. Inhibition of morphine tolerance and dependence by Withania somnifera in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Aug; 57(3):213-7

Kulkarni, R.R., P.S. Patki, V.P. Jog, S.G. Gandage and B. Patwardhan. 1991. Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study.  J Ethnopharmacol. May-Jun; 33(1-2):91-5

Kuttan, G. 1996. Use of Withania somnifera Dunal as an adjuvant during radiation therapy. Indian J Exp Biol. Sep; 34(9):854-6

Lane Fox, Robin. 1974. Alexander the Great New York: E P Dutton


Mehta, A.K., P. Binkley, S.S. Gandhi, and M.K. Ticku. 1991. Pharmacological effects of Withania somnifera root extract on GABAA receptor complex. Indian J Med Res. Aug; 94:312-5

Menon L.G., R. Kuttan, and G. Kuttan. 1997. Effect of rasayanas in the inhibition of lung metastasis induced by B16F-10 melanoma cells. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. Dec; 16(4):365-8

Nadkarni, Dr. K.M.  1954.  The Indian Materia Medica, with Ayurvedic, Unani and Home Remedies.  Revised and enlarged by A.K. Nadkarni. 1954. Reprint. Bombay:  Bombay Popular

Prakashan PVP.

Schliebs, R., A. Liebmann , S.K. Bhattacharya, A. Kumar, S. Ghosal, and V. Bigl. 1997. Systemic administration of defined extracts from Withania somnifera (Indian Ginseng) and


Shilajitu differentially affects cholinergic but not glutamatergic and GABAergic markers in rat brain. Neurochem Int. Feb; 30(2):181-90

Sharad, A.C., F.E. Solomon, P.U. Devi, N. Udupa, and K.K. Srinivasan. 1996. Antitumor and radiosensitizing effects of withaferin A on mouse Ehrlich ascites carcinoma in vivo. Acta Oncol. 35(1):95-100


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Van Arsdall, Anne. 2002. Medieval Herbal Remedies: The Old English Herbarium and Anglo-Saxon Medicine. Routledge.



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A  Monograph


Annalise Ozols


Herbology:  Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula

Instructor:  Alakananda Ma

April 30, 2010



A highly mineralized exudate that oozes from the rocks of mountainous regions in Asia in the heat of summer, shilajit is a curious resin that resembles asphalt and smells distinctly like cow urine.  Loosely translated from Sanskrit as "conqueror of the mountains and destroyer of weakness", shilajit's lofty prabhav is that it will cure any cureable disease when combined with other appropriate medications.  (Caraka Samhita)

A note on my research process

The naturally occurring and medicinal shilajit is sometimes referred to as asphaltum but is not to be confused with the asphaltum that is derived as a residue from the refining of petroleum or the natural tar-like substance that washes ashore from oil seepages beneath the Gulf of Mexico.  It is also often called "bitumen" which refers to a fossilized, tar-like, black and oily substance which is a natural by-product of decomposed organic materials and ranges from viscous to hard and brittle.  There are documented accounts of coastal aboriginal people using asphaltum and bitumen for the purpose of sealant, adhesive and paint and as early as the Neanderthals using it to assemble tools.  It is now known that true shilajit has a certain set of characteristic constituents which account for its evidence based use as a timeless rasayana[1] widely used in Ayurveda.  That being said, an internet search for shilajit may also very well land one in a world of advertisements for "Indian Viagra" and "the fountain of youth".  For the purposes of this article I will be referring to the humic substance comprised mainly of minerals known as Himalayan shilajit.

A fair amount of research has been done on shilajit in Eastern Universities.  Unfortunately, I found that the majority of studies testing medicinal hypotheses of shilajit was done using animal subjects.

Botany and ethnobotany

Latin Name: Asphaltum, Asphaltum punjabianum

 Common Names:  mineral pitch, vegetable asphalt, bitumen , Jew's pitch,; Silajatu, mumiyo.; Other synonyms according to Bhavprakash are:  adrija, saila niryasa, gaireya, asmaja, girija ans sailadhatuja;  Other names appearing in formulation are:  jatu, jatuna and adrija  (The Ayurvedic Formulary of India Part I & II, 2003)

Plant Nomenclature:   It appears that as it is not a single plant, there is no further taxonomic classification for shilajit.  It is simply listed as a "drug of mineral origin" in the Ayurvedic Formulary.  Research at Banaras Hindu University in India reveals via chemical analysis that shilajit is the result of the humification of resin and latex bearing plants.  (Agrawal, 2003) including Euphorbia royleana and Trifolium repens.


Constituents: Resins, Benzoic acid, hippuric acid, fulvic acid; minerals:  silica, iron, antimony, calcium, copper, lithium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, sodium, strontium, zinc  (Pole, 2006)

The primary active ingredients in shilajit are fulvic acids, di-benzo alpha pyrones, humins, humic acids and trace minerals.  Chemical analysis has shown that about 80% of the humus[2] components are present in shilajit.

While there are other similar substances containing fulvic and humic acids, shilajit is differentiated in that it contains oxygenated di-benzo alpha pyrones.  Shilajit collected from different areas does in fact exhibit differing chemical characteristics and bioactivities, however, the core composition includes low molecular weight chemical markers, aucuparins, di-benzo alpha pyrones and triterpenic acids.  (Ghosal, 1990)

 Ecologic Status:  Shilajit is formed and found primarily in Asia in the Himalayan ranges in India, Nepal, Pakistan, China, Tibet, and part of Central Asia and Scandinavia  It has been found all over the mountains of Europe as well.   Millions of years ago, before the Himalayan mountains were formed, a fertile valley and lush foliage existed in their place. As the movement of the continents caused the valley to become the tallest mountain range in the world, the vegetation became trapped and preserved between the rock formations.  Still today, the range continues to grow 1 cm. per year (U.S. Geological Survey) Due to extreme weather conditions and temperature variation, rock formations shift and in doing so expose precious shilajit. Because of its ancient nature, the vegetation was never exposed to any type of fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, or pollution. (Hartman)   

Some say that shilajit's origin is not absolutely known.  According to others, it was discovered by Himalayan villagers who observed large white monkeys migrating to the mountains in the warm summer months. The monkeys were seen chewing a semi-soft substance that flowed from between layers of rock. The villagers attributed the monkeys' great strength, longevity and wisdom to the substance. So, they began to consume it themselves and reported a broad spectrum of improvements in health. (Hartman) 

While there are several areas from which the raw material is collected, it is thought that the highest levels of therapeutic ingredients come from the "sacred" mountains, specific areas in the Himalayas in Nepal at 10,000-12,000 feet above sea level. (Hartman)

It is not readily mentioned what the current supply situation for shilajit is like.  It does come from an immense source-the Himalayan mountain range, but may be difficult to collect due to the foreboding nature of the source.

Part used: Purified Exudate.   It is literally the oozing from the crevices of the rocks on exposure to the heating sun rays of summertime.  The exudate that is shilajit appears to be the result of several factors:  composted residue of certain resin or latex containing plants, the local environment, the temperature, humidity and the geological makeup of the rocks that it comes from.  These varying factors account for different varieties and the difference in energetics and chemical constituents.  According to Bhavprakash, there are four varieties:  Sauvarna-gold Silajit (red color),  Rajata-silver (white color), Tamra-copper (blue color), Ayasa-iron (blackish/brown color) and referred to as Lauha in other sources.   Of these, the black variety appears to be the best for medicinal use, especially in cases where rasayana is indicated, although all types are applicable in all conditions.  (CH chi, ch1, v 55-61)

Preparation:  Shilajit is eaten by rats and monkeys in its natural state but it needs to be purified in order to be suitable for human consumption.  Proper processing of raw shilajit is very important as it contains free radicals and possibly mycotoxins and fungal toxins. Processing removes free radicals, polymeric quinone radicals, toxins, mycotoxins, and other inactive ingredients.  (Hartman)

The Ashtanga Hrdayam states that to prepare shilajit, it should first be washed in plain water and then dried.  Then, it should be soaked in a decoction of other medicines (suitable to the disease to be treated) and then stored in an iron vessel.  The ratio is 1:8 (shilajit:decoction) and boiled down to 1/8.  Then it is filtered and dried.  This process is repeated seven times.   (AH Ut 39, 134-135 )  It is commonly boiled in a decoction of triphala.

According to the Sarngadhara Samhita, crude shilajit is powdered and then macerated in hot water (or a decoction of Triphala) for several hours. The maceration is then filtered and the liquid collected in an earthen plate and exposed to the sun until a scum

begins to form on the surface. This scum is then skimmed off and dried in the sun until it forms a hard mass.  At this point it is considered to be pure and can be processed further or "impregnated".  Purified shilajit may be macerated  in a decoction of different dravyas chosen specifically for their medicinal actions in a particular disease.  Caraka reads that the shilajit should be soaked in this decoction and dried in the sun each day for 7 days, then combined with lauha bhasma (purified iron) and consumed with cow's milk.  (Caldecott, 2006)


Ethnobotany:  According to lore shilajit is "amrta" or nectar from God given to mankind in order to "live long and happy life".  It is one of the most important medicines used for centuries and still today in Ayurvedic medicine.  There is evidence of shilajit in the Indus civilization.  (Agrawal, 2003)  Traditionally it is known as rasayana and used as a power increasing tonic, age defying and aphrodisiac.  In Chinese medicine it was used as a kidney/adrenal tonic.

"Mumiyo" is a similar substance (if not the same) collected by the native peoples of the northern regions of Russia and Afghanistan (Tillotson, 2001) and used by the people of the former Soviet union.  The name is often used interchangeably with shilajit and bears similar health claims. 

Ayurvedic Herbal Energetics

As mentioned before, there are different varieties of shilajit based on the factors involved which comprise its makeup.  The following information is for the black/brown form coming from iron and most commonly used in a healing context:  (Pole, 2006)

Rasa:  Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), Lavana (salty), Ksaya (astringent)

Virya:  ushna (heating)

Vipaka:  katu (pungent)

Guna:  ruksha (dry), guru (heavy)

Shilajit's Dravya karma or ayurvedic plant action is chedana which is the class of drugs that actively draws out toxins by scratching them from the tissues.

Karmas:  rasayana (rejuvenative) for kapha & mutra, vajikarana (enhances sexual potency), medhya (enhances intellect), mutrakrcchraghna (alleviates painful urination), apasmaromadaghna (alleviates disorders of the nervous system), medohara (reduces fat tissue), sandhaniya helas broken bones, chedhana (scratches accumulated toxins from tissues and channels), tridosaghna (alleviates all three doshas)

Dhatus:  All dhatus

Srotansi:  mutra (urinary), majja (nervous), sukra/artava (reproductive)

Shilajit is usually thought of as having ushna virya, but according to Caraka it is either moderate (neither too cold nor too hot) or shita (cooling) virya.  (chi, ch 1, v48-50, 55-61)  Caraka also states that it is slightly amla (sour) and ksaya in rasa.  The varieties are as such, according to Carak:

From gold:   madhura (sweet) and slightly ksaya, shita, katu; V/P

From silver:  katu, shita, madhura; K/P

From copper:  tikta and katu, ushna, katu; K

From iron:  tikta, lavana, shita, katu; tridosha

Shilajit used as medicine

The aforementioned fulvic acid constituent of shilajit acts as a carrier for di-benzo alpha pyrones, trace minerals and other nutrients into the deep tissues.  They are small lattice shaped molecules absorbed by plants that need the trace minerals and other nutrients for their growth. When we eat the plants (or the animals that ate the plants) we ingest fulvic acids.  However, currently, our depleted soil is lacking the beneficial microbes and plant material to produce fulvic acids and humus.  Fulvic acid removes deep-seated toxins from the body and trace minerals are needed as cofactors for enzymes, play important roles in turning food into energy, maintain the electrical balance in bodily fluids, carry oxygen in the body, are part of blood and bone, allow nerves to transmit messages and more.  (Hartman) (Harsahay Meena, 2010)           

Di-benzo alpha pyrones are able to pass the blood brain barrier (BBB) and act as a powerful antioxidant protecting the brain and nerve tissue from free radical damage. It also inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, thereby increasing acetylcholine.   Low levels of acetylcholine are associated with alzheimers, poor memory and concentration.   (Hartman)

Panacea:  A cure-all which boosts the curative effect of other herbs.  It acts as a catalyst by promoting the action of other tonic agents.  (Lad, 2001)

To name a few, claims are made that shilajit is helpful in:  asthma and allergic conditions,  gout, rheumatoid arthritis, joint disorders, antioxidant, anemia, asthma, cystitis, diabetes, dysuria, edema, epilepsy, gall stones, hemorrhoids, insanity, jaundice, kidney, obesity, sexual debility, skin diseases, menstrual disorders, and parasites.

Shilajit and specific conditions and systems

The following tends to be the agreed upon list for which there is more substantial evidence.

Urinary:  Shilajit's action on mutra vahasrotas helps to clear stagnated vata and kapha and redirects the flow of apana vayu through the pelvic area.  By this token, it can help clear stagnation of kapha and vata in prostatitis.  (Pole, 2006).  It is useful in treating painful urination, cystitis, stones, incontinence and glycosuria.  It also acts as a diuretic by increasing urination, promoting kidney and bladder activity, reduces and removes toxins and decreases water retention of all tissues.  (Tirtha, 1998-2007)

Diabetes:  "For these (diseases), treatments which reduce medas (fat), anila (vata) and slesman (kapha) are desireable (required)".  (AH Su 14, 21-24)  Shilajit's affinity for both the fat tissue and the water channel make it useful in treating diabetes.  It enhances peripheral glucose uptake so is used in hyperglycemia and regulating blood sugar levels.  It also scrapes fat making it helpful in metabolic syndrome (excess weight, high cholesterol, low thyroid and diabetes).  (Pole, 2006)  According to Susruta Samhita (15,32-40) obesity can be cured by taking enemas of drugs with liquefying properties which contain minerals like Silajatu, cow's urine, the three myrobalans, honey, barley etc.  

A study done with 61 diabetic subjects who were administered 1000mg of shilajit, twice daily for 30 days demonstrated antioxidant activity.  As an adaptogen, it resulted in the reduction of lipids per oxidation and may be of benefit as a supplement in the prevention of diabetes complications.  (Nidhi Saxena, 2003)  Rat studies have also demonstrated that shilajit produces a significant reduction in blood glucose levels as well as improving lipid profile.  (N. A. Trivedi, 2004)

Reproductive:  Strengthens the entire reproductive system and is tonic (aphrodisiac) for the sex organs.  It treats deficiency and weakness due to high vata in the female reproductive system with symptoms of weakness, infertility, dysmenorrhea and PMS, as well.  (Pole, 2006)  Its spermatogenic effects are evidenced in a study of male oligospermic patients.  (Biswas TK, 2010)  In rat studies testing shilajit as a fertility agent, it was estimated that it had both a spermiogenic and ovogenic effect in mature rats.  (Jeong-Sook Park, 2006) 

Mental health:  Nootropic[3] and anxiolytic activity.  Investigated for its effect on memory, learning and anxiety and reported that shilajit enhanced the acquisition of learning and memory in aged rats while exhibiting a marked reduction in anxiety levels.  (AK Jaiswal, 1992)  It may also be used in treating epilepsy.

Bones: Promotes the movement of minerals, especially calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium into muscle tissue and bone.  Shilajit is naturally high in iron and other minerals making it useful in osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and spondylosis.  It is building to both rakta and asthi dhatus and therefore used to heal broken bones.  (Pole, 2006)

Lekhaniya:  By virtue of its scraping quality shilajit may remove benign tumors(lipoma, osteoma, uterine fibroid, goiter) and detoxify breast tissue (sthanya shodan).

Immunomodulator [4]:  Shilajit has been found to be effective in treating allergies and boosting immunity.  Di-benzo-alpha-pyrones and triterpenic acid (humic and fulvic acids) affect the endocrine, autonomic, and central nervous systems, "bringing about an immunomodulating result by increasing the activity of macrophages".   (Ghosal S. , 1990)  Another study on rats showed that white cell activity rose in accordance with dosage and time after exposure.  (Ghosal S. e.)

Tissue Recovery: Shilajit has been used in wound healing, specifically peptic ulcer, and other inflammation and shown to help in muscle recovery after exercise.  Shilajit increased the carbohydrate/protein ratio and decreased gastric ulcer index, indicating an increased mucus barrier.  (Goel RK, 1990)   Fulvic acid and 4/-methoxy 6-carbomethoxy bi phenyl, active constituents in shilajit are found to have ulcer protective effect.  (Ghosal S, 1988)

Longevity:  The fountain of youth; some say that the name itself suggests that one can stave off the aging process much as the rock does.  Shilajit exhibits antioxidative properties (Acharya, 1988) and is said to cure diseases of aging.  It is an important rejuvenative and tonic, especially for vata and kapha.  (Lad, 2001)

Administration:  Shilajit is most often given as pills (vati) or powder. 

·      A paste may be dissolved in boiled, hot water or milk and taken 2X daily.

·      2-3 pills 3X daily or 500 mg-5g/day  (Pole, 2006)

·      Caraka Samhita recommends a minimum dose of 12g/day for two months to attain maximum benefit.

Special classical formulations  Shilajit may also be used in the following important formulations:

·      Chandraprabha which acts as tonic, aphrodisiac and rejuvenator is said to cure all diseases; especially all twenty kinds of prameha (diabetes), dysuria, urine retention,  renal calculi, constipation,  anaha (enlargement of the abdomen), colic, tumors and cancers of the penis, hernia, katishula (pain in the waist), dyspnea and cough, psoriasis, scrotum enlargement, anemia, jaundice, chlorosis, skin diseases, piles, itching, splenomegaly, anal fistula, disease of teeth, eye disease, menstrual pain, semen disorders, mandagni,  anorexia and other diseases of vata, pitta and kapha.  (Sarngadhara Samhita)

·      Silajatuvataka (Shilajit pills) made with decoction of indrayava, triphala, neem, patola, mustha, and sunthi, plus sugar, vamsalochana, pippali, amalaki, karkatashringi, kantakari, trigandha (tvak, ela and patra), are powdered together and mixed with honey and made into 10 gram doses are again referred to as panacea according to the Carak Samhita.  (Chi, ch XVI, v   )

·      Arogya vardhini

·      Chyavanprash:  a rejuvenative medicated jelly (avaleha) prepared with sugar or honey

Other Formulations and combinations:  (Pole, 2006)

·      Gokshura & guggulu for stones & prostatitis

·      Punarnava & guggulu for edema & fluid retention

·      Gurmar, karavella, neem, turmeric, black pepper, for hyperglycemia

·      Ashwagandha & gokshura for male reproductive problems

·      Shatavari & licorice for female reproductive problems

·      Amalaki, ginger, & shatavari for anemia

Contraindications:  shilajit should not be used in instances of high uric acid levels or with heavy and vidahi (hot-natured) foods.  (Carak Samhita)


Although on the internet today one will find numerous wild claims that shilajit will cure nearly anything that ails you, recent research has proven that there is, in fact, some scientific basis for its fame as a wonder drug.  This strange and mystical resin has been used by humans for thousands of years in a medicinal context with positive result and those who support the "evidence based medicine" approach of  Ayurveda can appreciate that there is a growing body of work pertaining to the exploration of why the ancient texts say it works.  Shilajit is truly another gift of nature and should be respected and applied as such.


(n.d.). Retrieved March 2010, from Merriam-Webster Online:

(n.d.). Retrieved March 2010, from

Acharya, S. B. (1988). Pharmacological Actions of Shilajit. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology , 26 (10), 775-777.

Agrawal, L. T. (2003). Shilajit, The Traditional Panacea: Its properties. Diabetes Care (26), 2469-2470.

AK Jaiswal, S. B. (1992). Effects of Shilajit on memory, anxiety and brain monoamines in rats. Indian journal of Pharmacology , 12-1.

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Bhavprakasa. Bhavprakasa. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia.

Biswas TK, P. S. (2010). Clinical evaluation of spermatogenic activity of processed Shilajit in oligospermia. Andrologia , 48-56.

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Carak Samhita.

Ghosal S, S. S. (1988). Antiulcerogenic activity of fulvic acids and 4-metoxy-6-carbomethyl biphenyl isolated from shilajit. Phytother Res. , 187-191.

Ghosal, S. (1990). Chemistry of Shilajit, an Immunomodulatory Ayurvedic rasayan. Pure and Applied Chemistry , 62 (7), 1285-1288.

Ghosal, S. (1990). Chemistry of Shilajit, an Immunomodulatory Ayurvedic Rasayan. Pure and Applied Chemistry , 1285-1288.

Ghosal, S. e. Shilajit-Induced Morphometric and Functional Changes in Mouse Peritoneal Macrophages. Varanasi: Banaras Hindu University.

Goel RK, B. R. (1990). Antiulcerogenic and antiinflammatory studies with shilajit. Journal of Ethnopharmacology , 95-103.

Harsahay Meena, H. P. (2010). Shilajit: A panacea for high-altitude problems. International Journal of Ayurveda Research , 37-40.

Hartman, D. M. (n.d.). Shilajit: Sacred Soma of the Alchemists. Retrieved 2010, from

Jeong-Sook Park, G.-Y. K. (2006). The spermatogenic and ovogenic effects of chronically administered Shilajit to rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacolog , 349-353.

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N. A. Trivedi, B. M. (2004). Effect of shilajit on blood glucose and lipid profile in alloxaninduced. Indian Journal of Pharmacology , 373-376.

Nidhi Saxena, P. U. (2003). Modulation of Oxidative and Antioxidative Status in Diabetes by Asphaltum Panjabinum. Diabetes Care , 26 (8), 2469-2470.

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[1] A Sanskrit word referring to a rejuvenative tonic.  Much more than a bulk promoter, a rasayana increases the quality of the body, rebuilds the body/mind, prevents decay, postpones aging and may even help to reverse the aging process.  (Lad, 2001)

[2] According to soil science, humus is defined as any organic matter that has been broken down to the point of stability, and theoretically, if conditions do not change, remains stable, unchanged for centuries, if not millennia.  It is completely amorphous and no longer has any cellular structural characteristic of plants, animals or micro-organisms.  It forms the organic portion of soil.  (Merriam-Webster)(Whitehead & Tinsley, 2006)

[3] A substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning.  (Merriam-Webster Online)

[4] A substance that affects the functioning of the immune system.  (Merriam-Webster Online)

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Dog Rose: An Ayurvedic View




Rosa canina   monograph

Dog Rose - Rosa canina. This simple but beauti...

Dog Rose - Rosa canina. This simple but beautiful rose flowers in June and July. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author: Nellie Shapiro

Date of Report: 11.26.10

Herbology class, Alandi Ashram, Boulder, CO

Instructor:  Jane Bunin, PhD



Rosa canina belongs to the  Rosaceae family. Many of the Rosaceae are thorny, and most are characterized by the presence of stipules on the leaf.  The flowers having five sets of parts.  The fleshy fruit is called a rose hip is not a true fruit. The rose hip is derived from large part from a cup-shaped enlargement of the flower stalk (calx), within its cavity are numerous carpels or true fruits.

Rosa canina ranges in height from 1-5 m and its stems are covered with small sharp spines. The flowers are pale pink, 4-6 cm diameter with five petals, and matures into an oval 1.5-2 cm red-orange fruit, the rose hip. The fruit is valued for its high vitamin C level.

Rosehips have been used by many cultures for centuries. Рекомендации по его использованию есть и в тибетской медицине, и в работах Авиценны, и даже в рукописях библейских времен. Recommendations for its use exist in Tibetan medicine, and mentioned in the works of Avicenna, and even in manuscripts of biblical times. Но к лечению любым средством нужно подходить осторожно.

How the plant was chosen

When I was looking for the plant to write about, I remembered rosehips, a very popular home remedy in Russia. There is much information written on the uses of the leaves and flowers, but not much about the fruit.  Textbooks, herbal anthologies, internet searchers and first person interviews were the sources used to research this monograph.

Rosa canina

Rosa canina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Botany and Ecology

Latin names: Rosa canina

Other Rosa species: Rosa lutetiana; Rosa alba; Rosa centifolia; Rosa damascena; Rosa gallica, Rosa provincialis , Rosa rugosa; Rosa villosa,  Rosa pomifera.

Common Names: Apothecary Rose, Cynosbatos, Dog Rose, Dog Rose Hips, Églantier, Gulab, Heps, Hip, Hip Fruit, Hip Sweet, Hipberry, Hop Fruit, Persian Rose, Phool Gulab, Pink Rose, Rosa de Castillo, Rosa Mosqueta, Rosae Pseudofructus Cum Semen,  Satapatri, Satapatrika, Shatpari, Wild Boar Fruit.

Plant Nomenclature:

Kingdom: Plantae   Division: Magnoliophyta  Class: Magnoliopsida  Order: Rosales Family: Rosaceae




The leaves of Rosa canina are alternate. A rose's flower has two types of modified leaves, the sepals and the petals. Sepals are the protective green wrapper leaves that surround the flower bud as it develops. When the flower opens, the sepals turn backward, exposing the petals. As the petals unfurl, you can see that they are connected to the base of the flower where the sepals are also connected. The petals are the fragrant parts of the rose flower, and they carry the color. Both fragrance and color are attractants to pollinating insects.  It is noted for attracting wildlife.


 The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies), Apomictic (reproduce by seeds formed without sexual fusion). The plant is self-fertile. They open in June and July and mature into an oval 1.5-2 cm red-orange fruit, or hip in autumn.


Habitats, ecosystems, geographic range:

Rosa canina is a scrambling shrub-like species native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. It has been introduced to North America during early colonization.. During  World War II in the United States Rosa canina was planted in victory gardens, and can still be found growing in wet, sandy areas up and down the eastern U.S. coastline. Rosa canina is frequently around the edges of woods, hedges, garden fences. Rosa canina may also be found growing naturally in open areas, such as meadows, pastures and wasteland.

In Colorado, this author has  frequently see Rosa canina at both 5,000 and 10,000 feet.


Time of growth, flowering and fruiting (phenology)

Rosa canina seeds often takes two years to germinate. This is because it may need a warm spell f weather after a cold spell in order to mature the embryo and reduce the seed coat. The flowers of the Rosa canina are in bloom from June to July. Rosa canina  hips usually grow approximately 30 mm in diameter, but have a flimsy layer of flesh that encloses numerous seeds. The fruits or hips of Rosa. canina are usually vivid red and harvested during fall.

Ecological Status

Rose Canina is considered an invasive  in some areas like the high country of New Zeland. It is recognised as displacing native vegetation but  not considered to be a conservation threat.



Medicinal information


Hips, leaves and flowers are used. The fruits or hips of the Rose Canina are collected during fall.  The numerous carpels or true fruits must be carefully removed before it is used for pharmaceutical purposes. The flowers are collected when in full bloom.


Pharmaceutical companies have used Rose Canina and it was in the official British Pharmacopoeia for refrigerant and astringent properties.  Now only used in allopathic medicine to prepare a confection of hips used in conjunction with other drugs.  The pulp being separated from the skin and hairy seeds and beaten up with sugar.

 Herbalists place Rose Canina in high regard. The petals, hips and galls are astringent, carminative, diuretic, laxative, smoothing eyes and as a tonic. Rose Canina is considered strengthening to the stomach and useful in diarrhea and dysentery, allaying thirst, and for its expectorant qualities good for coughs and spitting of blood. Culpepper states that the hips are "grateful to the taste and a considerable restorative, fitly given to consumptive persons, the conserve being proper in all distempers of the breast and in coughs and tickling rheum" and that it has "a binding effect and helps digestion." He also states that "the pulp of the hips dried and powdered is used in drink to break the stone and to ease and help the colic." The leaves of the Rose Canina when dried and infused in boiling water have often been used as a substitute for tea and have a grateful smell and sub-astringent taste.

The hips of the Rose Canina are widely utilized in preparing the rose hip syrup, especially for consumption by young children. The rose hip syrup is not only healthy, but also a nourishing beverage. Since the fruits of Rosa canina contains tannins, they are also used to prepare a medication to treat diarrhea. The Rose Canina hips also possess diuretic properties and therefore recommended to treat water retention. Rose Canina is especially helpful in increasing the urine outflow. This action of the Rose Canina hips also helps the body to eliminate the wastes and toxins. Additionally, Rose Canina hips are also effective in satisfy thirst and assist in alleviating stomach inflammations.

The petals, fruits as well as the galls (abnormal growths on plants caused by insects etc.) of Rose Canina possess therapeutic properties and are used to treat a number of medical conditions. These petals, fruits and galls of Rose Canina are carminative (help in alleviating flatulence), astringent, and laxative, diuretic, ophthalmic as well as stimulants. The hips are extensively taken internally to treat conditions, such as influenza, colds, scurvy, gastritis, trivial contagious ailments and diarrhea. Rose Canina also help in gout and rheumatic complaints. Decoction of rose hips are also effective for increasing hemoglobin. The Rose Canina plants are used to prepare a type of distilled water that is somewhat astringent and commonly used as a lotion for sensitive skin.  The seeds of Rosa canina are known to be vermifuge helping in getting rid of worms in the intestines.  Rose Canina is also used  as a  Bach flower remedy, a homeopathic preparation balancing the emotional states of  'Apathy' and 'Resignation'. The hips Rose Canina contain high levels of vitamins and minerals. Canina  is particularly rich in vitamins A, C , E , flavanoids. In addition, the hips of the Rose Canina are also a significant natural resource for fatty acids, something that is very uncommon in fruits. Rose Canina hips are said to aid in the development of collagen and reduce stress. There seems to be some medical studies that indicate that rose hips may be also beneficial in the prevention of certain types of cancer, for treating rheumatoid arthritis, and preventing the development of kidney stones.

The fruits or hips of the Rose Canina may be consumed raw or cooked. They are widely used to prepare jams, syrups and other such substances. Some people also use the Rose Canina hips to prepare an herbal tea. It is interesting to note that frost make the fruits softer as well as sweeter. People consuming the Rose Canina  hips raw should do it cautiously by eliminating the hair-like layer beneath the seeds. Rose Canina has been used as a food.  People dry and pulverize them before mixing them with flour. The grounded seeds are also added with other foods and used as dietary supplements. The leaves of Rosa canina leaves are dried and used as an herbal tea, substituting for genuine tea  leaves. Another suggested use is as a substitute for coffee.  The pink or whitish petals of Rosa canina are also edible and may be consumed raw or cooked. While the petals have a pleasant flavor.  The base of the petals may taste bitter and need to be removed before eating the petals. In China, people consume Rose Canina petals considering it as a vegetable. An amateur botanist has told me that he had made an extraordinary jam from Rose Canina. The roots of the Rose Canina which has the common name of the dog rose are used in treating a bite from a mad dog. It has even been reported that Rosa canina,  dried and then smoked with tobacco  produced mild hallucinogenic effects and abnormal dreams.

Russian Folk Remedies and Pharmaceuticals

  1. Classic Drink:
    5 с.л. 5 tbsp сушеных ягод измельчить, залить водой, кипятить в течение 10 минут. crushed dried berries, add water, and simmer for 10 minutes. Этот напиток нужно настоять 2-3 часа, чтобы все целебные свойства перешли в воду. Drink after 2-3 hours, so that all the healing properties passed into the water. Пить как обычный чай или сок, добавляя мед или любые соки по вкусу. Take as much as regular tea or juice, adding any juices or honey to taste.
  2. Для нормализации артериального давления при гипотонии следует сделать настой из шиповника на водке. For the low blood pressure, tincture of rose hips should be taken. Возьмите пол литра водки и сто граммов сухих плодов шиповника (можно использовать и свежий шиповник). Take half a liter of vodka and one hundred grams of dried rose hips (you can use fresh rose). Плоды тщательно измельчите, залейте водкой и подержите в темном месте полторы недели. Fruits are carefully chopped, pour vodka and soak in a dark place for 10 days. Пить настойку нужно трижды в день до еды по двадцать капель. Drink tincture up to three times daily before meals (twenty drops).
  3. При воспалительном процессе среднего уха , сопровождающемся выделением гноя, крепко заварите цветы шиповника. Inflammation of the middle ear, accompanied by the release of pus, Объедините отвар с таким же количеством сока моркови. Mix strong tea of rosehip flowers with the same amount of carrot juice. Капайте в больное ухо. Use as eardrops.
  4. При воспалении предстательной железы делайте чай из плодов шиповника, очищенных от семян. Inflammation of the prostate gland - make tea from rose hips fruit, seeded. На 250 миллилитров кипящей воды возьмите одну столовую ложку очищенных плодов. To 250 milliliters of boiling water add one tablespoon of peeled fruit. Подержите полчаса в тепле. Steep for 30 min.
  5. Rose Hip Oil:
    1. Масло шиповника вырабатывается из семян, которые содержатся в плоде растения. Rose Hip Oil is produced from the seeds, which are contained in the fruit of the plant. В них есть много витамина С, А и Е, поэтому средство это высокоэффективно. They have a lot of vitamin C, A and E, and therefore means it is highly effective. Оно хранится не больше трех месяцев, т.к. It is stored no longer than three months since эфирные вещества быстро улетучиваются. volatile substances evaporate quickly.
    2. Масло применяется для регенерации тканей, для разглаживания шрамов или для улучшения цвета кожи. Oil is used for tissue regeneration, to smooth scars or to improve color. Причем оно эффективно даже при застарелых и глубоких шрамах. And it is effective even for old and deep scars. С помощью масла шиповника лечится псориаз, нейродермит, экзема, дерматоз. Good for psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, eczema, dermatitis. Для лучшего эффекта его смешивают с лавандовым маслом. For best results, mix it with lavender oil. Применяют также при лечении стоматитов, гингивитов, пролежней, трещин сосков и ожогов. Also used in the treatment of stomatitis, gingivitis, ulcers, cracked nipples and burns.
    3. Масло шиповника - отличное увлажняющее средство, поэтому его с успехом применяют для ухода за сухой и увядшей кожей. Rose Hip Oil - an excellent moisturizer, so it is successfully used for dry and mature skin. Оно также способно защитить кожу от вредного воздействия солнечных лучей. It can also protect skin from harmful sun rays.
  6. Сок шиповника : Juice hips:
    Сок шиповника обладает всеми полезными свойствами плодов. Rosehip juice has all the beneficial properties of fruits. Приготовить его можно так: свежие плоды шиповника помыть в холодной воде, затем обсушить и вынуть семена. You can cook it this way: fresh rose hips wash in cold water, then dry them and remove the seeds. Бланшировать плоды 2 минуты в кипящей воде, чтобы размякли, затем растереть пестиком или протереть через сито. Blanch fruits 2 minutes in boiling water, so gone soft, then grind with the pestle or rub through a sieve. В отвар плодов добавить мед или сахар (на 1л воды 200г мёда или сахара). In decoction of fruit add sugar (for 1 liter of water 200g of sugar). Полученный сироп смешать с протертыми плодами, довести до кипения и разлить в горячие банки, немедленно их закатать. The resulting syrup is mixed with mashed fruit, bring to a boil and pour into hot jars, immediately roll them.

Physicians in Russian hospitals and clinics prescribe Holosas  an extract of Rose Canina hip.  The indications are:  restoring normal liver function, increase bile production, stimulate immune system and as an anti-inflammatory.

Ayurvedic Information


Taste : sour, astringent

Energy : cooling

Post digestive effect : sour

Dosha : V-PK+

Actions : stimulant, carminative, astringent.

Srotamsi : Pranavaha srotas, annavahasrotas,ambuvahasrotas,rasavahasrotas, asthivahasrotas, majjavahasrotas, mutravahasrotas.


Uses in Ayurveda:

1.     Rose essence is one of the safest substances for healing. It has been primarily used for Anti-stress therapy. If someone is depressed, having anxiety or feeling mentally exhausted, the smelling Rose Canina essence helps immediately.  The mind get freshness. Nervous system gets relief and a calm, soothing stage of mind is attained.

2.    It is helpful in women's Gynecological disorders, including menopausal symptoms.  If used before menstrual cycle, it reduces P.M.S. problems.

3.    It reduces excessive heat of the body.

4.    It has cleaning effect on liver, kidneys and spleen.

5.     It increase smoothness, reduce wrinkles on the face and helps the skin of the body glowing and charming.

6.     It is  good for respiratory disorders.

7.    It has been used to mask the taste of many obnoxious food dishes as well as to make them tastier to eat due to its rich and smooth flavor.

8.    It is useful in reducing extra fat from the body and make body slim.

9.     From the time of Queen Cleopatra most of the Persian, European and Indian Queens loved Rose for its wonderful healing qualities due to its soothing and cooling effects.

10. After a whole day's hard work, in the early evening, Ayurvedic Doctors recommends Rose drink for refreshing and a romantic evening. This drink is called "Gulab Lassi".


Known Hazards

There is a layer of hairs around the seeds just beneath the flesh of the fruit. These hairs can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract if ingested.

Шиповник применяется людьми уже не одно столетие. Contraindications

  1. Rose Canina is very rich in vitamin C, acorbic acid. Это замечательно, но витамин С - это кислота, хоть и аскорбиновая. Therefore people with high acidity, with gastritis and especially peptic ulcer disease should be very careful.
  2. Шиповник, если пить его в виде крепкого водного настоя, очень негативно влияет на состояние Ваших зубов. Due to this acidity, every time after eating rose hips, rinse mouth with clean water to protect enamel of teeth.
  3. Категорически противопоказаны любые препараты из шиповника людям, склонным к тромбообразованию и тромбофлебиту . Absolutely contraindicated in any preparations from the hips to people who are prone to thrombosis and thrombophlebitis.
  4. Если Вы - сердечник, отнеситесь к употреблению шиповника также аккуратно.When inflammation of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis), as well as some other heart diseases should not take preparations or drugs with Rose Canina in large quantities.
  5. Не рекомендуется использовать шиповник и людям, у которых нарушено движение крови. It is not recommended for people with poor blood circulation.
  6. Кроме этого, если у Вас повышенное артериальное давление , не принимайте спиртовых настоек шиповника. Persons with high blood pressure should not take alcoholic tinctures Rose Canina hips. Такие препараты как раз рекомендуются гипотоникам. Such drugs are just recommended for low blood pressure. А для снижения артериального давления следует принимать только водные настои шиповника. And to lower blood pressure should be taken only water extracts of rose hips. Гипотоникам же не рекомендуется принимать водный настой. Water infusion is not recommended for low blood pressure.
  7. Long term use of Rose Canina could adversely affect the functioning of the liver. It can lead  even to noninfectious jaundice.
  8. Препараты из корней шиповника тормозят выделение желчи. Preparations from the roots of Rose Canina inhibit the secretion of bile.
  9. Также отвары корней этого растения не рекомендуется принимать людям, страдающим запорами - Ваше состояние может усугубиться. Decoction of the roots of this plant is not recommended for people suffering from constipation, the condition may worsen. Для уравновешивания воздействия шиповника на пищеварительную систему, одновременно с шиповником используйте снадобья из сельдерея , укропа или петрушки .
    Осторожно к настойкам из шиповника следует отнестись людям, страдающим любыми дерматологическими проблемами .


Lad, V &  Frawley, D, (1986), The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

Stephenson,J & Morss,J, ( 1931  ), Medical botany, or, Illustrations and descriptions of the medicinal plants of the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin pharmacopœias: Vol 3, pg.100

Hedgerow and verge consultant and contractor. Based in the U.K., (n.d.), Dog Rose (Rosa canina) Linn, 10.22.2010,


Author unknown,(n.d.), Rose,10.22.2010,


Stanley, N, (n.d.), Dog Rose, 10.22.2010,

Author unknown, (n.d.), 11.25.2010 Rose hip - contraindications,

Rossnagel, K, Roll, K & Willich,S, (2004), The clinical effectiveness of rosehip powder in patients with osteoarthritis. A systematic review, Phytomedicine. 2004, 27-28

Green,A (2011), personal communication, Rose petal Jam.

Monastyrsckaya,N , personal communication, Rose hip in Russian Folks Remedies.




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Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula, Boulder, CO


Instructor: Alakananda Ma


April 28, 2010



Heidi Nordlund


Fenugreek Leaves is known as Qasuri Methi in u...

Fenugreek Leaves is known as Qasuri Methi in urdu, Qasure is a district in Punjab near Lahore. Qasuri Methi is known form its flavor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Methi is one of the oldest medicinal plants in history; a description of this plant was found on the Ebers Papyrus 1550 BC Egypt, one of the two oldest maintained medical documents (Brier, 1998). Methi has, through the times, been used for a variety of health conditions such as diabetes, fever, anorexia, cough, bronchitis, swellings, burns, abscesses, ulcers, sprue and other digestive issues. Addtionally, methi has been used to treat menopausal symptoms, inducing childbirth and stimulation of milk production in breastfeeding women. This paper discusses the western and ayurvedic botanical nomenclature, ethnobotany and research trials supporting the health benefits of methi.


Research process


Methi has been around for thousands of years and used as a medicine, spice, and food for both humans and animals. A wealth of information is available and numerous studies have been made on its therapeutic effects. The research process for this monograph began by diving in to the ayurvedic text of Bhavaprakasha and the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia. The exploration continued online and with a discerning attitude, scholarly articles and acknowledged references have been chosen to give as much of an authentic presentation as possible.


Plant Nomenclature


Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plant)

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Fabales

Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae, Papilionaceae - the Legume, Bean, Pulse or Pea Family)

Genus: Trigonella

Species: T. foenum-graecum Linn.


Botany and Ecology

Latin Name

Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn., foenum-graecum means Greek hay (Kowalchik, 1998). Methi possibly got this name based upon its use as a fodder crop prior to the discovery of its medicinal values in ancient Egypt (Kowalchik, 1998).
            Katzer, an Austrian chemist, has collected information from various etymological dictionaries and explains that the word Trigonella comes from Greek trigonon (triangle) which is composed of treis (three) and gony (angle). Trigonella foenum-graecum L. has flowers which are somewhat triangular shaped and three leaflets which may be what trigonon refers to.


Germanic languages are closely related in their names for Trigonella foenum-graecum L., for example in German it is called Bockshorn­klee, in Danish Bukkehornskløver, Swedish Bockhorns­klöver and Norwegian Bukkehorn­kløver which all mean buck horn's clover. The pods are long and pointed and were likely compared with the horns of a Billy goat (refer to the picture on the right of the pods).


Common Names


Fenugreek, Bird's Foot, Greek Clover, Greek Hay, Greek Hay Seed (NMCD). The following names of methi used in different languages have been collected by Katzer:


·      Arabic: Hulba, Hilbeh

·      Bulgarian: Sminduh, Sminduh grutski, Tilchets, Chimen

·      Burmese: Penantazi

·      Chinese (Cantonese): Wuh louh ba

·      Chinese (Mandarin): Hu lu ba

·      Danish: Bukkehornskløver, Bukkehornsfrø

·      Dutch: Fenegriek

·      Egyptian: Hemayt (Nunn, 1996)

·      Esperanto: Fenugreko

·      Farsi: Shanbalile

·      Finnish:  Sarviapila

·       French: Fenugrec, Sénegré, Trigonelle

·       German: Bockshornklee, Griechisch Heu

·       Greek (old): Telis

·      Hindi: Kasuri methi, Methi, Sag methi

·      Hebrew: Hilbeh

·      Indonesian: Kelabet, Klabat, Kelabat

·      Italian: Fieno greco

·      Japanese: Koruha, Fenu-guriku

·      Kannada: Mente, Mentya

·      Korean: Horopa, Penigurik

·      Nepali: Methi

·      Polish: Kozieradka pospolita; Nasiona kozieradki

·      Portuguese: Feno-grego, Alfarva, Alforba, Fenacho

·      Romanian: Molotru, Molotru comun, Schinduf

·      Russian: Pazhitnik grecheski, Shambala, Pazhitnik cennoj

·       Spanish: Alholva, Fenogreco

·       Swahili: Uwatu

·       Swedish: Bockhornsklöver

·       Tamil: Meti, Vendayam, Vetani

·      Telugu: Mentikura, Mentulu

·      Thai: Luk sat

·      Ukrainian: Hunba sinna

·       Urdu: Methi, Shanbalid; Kasuri methi  


The Fabaceae family is one of the most important plant families both ecologically and economically. The plants of this family increase soil nitrogen and provide sources of vegetable protein for domestic and wild animals as well as human beings (Lavin, 2001). Especially the wild variety of methi is useful for horses (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).



Methi is an aromatic plant resembling a large clover that reaches from 30-60 cm (1-2 ft.) (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).



The flower of Methi is white or yellowish white, axillary, and has 5 petals which make up what is referred to as banner, wing and keel. The banner is the largest upper petal and has two lobes, which is why it appears as being two petals fused together. Two smaller petals form the wings, and the last two are usually fused together and make up the keel below the wings (Elpel, 2008; Bhavaprakasha, 2006).



A distinct characteristic of the Fabaceae family are the pinnate and trifoliate compound leaves. They are deciduous during the dry season in the tropics or during the winter in temperate regions (Lavin, 2001). The leaflets are toothed (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).



Methi dana

Methi dana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The flowers produce seed pods that are six inches (15 cm) long and resemble string beans, but Methi fruits grow upright. Each pod contains 10 to 20 dull yellow, smooth, hard, and elongated seeds. They are shaped like a rhomboid and have a deep groove running obliquely from one side which divides each seed into two parts; a larger .2-.5 cm long and smaller .15-.35 cm. The seeds become mucilaginous when soaked in water (ayurvedic pharmacopeia, 1999), contain high amounts fiber and protein, and are collected in the fall (Turner, 2005). The fruit pods are 2-3 inches (5-7½ cm) long with long persistent beak.


Habitat, ecosystems and geographic range where found

Methi is a hardy and fast growing plant that grows on field edges, uncultivated land, hillsides and dry grasslands. It grows in just about any type of soil but requires sunlight (Huxley, Fern, 1997).

Methi is native to southeastern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, and is widely cultivated in other parts of the world (Turner, 2005). It grows abundantly throughout India, but especially in the north western state Rajasthan, where it is used as a food and spice in many traditional families (Mathur, 2009). India occupies 70-80% of the world's export share, and Rajasthan delivers 83-90% of this share (Pruthi, 2001; Agarwal, 2001).


Phenology (time of growth, flowering and fruiting)


Methi is an annual plant that lives for only four to seven months (Petropoulos, 2002).

The flowering period is in the summer (from June to August), and the seeds are ripe from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects (Fern, 1997).


Ecologic Status (widespread, uncommon, weed)


Fabaceae, the Pea family (including beans and peanuts), is the third largest of plants after the Orchid and Aster families; there are 600 genera and 13.000 species (Elpel, 2008). According to Halevy (1989), there are about 130 species of Trigonella, of which, the following are the most known:


Trigonella arabica (Delile), Trigonella caerulea (L.) blue fenugreek, Trigonella calliceras (Fisch.), Trigonella corniculata (L.) cultivated fenugreek, Trigonella cretica (L.), Trigonella foenum-graecum (L.) sicklefruit fenugreek, Trigonella gladiata (Steven ex M. Bieb.), Trigonella hamosa (L.) branched fenugreek, Trigonella monantha (C.A. Meyer), Trigonella monspeliaca (L.) star-fruited fenugreek, Trigonella orthoceras (Kar. & Kir.), Trigonella polycerata (L.), Trigonella procumbens (Bess. Reichenb.) trailing fenugreek, Trigonella purpurascens (Lam.) birdsfoot fenugreek.


Trigonella foenum-graecum L. has been classified in several ways (Petropoulos, 2002). Serpukova (1934) classified the seeds according to shape, size and color while Sinskaya (1961) made his categories based upon growing period, habits and morphological characters.


Plant Parts

Methi leaves and seeds are used in cooking and medicinally. The seeds have great therapeutic value and the powdered dried seeds are an important medicine in Ayurveda. Besides its medicinal appreciation, the seeds are used in varieties of ways throughout the world. They have a maple smell and flavor which make them a unique spice in foods, beverages and confections. Seeds are sprouted and eaten raw in salads along with the fresh green leaves or cooked into curries, soups, breads and many other recipes (Turner, 2005). Refer to the appendixes at the end of this paper for recipes using methi.


Sprouts: Soak 1-2 tsp seeds in water overnight. Pour that water off the next day and rinse seeds with clear water. Place the seeds in a sprouter and rinse with water daily. The sprouting process takes about five days (Bonyata).


In Egypt and Ethiopia, the seeds are used in sweets and as a supplement to wheat and maize flour for making bread (Al-Habori, 1998). Armenians use the seeds with garlic paste and chile pepper in a spice called chemen, Yemenite Jews use them in a seasoning called zhug, and in the United States, seeds are used in bean soups, chutneys, spice blends, icing and meat seasoning (Uhl, 2000). In Greece, the seeds are boiled and eaten with honey, and in Africa they are soaked and used as legume. The dry seeds are also roasted and used as a coffee substitute (Pruthi, 2001; AKA, 2000).


Other ways the seeds are used:

Tea: 1 tsp whole methi seeds steeped in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drink three or more times a day (Bonyata).

Poultice: Steep several ounces of seeds in about a cup of water. Let them cool and mash. Place the paste on a clean cloth and use (Bonyata).

Facial Scrub: Soak 2 Tbsp seeds in 1 Tbsp plain live yogurt for an hour, then blend coarsely to a paste. Gently rub this on to the face and neck using circular movements and wash off after 15 minutes (India Abroad, 2002).


The seeds are also used as veterinary medicine. They are mixed with cottonseed and given to cattle to enhance milk production. In rural areas of the state Bihar, they are applied over swellings and wounds in cattle and given to ruminants and poultry with diarrhea. The seeds are considered useful in ruminants after calving and are sold as nutritional supplements for horses and cattle (Jha, 1992; IIRR, 1994).

Extracts nowadays are used in maple syrup imitations and cosmetic products, and due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties, the seeds have shown to be suitable as packaging paper to preserve foods; in 2002, a high school student from Maryland won an award for this invention (Turner, 2005).




During the time of Antiochus IV. Epiphanes, the king of Syria from 175 BC. until 164 BC., a mixture of methi, cinnamon, spikenard, saffron, amaracus and lilies are said to have been used as perfume (Leyel, 1987).

In ancient Egypt, methi was used in embalming processes and for incense (Marcolina, 2004). At the Royal Botanical Gardens in London, methi was discovered to be among the supplies placed in the Egyptian boy-king Tutankhamen's tomb by his subjects to ensure he did not suffer from hunger in the afterlife. (Chicago Sun-Times, 1988). Egyptians also roasted methi seeds as a coffee and ate the sprouting seeds as vegetables (Stuart, 1986).

Methi was a favorite of the Arabs. It was studied at the School of Salerno by Arab physicians and had great importance in Hadith. According to Qasim Bin Abdul Rehman, Rasulullah said, "Seek cure by (using) fenugreek," and Hadith Rasulullah, "If my followers (Ummat) know the importance of the fenugreek then they will buy it by gold of equal weight" (Ghaznavi, 1991).

Methi is mentioned in the Mishna, the 'Oral Torah' which was the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions, as an herb used as offering (Jerusalem Post, 1995). Methi was also used during the final attacks of the Romans on Jotapata in Galilee when Josephus commanded methi to be boiled and poured over the siege ramps to make the Romans slip and fall; the mucilage content of methi produces a slippery paste (Jacob, 1993).

During the 1st century in Rome, Asclepiades, physician and originator of massage and friction, used methi as a general remedy (Thompson, 1897).

Benedictine monks are said to have introduced methi to central Europe (Stuart, 1986), and hunting tribes used methi in fishing. Due to its content of saponins, which is toxic to fish, large quatities of methi would be placed in lakes or stream to slow down or kill the fish. Saponins are not absorbed well in the human body and thus do not cause harm in people (Fern, 1997).  


Ayurvedic Properties


In the ayurvedic pharmacopeia (1999), the following energetics are given for methi seed:


Rasa (taste): tikta (bitter)

Virya: ushna (heating)

Vipaka (post digestive effect): katu (pungent)

Guna (quality): snigdha (unctuous)

Karma (actions): diipana (digestive), rucya, vaatahara (pacifies vata) and kaphahara (pacifies kapha)


Bhavaprakasha (2006) is in agreement with the ayurvedic pharmacopeia that methi seeds reduce vata and kapha, however, the textbook of dravyaguna claims the following properties and actions (Nichteswar, 2007):


Rasa (taste): katu (pungent)

Virya: ushna (heating)

Vipaka (post digestive effect): katu (pungent)

Guna (quality): laghu (light), snigdha (unctuous)

Karma (actions): diipana (digestive), vaatahara (pacifies vata) and raktapitta when entered into the prakopa stage of samprapti (disease process).


Note the different rasa, vipaka, guna and karma.


According to Lad (1988), methi acts on the following dhatus (bodily tissues): rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), majja (marrow and nerve), shukra and artava (reproductive), and the following srotas (bodily systems): anna (digestive), prana (respiratory), mutra (urinary), shukra and artava (reproductive).


Pharmacological properties


Antipyretic, astringent, aphrodisiac, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, expectorant, ionic neutral, galactagogue, restorative, spermicidal, stomachic, tonic, vermifugal (Duke, 1986), and anabolic (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).




Knowing the chemical constituents of a plant is important in order to determine specific health effects. During a study of observing different varieties of methi genotypes, it was discovered that methi plants can vary in chemical constituents (saponins, fibre, protein, amino acids and fatty acid contents) as well as in morphology, growth habit and seed production capability. However, the research results show that the variability for important traits in methi have a genetic base, which allows for improved levels of possible traits (Acharya, 2006).


Alkaloids: Trigonelline, choline (Al-Habori, 1998)

Amino acids: 4-Hydroxyisoleucine, lysine, histidine, tryptophan, cystine, tyrosine (Al-Habori, 1998)

Carbohydrates: sucrose, glucose, fructose, myoinositol, galactose, raffinose, verbascose, digalactosylmyoinositol, galactomannan, xylose, arabinose (Aboutabl, 1999)

Coumarins: Trimentyl coumarin, methyl coumarin, trigocumarin (Khurana, 1982; Raj, 1999)

Flavonoids: orientin, quercetin, vitexin, luteolin, isoorientin, isovitexin, saponaretin, vicenin-1, kaempferol, lilyn, tricin 7-O-D glucopyranoside, naringenin, (Han, 2001; Sood, 1976)

Saponins: Diosgenin, hederagin, tigonenin, neotigogenin, yuccagenin, gitogenin, smilagenin, sarsasapogenin, yamogenin along with the glycosides foenugracin, trigonoesides, fenugrin (Taylor, 2000; Yoshikawa, 1998; Yoshikawa, 1998; Gupta, 1984, 1985, 1986).

Others: vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium, folic acid, ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, biotin, fixed oil, traces of essential oil (Al-Habori, 1998; Aboutabl, 1999; Leonard, 2001; Gopalan, 2004)


In addition, Barnes (2002), DerMarderosian (1999) and Newall (1998) added the following:


Alkaloids: carpaine, trigonelline yields nicotinic acid with roasting

Amino acids: arginine

Fiber: Gum (mucilage), neutral detergent fiber


Based upon an isotope dilution technique, it has been concluded that methi contains about 2-25 ppm sotolonen which is the dominant flavor compound (ACS, 1997).


Therapeutic Indications


Methi is an ancient plant and has been used throughout the world as a medicine, food and spice. In Ayurveda, there are two different traditions to consider which can be referred to as the Father lineage; the medicinal aspect based upon scriptures, sutras and the traditions of the vaidyas, and the Mother lineage; cooking and home remedies passed on from grandmothers to daughters through generations. These traditions have, and still do today, serve all beings (Alakananda).


Father Lineage


Medicinally, methi has been indicated internally in many conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, digestive problems, cancers, fevers, impotence, asthma, and externally for mastitis, swellings, and burns.



In bhavaprakasha (2006), it is stated that methi seeds are useful in treating diabetes, and based upon the following human studies, this health claim has been documented. Amin (1987) demonstrated that the hypoglycemic effects of methi are due to stimulation of glucose-dependent insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells as well as by inhibition of the activities of alpha amylase and sucrase, the intestinal enzymes involved in carbohydrate digestion.
              Sharma (1990) conducted a randomized study in patients with type 2 diabetes for 10 days. 15 non-insulin dependent diabetic patients were randomly, in a cross over design, given diets with or without 100 g of defatted methi seed powder each. By incorporating methi, there was a significant fall in fasting blood glucose levels, and the insulin responses were significantly reduced. There was a 64% reduction in 24 hr. urinary glucose excretion with significant alterations in serum lipid profile, and the serum total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels decreased without any alteration in HDL cholesterol fraction.
              Gupta (2001) tested 25 newly diagnosed patients with type 2 diabetes who all had similar weight and clinical test results. They were randomly divided into two equal groups, and for two months Group 1 received 1 g hydroalcoholic extract of methi seeds daily, and Group 2 received placebo capsules. At the end of the two months, the fasting blood glucose and 2-hr. post-glucose blood glucose were not different among the two groups; however, there was a decrease in the beta-cell secretion and increase in the insulin sensitivity in Group 1 as compared to Group 2. The serum triglycerides also decreased and HDL cholesterol increased significantly in Group 1 as compared to Group 2.
              In another study, 69 patients, whose blood glucose levels were not optimally controlled by oral sulfonylureas hypoglycemic drugs, were randomly assigned: 46 in an experimental group who were given methi saponins (TFGs), and 23 in the control group receiving placebo 3 times per day, 6 pills each time for 12 weeks. The patients continued taking their regular hypoglycemic drugs. The combined therapy of TFGs with sulfonylureas hypoglycemic drugs lowered the blood glucose level and improved clinical symptoms (Fu-rong, 2008).


Sharma (1991) conducted a study of 10 healthy, non-obese people with serum cholesterol levels above 240 mg/dL. Each person was assigned to receive a control diet and an experimental diet, which was supplemented with defatted methi seed powder over two successive time periods, each lasting 20 days. During the experimental period, 100 g of defatted methi powder was divided into two equal parts and incorporated into chapatti for lunch and dinner. For the control period, the chapatti contained no methi. After ingestion of the methi diet, eight of the 10 subjects experienced a 25% reduction in serum cholesterol; methi significantly reduced the LDL and VLDL fractions without altering the HDL levels. After 20 days of the control diet, the serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels were unchanged from baseline.
              In 1996, Sharma performed a long-term study with 60 diabetic patients, 40 of whom were taking one or more anti-diabetic medications. Each person was initially placed on a control diet for seven days, followed by placement on an experimental diet for 24 weeks. During this experimental diet, 25 g of methi seed powder was divided into two equal parts and consumed in soup 15 minutes prior to lunch and dinner. Blood tests were drawn and after 24 weeks of the study; the total cholesterol level decreased 14% from baseline; a significant result.


Methi seeds are useful in digestive complaints such as gastritis and gastric ulcers. In 2002, a study revealed that an aqueous solution and a gel fraction derived from methi seeds have anti-ulcer effects equivalent to Omeprazole, an over-the-counter medication for dyspepsia, peptic ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux. The researchers found that the methi extracts protect the gastric mucosa from injury as well as reduces the secretion of gastric acid (Pandian). According to the Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia (1999), methi seed powder is indicated for grahanii (sprue or malabsorption syndrome) with dosage of 3-6 g. In the Textbook of Dravyaguna (2007), 1-3 g of methi seed powder soaked in fresh made yoghurt relieves pravahika (gassy, cramping and burning diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, Bhishagratna, 2002). Due to the content of fiber and mucilage in methi seeds, they also act as a laxative, the dosage ½-1 tsp. of freshly powdered herb per one cup of water, followed by an additional cup of water, can be taken 1-3 times daily (Turner, 2005).



Studies demonstrate that a polyphenol-rich aqueous methanolic extract from methi seeds have antioxidant properties and protect cellular structures from oxidative damage (Kaviarasan, 2004, 2005; Farrukh, 2006).




Trigonelline, the alkaloid constituent, in methi seeds has shown potential for use in cancer therapy (Phillips, 1990). In an in vitro study, the extract FE from methi seeds was demonstrated to have toxic effect on cancer cells but not normal cells. Treatment with 10-15 [micro]g/mL of FE for 72 hours turned out to be growth inhibitory to breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer cells, and it was discovered that "death of cancer cells occurs despite growth stimulatory pathways being simultaneously upregulated by FE" (Shabbeer, 2009).

Other in vivo studies disclose that diosgenin, an extract of methi, hinders tumor growths by inhibiting Akt signaling. After treatment with diosgenin, the incidence of breast hyperplasia decreased and toxicity was almost gone in breast epithelial cells (Amin, 2005; Srinivasan, 2009). Diosgenin and ethanol extracts show to prevent colon cancer by inducing apoptosis (Raju, 2004; Sebastian, 2007).




In Bhavaprakasha (2006), it is stated that methi "seeds are anabolic and galactagogue and are used in children and mothers." A study in Indonesia supports this statement when methi was shown to be effective in 75 lactating women (Damanik, 2004).

In 1945, an Egyptian researcher reported that methi stimulates breast milk production; it was found that its use was associated with increases in milk production of as much as 900% (Fleiss).

In the Warli tribe, the largest in the Dahanu area in Maharasthra, India (about 120 km from Mumbai), a small amount of methi seeds are powdered and mixed in rice porridge and taken daily, first thing in the morning to increase lactation in nursing mothers (Sayed, 2007).

During 1992, in Sudan, during interviews with several grandmothers, it was discovered that they recommend methi for lactating mothers (Ahfad, 1995). Methi seeds contain flavonoids, phytoestrogen, which regulates the hormones and aids the mammary glands to produce milk (as a consequence to the stimulation of the secretion of prolactin) in nursing mothers (Sayed, 2007). In addition, Rima Jensen, MD, (1992) suggests that methi affects the milk production because methi stimulates sweat production and the breast is a modified sweat gland. Jensen (1992) has worked with at least 1200 women who have taken methi to increase breast milk and most mothers did not need any other interventions to develop sufficient milk. Generally within 24 to 72 hours after taking 2-3 capsules methi seed powder three times a day, the mothers would experience a difference, and most of them found that they could discontinue taking methi when the milk production was stimulated to an appropriate level (Jensen, 1992).

Kathleen Huggins, the director of the breastfeeding clinic at San Luis Obispo General Hospital, CA, uses methi for relactation and for mothers who are pumping for non-nursing babies.


Other Uses


Methi is an ally for both male and female concerns. In China, methi is used to treat male impotence, premature ejaculation and low libido (Ody, 1993; Willard, 1991; Bensky, 1993). Egyptian women used methi to ease menstrual pain (Ody, 1993). According to Depp, the leaves are helpful in anemia because they are rich in iron. A poultice or plaster of the seeds and/or leaves can be applied for engorged breasts or mastitis to help with let-down and to reduce swellings and inflammation (Bonyata; Shah, 2007). Methi is also helpful in the induction of childbirth due to its stimulating effect on uterine contractions (Turner, 2005).
           In bhavaprakasha (2006), it is stated that methi is useful in fevers and that a paste of methi leaves applied over the eyes relieves conjunctivitis. A poultice of the leaves is also used for burns (Warrier, 2002), and the leaves are given internally for other conditions of pitta (Warrier, 2002).
           In traditional Chinese medicine, methi seeds are used as a treatment for weakness and edema of the legs (Yoshikawa, 1997).
           Gargling with warm methi tea is said to soothe sore throats (Castleman, 1991; Hoffmann). For asthma, the Jewish, Spanish born, physician Moses Maimonides, who lived in 1100, advised an enema with sap of linseed and methi, oil, chicken fat and beet juice (Muntner, 1963). The saponins in methi seeds have been extracted for use in various other pharmaceutical products (Phillips, 1990), and in the development of oral contraceptives and sex hormones, diosgenin is an important substance in the experiments (Rosengarten, 1969).


In the Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia (1999), methi is an ingredient in the important formulations mustakaarista and mrtasanjiivanii suraa. Aristha is an herbal wine prepared by boiling (Sarngadhara). Sura means Aasava (Bharat, 2010) which is an herbal wine made from cold water without boiling (Aarngadhara). Mrtasanjiivanii suraa is the drug of choice for kapha jvara, sannipata jvara (tridoshic fever), daurbalya (weakness and debility), krushuta (emaciation), svasa (dyspnoea) and kasa (cough); it penetrates deep into the lungs and thus helps to clear the air passages (Bharat, 2010).


Ingredients of mustakaaristha (Bharat, 2010)


·      Mustaka

·      Jaggary (gud)

·      Maricha (black pepper)

·      Dhatki (flower)

·      Methika (fenugreek)

·      Jirak (cumin)

·      Dry Ginger (sunthi)

·      Chitrak

·      Lauang (clove)

·      Ajwain


Ingredients of mrutsanjivanii suraa (Bharat, 2010)


·      Very old Jaggery (Gud)

·      Cinnamon

·      Pomegranate

·      Lajjalu

·      Ashvagandha

·      Devadaru

·      Bilva

·      Shyonak

·      Gokshura

·      Shalparni

·      Prasnaparni

·      Aruna

·      Patla

·      Moca

·      Brihati

·      Kantakari

·      Indravaruni

·      Badari

·      Chitrak

·      Punarnava

·      Svyangupta

·      Dhustura

·      Poog

·      Lotus

·      Chandan (sandalwood)

·      Ushir

·      Shatpushpi

·      Maricha (black pepper)

·      Ajwain

·      Krishna Jirak (black cumin) 

·      Sariva

·      Cardamom

·      Jathiphal

·      Mustaka

·      Granthparni

·      Shunthi (dry ginger)

·      Methika

·      Shati 


Methi is also part of the formula caturbiji, which contains chandrashura (Lepidium sativum - gardencress pepperweed), krishna jiraka (Nigella sativa - black cumin) and yavani (ajwain) (Pole, 2006). Caturbija powder treats conditions caused by vata dosha such as indigestion, bloating, spasms, and thoracic and pelvic pain (Bhavaprakasha, 2006). 


Mother Lineage


The use of methi as a spice in cooking is a known tradition in many cultures throughout the world. In Rajasthan, the largest state in India, methi is an important ingredient in the common spice combination of cumin seeds, onion, garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, besan flour, jaggery, tamarind or lime and salt (Mathur, 2009). When making Rajasthani curries, the methi seeds are usually boiled until soft, the cooking water is discarded to remove any bitterness and then the seeds are seasoned with oil and other spices. Methi ladoo is a traditional sweet in Rajasthan prepared from roasted methi seed flour with added jaggery and ghee. This sweet is mostly consumed during the winter for joint pains, arthritis and rheumatism


(Mathur, 2009). Another Rajasthani preparation is methi raita which is made with fresh yoghurt and sprouted seeds eaten as such or seasoned with spices (Mathur, 2009).

Home remedies date far back and there are many different ways on how to use methi. For sinuses, simmer 2 tablespoons of crushed methi seeds in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Strain and add 1 tablespoon each of lemon and onion juice. Drink several cups a day (Williams, 2005, p. 146).

To build blood, add 1 teaspoon each of methi seeds, dried comfrey and dandelion in 2 cups of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and add honey as sweetener. Drink after meals (Williams, 2005, p. 183).

For lung and sinus congestion, blend 1 tablespoon each of methi, slippery elm, thyme, and comfrey. Place powder in capsules and take 2 capsules every 2 hours for 3 days. When symptoms are relieved take 2 capsules daily (Williams, 2005, p. 221).

As a tonic for good health in both humans and animals, add 2 teaspoons of methi seeds in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes, strain and add at least once a week to the drinking water (Williams, 2005, p. 250).

To get relief from a sore throat, boil 3 tablespoon methi seeds, a handful of mint leaves and 4 cups of water for 15 minutes, strain and cool. Gargle with this decoction regularly until soreness disappears (Sanmugam, 2007, p. 84).

Ramadoss Prabhakaran (2010) from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, shares that his mother used to take, and give the family, a teaspoon of methi powder every day with 1 glass of water during the summer to keep the body cool. She would take methi to relieve stomach pain due to the heat, and a teaspoon of methi every day to prevent diabetes. Yemenites Jews also consume methi seeds. They soak, boil and liquefy the seeds in soups, sauces and vegetable shakes (Goulart, 1995).

Methi seeds contain mucilage and to keep skin soft, the seeds are soaked in water to extract the mucilage, which is then applied to the skin (Shah, 2007). To enhance a clear complexion, soak 2 Tbsp. methi seeds in water for 30 minutes, then drain the water. Blend the seeds with 2 Tbsp. dried methi leaves and ¾ cup coconut milk. Then add 1 Tbsp. chickpea flour and stir until paste is free from lumps. Apply a thin layer of the paste on a clean and dry face and neck. Leave the mask on for 15 minutes or until it is dry, then rinse it off with lukewarm water and pat dry with a towel (Sanmugam, 2007, p. 85).

Methi also promotes hair growth, and Dr. Smitha Yavagal, an Indian beautician, suggests the following home remedies for hair growth and dandruff:


  • Soak methi seeds in coconut oil under direct sunrays for seven days. Then apply to scalp.
  • Make a paste using methi powder and coconut milk. Rub this paste on scalp briskly and cover with a plastic cap, leave it on for 30 minutes and wash the hair with mild shampoo.
  • Take 1 part Bengal gram (chana dal), 1 part green gram (green chana) and ½ part methi seeds. Powder them coarsely. This mixture can be used to wash your hair. It does not remove the natural oil from the hair and thus prevents dryness of hair.
  • For dandruff soak 2 Tbsp. methi seeds overnight in water, in the morning grind the seeds into a fine paste. Apply the paste throughout the scalp and leave it on for ½ hour. Then wash the hair thoroughly.


To make hair silky and glossy, soak 2 tablespoons of methi seeds in water for 30 minutes. Drain the water and blend with 2 tablespoons dried methi leaves and ¾ cup milk or coconut milk into a paste. Apply onto pre-washed scalp and hair and leave in for 20 minutes. Rinse off and shampoo as usual (Sanmugam, 2007, p. 83).



To increase volume of hair, soak 3 tablespoons of methi seeds in ¾ cup water for 6 hours. Grind the seeds into a paste with the water and slowly stir in 3 tablespoons soap nut powder, mix well. Rub paste into scalp and leave it in for about 30 minutes, then rinse off and shampoo as usual (Sanmugam, 2007, p. 169).


Herb-Drug Interaction & Contraindications


Methi is safe when used in moderation for its intended use; it is listed on the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (CFR). Yet, as with most medications and herbs, side effects have been noted.

Caution should be taken when taking Warfarin or other anticoagulant drugs such as Heparin used to stop blood from clotting. Due to the coumarin content in methi, it can enhance the anticoagulant activity and in combination with Warfarin or Heparin, the international normalized ratio (INR) may increase and cause bleeding (Lambert, 2001).

Since methi can lower blood sugar, it is important to monitor blood sugar levels when taking Insulin, Glipizide or other anti-diabetic drugs. Dosage adjustment of anti-diabetic drugs may be necessary when taking methi on a regular basis (Fetrow, 1999). 

Due to the amine content in methi, the effect of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may be enhanced (Fetrow, 1999), and in theory, methi may impair absorption of oral medications due to its high content of mucilaginous fiber (Fetrow, 1999). 

If taken in large amounts, methi can cause contractions of the uterus. Thus, women who are pregnant should avoid therapeutic doses (Bown; Chevallier, 1996). However, a study of pregnant rats fed with 75 mg/kg p.o. (a dose equal to therapeutic doses for diabetes) trigonelline, extract of methi, showed no significant difference in the implants or numbers of offspring to that of the control group; the litters all survived and were normal growth (Shah, 2006). It is therefore controversial if methi can cause abortions. 

Since methi is in the same family as peanuts and chickpeas, methi should be used with caution or avoided if there is a history of peanut or chickpea allergy (Patil 1997; Ohnuma 1998; Lawrence, 1999).

If taking larger doses (more than 100 g per day) adverse reactions such as nausea or diarrhea can occur, or even more severe pitta provocation such as bleeding, bruising or hypoglycemia. If there is excessive topical use, skin irritation can happen, and inhalation of the powder may cause asthma or allergic reactions such as swelling, numbness or wheezing (Fetrow, 1999).

The safety is not well-documented for use in small children or persons with liver or kidney disease (Turner, 2005). Depending on the dose used, methi may cause a maple syrup odor in sweat and urine (Turner, 2005).



For thousands of years, methi seeds and leaves have been used as incense, perfume, food and medicine for human beings as well as animals. It is mentioned in ancient texts such as Ebers Papyrus and Bhavaprakasha for its medicinal values. Methi lowers vata and kapha dosha as well as raktapitta in the prakopa stage of samprapti. Many researchers have studied the therapeutic effects of methi seeds and have established the fact that methi lowers cholesterol and blood sugar due to its saponin content, stimulating effect on glucose-dependent insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells, and by inhibiting the activities of alpha amylase and sucrase. Methi protects the gastric mucosa and can help digestive complaints such as gastritis and gastric ulcers. The polyphenol-rich extract has antioxidant properties and prevents oxidative damage, and trigonelline, diosgenin and ethanol extracts have been found useful in the cure of breast, pancreatic, prostate and colon cancer by hindering tumor growth. Methi is a galactagogue due to its content of flavonoids and phytoestrogen and is used by nursing mothers around the world. While considered safe for most uses, precaution is warranted for some applications of methi. Yet its far reaching effects make methi an herb with substantial benefits to those who use it as intended.



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Annalise Ozols


Herbology Class, Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula, Boulder CO

Instructor:  Jane Bunin, PhD

Flower of Grindelia squarrosa, Curlycup Gumpla...

Flower of Grindelia squarrosa, Curlycup Gumplant, rayless (eradiate, discoid) form, which is sometimes considered a separate species, Grindelia nuda or Grindelia aphanactis. Streetside, Española, New Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Introduction:  Grindelia squarrosa a.k.a ."gumweed" of the Asteraceae/Sunflower family is a biennial or short lived perennial found in the Mountain West.  It has yellow, daisy-like flower heads and a sticky, resinous sap covers its leaves.  It is both edible and medicinal and has been used in European and western herbology and in Native American medicine.



Choosing Gumweed:

Gumweed is described in several books (Hobbs, 2002) (Kindscher, Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie, 1987) (Kindscher, Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie, 1992) (Moore, 1979) as being useful as edible and medicinal from a western perspective with some information relating it to uses by American Indians.   Limited information is currently available in terms of Ayurvedic uses.  It is mentioned in Appendix VI "Latin Appendix" of "The Yoga of Herbs" (Vasant Lad, 1986) but does not appear to be described in any depth.  It is briefly described in "Planetary Herbology" (Frawley, 1988) and although energetics of the plant are mentioned, no Ayurvedic  verbiage or references to vipaka, srotamsi, or specific Ayurvedic treatments are used or made.  I did not find any sources on the internet ( including Google search,,, or linking gumweed and Ayurvedic medicine.  Nor is Grindelia squarrosa listed in any of the currently published volumes of the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia (The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, 2004, 2007). 


Botany and Ecology:

·       Latin Name:  Grindelia squarrosaGrindelia after David Hieronymus Grindel (1776-1836) who was either (depending upon the source) a Latvian, Estonian or Russian botanist.  Squarrosa means scabby, scaly or roughened in reference to the leaf like appendages that stick out below the flower head.  Common Names:  Gumweed, Rosinweed, Tarweed, curly-top gumweed, curly-cup gumweed, rayless gumweed, broadleaf gumplant, Yerba del Buey.


·       Nomenclature: 
















G. squarrosa


·       Appearance:  It grows 0.33 to 3.3 feet with smooth stems, spreading to erect, usually single and branched above.  Alternate leaves, oblong with entire to coarsely toothed margins.  Flower heads are several to numerous with yellow ray florets up to .5 inches in length.  The floral disk is 0.6 to 2.75 inches wide.  Bracts of heads resinous and strongly curled. Resin covering the flowers and flower buds is thick and milky and smells balsamic.  Its purpose is to ensure pollination should insects fail.  The fruit is an achene[1].  Gumweed is tap rooted, and develops a short, vertical rhizome.  The root system extends 6.5 feet into the soil, with extensive shallow root development. 


·       Habitat:  Disturbed sites, plains, pastures, hills, roadsides, along streams, sands, clays, and sub-alkaline soils; elevations from 3,000-8,000 feet.  Gumweed favors dry areas, but grows on moist soils that lack other vegetation. It is probably native to the Great Plains and, perhaps, Rocky Mountain areas; it is widely introduced in other areas.  


o       Ecosystems:  (USDA Forest Service)


·          FRES15  Oak - hickory

·          FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood

·          FRES20  Douglas-fir

·          FRES21  Ponderosa pine

·          FRES26  Lodgepole pine

·          FRES29  Sagebrush

·          FRES30  Desert shrub

·          FRES31  Shinnery

·          FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub

·          FRES35  Pinyon - juniper

·          FRES36  Mountain grasslands

·          FRES38  Plains grasslands

·          FRES39  Prairie

·          FRES40  Desert grasslands


o       Range:  USA (AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WY), CAN (AB, BC, MB, NT, ON, QC, SK)


·       Time of Growth:   Flowering Jul-Oct.

·       Ecologic Status:  No native status listed (US Dept. Of Agriculture NRCS Plants Database); No Federal legal status (USDA Forest Service); this plant can be weedy or invasive; Gumweed increases with grazing and has a negative economic impact on rangelands.  It forms dense, brush like cover in rangelands where there is much broken sod (USDA Forest Service).

·       Related Species:  28 related species within Grindelia

·       Other:  Unpalatable to cattle, sheep, and horses though sheep will occasionally crop flower heads in the absence of other forage.  It is drought resistant due to deep roots and resinous secretions (USDA Forest Service).

Medicinal Information:

·       Collecting:  Flowers are harvested when in full bloom or buds just prior to the opening of the marginal florets and the appearance of the first bright yellow petals.  The buds develop and open from May through September, with the best buds available in Leo, mid-July thru mid-August.   Hand harvesting is recommended as the gum covers and quickly dries on anything that it comes in contact with.  Several buds can be grasped and picked at once and collected in a paper bag.  It is recommended to "cool" the buds before confining them if not immediately preparing them otherwise.  Seed Collecting:  allow pods to dry on plant and break open to collect seeds. 

·       Preparation:  Leaves and flowers can be used interchangeably for a tea (decoction); flowers are preferred for tincturing; crushed flowers as a poultice; Fresh, young, sticky flower heads can be used as chewing gum

·       Medicinal Uses:  The medicinal use of gumweed dates back to Native American and folk times and it was listed as an official drug in the United States Pharmacopoeia until 1960.  The slightly bitter and aromatic tea may be used for bronchitis or wherever an expectorant is needed; as an antispasmodic for dry hacking coughs (alone or often combined with Yerba Santa).   It is believed to desensitize the nerve endings in the bronchial tree and slow the heart rate, thus leading to easier breathing; it merits investigation as a treatment for asthma.  The tincture is useful for bladder and urethra infections. Tincture or poultice may be used topically for poison ivy and poison oak inflammations.  Other indications include bronchial spasm, whooping cough, malaria, other chronic and acute skin conditions, vaginitis and as a mild stomach tonic.  Native Americans (tribes including Pawnee, Cheyenne, Sioux [Lakota and Teton Dakota], Crows, Shoshones, Poncas, Blackfeet, Crees, Zunis and Flatheads) used preparations of curlycup gumweed both internally and externally as washes, poultices, decoctions and extracts to treat skin diseases and rashes, saddle sores, scabs, wounds, edema, asthma, bronchitis, cough, pneumonia, cold, nasal catarrh, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and syphilis, menstrual and postpartum pain, colic, digestive ailments, liver problems and as kidney medicine. The fresh gum was rubbed on the eyelids to treat snow-blindness.   

o       Effects:  stimulant, sedative, astringent, purgative, emetic, diuretic, antiseptic, and disinfectant. 

·       Primary constituents:  Tannins, volatile oils, resins, bitter alkaloids, and glucosides

·       Other uses:  Ornamental- it produces flowers over a  long period, even when the soil is poor and dry; young, sticky flower heads can be used as chewing gum; leafless stems can be bound together to make brooms.

·       Contraindications:  The herb is contraindicated for patients with kidney or heart complaints.   There may be concentrated levels of selenium as it is a facultative selenium absorber.




Ayurvedic Information:

·       Taste/Energetics:  determined by several trials of decoction (tea) and dry taste test according to method described in carak samhita

      Rasa:  moderately tikta (bitter), hint of kshaya (astringent)

     Virya:  Shita (cold)                           

     Vipaka:  Katu (pungent)

·       Prabhava:  Gumweed has affinity for the lungs and respiratory tract and skin.  Treatment of bronchitis, asthma and cough is the primary and most often mentioned medicinal use followed by treatment of skin conditions (particularly inflammation by poison oak and poison ivy). 

·       Srotamsi:  (primary srotas indicated in bold)

       Prana vaha srotas-effect on lungs and respiratory tract; stimulating, drying expectorant; antispasmodic

       Anna vaha srotas-effect on stomach-soothing for stomachache             

      Ambu vaha srotas-diuretic action; effect on kidneys and pancreas

      Rakta vaha srotas-effect on liver and spleen; skin conditions

   Artava vaha srotas-treatment of menstrual disorders and STDs

     Mutra vaha srotas-effect on bladder and kidneys; use as bladder and kidney medicine; diuretic

·       Ayurvedic Uses:  Gumweed's tikta rasa indicates its benefit in clearing heat, drying ama, benefitting skin, clearing parasites from GI tract, supporting liver, and clearing congestion from srotamsi.  Its kshaya quality indicate drying mucus and stopping leakage, tightens dhatus, cleans mucous membranes, stops bleeding, stops diarrhea and coughs and heals wounds.  Its shita virya indicates its use in "hot" and inflammatory conditions and shita herbs usually have an affinity for the stomach, kidneys and bladder.  The nature of katu vipaka is to increase dryness, constipation and gas, reduce fertility, aid in reducing kapha and can aggravate vata

Gumweed would probably be most helpful for kapha and pitta prakrutis as it is bitter and astringent and has special affinity for lungs and skin.  It may best be avoided in large doses by vata because of its rasa; however it may be a helpful medicine when vata is involved as it is not so extremely bitter and drying as to be vata provoking when used in small doses and/or balanced with other herbs.  Generally it would be beneficial for kapha respiratory congestion, pitta inflammatory conditions and vata spasmodic conditions in the lungs.  It could be employed when any of the previously mentioned srotamsi are affected.  It may be useful as an occasional tea for kapha and/or pitta-especially in the summertime and as a medicinal tea for respiratory congestion, especially in the damp spring.  It might also be used as a salve or lotion for pitta type skin conditions, a blood purifier and liver cleanser or as a poultice of dried flowers and leaves for swelling and inflammatory skin conditions.

·       Comparison with Western uses:  The classification of gumweed's rasa and virya validate and align themselves with its historical uses by Native Americans and in western herbology:  it was actually used for what the Ayurvedic classifications indicate.  Vipaka, however, is unique to Ayurveda and in this case indicates the pungent quality who's drying and kapha reducing characteristics were still recognized and utilized in the western treatments. 

Generally speaking, the western use of medicines is focused on treating a specific ailment not necessarily considering the person in which that ailment occurs; i.e. the same medicine may be prescribed for all people having a particular condition.  From an Ayurvedic perspective, medicines are prescribed taking many factors into consideration such as prakruti, vikruti, the severity of the illness etc.  One medicine with similar characteristics may be chosen over another because of this yukti (tailoring treatment to the individual).  In addition, synergistic combinations of medicines are used to enhance the properties of each and to avoid complications of giving large doses of one medicine.  This being said, the prescription of Grindelia squarrosa in an Ayurvedic context would be based upon the patient as a unique individual. 



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Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved Jan. 2009, from


[1] An achene (also sometimes referred to as "akene" and occasionally "achenium" or "achenocarp") is a type of simple dry fruit produced by many species of flowering plants. Achenes are "monocarpellate" (formed from one carpel) and indehiscent (they do not open at maturity). Achenes contain a single seed that nearly fills the pericarp, but does not adhere to it. In many species, what we think of as the "seed" is actually an achene, a fruit containing the seed.  (Wikipedia)


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