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Kumari: Aloe Vera

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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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Lavandula angustifolia, Lamiaceae, Common Lave...

Lavandula angustifolia, Lamiaceae, Common Lavender, True Lavender, English Lavender, inflorescence; Karlsruhe, Deutschland. The fresh flowers are used in homeopathy as remedy: Lavandula (Lav-o.) Deutsch: Lavandula angustifolia, Lamiaceae, Echter Lavendel, Infloreszenz; Karlsruhe, Deutschland. Die frischen Blüten werden in der Homöopathie als Arzneimittel verwendet: Lavandula (Lav-o.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


By Shaw Lathrop

Dec. 2, 2010

Herbology Class, Alandi Ashram, Boulder, CO

Instructor, Jane Bunin, PhD



Since a young age I have been intoxicated by the fragrant smell and delightful color of lavender. When choosing a plant to write a research report on my mind swiftly settled on this lovely variety.

True lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is one member of a genus of 39 species of flowering plants of the mint family (Labiatae) that are considered "lavenders". The Lavandula genus includes annuals, woody perennials and small shrubs.



Upon beginning to research lavender I at once discovered that a widespread use and love of this plant has provided the world with a wealth of information with which to draw from. Lavender is one of the oldest medicinal herbs, having over 2500 years of recorded use. In my research I attempted to draw on a diverse background of sources including scientific journals, field guides, gardening and horticulture books, and ethnobotanical sources. My work is by no means exhaustive, but rather attempts to provide a well-rounded resource for those interested in the potential medicinal properties of this delightful herb.


The name "lavender" is often said to come from the Latin word "lavare" meaning "to wash" because the Romans were known to use it in their baths. (Oxford English Dictionary (second ed.). 1989) 

However, Sally Festing in The Story of Lavender (Festing, S. (1985) The Story of Lavender, Hyperion Books pg. 137) suggests that the English name "lavender" most likely came from the Latin word "livendula" which means "bluish" and is the root of the word "livid".






Genus: Lavendula

Species: Angustifolia

Synonyms: Lavandula officinalis, Lavandula vera


Common Names:

Alhucema, Common Lavender, English Lavender, French Lavender, Garden Lavender, Lavanda, Lavande, Lavandula, Lavender Essential Oil, Ostokhoddous, Spanish Lavender, Spike Lavender, True Lavender.



Lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia) Deutsch: Lav...

Lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia) Deutsch: Lavendel (Lavendula Angustifolia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flower and Fruit: The flowers are in false whorls of 6 to 10 blossoms forming interrupted terminal spikes. The pedicles are 10 to 15 cm long downy stems. The bracts are 5 mm long, ovate to broadly triangular, often brown and brown-violet or violet-tinged. The tubular calyx has 5 uneven tips, it is amethyst-colored, tomentose and after flowering it is closed by a lidlike appendage of its upper tip. The corolla is longer with a cylindrically fused base, the lips are flat, and the upper lip is larger with 2 lobes. The lower lip is 3-lobed with even tips. The stamens are enclosed in the tube. The ovary consists of 4 carpels and has a nectary below it. The fruit is a glossy brown nutlet.


Leaves, Stem and Root: English Lavender is a 60 cm high sub-shrub and is heavily branched with leafy, erect, rod-like, gray-green, young branches. The leaves are sessile, oblong-lanceolate, entire-margined, involute, gray, later green with glandular spots beneath.(Bailey, L.H. (1949) Manual of Cultivated Plants Most Commonly Grown in the Continental United States and Canada. MacMillan Publishing Company pg. 1116)



Lavender is reported by most sources to be native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, tropical areas of Africa, southern India, and the area around modern day Iraq. Today lavender is grown in herb gardens throughout the world and is commercially grown in Europe, Australia, Russia, and America. It can even be grown right here in Boulder, Colorado.

Easy to grow, Lavender likes warm weather, a sunny location and moderate water. In cold climates it may not survive the winter. Lavenders flourish best in dry, well-drained, sandy or gravelly soils in full sun. All types need little or no fertilizer and good air circulation; in areas of high humidity, root rot due to fungus infection can be a problem.

(McCaleb, Roberts S. The encyclopedia of popular herbs 2000 Prima publishing pages 281-287)


Depending on the growing region, Lavender growers can enjoy different varieties of the plant from early spring to mid summer. Each variety has a distinct flowering period.

Non-English Lavenders such as Spanish, Yellow, Sweet, French, Allardii, Goodwin Creek Gray, and Woolly Lavender start blooming early to mid spring. Spanish and Yellow Lavenders finish up after four or five weeks, with the others blooming for a bit longer. 

The English Lavenders which include English, Munstead, Hidcote, Hidcote Pink, Jean Davis, Sarah, and Vera flower in mid to late spring. These second-round bloomers are finished by late spring or early summer. 

The English Lavender Hybrids, sometimes referred to as Lavandins; come in third in the bloom cycle, starting just as the English Lavenders are finishing, and continuing to mid summer. 
( No author cited. 1997)



Flower stalks are harvested in full bloom and during the hottest part of the day. The parts of the plant that are collected and used for medical application include the essential oil extracted from the fresh flowers and/or the inflorescences, the fresh flowers and the dried flowers.

The essential oil, which is the most commonly used medicinal form of lavender, is distilled from the flower stalks and flowers. The best quality oil is distilled from the flowers (without the stalks) which are distilled immediately, with no drying or fermentation since fresh lavender yields more esters.

In herbal medicine, the fresh or dried flowers are used in infusions, tinctures, or macerated oils. An infusion is prepared by adding 5 to 10 ml of lavender per cup of hot water (150 ml), drawing for 10 minutes, and straining. For external use as bam additive, 100 g of lavender is scalded or boiled with 2 liters of water and added to the bath.


The fresh or dried flowers are also used in cooking and impart a delicious, distinctive flavor to cookies, sauces, and other dishes. Combinations with other sedative and/or carminative herbs are generally considered to be beneficial.

An absolute and concrete of lavender are also produced by solvent extraction for use in perfumery but should is not recommended for aromatheraputic use. (Joerg Gruenwald, PhD (eds) (2000) Physician's Desk Reference for herbal medicines. Medical Economics Company pg. 277)


Historical Uses

Lavender has a long history of use, and is cited as having a wide range of applications. I will begin by discussing historical uses of lavender and then go on to look at modern day applications.

The lavender plant may have first been domesticated in Arabia well before the time of Jesus and was used there as an expectorant and antispasmodic. From Arabia, it was then carried by the Greeks and Romans, who used it to cure or ward off a host of illnesses. Eventually it reached France, Spain, Italy and England where it became well established as a remedy for stomach complaints and nervousness and as a cosmetic water to benefit the skin. It was used from very early times as a strewing herb for its deodorizing and disinfecting properties. (Festing, S. (1985) The Story of Lavender, Hyperion Books pg. 137)

Dioscorides, the famous first century Greek physician, recommended lavender for "grief's of the thorax" and also noted that it relieved headaches, indigestion and sore throats when used internally and was good for treating wounds or burns and for skin conditions when used externally (Dioscorides (c. 65 A.D.) De Materia Medica. Ibidis Press).

It was often cited by Hildegard of Bingen, the famous 12th century mystic. It was one of her favorite herbs and she recommended it for migraine headaches, a use which has persisted into modern times, as well as for "maintaining a pure character". (Hildegard,B. (reprint 1997) Causae et Curae. Pattloch pg. 307) Later, it was one of the major ingredients of the so-called Thieves Vinegar used in the Middle Ages during the Plague and was also considered an aphrodisiac. (Festing)

By the 19th Century, doctors used lavender essential oil to treat headaches, memory loss, fainting, depression, and infertility in women. (Festing)

Maude Grieve, the famous 20th Century herbalist, offered an extensive treatise on various species of lavender in her Herbal and this has been the source of much of the historical information on this plant that is now widely quoted in many books and articles . Regarding the therapeutic actions and uses of lavender, she mentions its carminative and nervine properties and its use in depression, fatigue, snake bites, headache, loss of memory and an extensive array of other aliments. (Grieve, M. (1971) A Modern Herbal, Vol. II. Dover Edition pg. 521)

Modern Uses

In modern days, the most commonly used preparation of lavender is the essential oil. The majority of scientific journal reports I found are dealing with the use of the oil. Lavender essential oil is described as one of the most versatile essential oils and a wide range of therapeutic uses is reported. It is described as having outstanding cooling, soothing, and calming properties which make it useful in conditions involving inflammation, spasm, pain and restlessness. Lavender has been described as having remarkable balancing effects on the central nervous system and as being an outstanding choice for people who are suffering from stress, tension, insomnia, nervous exhaustion and related depression. It is described as calming and soothing to the nervous system and the body-mind and its reputed tonic properties are believed to help overcome exhaustion and apathy.

Moss M, Cook J, et al, "Aromas of Rosemary and Lavender Essential Oils Differentially Affect Cognition and Mood in Healthy Adults", International Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 113, Issue 1, Jan. 2003, pp. 15-38: Results suggest that olfactory presentation of lavender essential oil decreased performance on cognitive tasks while rosemary oil produced mixed results (performance on some measures was enhanced compared to controls while on other measures it was degraded); the rosemary group was found to have greater alertness than the control or lavender groups, while both the lavender and rosemary groups reported better mood than controls. The authors conclude that the olfactory properties of essential oils can produce objective effects on cognitive performance and subjective effects on mood.

Buchbauer G, Jirovetz L, et al, "Aromatherapy: evidence for the sedative effects of the essential oil of lavender after inhalation", Naturforsch C. 1991, Nov-Dec; 46 (11-12): pp 1067 - 72. Inhalation of lavender essential oil was found to reduce caffeine-induced hyperactivity in mice to near-normal motility. The reduction showed a correlation with serum linalool levels and the authors conclude that the study provides support for the aromatherapeutic use of herbal pillows to facilitate falling asleep and to reduce stress.

Saeki Y, "The effect of foot-bath with or without essential oil of lavender on the autonomic nervous system: a randomized trial", Complimentary Therapies in Medicine, 2000, Vol. 8, Issue 1, pp. 2-7. Subjects sat with their feet soaking in hot water, with or without lavender essential oil, for ten minutes during which electrocardiogram, finger-tip blood flow and respiration were recorded; autonomic function was evaluated using spectral analysis of heart rate variability. The foot baths caused no changes in heart rate or respiratory rate but produced a significant increase in blood flow. On spectral analysis, the parasympathetic activity increased significantly during both types of foot-bath. In the lavender foot-bath, there were delayed changes to the balance of autonomic activity in the direction associated with relaxation.

Soden K, Vincent K, et al, "A randomized controlled trial of aromatherapy massage in a hospice setting", Palliative Medicine, 2004, Vol. 18, No. 2, 87-92. Forty-two patients were randomly assigned to receive massage with or without lavender essential oil added to the inert massage base. Outcome measures include a Visual Analog Scale of pain intensity, a sleep scale, an anxiety and depression scale, and symptom checklist. No significant long-term effects were found for lavender essential oil in terms of improving pain control, anxiety or quality of life. Sleep scores improved in both groups and depression scores improved in the massage-only groups. The authors conclude that lavender essential oil did not increase the beneficial effects of massage.

Bardeau F., "Utillisation d'HE aromatiques pour purifier et desodoriser l'air (Use of essential aromatic oils to purify and deodorize the air", Le Chirurgien-dentiste de France, 1976, Sept 29; 46 (319): 53 Vaporized essential oils and their capacity to destroy bacteria such as Proteus, Staph. Aureus, Strep. Pyrogenes and others were examined. Oils which were found to be the most effective in destroying air borne bacteria included clove, lavender, lemon, marjoram, mint, niaouli, pine, rosemary, and thyme.

Piccaglia R, Deans S G, et al, "Biological activity of essential oils from lavender, sage, winter savory, and thyme of Italian origin", 1993 Programme Abstracts 24th International Symposium on Essential Oils. The oils were tested for antimicrobial activity against 25 species including food poisoning types and human disease pathogens. All oils showed good activity against the majority of the bacteria. Lavender was most effective against Clostridium sporogenes.

Imberger I, Rupp J, et al, "Effect of Essential Oils on Human Attentional Processes" 1993 Programme Abstracts 24th International Symposium on Essential Oils, The authors investigated the effects of inhaled jasmine and lavender on human attentional processes. The excitatory effects of jasmine and sedative effects of lavender were clearly indicated in the results of vigilance tests. No effects were demonstrated regarding alertness as measured by reaction time.

Dale A, Cornwall S, "The role of lavender oil in relieving perineal discomfort following childbirth: a blind randomized clinical trial", Journal of Advanced Nursing, 1994, 19:89-96. 635 women participated in a clinical trial to assess the possible benefits of adding lavender oil to daily bath water for the first 10 days following childbirth. Subjects were assigned to one of 3 groups: one in which 6 drops of lavender essential oil was added, one with the addition of an inert aromatic substance, and one with synthetic lavender oil. Analysis of daily discomfort scores showed no significant differences between the groups. The authors concluded that lavender essential oil was not effective in this application.

Ghelardini C, et al, "Local anaesthetic activity of the essential oil of Lavandula angustifolia" Planta Med. 1999 Dec;65 (8):700-3.This work we studied the local anaesthetic activity of essential oil obtained from lavender. The authors compared its activity to the essential oils obtained from two citrus fruits, Citrus reticulata Blanco and Citrus limon (L.) Burm. f., which have no medical uses. Anaesthetic activity was evaluated in vivo in the rabbit conjunctival reflex test, and in vitro in a rat phrenic nerve-hemidiaphragm preparation. The essential oil of lavender but not the oils of Citrus reticulata and Citrus limon were able to drastically reduce, in a dose-dependent manner, the electrically evoked contractions of rat phrenic-hemidiaphragm. In the rabbit conjunctival reflex test treatment with a solution of essential oil of lavender administered in the conjunctival sac) allow a dose-dependent increase in the number of stimuli necessary to provoke the reflex, thus confirming in vivo the local anaesthetic activity observed in vitro.

Winston D. "The use of herbs for treating chronic back pain: a materia medica." J Am Herbalists Guild. 2005;6 (1):20-24. In this outline of recommendations of using herbal remedies in conjunction with other treatments the author recommends using lavender as a nervine and sedative to reduce stress and decrease muscle tension.


Approved by Commission E:

• Loss of appetite

• Nervousness and insomnia

• Circulatory disorders

• Dyspeptic complaints

Internally, English Lavender is used for mood disturbances such as restlessness or insomnia, functional abdominal complaints (nervous stomach irritations, Roehmheld syndrome, meteorism, nervous intestinal discomfort). Externally, English Lavender is used in balneotherapy for treatment of functional circulatory disorders.


When taken internally, lavender is a mild sedative that helps with restlessness and insomnia, reduces stomach acid and gas, and alleviates other intestinal difficulties. Bitter tasting but with a rich and sweet aroma, lavender is often used in colognes and perfumes and in many calming teas. Lavender is also used in aromatherapy as a holistic relaxant and is said to have carminative, antiflatulence and anticolic properties. Its sedative nature, on inhalation, has been shown both in animals and man. Lavender has spasmolytic activity, as does linalool, one of lavender's major components. The mode of action of lavender oil resembles that of geranium and peppermint oils.



Lavender flowers contain: 1-3% essential oil, containing mainly monoterpenes (Lavandulae aetheroleum, DAB 100, the most important component of which is linaloyl acetate (30-55%), also linalool (20-35%), b-ocimene, cineole, and camphor, and also the sesquiterpene caryophyllene oxide; tannins (5-10%), derivatives of rosmarinic acid; courmarin; flavonoids; phytosterols.

Lavender makes a complex essential oil with over 100 constituents including linalyl acetate, linalool, lavandulol, lavandulyl acetate, terpineol, cineol, limonene, ocimene, pinene, caryophyllene, linalyl butyrate, geranyl acetate, camphor, coumarin, etc. The essential oils of lavender with a high ester content and relatively low cineol and camphor are preferred. (Joerg Gruenwald, PhD (eds) (2000) Physician's Desk Reference for herbal medicines. Medical Economics Company pg. 277)


Lavender must be used in the appropriate dose to achieve best results. 4 drops or less per application produces a relaxing, balancing effect. When more than 4 drops are given in a two hour period, lavender may loose its balancing and calming effect and can become too stimulating, leading to restlessness and anxiety. ( No Author cited)

Lavender essential oil is generally considered non-toxic, non-irritant, and non-sensitizing in normal doses. However, at least one author has reported that it can cause dermatitis (J.A. Duke, 1985, cited in Aromatherapy for Health Professionals by Shirley and Len Price, 2nd Edition, (1999)).

An article in the Feb 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine·  (Derek V., et al, "Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils" New England Journal of medicine 356;5 February 1, 2007 reported one researcher's concern that products containing lavender and/or tea tree essential oils may have been responsible for abnormal breast development in three pre-pubertal boys. Each of these boys had used a product, such as a soap or hair product, containing one or both of these essential oils and the author hypothesized that since these oils have a weak hormonal effect in vitro, they could have caused the abnormal growth in the boys. This article received a lot of press and has raised concerns for some about the use of these oils, despite the fact that the study was poorly designed and not well controlled. The Aromatherapy Trade Council (Great Britain) has published a critique of the study and dismisses the conclusions of the original article as unfounded. (Robert Tisserand (2007)


Many of the theraputic uses listed were approved by commission E.

Readers will quickly notice that the Commission E monographs do not include any references to the literature used by the Commission members in assessing the safety and efficacy of the herbal drugs under review. This is unlike the format for the monographs published in 1990 and subsequently by ESCOP. Commission E and ESCOP monographs are similar insofar as they are therapeutic monographs and do not detail standards for quality as are found in a pharmacopeial monograph.

According to Prof. Schilcher every monograph has a Begrundung , an unpublished justification with most of the relevant references. This material is stored at the BfArM in Berlin and only in conflicts or cases of disputes to the Medical Act can an attorney or a scientific organization view these references. The references were originally included in data reviewed by members of the Commission in determining monograph evaluations (Schilcher, 1998a).

McCaleb, Roberts S. The encyclopedia of popular herbs 2000 Prima publishing pages 281-287

Festing, S., The Story of Lavender, Hyperion Books, 1985

Lavender by Elen Spector Platt and Lavender: Practical Inspirations by Tess Evelegh)

(Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, and c. 65 A.D.).

A Modern Herbal, Vol. II by Mrs. M. Grieve, Dover Edition, 1971

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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


United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service
Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) 30-Aug-1999


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.

Austin, U. o. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2010, from Texas Beyond History: the Virtual Museum of Texas' Cultural Heritage:

Bhavprakasa. Bhavprakasa. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia.

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

Caldecott, T. (2006). Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life. Elsevier Ltd.

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.

Lad, D. D. (2001). The Yoga of Herbs. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2010, from Merriam Webster's online dictionary:

Mishra, L. C. (2003). Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies.

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.

Pole, S. (2006). Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. China: Elsevier Limited.

Sarngadhara Samhita.

Shibnath Ghosala, J. L. (1991). The core structure of shilajit humus. Soil Biology and Biochemistry , 23 (7), 673-680.

The Ayurvedic Formulary of India Part I & II. (2003). Civil Lines, Delhi: The Controller of Publications.

Tierra, M. (1988). Planetary Herbology: an integration of Western herbs into the traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic systems. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press.

Tillotson, A. (2001). The One Earth herbal Sourcebook. New York: Kensington Publishers.

Tirtha, S. S. (1998-2007). The Ayurveda Encyclopedia: Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention & Longevity. Bayville, NY: Ayurveda Holistic Center Press.

Vagbhata. (Reprint 2007). Astanga Hrdayam (Vol. 3). (P. K. Murthy, Trans.) Varanasi: Krishnadas Academy.

Vagbhata. (Reprint 2007). Astanga Hrdayam (Vol. 2). (P. K. Murthy, Trans.) Varanasi: Krishnadas Academy.

Vagbhata. (Reprint 2007). Astanga Hrdayam (Vol. 1). (P. K. Murthy, Trans.) Varanasi: Krishnadas Academy.

Whitehead, D., & Tinsley, J. (2006). The biochemistry of Humus Formation. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture , 14 (12), 849 - 857.

Yadava, P. K. (2005). Medicinal Plants of Susruta Samhita (Vol. Vol. 1). France: Vaidya Atreya Smith B.Sc.





[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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Plumbago zeylanicum-Radix,  Citraka


April 20, 2010

Alandi Gurukula Boulder, CO

Instructor, Alakananda Ma



Lauren J Eisele

Plumbago zeylanica

Plumbago zeylanica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



A specie with in the Plumbaginaceae family is known as Plumbago zeylanicum in Latin or known as Citraka in Sanskrit. Citraka is recognized by its ability to cure diseases rapidly. Having an amazing ability to clear toxins, the herb is used for a variety of illnesses ranging from bronchial difficulties to reducing inflammation. It has a hot energy and should be used in small amounts. This plant is a perennial shrub with stout roots, which are cylindrical. A light yellow juice is within the yellowish brown root. It's nickname is the "spotted one," in correlation to the leopard who catches it's prey with swiftness, as does citraka, having the ability to quickly cure disease (Pole, 2006).


Botany and Ecology


Latin Name:            Plumbago Zeylanica


Common Name: White Leadwort

                            Spotted One

                             Jvala (flame)


                           Citraka, Chitraka, or Chitrak


Plant Nomenclature

Kingdom: plantai- plants


Division: Magnoliophyta -flowering plants


Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons


Family: plumbaginaceae- leadwort family






The Plumbago Zeylanica  has light blue and white flowers which rise in the late

summers of India.The flowers have a tubular corolla with five petal like lobes. The flowers have glanular hairs which secrete sticky mucilage that my be used for trapping insects as a method to protect it's pollen. The species includes herbaceous plants and shrubs. It grows .5-2m high.  The leaves are spirally arranged, simple, entire,  5-12cm long with a tapered base. The margin will be hairy. It will grow from 36 inches to 48 inches tall.




The plant lives in India in wile state. This plant can also be found being cultivated in gardens.  Plumbago enjoys subtropical or warm temperate climates. It can be grown in green houses in cool climates.  You may find it in palm groves, thickets, shandy hummocks, shell mounds, rocky places in open areas.



Primary Constituents

Naphthalene derivatives, plumbagin, chitranone, amino acids and zeylinon (Pole, 2006).

Nine compounds were isolated as plumbagin (I), isoshinanolone (II), plumbagic acid (III), beta-sitosterol (IV), 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde (V), trans-cinnamic acid (VI), vanillic acid (VII), 2, 5-dimethyl-7-hydroxychromone (VIII), indole-3-carboxaldehyde (IX). CONCLUSION: Compounds V, VII, VIII and IX were isolated for the first time from Plumbago Linn (Cai, 2007).



            Should not be used by children, pregnant or lactating women (Pole, 2006) Also should not be taken with those who have high pitta.



Ayurvedic Information



Rasa (Taste)

            The Rasas involved with Plumbago. is katu (pungent) and tikta (bitter). It is a digestive and is easy to digest (Sitaram, 2006).


Virya (Potent Energy)

            The virya of Plumbago. is ushna (heating) (Sitaram 2006)


Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect)

            During the last phase of the digestion, which takes place in the colon, there is a final effect that manifests from taste. This is called vipaka. The vipaka of Plumbago. is pungent.  Derived from the pungent substances this vipaka tends to cause hemorrhoids, irritation of the colon, and dry skin conditions. When consuming more of the bitter tastes this vipaka can be antipyretic (cooling), having an effect on the reproductive system, diminishing sperm count. From astringent tastes osteoporosis, pain in the joints, and giving rise to fistulae and fissures can occur (Lad, 2002). It aggravates Vata and has a catabolic action.


Srotamsi (Bodily Channels and Systems)

            The herb Plumbago. works on three channels of the body. The first srotamsi is anna vaha srotas the digestive tract. Sense Plumbago.  has a pungent vipaka is works on the shukra and artava vaha srotas (male and female reproduction). The third channel is that of majja vaha srotas, which is that of the nerves.


Therapeutic Value and Research


Alleviates Kapha and Vata disorders, but will aggravate pitta. This herb is categorized as a lekaniya or reducing herb, bhedaniya a breaking down herb, as well as dipaniya an appetizer.       ( Hergal Cure, 2010).


Anticancer- a study was taken where plumbagin was isolated from Plumbago zeylanica and had shown to possess anticancer activity (Karger 2010).  A study was taken by  Sandur in Texas, to show the benefits of chitrak in the development of cancer.

Agents that can suppress STAT3 activation have potential not only for prevention but also for treatment of cancer. In the present report, we investigated whether 5-hydroxy-2-methyl-1,4-naphthoquinone (plumbagin), an analogue of vitamin K, and isolated from chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), an Ayurvedic medicinal plant, can modulate the STAT3 pathway. We found that plumbagin inhibited both constitutive and interleukin 6-inducible STAT3 phosphorylation in multiple myeloma (MM) cells and this correlated with the inhibition of c-Src, Janus-activated kinase (JAK)1, and JAK2 activation.

Plumbago zeylanica for the cure of antioxidant and anticancer drugs, as the elements Na, K, Ca, Zn, Fe, Mn, Sr, Cu and Co are the highest in leaves, followed by those is in roots. Many anticancer herbs usually show comparatively rich Zn, Mn, Fe, as well as Cr,Sr and Cu. Plumbago zeylanica exists with abundant Zn, Mn and Fe and a certain amount of Cr, Sr and Cu (Tan, 2009).


Arthritis Chitraka has been found to help with joints . Joint pathologies that have a cold, wet, damp, swelling, and water retention qualities, such as arthritis are balanced with the use of chitraka (Pole, 2006).


Anti Bacteria Another study done indicated plumbago zeylancica's ability to kill test bacteria at the level lower than it's MIC (Ahamd 2007).

Researchers from Physiology Institute of Basic Medical Science have explored the structure of the herb's active principle to be similar to that of Vit K (Devi, 2006).


Piles, gulma, difficult swelling, and promoting diestion are all alleviated with this remedy from Carak Samhita, which is citraka, dhanyaka, yavani, jiraka, sauvarcala, trikatu, amlavetasa, bilwa, dadima, qavaksara, pippalimula, cavya. Crushing this into a paste with ghee and cooked into water making a medicated ghee will alleviate such pathologies (Drdhabala 1994).


Malabsorption or dysentery, skin diseases, edema, haemorrhoids, intestinal worms, and cough are all cured from citraka (Sitaram, 2006).  For such disorders as abdominal tumors, sprue, and abdominal pain due to indigestion, one can mix citraka, nagara, hingu, pippali, pippalijata, chavya, ajamoda, maricha, sarjika, yavakshara, saindhava, sauvarchala, bida, samudrika. Once mixed into a juice it can dry in the sun and be taken internally (Sarngadhara, 1997).


Digestion The root of the plant will increase digestive power and promote appetite. A tincture of the root is used in secondary syphilis in leprosy and in dyspepsia, piles, flatulence, loss of appetite and other digestive complaints. Being a antiseptic the root mixed with oil can be used for rheumatism, paralytic affections, in enlarged glands, and in cases of buboes. The herb will cure leucoderma.  It is a good remedy for post partum hemorrhage. For scabies skin disorders, and ophthalmic the milk is used.  The scraped root when put into the mouth of the womb will cause abortion of child (Mother Herbs).


Paracites Plumbago. is also used for worms, indigestion, sprew, bronchial conditions, stimulates perception, paractolises stimulation, enhances tone of GIT, Chronic dyspepsia, anorexia, nemonia, stimulates gastric secretions, and kindles digestion (Class notes, 2010).


Nerves Due to citraka's ability to stimulate movement within the body it used to move stagnated kapha due to congestion or weakenss (Pole, 2006).



Plumbago Zeylanica , has been a plant used within the scope of Ayurvedic medicine, found in the primary text of Ayurveda such as Carak Samhita,  dating back thousands of years ago.  Its properties allowed it to be favored amongst those with the primary dosha being that of Vata or Pitta. It works on specific tissues of the body such as the blood, bone, and reproductive tissues. Citraka has been researched only minimally by science, but studies have been done to show it's valuable medicinal qualities. Not only has it been studied to help wit the development of cancer cells, but it has qualities that will strengthen the digestion, being a remover of paracitical amebas. Plumbago Zeylanica is a brilliant herb that can be used in human pathology. It has been well known in the medical field of Ayurveda and within time will be well researched within science.





Aqil F, Ahmad I. Antibacterial properties of traditionally used Indian medicinal plants. 2007  Department of Agricultural Microbiology, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.


Devi RS. Plumbago zeylanica action on blood coagulation profile with and without blood volume reduction. 2006 Department of Physiology, Dr. ALM PG Institute of Basic Medical Sciences,

Drdhabala, Carak Samhita, Vol. 2 1994 Second Edition, Globe offset Press, New Delhi, India.

HerbalCure India. 2001.


            Mother Herbs. Used 3-20-2010


            Nitsch Colette and Nitsch J. P, FloralInduction short day plant. 1969. Gifsur Yvette, France.


            Pandanus Database of Plants. 1998.


            Pole, Sebation, 2006. Ayurvedic Medicine, the principles of traditional practice. Elseveir Ltd. Pg. 156.


The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, Part 1 Vol. Pg 39-40 Government of India Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ayush,


Tan MX, Analysis of macroelements and microelements in Chinese traditional medicine Plumbago zeylanica Linn by ICP-AES  College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Central South University, Changsha 410083, China.


 S. Karger AG, Basel. Plumbagin, Isolated from Plumbago zeylanica, Induces Cell Death through Apoptosis in Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells 2010.


Sandur SK Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Box 143, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Sarngadhara, , Sarngadhara Samhita Section 2, Third Edition, 1997. Golghar, Near Maidagen.


Sitaram, Bulusu, Bhavaprakasa of Bhavamisra 2006. Charu Printers, India.


Zhong Yao Cai. Chemical constituents from aerial parts of Plumbago zeylanica Linn 2007 Pharmacy of College.


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Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum Monograph

ponderosa pine

ponderosa pine (Photo credit: cm195902)

Heather Baines

10 December 2010

Botany and Herbology, Alandi Ashram, Boulder, CO

Instructor, Jane Bunin, PhD



Ponderosa is Latin for "having great weight" from the Latin pondus or "weight" and refers to the impressive size and stature of the pinus ponderosa or ponderosa pine.  A close relative of the pinion pine, which was revered by many tribes throughout the west and southwest, the ponderosa may have been overlooked for its medicinal properties by western herbalists.  Abundant throughout Colorado, its pungent and astringent needles and resin may become an important constituent of western Ayurvedic preparations.

How the Ponderosa Pine was chosen

The ponderosa pine was one of the first species presented by Professor Bunin in our Botany and Herbology class, and was particularly engaging aesthetically and in sense perception as I discovered its warm and welcoming scent - sometimes strongly vanilla, sometimes butterscotch, but generally accepted as a strong deterrent to invading insects such as the pine beetle.  As an anchor in the landscape which surrounds my Evergreen, CO home, I have close energetic ties to the ponderosa pine, and have spent many hours studying and meditating under its limbs.

Searching through the Dr. Vasant Lad's Yoga of Herbs (YOH) and the classic text Aṣṭāῆga Hdayam, I found no reference to the ponderosa pine, with only a brief reference to the white pine (pinus alba) in YOH.  After expressing interest, Alakananda Ma responded affirmatively that she was interested in the ponderosa pine as "a special part of our local ecology."

Botany and Ecology

The ponderosa pine, pinus ponderosa C. Lawson of the pinaceae family, is a majestic tree found throughout the vast majority of the American mountain west.   Varieties of this species include ponderosa (also known as the Pacific ponderosa pine) found in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington and in British Columbia, Canada.  The variant scopulorum (or Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine) is more widely distributed and is found throughout the western United States of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming and in British Columbia, Canada.  This monograph focuses on pinus ponderosa C. Lawson var. scopulorum.

Kingdom:                    Plantae

Division:                    Coniferophyta

Class:                                      Pinopsida

Family:                    Pinaceae

Genus:                    Pinus L.

Species:                    Pinus ponderosa C. Lawson

Common Names

Known by many names, which may create confusion among  amateur arborists or botanists, the ponderosa pine is alternatively and colloquially referred to as big heavy, black jack, bull pine, Montana black pine, pino real (or "real pine"), ponderosa white pine, pondos, pumpkin (in reference to the brilliant color of the mature tree's bark), Sierra brown bark pine, silver pine, western pitch pine, western red pine, western yellow pine, yellow pine, yellowbellies, and Yosemite pine.

In the Nez Perce language Niimiipuutímt the ponderosa was referred to as lá'qa from which Lewis and Clark called the tree "long leafed pine."


"If you know your west at all, you know its Yellow Pine." (Peattie, 1991ed.)

The distinguishing characteristic of the pinus genus are its needles: fascicles (leaves) contain 2-3 needles.  Pinus ponderosa can be identified by its needle length and grouping: needles are 10-28 cm long in groupings of 3s or 2s with the fascicles crowding the ends of the branches on mature trees.  The fascicle groupings are encased at the base with a tiny papery sheath.

An evergreen gymnosperm (Latin for "naked seed"), mature ponderosa pines reach heights of 30-50 m with trunk diameters of 0.6 - 1.3 m, and have a lifespan of 300-600 years.  The bottom half of the trunk is frequently without branches.

Generally, you can spot the ponderosa not only by its great size and bright, deeply grooved bark, but by its three needles joined in a bundle, which form a Y to help identify the species.

Morphology and Phenology (or Lifecycle)

Look up at the great ponderosa.  Notice its mass and the shape of its crown.  The general shape or morphology of the ponderosa pine is conical or round-shaped at the crown of the tree.  Its bark is orange-brown with an appearance of scales or plate-like scales, with deep dark-brown or black grooves between and beneath.

Needles are thin, long, and pointed, with a tooth-like edge (visible on very close inspection or felt by running your finger over the edge).   Twigs are substantial, up to 2 cm in diameter, with the needle clusters giving the end of the twig a tufted appearance.

Young female cones on Ponderosa Pine (Pinus po...

Young female cones on Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), Marki, Poland. Polski: Młode kwiaty (szyszki) żeńskie sosny żółtej (Pinus ponderosa), Marki, Polska. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Male cones are orange to yellow in color and are found at the tips of branches in small clusters.  Female cones are large and woody, 8-15 cm long, oval in shape, with a small thorn-like prickle at the end of each scale. 

Seeds mature and are shed on a two-year cycle.  In the first year, the tree may flower between April and June.  In the second year the cones mature and shed winged seeds between August and September.


Habitats and Ecosystems

Ponderosa pine trees can be found in single-species ponderosa groves or in mixed conifer forests in the mountains and, in Colorado, are an important part of the forest cover type Interior Ponderosa pine.  It is typically a climax stand, bordering grasslands and forests.  As defined by the US Forest Service, climax stands are characteristically warm and dry, and occupy lower elevations throughout their range.

The US Forest Service recognizes the following ecosystem classifications for the ponderosa pine:

   FRES20  Douglas-fir

   FRES21  Ponderosa pine

   FRES22  Western white pine

   FRES25  Larch

   FRES26  Lodgepole pine

   FRES28  Western hardwoods

   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub

   FRES36  Mountain grasslands

Throughout the Rocky Mountains and Utah, in mixed conifer forests, ponderosa pines can be found amidst the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir, blue spruce, lodgepole pine, limber pine, and quaking aspen.  

Undergrowth (or understory) is often sparse, and includes grasses and low lying shrubs such as ceanothus, sagebrush, oak, snowberry, bluestem, fescue, and polargrass (USDA Plant Guide).

Geographic Range

From the USDA Plant Guide, the range for ponderosa pine is USDA zones 3-7, thriving on soils from shallow to deep, and from gravelly sands to sandy clay loam throughout the mountains of the American west and up into British Columbia, Canada.  It is a widespread species.

Ponderosa pine can be seen growing on bare granite (see the painting illustration on the cover of this report) with its roots in cracks and crevices. 

It prefers slightly acidic soils with a pH of 6.0-7.0 and rain coverage of at least 30-60 cm average annual precipitation.   It has moderate to good drought tolerance, although extended drought increases susceptibility to invading insects including a variety of beetles.  The ponderosa pine will survive very cold winters.


Medicinal Use

The seeds of the ponderosa pine are edible, and are "perhaps the best kept secret of all the wild edibles" (Elpel, page 44).

The needles make a pleasant tea, helpful as an expectorant.  Medicinally, the needles may be used as a diuretic. 

The Nez Perce Indians used the green needles for dandruff; pitch served as an ointment for rheumatism or backaches, and heated needles were used to help deliver the placenta.

It should be noted that when ingested in a relatively large quantity, over three or more days, ponderosa pine needles induced premature parturition in pregnant cattle, especially when ingested during the third trimester or after 8 months of pregnancy.  While no other species were adversely affected (sheep, goats and rabbits were examined in the 1992 study published in the Journal of Animal Science), and cycling non-pregnant cattle were not affected, we should consider the ponderosa pine contraindicated during pregnancy.

Collection & Preparation

To collect the inner bark, or cambium layer, select a branch that is very fresh.  Make shallow cuts around the diameter of the branch every foot or two, and cut length-wise every 2-3 inches.  Carefully pull off the outer bark.  This bark can be scraped for its inner bark, or threaded onto wire or coarse thread (be sure to oil coat hangers if using, to prevent rusting) and hung to dry in well-ventilated shade (Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, page 16).  The inner bark, or cambium layer, may be chewed raw, like gum.

To collect needles, hang the branch over a newspaper until dry.  Crush the dry needles and steep in boiled water for 10 minutes.  Strain and drink as a tea. 

To collect the resinous pitch, scrape from the outer bark.  "For less fussy types, the pitch may be saved and collected, adhering bark, dirt, bugs, and all" (Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, page 126). Otherwise, melt over as low a temperature as possible, and poor through a metal sieve to separate the pure from the impure.  You will likely need to discard the sieve, but may attempt to clean it with turpentine if you desire to reuse.  Organic solvents like high percentage alcohol are needed to extract the resin from the plant, if preparing tincture from pine needles.

To collect the seeds, be aware that the collection period is short, requiring an observant eye.  Watch for the cones to ripen on the tree, and collect them from the tree as they begin to open up, before they drop their seeds (or nuts). Use a hook to pull the cones from the tree. If the cones have yet to open, you can encourage them to open by placing them to dry in a warm, sunny location. Shake the seeds from the cones when open. You may choose to eat the seeds hull intact, although commercially prepared pine nuts (from the pinion pine) are hulled. Seeds may be eaten whole or ground, raw or cooked. 


Primary Constituents

The ponderosa pine is a resinous plant.  Resins are sticky, semi-solid or solid at room temperature and are formed from oxidized volatile oils.  Resins are not water soluble, requiring the use of high-percentage alcohol to extract as tincture.

Medicinal Use

Ponderosa pine pitch may be warmed lightly and spread over the skin or taken internally in tincture form. 

Externally, when applied as a poultice, pine resin has a disinfectant quality, and may help to draw foreign objects (such as splinters) out of the skin.  Resins are warming and stimulating, and may be helpful when used externally to ease arthritic joints, back ache, and rheumatism.

Internally, resins are expectorant, diaphoretic and diuretic.  They may also be carminative, helping to ease gas and improve digestion.

As an expectorant, the volatile oils from the pine soothe the mucous membranes of the throat and are absorbed into the body, helping to expel phlegm so that it may be more readily coughed up.

A tea may be made from the pine needles and functions as a gentle expectorant.  More effectively, the inner bark or cambium layer may be slowly boiled and served as a tea with honey to improve expectorant action.  Most effectively, the pitch may be rolled into a ball, chewed and swallowed, which will soften bronchial mucous producing a very productive cough.  As the resin and volatile oil constituents are diaphoretic and heating to the body, care should be taken during fevers, used only to spike a low-grade fever, but never used with prolonged or high fever.

Taken internally, the pitch may have some benefit in treating lower urinary tract infections, but should not be used when kidney inflammation is present.


With excessive use, resins can irritate the kidneys, and should be avoided with use in patients with kidney problems.

Ponderosa pine needles have been implicated in the premature parturition of pregnant cattle, and have been used by the Nez Perce Indians to induce the birthing of the placenta after childbirth.  With these effects in mind, ponderosa pine administration should be avoided during pregnancy.


Ayurvedic Information and Use

Ponderosa pine: VK- P+

Rasa (Taste) - pungent, astringent

Collected and chewed raw, ponderosa pine needles are strongly pungent and astringent, producing an immediate drying sensation in the mouth. 

Virya (Energy) - heating
Ponderosa pine resins are strongly pungent, giving them a heating virya or energy.  Pungent herbs improve digestion, stimulate agni, and ease gas as a carminative, are diuretic, and may be used to purify the blood and induce sweating during illness as a diaphoretic.

While the needles are astringent in the mouth, the cooling action of astringency is secondary to their primary pungency, with the net effect of having a heating virya.

Vipak (Post-Digestive Effect) - pungent

Being primarily pungent and secondarily astringent in taste, the ponderosa pine resin has a pungent vipak. 

Prabhava (Special Potency)

Some native tribes, including Apaches, Hopis, Navajo, Paiutes and Zunis, collected the seeds of the pinion pine, close relative to the ponderosa, and revered the pine as deeply important to their culture. 

The seeds of the pinus family resemble the pineal gland in name and shape, acknowledged in Ayurveda and Yoga as the area of the "third eye."  This resemblance, if seen as a "signature," providing a clue to its usefulness and prahbav, or special potency, may indicate that the ingestion of pine seeds may stimulate or awaken the pineal gland.

In native medicine, the fresh sap or gum was also chewed and swallowed for its laxative and carminative properties.  These effects are in direct contrast to the ponderosa's pungent vipak, which is said to aggravate vata.  Therefore, its prabhava may be calming to vata in the colon.

Because of their great size, it may be seen that preparations with ponderosa resins may be building to the tissues.



Pranavaha srotas - the channels which carry the breath or prana.  Expectorant.

Annavaha srotas - the channels which carry the food.  May improve digestion and stimulate agni.

Ambuvaha srotas - the channels which carry water and mutravaha srotas - the channels that carry urine or the urinary system.  Diuretic and diaphoretic.

Rasavaha srotas - the channels that carry the plasma portion of the blood and tissue.  Pungent and aromatic.

Majjavaha srotas - the channels which supply the bone marrow, nerve and brain tissue; and Manovaha srotas -  the channels that suplly the mind or carry mental energy.  If the prabhava is accepted, the pinus ponderosa seeds may stimulate the pineal gland.

Artavavaha srotas - the channels which carry the menstruation.  Warmed pine needles were used to by Native Americans to help with the afterbirth; may stimulate apana vayu.


References and Bibliography

Elpel, T.J. Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. Pony, MT: Hops Press. 2008.

Foster, Steven.  Johnson, Rebecca L.  Desk Reference to Nature's Medicine. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.  2006.

Habeck, R. J. 1992. "Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa," In: Fire Effects Information System, url., accessed 7 December 2010. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,  Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).

Lad, Dr. Vasant. Frawley, David. The Yoga of Herbs. Santa Fe, NM: Lotus Press. 1986.

Lang, Frank A. "Ponderosa pine," The Oregon Encyclopedia, url., accessed 5 December 2010.

Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Santa Fe, NM: The Museum of New Mexico Press. 1990.

Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Santa Fe: The Museum of New Mexico Press. 1979.

Nyerges, Christopher.  Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press. 1999.

NPS, US Department of the Interior. Nez Perce National Historic Park, url., accessed 6 December 2010.  Washington, DC 20240

Panter, K.E. James, L.F. Molyneux, R.J. Ponderosa pine needle-induced parturition in cattle. J Animal Science [seriel online]. 1992; 70:1604-1608. Available at: Accessed 5 December 2010.

Peattie, Donald Colruss.  A Natural History of Western Trees.  Boston, Houghton Mifflin. 1991 ed.

PDR for Herbal Medicines. Fourth Edition. Scientific editors Gruenwald, Joerg PhD. Brendler, Thomas BA. Jaenicke, Christof MD. Mongvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare. 2007.

USDA, NRCS. 2010. The PLANTS Database, url., accessed 6 December 2010. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

USDA, NRCS.  Ponderosa pine Plant Guide, url., accessed 6 December 2010.  National Plant Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

US Forest Service, NPNHT. Ponderosa pine, url., accessed 5 December 2010.  NPNHT Administration, Orofino, ID 83544 USA.

Weber, W. A. Whittmann, R.C. Colorado Flora: Western Slope. Third Edition. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 1990.

Weber, W. A. Whittmann, R.C. Rocky Mountain Flora. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 1976.

Wong, James. Grow Your Own Drugs. London: Collins.  2009.


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 Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula, Boulder, CO

 Instructor: Alakananda Ma

 April 30, 2010

 Gloria G. Garrett

Gotu Kola - Centella Asiatica

Centella asiatica (habit). Location: Maui, Wah...

Centella asiatica (habit). Location: Maui, Wahinepee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Gotu Kola has been called "a pharmacy in one herb".  It is classified as one of the Brahmi herbs for its brain enhancing and anti-aging, longevity-producing properties.  It is also known as the elixir of life.  This plant retains "doctrine of signature" status ("like cures like")[6] as the leaf looks like the cerebellum and is used for intellectual promoting properties and the roots which are used for numerous ailments throughout the body resemble the torso of the human body.

In addition to a reputation as a brain and nerve tonic, Gotu Kola is also used for chronic and degenerative diseases and to treat numerous ailments such as tuberculosis, arthritis, leprosy and other skin conditions.  Textual reference and outcomes of experienced-based use support the medicinal and rejuvenative claims of this amazing herb.


Research Process

Information on Gotu Kola is prevalent as it has been used for centuries throughout India and its availability and medicinal properties are also well known in Chinese medicine.[13]  Classical texts document its use as a meditation aide and healing remedy.  Contemporary peer-reviewed articles and research support the importance of this herb in the modern-day herbal pharmacy.  However, since Ayurvedic medicine treats individuals through the interaction of the organs of digestion, the tissues and the carrying channels, in addition to how the herbs are grown, harvested and prepared, the subtle results recognized from traditional use may be hard to replicate in dissected clinical studies.  Therefore, attempt has been made to substantiate the beneficial claims of Gotu Kola through information gathered from classical texts:  Caraka Samhita, Astanga Hrdayam, Susruta Samhita, and Textbook of Dravyaguna.  In addition, other modern-day resources were consulted such as Ayurvedic Medicine by Sebastian Pole and internet research of several referenced websites, including peer-reviewed articles quoting modern clinical studies.


Botany and Ethnobotany

The Latin name for Gotu Kola is Centella Asiatica-Folium (Apiaceae).  There are numerous plants that resemble Gotu Kola due to their similar habitat, leaf formation and ground-covering nature and although they may have medicinal benefits of their own, they fall short of its claims, lacking all the qualities of this particular medicinal champion.  Gotu Kola is also commonly confused with Bacopa Monnieri (Linn.) Pennell.  Though the physical characteristics are noticeably different, it is also a swampy ground creeper and used interchangeably for some ailments.  The Ayurvedic energetics are slightly different however, and the confusion possibly stems from both being used as brain tonics and both commonly known as Brahmi.


Adding to the confusion, as with many plants, are the aliases used in reference.  Though the most common Sanskrit name is Brahmi, it is also known as Manduka-parni (referring to its leaf shape resembling the webbed feet of a frog), Brahamamanduki, Divya, Jalneem, Thankuni and several other variations.   Some of the English synonyms are:  Asian Pennywort (the leaves also resemble the shape of a penny or coin), Asiatic Coinwort, Asiatic Pennywort, Horse-hoof, Indian Ginseng, Indian Pennywort, Indian Water Navelwort, Marsh Penny, Marsh Pennywort, Pennyweed, Sheep-rot, Spadeleaf, Thick-leaved Pennywort, Water Pennywort, and White rot.  As a point of interest, it is commonly known as Gotu kola in Chinese.


Gotu Kola does well in sun or shade and is a tropical perennial which is also grown as an annual in temperate zones.  It is difficult to start from seed as the seeds can remain dormant for decades until conditions are conducive to germination.[7]  However, as it creeps along the ground in marshy, swampy soil, it continually re-roots itself at nodes (leaf intersections) creating an ever increasing mat of ground cover.  When grown in greenhouses, the plants sneak down and root under the benches where the water drains from the plants above.  In cooler climates, plants can be potted and brought inside to a sunny window in the fall and then sent back outside when warmer weather returns.  Gotu Kola bears a small oval fruit and delicate pink, white or light blue flowers can be found hidden beneath the leaves.  The leaves have culinary uses and are often eaten as a "preventative" food source in salads or side dishes.  The entire plant is used for medicinal purposes.  It is essential to identify the source of plants used for curative purposes because it is harvested where it grows (along ditches) and is susceptible to absorbing water contaminants. 


Plant Nomenclature [8]

Latin name:  Centella Asiatica-Folium; Synonym: Hydrocotyle Asiatica L.

Kingdom:  Plantae

Order:  Apiales

Family:  Mackinlayaceae (Umbelliferae)

Subfamily:  Mackinlayaceae of family Apiaceae

Genus:  Centella

Species: C. Asiatica


Ecological Status

Gotu Kola is a native plant of warmer areas of Africa, Asia, northern Australia, Central America, India, and even the southern United States.  It has a long history of use as a folk medicinal herb, especially in India and China.


The entire plant is used for medicinal purposes.  The whole plant, including the root can be dried and powdered and taken orally or used as a topical ointment.  Also, juice can be extracted from the aerial parts of the plant and the leaves can be eaten whole.


Throughout history, Gotu Kola has been referred to as a rasayana (rasayana = rejuvenative measures that impart biological sustenance to bodily tissues) used to revitalize brain and nervous system function and combat the effects of aging.  Several folklore legends give Gotu Kola partial credit for claims of longevity and stamina.  One famous one involves Li Ching-Yun, who is recorded to have lived to the unbelievable age of 256).[6]  Though these claims seem farfetched and are difficult to convincingly prove, the existence of these stories does demon-strate the fact that this herb has been in use as a medicinal rejuvenative throughout history.


Ayurvedic Herbal Energetics[9][5]

Rasa:            Madhura, Katu, Tikta, Kasaya

Guna:            Laghu, Sara

Virya:            Shita

Vipaka:  Madura

Karma:  Balya, Dipana, Hrdya, Kaphapittahara, Medhya, Varnya, Visaghna, Svarya,                            Rasayana, Ayuya, Smrtiprada

Dosha:              -KP  -V(when taken in proper dose with other Vata reducing herbs)

Dhatu (tissues):  Rasa, Rakta, Mamsa, Meda, Asthi, Majja

Srotas (channels):  Nervous, Circulatory, Digestive


Ayurvedic Use

In India, Gotu Kola has been used as a Medhya Rasayana.  Medhya Rasayana slows brain aging and regenerates neural tissues in addition to providing anti-stress, adaptogenic and memory enhancing properties. [12]   Gotu Kola has also been used for leprosy and other skin conditions, lupus, varicose ulcers, urinary conditions and female genital issues. 


Below are quotes from Classic Texts: 

The twenty-eighth Chapter of the Cikitsita-Sthāna in the Suśruta Sahitā deals with elixirs and remedial agents for improving the memory and intellect and increasing longevity.

Verse 4:  Manduka-parni:  Prepare by stirring the expressed juice of Manduka-parni  with milk and recite the proper Mantras over it a thousand times.  A portion can be drunk immediately.   This drink and a special diet should be continued for three successive months.  "This will ensure a long life of a hundred years in the full vigor of retentive memory and intellectual faculties, and would impart a god-like effulgence to the complexion." 


Verse 5:  Brami Rasayana:  Taking the expressed juice of Brami as instructed.  "Continuous use for one week improves memory, intellect and "imparts a celestial glow to the complexion".  Taking for a second week revives old forgotten memories and increases the ability to write books.  Continuing to take the juice for a third week, allows one to repeat from memory up to one hundred words if heard or read in a single sitting.  In addition, this continued use for twenty-one days "removes all inauspicious features whether of the body or of the mind, the goddess of learning appears in an embodied form to the (mind of the) user, and all kinds of knowledge comes rushing into his memory.  A single hearing is enough to make him reproduce (verbatim from memory a discourse however lengthy)", oh and by the way, he is enabled to live for five hundred years.


Verse 6:  Brahmi Ghrta:  Two Prastha measures of the expressed juice of Brahmi and one Prastha measure of Ghee cooked with one Kudava measure of Vidanga seeds, two Pala weight of each of Vaca and Trivrt, and twelve (in number) of each Haritaki, Amalaka and Bibhitaka well pounded and mixed together and cooked into a Ghrta.  "This preparation would give a favorable turn to one's fortune; impart a lotus-like bloom (to the cheeks) with perpetual youth, unparalleled intellectual faculties and a life that would cover a period of three centuries of song and sunshine.  This Rasayana affects cutaneous  diseases (Kustha), chronic fever, epilepsy, insanity, effects of poisons and evil spirits and all other dangerous diseases.


The first chapter of Caraka-Samhita, Chikitsasthanam 1:30-31 states, "The use of juice of mandukaparni," ... "- these rasayana drugs are life-promoting, disease-alleviating, promoters of strength, agni, complexion, voice and are intellect-promoting. ... {Thus are the intellect-promoting rasayana drugs}."[1]


Folk Use

Isabell Shipard, How Can I Use Herbs in my Daily Life? has identified 104 uses for Gotu Kola.[6]


Attention Deficit Disorder

Peptic Ulcers

Auto-immune Diseases


Gynecological Disorders


Low Thyroid


Male Tonic

Menopausal Problems



Venereal Diseases



High Blood Pressure


Stomach Ache

Muscular Atrophy


Sore Throat



Brain Tonic

Respiratory Ailments


Blood Purifier

Food Poisoning





Age Spots

Nervous Breakdown

Poor Circulation


Retinal Detachment


Liver Problems

Increase Energy



Premenstrual Pain

Hair Loss

Blood Disorders

Mycosis Fungoides



Periodontal Disease


Coughing Blood

Vomiting Blood



Prickly Heat Rash


Poor Appetite



Skin Ulcers

Urinary Tract Infection



Mental Retardation

Sexual Debility


Fibrocystic Breasts



Ankylosing Spondylitis

Skin Ulcers

Failing Eyesight


Mouth Ulcers


Stomach Upsets





Exam Tonic


Bowel Disorders

Fluid Retention


Swollen Glands

Intestinal Worms


Surgical Wounds


Joint Mobility

Bowel Disorders


Hardening of Arteries

Tingling in Legs

Stimulate the Liver



Central Nervous System

High Blood Pressure

Lower Serum Cholesterol Levels

Immune System





Modern Clinical Use[11]

Gotu Kola is mainly used for leprosy, venous insufficiency and studies suggest it may be beneficial in regression of inflammatory infiltration of the liver in cirrhosis, though it is cautioned that further testing is needed.


Kartnig[16:4] has compiled a list of clinical applications with references.  The three categories highlighted are:

1.     Diseases of Skin - Healing of skin wounds, burns, surgical scars, chronic skin lesions such as ulcers and leprosy wounds.[16:6]

2.     Diseases of Veins (Venous Insufficiency) - Scientific studies of patients with venous hypertension and diabetic microcirculation showed significant difference in capillary filtration rate, decrease in ankle circumference and ankle edema and other symptoms.

3.     Diseases of Liver


Additionally, several clinical trials are quoted for:

1.     Mental Abilities - Developmentally disabled children exhibited better overall adjustment, attentiveness and concentration on assigned tasks.[14:3]  Testing of adult acoustic startle response showed statistically significant lower results after ingestion of Gotu Kola which supports anxiolytic activity.[14:1] 

2.     Anticancer - Gotu Kola destroyed cultured cancer tumor cells with no toxic effects detected in normal human lymphocytes.

3.     Anti-anxiety/Anti-stress/Sedative - Studies on mice and rats have show Gotu Kola to have tranquilizing, anti-stress and anti-anxiety qualities.[17-3]


Gotu Kola is recorded to have the following properties:[8]

·      Adaptogen (increases the body's resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue)

·      Anti-viral (inhibit development of viruses)

·      Antibacterial (antiseptic that acts against bacteria)

·      Anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation)

·      Anxiolytic (treat anxiety)

·      Diuretic (increases rate of urination)

In addition to:[6]

·      Antipyretic

·      Antifungal

·      Sedative

·      Antispasmodic

·      Antioxidant

·      Tonic

·      Digestive

·      Vulnerary

·      Antibiotic

·      Nervine

·      Blood Purifier

·      Adrenal Strengthener


Major Chemical Constituents[14]

"The major principles in Herba Centellae are the triterpenes asiatic acid and madecassic acid, and their derived triterpene ester glycosides, asiaticoside and madecassoside."

This leaf of this plant is used as a salad green to retain youthfulness and as a quick pick me up.  It is common to eat two to three leaves each day as a preventative.  Juice of Gotu Kola leaves is also used as a general tonic and to relieve hypertension.  Poultice of leaves can be used to treat open sores as it reduces inflammation and scar tissue development.


Modern cautions suggest Gotu Kola not be given to children and to elderly only at a lower dosage.  Side effects are reported as rare but skin rash and liver reaction are cautioned.  At high doses, headache, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness and drowsiness have been mentioned.  Because Gotu Kola's medicinal benefits are similar to those anticipated from some prescription and nonprescription drugs, medications should be screened for possible interaction.  Some to consider are:  cholesterol-lowering drugs, diuretics and sedatives (see Constituent section of this paper).




·      Triterpenoids:  Asiatic Acid, Madecassic Acid (connective tissue modulation-collagen and other tissue proteins in vein and venous wall.)

·      Asiaticoside (Triterpene Glycoside) - Antibiotic (wound healing, leprosy, tuberculosis)

·      Brahmoside and Brahmioside (Saporin Glycosides) - Diuretic and Sedative in large doses

·      Madecassoside (Glycoside) - Anti-inflammatory

·      Gamma-amniobutyric acid(GABA) - Anxiolytic, anti-stress, depressant on central nervous system by increase of GABA in brain[17-3] 

·      Vitamin K, Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, Chromium, Cobalt, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Silca, Zinc

·      Unrelated to Kola nut and does not contain caffeine


In Addition to:[11]

·      Volatile Oil Containing Vallerin                                    Camphor

·      Cineole                                                                        N-dodecane

·      Terpene Acetate                                                            Tran-B Farnesene

·      Germacrene-D                                                                        B-Caryophyllene

·      P-Cymol                                                                        A-Pinene

·      Methanol                                                                        Ally/mustard oil

·      Flavonoids                                                                        Kaempferol

·      Resin                                                                                    Alkaloid hydrocotyline                       

·      Asiatic                                                                                    Betulic

·      Brahmic                                                                        Centellinic

·      Isobrahmic                                                                        Madecassic acid

·      Quercetin                                                                        Tannin

·      Sugar                                                                                    Asiaticoside

·      Oxyasiaticoside                                                            Brahmoside

·      Braminoside                                                                        Centellaside

·      Madecassoside                                                            Thunkuniside

·      Bitters                                                                                    Sterols

·      Pectin                                                                                    B-sitosterol



Enough evidence exists to validate the benefits of Gotu Kola are widespread.  Though many claims have yet to be accepted by modern science, many foretold in classic text and seen from current use provide enough substance to accept this herb as a stable Rasayana in every Ayurvedic Pharmacy.  As far as the longevity claims of a long healthy life of at least 100 years, I'm halfway there, I think I'll fix myself a nice cup of Gotu Kola tea.



Research References

[1]                  Caraka Samhita

[2]                  Astanga Hrdayam

[3]                  Susruta Samhita

[4]                  Textbook of Dravyaguna, Dr. K. Nishteswar

[5]                  Ayurvedic Medicine, by Sebastian Pole

[6]                  How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life? By Isabell Shipard



[9]                  Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (Department of Ayush, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Gov of India)


                  Sponsored by iHerb.Com



[13]                  hong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. Chemical components of Centella asiatica and their bioactivities, Zheng, CJ, Quin LP, 2007 May;5(3):348-                  51, Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai 200433, China, PMID:                    17498500 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]




Scientific Studies Reference

[14]   Mental - Learning, Memory

1.      Bradwejn J, Zhou Y, Koszycki D, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on acoustic startle response in healthy subjects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000;20:680-684.

2.      Nalini K, Aroor AR, Karanth KS, et al. Effect of Centella asiatica fresh leaf aqueous extract on learning and memory and biogenic amine turnover in albino rats. Fitoterapia. 1992;63:232-237.

3.      Appa Rao MVR, Srinivas K, Koteshwar Rao T. "The effect of Mandookaparni (Centella asiatica) on the general mental ability (medhya) of mentally retarded children". J. Res Indian Med. 1973;8:9-16.

4.      Mohandas Rao KG, Muddanna Rao S., Gurumadhya Rao S.  Enhancement of Amygdaloid Neuronal Dendritic Arborization by Fresh Leaf Juice of Centella asiatica (Linn) During Growth Spurt Period in Rats.  Melaka Manipal Medical College, Manipal 576 104, India.  Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2009 Jun;6(2):203-10. Epub 2007 Aug 13.

5.      Ram Harsh Singh Æ K. Narsimhamurthy Æ  Girish Singh, Neuronutrient impact of Ayurvedic Rasayana therapy in brain aging Received: 2 April 2008 / Accepted: 26 September 2008 / Published online: 18 October 2008, Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 200

6.      Singh RH, Narsimhamurthy K, Singh G. Neuronutrient impact of Ayurvedic Rasayanatherapy in brain aging.  Biogerontology. 2008 Dec;9(6):369-74. Epub 2008 Oct 18. Review. PubMed PMID: 18931935.



[15]   Venous Insufficiency

1.      Belcaro GV, Grimaldi R, Guidi G. Improvement of capillary permeability in patients with venous hypertension after treatment with TTFCA. Angiology. 1990;41: 533-540.

2.      Belcaro GV, Rulo A, Grimaldi R. Capillary filtration and ankle edema in patients with venous hypertension treated with TTFCA. Angiology. 1990;41:12-18.

3.      Cesarone MR, Laurora G, De Sactis MT, et al. The microcirculatory activity of Centella asiatica in venous insufficiency. A double-blind study [translated from Italian]. Minerva Cardioangiol. 1994;42:299-304.

4.      Pointel JP, Boccalon H, Cloarec M, et al. Titrated extract of Centella asiatica (TECA) in the treatment of venous insufficiency of the lower limbs. Angiology. 1987;38:46-50.


[16]  Skin Ailments and Wound Healing

1.      Shukla A, Rasik AM, Jain GK, et al. In vitro and in vivo wound healing activity of asiaticoside isolated from Centella asiatica.J Ethnopharmacol. 1999;65:1-11.

2.      Bradwejn J, Zhou Y, Koszycki D, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on acoustic startle response in healthy subjects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000;20:680-684.

3.      Klovekorn W, Tepe A, Danesch U. A randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled, half-side comparison with an herbal ointment containing Mahonia aquifolium, Viola tricolor, and Centella asiatica for the treatment of mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2007;45:583-591.

4.      Kartnig T. Clinical applications of Centella asiatica (L.). Herbs Spices Med Plants. 1988;3:146-173. (Scar Tissue)

5.      Bosse JP, Papillon J, Frenette G, et al. Clinical study of a new antikeloid agent. Ann Plast Surg. 1979;3:13-21. (Scar Tissue)

6.      Bonte F et al. Influence of asiatic acid, madecassic acid, and asiaticoside on human collagen I synthesis. Planta medica, 1994, 60:133-135.


[17]  Other Studies

1.      Agrawal A, Dubey M, Dubey G. Effects of Mentat on memory span, attention, galvanic skin resistance (GSR) and muscle action potential (EMG) among normal adults. Pharmacopsychoecologia. 1990;3:39-42.

2.      Sharma AK, Agrawal A, Agrawal U, et al. Influence of Mentat (BR-16A) on memory and mental fatigue in cases of anxiety neurosis and depression. Ind J Cancer Res. 1990;3:27.

3.      Chatterjee TK, Chakraborty A, Pathak M. Effects of plant extract Centella asiatica L. on cold restraint stress ulcer in rats. Indian journal of experimental biology, 1992, 30:889-891.

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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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Heidi Nordlund

 Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula, Boulder, CO

Instructor: Jane Bunin, PhD

 December 19, 2008


Smooth Sumac

Smooth Sumac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rhus Glabra




Rhus Glabra L. is one of the most common sumacs. It is an attractive ornamental plant and is cultivated by many for its beauty. The scientific name Rhus Glabra comes from Greek and rhus is derived from "rhous" which means bushy sumac, glabra means smooth and refers to the stem and leaves of the plant (Kindscher, 1987).   


How the Plant was chosen


In order to choose an appropriate plant for this project, it is important to find out if the plant has previously been described ayurvedically.


First I looked up the plant in Yoga of Herbs by Dr. Vasant Lad and David Frawley (1988). They mention Sumach but only briefly in their tables.

Then I looked in the online source for The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India and found Tintidika, which is a different species of Sumac.

I also found Rhus glabra in Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra and David Frawley (1988), which led to a bit of discussion whether or not the plant was described ayurvedically. The conclusion was that the information provided was not sufficient as an ayurvedic description. Thus, I was granted permission to focus on Rhus glabra L.


Botany and Ecology


Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Angiospermophyta

Class: Dicotyledoneae

Order: Sapindales  

Family: Anacardiaceae / Cashew or Sumac

Genus: Rhus

Species: glabra L.

Common Names

Smooth Sumac, smooth upland sumac, sumach, sumac, dwarf sumac, scarlet sumac, red sumac, lemonade berry, vinegar-bush, vinegar-tree.   

For information on Native American names of Rhus glabra L. refer to Kindscher (1987, 1992).



Rhus glabra L. is a large shrub or sometimes a small tree with open, flattened crown of a few stout, spreading branches and with whitish sap. The height can vary from 2-20 ft.

Rhus glabra - Leaf - smooth sumacLEAVES

Rhus glabra below North Fork Mountain, West Vi...

Rhus glabra below North Fork Mountain, West Virginia, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The leaves are alternate, stalked, odd-pinnately compound with slender axis, 12 - 20 inches long (30 - 50 cm), with 11-31 lance-shaped to elliptic leaflets, which are 2 - 4 inches (5-10 cm) long and ¾ to 1¼  inches wide. The upper surfaces of the leaflets are dark green and shiny/glossy, the lower surfaces dull and whitish; they are hairless, almost stalkless, and have toothed serrated margins and pointed tips.   

The leaves turn bright red in the autumn.

Rhus glabra - Bark - smooth sumac



The bark is light brown and smooth on young plants, on older wood it is smooth or becoming scaly and grey to brown.


The stem is erect, rigid, very stout, hairless, angular, smooth, has raised air pores, and covered with a whitish coat that can be wiped off. It is reddish purple when young, grayish when mature.




RhusMALEdot196 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Staminate, pistillate, and bisexual.

The small, numerous flowers occur in large branched clusters at the ends of the branches; they are less than 1/8 inches (3 mm) wide, crowded in large upright clusters to 8 inches (20 cm) long.

The staminate flowers are small and yellowish green; they have 5-parted calyces, 5 whitish petals, distinct, and ovate with 5 stamens, which have yellow anthers.


The pistillate flowers are similar, in smaller clusters, more densely flowered; and have yellowish stigmas.

The buds are small, covered with brown hair.The inflorescences are panicles, dense, pyramid-shaped, 4 to 10

 inches long, and terminal.

FRUITSRhus glabra - Fruit - smooth sumac

The fruits of Rhus glabra L. are crowded in upright clusters of red drupes 4 to 6 inches tall. Each drupe (a fleshy fruit with a hard or stony center) is about 1/8 inches (3 mm) in diameter, round, contains a single smooth seed, numerous, dark red, and covered with short sticky red hairs


Habitat(s), ecosystem(s) and geographic range where found

Rhus glabra L. is found in open uplands including edges of forests, grasslands, clearings, roadsides, and waste places, especially in sandy soils ( It also grows at pastures, along railroads, and is cultivated in private settings (Kindscher, 1992).

It grows in colonies that result from stems sprouting from roots (Missouri Department of Conservation). 


Rhus glabra L. is native to North America; it is the only shrub or tree species native to all 48 contiguous states ( In addition, it stretches from southern Quebec west to southern British Columbia in Canada, and to Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico.


Phenology (time of growth, flowering and fruiting)

The flowering period is in the spring (from May to June). The male and female are usually on separate plants.


Fruits mature in late summer (from August through September) and remain attached in winter.


Ecologic Status (widespread, uncommon, weed)


According to Elpel (2008) there are 60 different species of the Rhus genus in the world out of which there are two species in Colorado.

Poison Oak, poison Ivy and poison Sumac used to be included in the Rhus genus, however, nowadays they are separated into their own Toxicodendron genus (Elpel, 2008).

Poison ivy fruits are yellowish white and clustered.

Poison ivy flowers are small and scentless.

Raspberry And Poison Ivy Leaves

Raspberry And Poison Ivy Leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trees that might be confused with Rhus glabra:
Tree of heaven - Ailanthus altissima. It is a common 'weed tree' in urban areas but can also invade disturbed forest areas.
Ailanthus altissima

Ailanthus altissima (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Black walnut--

California Black Walnut Latina: Juglans califo...

California Black Walnut Latina: Juglans californica Made in San Jose, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rhus copallina, Cambridge University Botanic G...

Rhus copallina, Cambridge University Botanic Garden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Rhus hirta - Leaf - staghorn sumac

Rhus typhina (syn. R. hirta)

Rhus typhina (syn. R. hirta) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rhus hirta

Tintidika, a different species of Rhus, is described in The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India.


Medicinal Information



Flowers in spring from May to June. Leaves when turning red in the autumn. Berries when ripe in autumn. Bark and roots may also be gathered.


  • Tea from berries, leaves and roots.
  • Bark syrup
  • Root bark poultice
  • Leaves dried and smoked


(Source: Foster & Hobbs).



Medicinal Use

According to Foster & Hobbs (2002),

I. The berries are used as tea in traditional European folk medicine to treat:

  • Postpartum bleeding
  • Bloody discharge
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Diabetes
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Bed-wetting
  • Gargled for ulcerations of mouth and throat
  • Externally to wash ringworm lesions and slow healing ulcers


II. Leaf tea used for:

  • Diarrhea
  • Urinary tract disorders
  • Cystitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Asthma
  • Syphilis


III. Root tea used:

  • Externally as a postpartum wash for bleeding
  • Internally to relieve painful urination, urinary retention, colds, dysentery, suppressed appetite, and as an emetic.


IV. Bark syrup used to:

  • Stimulate lactation
  • Stop bleeding
  • Gonorrhea
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Dysentery
  • Swollen lymph nodes


V. Root bark poultice used externally on old ulcers.

VI. Leaves smoked with tobacco for head and lung problems.


According to Hartley, Rhus glabra is also used in gargles as an antiseptic, refrigerant and diuretic. A strong decoction or diluted fluid extract, affords an agreeable gargle for angina.


In the homeopathic system of medicine Rhus glabra is used in occipital headache, ulceration of mouth, stomatitis, epistaxic and profuse perspiration (Boericke, 1984).


Additional information: Kindscher, 1987, 1992.


Primary Constituents

Leaves and bark contain gallic and tannic acid (Elpel, 2008).

In an antibiotic screening of British Colombian medicinal plants, it was found that Rhus glabra was more effective in its crude methanolic extracts than the other 100 plants screened. The extract showed both the widest zones of inhibition in a disc assay, and the broadest spectrum of activity (McCutcheon et al. 1992). The chloroform/methanol extract was fractionated and revealed three antimicrobial compounds; gallic acid and two of its methylated derivatives, 3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoic acid and 4-methoxy-3,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid (Saxena et al., 1994). Only gallic acid has been isolated from Rhus glabra in the past (Doorenbos, 1976). These compounds showed better activity against the gram-negative bacteria than the gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. While this study explains the traditional uses of Rhus glabra by native peoples, it is unlikely to lead to new antibacterial drugs (Hartley).


Other Use

Raw young sprouts were eaten by the Indians as salad. The sour fruit, mostly seed, can be chewed to quench thirst or prepared as a drink similar to lemonade. It is also consumed by birds of many kinds and small mammals, mainly in winter. Deer browse the twigs and fruit throughout the year (

The berries can be infused into cold water to make a good lemonade-type drink (Elpel, 2008)

Sumac thickets provide shelter for wildlife. Native Americans used the drupes medicinally to treat sunburn and sores and to make red and black dyes; the roots to make a yellow dye; and sometimes smoked the dried red leaves. Deer and sheep sometimes consume the leaves (Kansas Wildflower & Grasses).


Additional information: Kindscher, 1987, 1992.



Potentially toxic in large or concentrated doses (Foster & Hobbs).


Ayurvedic Information

V+ P-  K-

Rasa: Kasaya (astringent), Amla (sour)

Virya: Shita (cooling)

Vipaka: Amla (sour), Katu (pungent)

Prabhava: Madhura (sweet)

Guna: Ruksha (dry), Shita (cold), Laghu (light), Guru (heavy) (Lad, 1997, p. 248)

Mahabhuta: Vayu (air), Prthvi (earth) (Lad, 1997, p. 248), and Tejo (fire) (Lad, 1997, 244)



Alterative                         (blood cleansing)                                                Rakta shodhana

Anti-diarrhea                         (stops diarrhea)                                                  Brmhaniya

Anti-diuretic                         (increases absorption of fluids)                         Mutrasangrahania

Anti-phlogistic             (anti-inflammatory)

Anti-pyretic                        (stops sweating)                                                  Jwarahara

Appetizer                         (increases appetite)                                                Sugandhi tadravya

Carminative                         (promotes digestion, relieves intestinal gas)             Dipaniya

Galactogogue                         (increases breast milk)                                     Stanyajanana

Hemostatic                         (stops bleeding)                                                 Sonitasthapana

Refrigerant                        (cools and reduces fever)                                    Dahaprasamana

Scraping                        (fat reducing)                                                            Lekhaniya

Stimulant                         (strengthens metabolism and circulation)             Dipana

Vulnerary (closes wounds and promotes healing)                                       Sandhaniya


~ Sources: (Lad & Frawley, 1986), (Sharma, 1995), (Lad, 1997), (Tirtha, 1998)




Kidney, bladder, and liver (Tierra & Frawley). Colon and lungs (Lad, 1997, p. 242)




Rasa, Rakta, Artava




Prana vaha srotas, Anna vaha srotas, Ambu vaha srotas, Rasa vaha srotas, Rakta vaha srotas, Purisha vaha srotas, Mutra vaha srotas, Sveda vaha srotas, Artava vaha srotas, and Stanya vaha srotas

Estimation of Ayurvedic use

Cooling herbs create a sense of refreshment, a lifting of feelings of oppression. They promote detoxification and clarity. They tend to clear Pitta and the blood but can also increase vata and kapha. When taken in excess, cooling substances produce an undesirable coldness, hypoenervation, frailty, sadness, nervousness, poor memory and gradual degeneration (Tierra & Frawley).

According to Sharma (1995), the general systemic action of kashaya (astringent taste) is healing, absorbing, anti-diuretic, and normalizing skin pigmentation. Furthermore, it acts on diarrhea, hemorrhage, wounds, polyuria, and respiratory disorders.

Astringent taste is sedative, stops diarrhea, aids in healing of joints, and promotes absorption of bodily fluids, and the closing and healing of sores and wounds (Lad & Frawley, 1986).


Astringent causes shrinkage of mucous membranes or exposed tissues. It may be applied internally to check discharge of blood serum or mucous secretions caused by sore throat or diarrhea, or applied externally on cuts, allergies, fungal infection, scars or insect bites. Astringent also helps to heal stretch marks and other scars (Mother Herbs & Agro Products).


Psychologically, astringent taste is supportive and grounding, it brings things together and makes the mind collected and organized, putting everything in its right place (Lad, 1997, p. 249).

Sour taste improves the taste of food, enkindles the digestive fire, add bulk to the body, invigorates, awakens the mind, gives firmness to the senses, increases strength, dispels intestinal gas and flatus, gives contentment to the heart, promotes salivation, aids swallowing, moistening and digestion of food, gives nourishment (Lad & Frawley, 1986).

Sour taste brings comprehension, appreciation, recognition and discrimination. It makes the mind alert, sharp and enhances the span of attention (Lad, 1997, p. 245).



The taste of kashaya (astringent) is contraindicated in disorders such as vata provocation, general debility, and loss of appetite (Sharma).


Constipation, vata provocation, blood clots (Lad, 1997).




Bioimages Home. Rhus Glabra. (pictures). Retrieved on December 14, 2008, from


Bioimages Home. Identifying Invasive Plants. (Detailed photos to distinguish Smooth Sumac from

similar plants). Retrieved on December 14, 2008, from


Boericke, W. 1984. Pocket manual of Homeopathic materia medica. Pratap Medical  Publishers,

New Delhi, India. 9th ed. 


CAT.INIST. Antimicrobial constituents of Rhus glabra. 1994, vol. 42, no2, pp. 95-99 (13 ref.).

Retrieved on December 10, 2008, from


Central Council for research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS). The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of

            India. Tintidikida, Vol. V (p. 205). Retrieved on November 9, 2008, from


Doorenbos, N. J. 1976. Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences 21:53


Elpel, T.J. 2008. Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. Hops Press, MT. (p.

124) 2007. Smooth Sumac Rhus glabra. Retrieved on December 10, 2008, from    


Foster S. & Hobbs C. 2002. Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Houghton Mifflin Company, NY

(p. 309).


Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Taxonomy for Plants. Rhus glabra L.

Retrieved on December 10, 2008, from


Hartley, L.  Secondary Compounds Within the Anacardiaceae. Colorado State University. Retrieved

on December 13, 2008, from


Kansas Wildflower & Grasses. 2007. Smooth Sumac. Retrieved on December 14, 2008, from



Kindscher, K. 1987. Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie. University Press of Kansas (pp. 190-194).


Kindscher, K. 1992. Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie. University Press of Kansas (pp. 182-188).


Lad, V. Dr. 2007. Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles. The Ayurvedic Press, NM.


Lad, V. Dr. & Frawley, D. 1986. Yoga of Herbs. Lotus Press (pp. 34, 53, 216).


McCutcheon, A. R., Ellis, S. M., Hancock, R. E. W., Towers, G. H. N.  1992. Journal of       

Ethnopharmacology 37:213


Missouri Department of Conservation ( Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra L.). Retrieved on

December 14, 2008, from 


Mother Herbs & Agro Products. Astringent. Retrieved on December 14, 2008, from


Saxena, G., McCutcheon, A. R., Farmer, S., Towers, G. H. N., Hancock, R. E. W. 1994. Journal of

Ethnopharmacology.  42:95


Sharma, P.V. 1995. Introduction to Dravyaguna. Chakhambha Orientalia. 3rd edition (pp. 34-35).


Tierra, M. & Frawley, D. 1988. Planetary Herbology: An Integration of Western

Herbs Into the Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Systems. Lotus Press (p. 340).


Tirtha, S.1998. The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia. Ayurvedic Holistic Center Press.


Wikipedia. Rhus Glabra. Retrieved on November 1, 2008, from


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Charak Monument in Yog Peeth Campus,Father of ...

Charak Monument in Yog Peeth Campus,Father of Medicine & Surgery (Photo credit: Wikipedi

By Heidi Nordlund

instructor, Dr Bharat Vaidya

Who was Caraka and when did he live? Was Caraka the author of the Ayurvedic medical text Caraka Samhita? Many scholars and philosophers have contemplated the answers to these questions and presented different theories. This paper will discuss some of these hypotheses and draw comparisons between the Caraka Samhita and the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.

The Bower Manuscript, written in Sanskrit, was discovered in 1889. It points to the existence of a forgotten Buddhist civilization in Chinese Turkestan and offers evidence for Caraka's name as being a medical authority by the beginning of 6th century 600AD (Wujastyk). Caraka is mentioned in Chinese texts as the physician of the Yuezhi King Devaputra Kaniska of the late 5th century AD (Wujastyk). While this tale of associating Caraka and King Kaniska is the only evidence before the Bower Manuscript, professor Hermann Georg Jacobi and Dr. Augustus Rudolf Hoernle believe that Caraka lived some time between 200BC and 800BC (Bharat). P.V. Sharma places Caraka at 200-300BC, at the juncture of Maurya-Sunga periods (Agrawal). However, there is no mention of Buddha or his philosophies in Caraka's writing, thus it is likely that he preceded Buddhism (c. 500BC). Additionally, the style of Caraka's writing is similar to that of the Brahmanas and Upanishads (c. 800BC) (Agrawal). According to Agrawal, further evidence supports the belief that Caraka lived during 800BC; Caraka is described as an evil god in a branch of the Yajurveda, A1-Beruni describes the term Caraka to stand for an intelligent person, and according to Kasikavrtti, Vaisampayana, a disciple of Vyasa is known as Caraka (Agrawal). Vyasa was the author of the Mahabharata which dates back to 800BC (Wikipedia).

According to Mukhopadhyaya, Caraka must have been famous before Panini's time because Panini wrote special sutra for him and Agnivesa (Panini, Iv.3.107; iv.1.105) (Agrawal). Shaina Bal shares that Panini is most commonly believed to have lived 520BC to 460BC (Indopedia), which supports the hypothesis that Caraka resided during or earlier than 500BC.

Caraka is often referred to as the author of the Caraka Samhita (Wikipedia, Charaka Samhita) which is considered to be the most authoritative text on Ayurveda (Sivaraman). There is a tale that describes how Caraka became the author of Caraka Samhita; Caraka was the name for the sage King Sesha, who is referred to some to be the recipient of Ayurveda. When Sesha experienced the sickness on earth, he was moved with pity and incarnated as the son of a sage to alleviate disease; he was called Caraka because he had come to the earth as a spy. Based upon older works of Agnivesa, he composed the Caraka Samhita (Williams). According to Caraka Samhita, the order of transmission of the Ayurvedic knowledge is as follows; Brahma, Daksa, Prajapati, the Ashwini twins, Indra, Bharadvaja, Sage Atreya Punarvasu and his six disciples out of whom Agnivesa taught Caraka (Sivaraman, Bharat).  

While Cara, in Sanskrit, can mean a spy, it also means moving, and Caraka is commonly translated as a wanderer or wandering physician (Williams, Bharat). Agrawal states that "the name Caraka is associated with Vedic, post-Vedic and even pre-Vedic sages" and can refer to both a personal name and a name of a clan or school to which they belong. Some scholars believe that the developers of the compilation of Caraka Samhita were different from any pre-vedic, vedic or post-vedic sages (Agrawal). Considering Caraka to mean wandering physician suggests that the Caraka Samhita is not contributed by one person alone but instead by a clan (Bharat).

A different hypothesis all together of whom Caraka was is believed by some; that Caraka and Patanjali, who is often considered to be the father of Yoga, may have been one and the same person (Halpern, Agrawal). In many ways Ayurveda and Yoga are closely related which could make ground to this claim. Let us look at some of these similarities. Patanjali is believed to have written a medical text; this is mentioned in the ancient prayer to sage Patanjali (Ramaswami):

yogena cittasya padena vācām
śarīrasya ca vaidyakena
pravara munīnā
jali prājalirānatosmi|

Through Yoga, of the mind, by grammar, of language
Through medical science of the body,the drosses,
The one who eradicated, to Him of the lineage of sages,
To Patanjali, I remain offering my salutation

Another translation of the same prayer is available by Paramahamsa Prajnanananda,


With folded hands I give my love and respect to the great sage Patanjali, who presented us with three valuable things: a systematic yoga philosophy to purify the mind, knowledge of grammar with which to speak consely, and Ayurveda to keep our body healthy and strong. (Prajnanananda)


Caraka was not only a physician, but also a moralist and philosopher. In the Caraka Samhita, a number of religious and moral instructions are given with reference to hygienic rules as well as the importance of striving for attainment of the following three objectives: preservation of vitality, gaining of wealth and peace within and all around (Winternitz). It is described that sins such as lust is responsible for a variety of diseases, and different practices are offered which are useful for optimal health. By eliminating desires, we can free ourselves from misery; "desire is the root cause of all miseries" (Sharma & Dash, SA, 1/94-97). According to Mishra (p. 164), the methods described in Caraka Samhita are similar to the Yama and Niyama teachings in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. In the second Niyama in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (Sadhana Pada, s. 42), it is explained that if we are established in Santosha (contentment), we will always experience exceptional happiness (Prajnanananda). In the Caraka Samhita (SA, 1/138-141), it is also described how happiness and misery are experienced due to the mind, sense organs and the objects of senses. When the mind is concentrated and set aside so that the Soul can express its true nature, happiness and misery disappear. This experience is known as Yoga and by continuous practice eight supernatural powers can be attained (Sharma & Dash):

  1. Entering others' body/mind, and/or knowledge of past and future
  2. Thought reading
  3. Doing things at will
  4. Supernatural vision
  5. Supernatural audition
  6. Miraculous memory
  7. Uncommon brilliance
  8. Invisibility when so desired


Comparing these eight attainments with the teachings of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, we find in the Vibhuti Pada, (s.16,19,21,37,42) that by practicing yoga of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, knowledge of past and future, others' mental images, and invisibility is attained; from this knowledge, clairaudience, clairvoyance, supernormal hearing and seeing arise (Satchidananda). Furthermore, according to Satchidananda (Vibhuti Pada, s.46), there is also reference to eight siddhis (supernatural powers) in the Yoga Sutra, these are: anima (becoming very small), mahima (becoming very big), laghima (very light), garima (heavy), prapti (reaching everywhere), prakamya (achieving all one's desires), isatva (creating everything), and vasitva (controlling everything).

The fourth Yama in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (Sadhana Pada, s. 38) is about self-control (Brahmacharya), and if we are firmly established in self-discipline, we achieve immense strength, vitality, excellent memory, beauty and confidence (Prajnanananda). Additionally, if we are free from greed (practicing Aparigraha, the fifth yama in the Yoga Sutra, Sadhana Pada, s. 39), it is possible to remember our past lives (Prajnanananda).

While there are similarities, the language used in Caraka Samhita and the Yoga Sutra is different (Bharat). In addition, Caraka Samhita emphasizes Yoga used as a vehicle for good health while Patanjali portrays Yoga as the path to Samadhi (liberation and Enlightenment) (Bharat). These are important differences which to many scholars is evidence enough to conclude that Caraka and Patanjali indeed were two different people. Which of the two was born first is also up for discussion. Caraka is believed by some to have lived before Patanjali (Agrawal), however, it is difficult to know when Patanjali lived; he could be older than sage Vyasa and Lord Krishna because Vyasa wrote a commentary on the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali, thus Patanjali may be more than 5000 years old (Prajnanananda, p. 10).

            In conclusion, there is evidence that Caraka lived some time between 800BC to 200BC and that he was a medical authority. Caraka was a student of Agnivesa and involved in the compilation of the Caraka Samhita but it is likely that a clan of people contributed to the writings. Whether Caraka of Patanjali was the same person or who lived first is in need of more research, however, based upon the differences in how Yoga is applied in the Caraka Samhita and the Yoga Sutra, it is unlikely that Caraka and Patanjali were the same person.


Agrawal, D.P.  About The Date Of Caraka, The Famous Ancient Physician. Retrieved on

December 15, 2009, from


Bharat, Dr. V. (2009) History of Ayurveda. From class lecture at Alandi Ashram on October 16.


Dasgupta, Surendranath (2003) A history of Indian philosophy, Vol. 2. Motilal Banarsidass. P.

431. Retrieved on December 18, 2009, from


Halpern, Dr. Marc (2005) Yoga and Ayurveda: Children of the Vedic Teaching. Retrieved on

            December 18, 2009, from            03


Indopedia (2004) Panini (scholar). Retrieved on January 16, 2010, from



Mishra, Dr. Yogesh Chandra (2008) Ayurvediya Kriya Sarira: A Textbook of Ayurvediya

Physiology. Chauwkhambha Publications, New Delhi, India.


Mukhopadhyay, G. N. (1983) On the medical authorities. In History of Science in India (Ed.

Debiprasad Chattopadyaya). New Delhi: Editorial Enterprises.


Prajnanananda, Paramahamsa (2009) The Ten Commandments of Yoga. Prajna Publication,

Vienna, Austria. 


Ramaswami, Srivatsa (2008) On Patanjali. From Vinyasa Krama. Retrieved on January 15,

2010, from


Safaya, Raghunath. Contribution of Kashmir to Indian Literature. Excerpts: 'Kashmiri Pandits:

A Cultural Heritage' Edited by Prof. S. Bhatt. Retrieved on December 18, 2009, from


Satchidananda, Sri Swami (2005) The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. Integral Yoga Publications,

Yogaville, Virginia, USA.


Sharma, P.V. (1992) History of Medicine in India. Delhi: Indian National Academy of Science.


Sharma, R.K. & Dash, Bhagwan (2007) Caraka Samhita. Vol. II. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series

Office, Varanasi, India.


Sivaraman, Krishna (1989) Hindu Spirituality: Vedas through Vedanta, Vol. 1. The Crossroad

Publishing Company. P. 339. Retrieved on January 16, 2010, from


Wikipedia (2010) Charaka Samhita. Retrieved on January 16, 2010, from


Wikipedia (2010) Mahabharata. Retrieved on January 16, 2010, from



Williams, M. Monier (2002) A Sanskrit English Dictionary. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, New

Delhi, India.


Winternitz, Maurice. History of Indian Literature - Vol. III. Retrieved on December 12, 2009,



 Wujastyk, D. (2003) The Roots of Ayurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings.

Penguin Classics. P.4. Retrieved on January 16, 2010, from


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Late Spring - April & May (Colorado, USA)

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Cherry Blossom 21st April and the cherry bloss...

Cherry Blossom 21st April and the cherry blossom is flourishing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kourtney Nelson

Zodiac Signs: Taurus & Gemini

Dosha Accumulation: Kapha & Pitta primarily, some Vata

Dosha Provocation: kapha during wet, cloudy weather, pitta with hot clear days, vata with large or frequent weather changes and windy days

Gunas Involved: cold-sita, hot-usna, snigdha-oily, heavy-guru, mobile-cala, clear-visada, picchila-cloudy, dry-ruksha, light-laghu

April - Average sunrise - 6:30am, average sunset - 7:45pm; Temperature range 62-34, average 53.
May - Average sunrise - 5:45am, average sunset - 8:00pm; Temperature range 71-44, average 61

Weather - Wide range of weather patterns, and large temperature changes. Can be very warm and sunny, or cold. April and May are often some of the wettest months in the year, with snow storms or thunderstorms. May experience windy periods as well.



Kapha - during late spring Kapha has accumulated is liquefied by the increasing heat, which can disturb the digestive system. Kapha can become provoked during precipitation, snowy days and cloudy rainy days

To minimize Kapha:

  • warming, drying, and activating foods
  • Pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes
  • Honey and hot herbal teas
  • Vegetarian, low-fat diet
  • Limit oils - Sesame oil and flax seed oil can be used minimally
  • Vegetables, grains, and beans, cooked and well-spiced
  • One salad per day
  • Whole grain crackers and toasted breads of millet, quinoa, and corn
  • Pungent spices: cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, mustard, cloves, celery seed, dill, radish,
  • Spiced, cooked fruits
  • Cranberry, pomegranate, carrot, grapefruit, and spinach juices can be used in moderation
  • Herbal teas 
 Reduce or Avoid:

  • Cold, wet, bland foods
  • Excessive use of oils, sours, salty
  • Too many dairy products (especially yogurt)
  • White sugar and too many sweets
  • Wheat, oatmeal, unless toasted
  • Too many cooling fruits such as banana, dates, mangos, apples and apple juice, especially in winter 

Pitta - During late spring Pitta begins to increase in the body. Pitta can increase or be provoked on warm clear days

To minimize Pitta:
  • Astringent, bitter, and sweet tastes
  • Moderate use of oils: Olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee
  • Spices: cumin, coriander, fennel, anise, and cardamom.
  • Organic milk, cottage cheese,
  • Basmati rice, barley, millet, quinoa,
  • Cucumber, lettuce, winter squash, yams, tofu, avocado
  • Sweet fruits (e.g. figs, grapes and raisins, dates, blueberries, red raspberries, Babcock peaches, apples, pears, mango, and coconut.)
  • Bitter and astringent herbal teas and nonalcoholic beers and wines
  • Whole grains 
 Reduce or avoid:
  • Excessive sour, oily, salty, and fried foods
  • Red meat, shellfish fish
  • Alcohol, caffeine, and soda pop
  • Excessively hot spices, such as cloves, mustard, onion, garlic, chilies, radish, and cayenne.
  • Frequent use of acidic fruits, juices, and vegetables: tomatoes, beets, eggplant, corn, carrots, hot leafy greens, papayas, pineapple, citrus (except limes), and vinegar.
  • Cashews, peanuts

Vata - During late spring Vata can be aggravated by the highly changeable conditions and dry windy days

To minimize Vata:

  • Cooked, warm, soupy, moderate to heavy foods, soothing and satisfying
  • Plenty of healthy oils (monounsaturates, sesame oil, ghee, butter, nut butters, and EFAs) - avoid hydrogenated oils, other saturated and polyunsaturated oils
  • Natural sweet, sour, and salty tastes and flavorful sauces
  • Carminative spices such as basil, oregano, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, pippali, coriander, and dill.
  • Protein-rich diet of animal products: ghee, warm milk, yogurt, cooked cheese, buttermilk, kefir, eggs, etc, as well as the grains like quinoa, corn, and basmati rice, and easily digested nuts and sesame seeds
  • Best fruits and juices: tomato, pomegranate, carrot, fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit, apricot, peach, strawberry, raspberry, and vegetable juices
  • Lots of fresh veggies (cooked are easier to digest for Vata): pumpkin, carrots, beets, green leafy veggies, avocado, broccoli, baked potato, winter squash, tomatoes, etc. 
 Reduce or Avoid: 

  • Caffeine, white sugar, and soda
  • Excessive use of beans and heavy grains (prepare them with ghee and spices)
  • Dry foods taken alone, large amounts of raw vegetables
  • Taking foods and drinks colder than room temperature  Red meat


Late spring is a time of changing weather and release of accumulated kapha in the body, so digestion can be especially delicate, it can be especially important to follow agni rules at this time

Agni Recommendations:

  • Follow agni rules
  • Proper food combining
  • Drink ginger tea in the morning (fresh for vata and pitta, dry for kapha)
  • Take Agni kindler before meals
  • Drink CCF tea after meals

For Kapha:

  1. Movement: vigorous exercise daily (ex. jogging, aerobics etc), strength training, engage in new activities and mental challenges
  2. Do not skip meals, and do not fast. The Kapha digestive agni tends to be low, as does appetite, and not eating on time slows down the metabolism even more. Start your day with a light breakfast. Eat a sustaining meal at lunch, and a lighter meal for dinner.
  3. Vigorous oil massage with warming oil
  4. Protect yourself from the damp and cold. Drink lots of warm water, infused with warming spices such as turmeric, dried ginger and black pepper. At-home steam therapy can help open clogged channels.
  5. Go to bed early and wake up really early in the morning, 90 minutes before sunrise, do not indulge in daytime snoozes.

For Pitta:

  1. Stay cool--both physically and emotionally. Avoid going out in the heat of the day, especially on an empty stomach or after you have eaten tangy or spicy foods. Avoid exercising when it's hot. Walk away from situations that make you see red.
  2. Do not skip meals, do not fast and do not wait to eat until you are ravenously hungry. You want to keep the fire burning at a moderate temperature, you don't want to put the fire out or to stoke it too high.
  3. Daily oil massage with moderate to cooling oil
  4. Water-based activities are ideal exercise for Pitta-dominant people. Try swimming or aqua-aerobics to stay fit but cool. Strolling after sunset, especially along a waterfront, is also a soothing way to fit some leisurely activity into your day.
  5. Go to bed early, rise 60 minutes. Make sure to turn off the computer or TV by 10pm and turn the lights out. A cup of warm milk, with some cardamom, can be helpful before bedtime.
  6. Balance work and play. Set aside some time for R&R everyday, and do not get so absorbed in a project that you are unable to detach from it.

For Vata:

  1. Establish a daily routine. Go to bed and rise at same time (30 min before sunrise). Regulate meal times, eat even if not hungry to establish routine. Don't skip meals.
  2. Foods and drinks that nourish
  3. Daily oil massage with warming oil such as sesame
  4. Light to moderate daily activity (don't over do and exhaust self) - slow classical vinyasa, swimming, dancing, bike riding
  5. Keep warm, stay out of wind.

Flatirons with Spring flowers

Flatirons with Spring flowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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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. 



(n.d.). Retrieved Jan. 2009, from USDA Forest Service:

(n.d.). Retrieved Jan. 2009, from Flora of North America:

(n.d.). Retrieved Jan. 2009, from US Dept. Of Agriculture NRCS Plants Database:

Curly-cup Gumweed. (n.d.). Retrieved Feb. 2009, from Montana Plant Life:

Frawley, M. T. (1988). Planetary Herbology. Lotus Press.

Hobbs, S. F. (2002). Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Kindscher, K. (1987). Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

Kindscher, K. (1992). Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

Lad, D. V. (2006). Textbook of Ayurveda: A Complete Guide to Clinical Assessment (Vol. II). Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press.

Lad, D. V. (2002). Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda (Vol. I). Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press.

Moore, M. (1979). Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Santa Fe: The Museum of New Mexico Press.

Pole, S. (2006). Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Elsevier Ltd.

The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India (Vols. I-V). (2004, 2007). New Delhi, India: CCRAS.

Two buds and a Leaf: Poplar buds, grindelia buds and fig leaves. (n.d.). Retrieved Feb. 28, 2009, from

Vasant Lad, D. F. (1986). The Yoga of Herbs. Lotus Press.

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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Usnea sp. (possibly Usnea baileyi)

Usnea sp. (possibly Usnea baileyi) (Photo credit: Arthur Chapman)


Author: Kourtney Nelson

Date: Dec 19 2008

Herbology class, Alandi Ashram, Boulder, CO

Instructor: Jane Bunin, PhD



Usnea is a lichen genus that grows in high altitude forests in Colorado. A lichen is a symbiotic relationship of a fungus and an algae. The fungus provides the water and protection, and the algae provide the food converted from the sun. Usnea is a widespread genera; representatives can be found on most continents. Usnea is an interesting native species, both for it's medicinal properties, and it's environmental significance. For example, Usnea spp.  is known for it's antibacterial properties, and can be used for first aid in wild to staunch wounds. Interestingly, Usnea is very susceptible to air born pollutants, and serves as an indicator species for pollution in a forest ecosystem. The primary focus of this paper is the medicinal uses of Usnea, as well as its possible place in Ayurvedic medicine.


The process for choosing this plant was relatively simple. I come across the lichen frequently during hikes in the high country. I became interested in it's medicinal properties when a companion briefly described them. After searching through various classical Ayurvedic texts on herbology, as well the Yoga of Herbs, I found that this plant has not yet been described Ayurvedically.


 Latin Name: Usnea barbata & other spp.

  Common Names: Beard moss, hair lichen, old man's beard, tree moss, witch's broom

 Kingdom - Fungi, Division - Ascomycota, Class - Lecanoromycetes, Order - Lecanorales, Family - Parmeliaceae, Genus - Usnea spp.

  Morphology: Usnea is a fruticose type lichen, characterized by freestanding branching tubes (or papillae) of the thallus (or body). The color is grey/green. The papillae can range in size from 2" to 3' (The species collected for this project averaged 2"). The threads are coarse and dry, with a white elastic thread like inner core (or hyphae). The central strand is surrounded by a medulla and outer cortex. Usnea grows on the branches or trunks of trees (mostly conifers in this region). The reproductive cycle of lichens is complicated, involving asexual or sexual reproduction of both the fungi and the algae (there is some variation among species, although the majority reproduce asexually). The fruiting bodies are pale green.

 Habitat: Usnea grows in cool, damp forests on tree branches and trunks, such as Apple, Douglas Fir, Oak, and Pines (1). The lichen is often found in hilly regions, and moist open sites. Usnea is a cosmopolitan genus, with representatives found on almost every continent, and contains at 600 different species.  

  Time of growth, flowering and fruiting (phenology): There is no specific time of growth for Usnea. The fruiting body of the fungal component is pale green and produce unicellular spores; the algae reproduce asexually within the lichen.    

  Ecology:  Usnea is a widespread genera. However, like most lichen, Usnea is delicate and highly susceptible to atmospheric pollutants and environmental changes; therefore, it is an important indicator of air quality in the forest.

  Closely related species: Usnea could possibly be confused with a moss or other lichens at first glance. To identify Usnea, gently pull apart the papillae and look for the elastic white internal core; other lichens will appear grey/green throughout. In addition, Usnea does not change color throughout the growing season as other lichen species do.


 Collection: The mycelia (or threads of the thallus) are harvested.

 Primary Constituents: Usnic Acid - a potent antibiotic and antifungal agent. Usnic acid works against gram-positive bacteria by penetrating the cell walls of the bacteria, blocking ATP production. Contains mucilage, helpful in easing irritating coughs. Edible and high in vitamin C, although it is very bitter so not very palatable.

  Preparation: Tincture, tea, or powdered (tincture is more effective then tea). The herb does not extract fully into water, when preparing a tea, break apart and begin extraction with a small amount of alcohol first.

  Physiological Effects: Analgesic, antibacterial, antibiotic, antifungal, anti inflammatory, anti parasitic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti tumor, antiviral, bronchial dilator, expectorant, febrifuge, immune stimulant, vasodilator, vulnerary, deodorant, candidicide, fungicide, parasiticide.

  Medicinal Uses: Effective with infections, especially those involving mucus membranes. Usnea has a special affinity for the lungs and bladder. The lichen has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and is specifically effective against gram-positive bacteria such as strep and staph. Indications: Bacterial infection, boil, bronchitis, Candida, Chlamydia, colds, cough, cystitis, diarrhea, flu, dysentery, giardia, gonorrhea, hemorrhage, impetigo, infection, inflammation, leucorrhea, lupus, mastitis, pleurisy, parasite, pharyngosis, pneumonia, sinus infection, sore throat, staph infection, strep throat, swelling, trichomonas, tuberculosis, urethritis, urinary tract infection, wart, wound, yeast. Can be moistened and used directly on a wound.

From Stephen Harrod Buhner's instructions from 'Herbal Antibiotics':

Usnea is only partially water soluble. To make the strongest tea or decoction, grind the herb first, then add enough alcohol to wet the herb, let it sit covered for 30 minutes, add hot water, and let steep

For disease prevention or immune stimulation: 1 teaspoon (5 mls) herb in 6 ounces (177ml) hot water, steep 20 minutes; 2 to 6 ounces (59 to 177 mls) up to 3 times a day. In acute conditions: up to 1 quart (1 litre) a day.


  Treatments: Impetigo, ringworm - topically apply tea, diluted tincture or paste. Eye inflammation, mastitis- compress. Throat infection- gargle. Sinus infection- throat spray. Candida, Chlamydia, leucorrhea, trichomonas- douche or sitz bath.

  Other Use: Used in soaps and deodorants for it's antibacterial properties. Also used in diapers and menstrual pads due to its absorbent properties. Used in powders for athletes foot. Indigenous peoples of Mexico use it to make a fermented corn beverage.

 Contraindications: None listed. No known side effects, not reported to interfere with action of common medications.


 Taste (rasa): Bitter

  Energetics (Virya): Cool, dry - PK- V+

  Post Digestive Effect (Vipak):  Cool?

  Special Effect (prabhava): ?

  Srotamsi: Prana vaha srotas, Ambu vaha srotas, Shukra vaha srotas ?, Mutra vaha srotas, purisha vaha srotas

  Ayurvedic Uses: Bitter- heals parasites, thirst, skin disorders, fever, nausea, burning sensations, cleanses throat, drying, easily digested. In excess depletes the tissues. Use for infections with Pitta component, infections of the mucosal membrane, to fight krumi (parasites, bacteria, fungi, yeasts), affinity for lungs and bladder.


1.     Bridgette Mars, 'The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine', May 2007, Basic Health Publications

2.     Irwin Brodo, 'Discover the Amazing Story of lichens of the genus Usnea',

3.     Gregory Tilford, 'Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West', June 1997, Mountain Press Publishing Company

4.     Wikipedia, 'Usnea', October 2008,

5.     Pekka Halonen, 'Studies on the Lichen Genus Usnea in East Fennoscandia and Pasific North America', OULU Dept. of Biology, 2000.

6.     University of Berkeley, 'Lichens: More on Morphology',

7.     Kristina Articus, 'Phylogenetic Studies in Usnea (Parmilaceae) and Allied Genera', 2004,

8.     Kiva Rose, 'Usnea: Healing From the Forrest', July 2008,

9.     Holistic, Usnea Herb information,

10.  James Duke, 'Handbook of Medicinal Herbs', CRC Press, 2002






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Terminalia chebula

Terminalia chebula (Photo credit: dinesh_valke)

Haritaki is virtually synonymous with Ayurveda. In the opening chapter of the Chikitsasthan of Charak, the words haritaki and amalaki are mentioned even before the definition of chikitsa or therapeutics.
Haritaki is sarvaroga prashamani: the pacifier of every disease. Haritaki has a specific anupan (accompanying substance) for each dosha. 

For Vata, ghee

For pitta, mishri (rock candy)

For kapha, Lavana (salt).

Haritaki also has a specific anupan for each season--ritu haritaki or seasonal haritaki.

Varsha (rains)  Saindhava (salt)

Sarada (autumn) Mishri (rock candy)

Hemanta (winter) Sunthi (dry ginger)

Sisrira (Early spring) Pippali (long pepper)

Vasanta (spring) Madhu (honey)

              Grishma (summer) Jaggery

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English: A bowl of white granulated sugar. The...

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 Addiction to sugar is a significant cause of overweight, obesity, diabetes, dental caries, candidiasis and adrenal deficiency. In addition, by lowering immunity, white sugar may contribute to the incidence of cancer and acute and chronic infections. Although white sugar as an addiction of choice affects all ages from infancy on, individuals born in the 1950s are particularly susceptible, due to the prevalence of sweetened infant formula at that period.  All types of agni may be involved in sugar cravings, but the nature, consequences and management of sugar addiction differs depending upon the agni type.


Visham Agni and Sugar

The individual with visham agni has cravings for sweet, salty, sour, spicy and oily foods. They are just as likely to indulge in tortilla chips and salsa, potato chips, French fries and ketchup, salted peanuts or crackers as in sugar. To complicate matters, manufacturers frequently include sugar in savory items such as crackers, chips or peanut butter. Often, such individuals may realize that sweet baked goods such as cookies upset their digestion. Instead, they will use M&Ms or chocolate peanuts, seeking the combination of sweet, fat and crunch.

 The impact of white sugar on such an individual can be devastating to the adrenals. Vata-provoked clients with visham agni are prone to under-eating and random meal plans. Breakfast could be a few Twinkies or a Power Bar in the car on the way to work. Feeling hungry while at work, they may snack on chips, crackers, doughnuts or whatever is in the office or the vending machine. After a salad for lunch, they are hungry again by mid afternoon and begin consuming chocolate and other munchies. By dinner time, they have no appetite left, having wasted their available agni on junk foods. Each time sugar is eaten, it stimulates an adrenal-type energy rush, gradually leading to adrenal exhaustion, especially if combined with caffeine. As the adrenals become increasingly exhausted, the urge to eat sugar grows stronger, in response to the need to "get some energy". As much as sugar may be a cause of overweight in other agni types, it  can contribute to chronic underweight in the person with visham agni. Yet despite being underweight, the junk-food junkie may have more toxic hard fat in the system than the pitta with a chubby little belly.


A young woman with this agni condition worked at a residential elder care facility. When at home, she followed a strict diet of brown rice, steamed vegetables and carrot juice. At work, she indulged in big portions of lasagna and stacks of Oreo Cookies. After explaining to her that there was in fact nothing wrong with lasagna for her constitution, we encouraged her to stash healthy treats at the elder care facility, so that Oreo Cookies would not tempt her.  This strategy works well for both visham agni and tikshnagni.  Creating a stash of suitable treats made with whole sugars or other natural sweeteners gives an outlet for the desire stimulated by the presence of poor quality sweets.

A good remedy to balance sweet cravings for vata can be prepared using Ashwagandha. Roast an ounce of Ashwagandha in ghee and add a tablespoon of date sugar. Store in a screw top glass jar in the refrigerator.  This can be eaten in the morning about twenty minutes before breakfast, in the mid afternoon-- if sweet cravings arise-- and at bed time with a cup of hot milk. To help reduce the stress levels that exacerbate sweet cravings, tulsi tea can be used as a general beverage or Tranquil Mind formula can be taken three times daily. For adrenal exhaustion, Stress Ease can also be taken.


Tikshnagni and Sugar

The individual with tikshnagni craves sweet, bitter and astringent foods. A sugary cup of black tea satisfies the desire for a mixture of sweet with astringent, a cup of sweet latte or a rich dark chocolate meets the need for a mixture of sweet and bitter. Unfortunately, caffeine and white sugar provoke pitta, intensifying tikshnagni. Thus, the more the pitta individual indulges in white sugar, coffee, tea and supermarket chocolate, the worse their tikshnagni becomes and the more strongly they crave sweets. Next, they begin to crave yeasted breads and sweet baked goods in an attempt to diminish their raging inner fire. Yeast, being sour, further provokes pitta, worsening tikshnagni.  People with tikshnagni need extra protein, a slower burning fuel. Thus the empty calories of muffins, cookies, cupcakes and brownies only serve to make them hungrier. Soon they are twenty to thirty pounds overweight while being essentially malnourished.

A fifty year old real estate agent with a pitta prakruti presented with a lifelong history of tikshnagni and compulsive overeating. She came from an alcoholic family and had been an active alcoholic herself for ten years, a typical finding with tikshnagni and sugar addiction. She had a set of very strict diet guidelines that inevitably fell apart each evening. Until that point each day she perceived herself as a person who ate healthily and avoided dairy and processed flours. She took fruit for breakfast and typically ate a business lunch with her clients. Feeling remorseful about the size of her stressful lunch, she took only fish and salad for dinner. Like most stressed out individuals with tikshnagni, she began craving chocolate around four in the afternoon, but held back, determined to be 'good.' By the end of her austere dinner she was ready to spend the rest of the evening consuming chocolate, ice cream and cookies. She was about forty pounds overweight.

Her troubles each day began with her fruit breakfast. Although this may be a good strategy for a healthy pitta with a tranquil life, fruit was not advisable for breakfast given her tikshnagni and the competitive nature of her job, with its stressful lunches. Instead of starting the day with the sweet taste, she could begin with bitter.  A half teaspoon of Mahasudarshan in a teaspoon of honey works well for most people to diminish cravings for breads and sweets. This can be followed, twenty minutes later, by a breakfast containing protein. It is better to avoid a sweet breakfast altogether in this situation and to start the day with a small but complete meal such as a bowl of kitcheri and a whole wheat chapatti.   

To regulate tikshnagni she could prepare Shatavari Kalpa.  Roast an ounce of Shatavari with ghee and add a tablespoon of sucanat or turbinado sugar. This can be taken mid-morning and mid-afternoon to prevent hypoglycemia and to regulate tikshnagni. For stress and addictive tendencies she should drink Brahmi tea three times daily. She could also take Stress Ease three times daily.

Mandagni and sugar.

For the kapha individual with mandagni, sugar addiction is truly a   life or death situation. Waking sluggish and dull, kapha seeks energy from a donut or sugary cereal with cold milk. Although this gives a short burst of adrenal energy, these foods, to which a majority of individuals with mandagni are allergic, serve only to make him more sluggish and sleepy. Worse still, in kapha individuals, the insulin response is easily over stimulated. Whereas vata will burn all the sugar they consume in a frenetic rush of adrenal energy, kapha's body will immediately respond by storing sugar as fat. Gradually, the pancreas becomes more and more oversensitive, leading to a peri-diabetic condition of obesity, low energy and constant cravings for sweets and refined flours. White sugar and refined flour do not contain enough chromium for their own metabolism and thus deplete the body of chromium, essential to metabolism and to the functioning of the pancreas. Continued over-consumption of such refined foods will tip the kapha individual from peri-diabetes to diabetes proper, complete with retinopathy, neuropathy, arterial disease and diabetic ulcers. This is truly a high price to pay for a bowl of cereal and a Snickers Bar a day.

A forty year old financial planner had reached a level of mandagni so severe that not only wheat, dairy and sugar but even brown rice made him nauseated, tired, heavy and dull. He was sixty pounds overweight and lived on an energy roller-coaster, consuming caffeinated soda and sugar to get a burst of energy and then breads and cereal to calm him down. The breads made him tired and lethargic, so then he needed sugar and caffeine, which wired him, after which he needed more bread. In a few short years, if he did not change his ways, he would be diabetic.

He could be helped by taking a teaspoon of Shardunika after each meal or Sweet Ease formula three times daily. This would help balance his insulin secretion and reduce his craving for sweets. As with tikshnagni, a morning dose of Mahasudarshan would help with his craving for breads. Ten minutes before each meal he could take a half teaspoon of organic turmeric powder to aid in balancing the blood sugar load from that meal. To help reduce weight and kindle agni, he could use Trikatu. For stress he could take Bacopa tea three times daily or Mental Clarity formula, which would help with the sluggishness and lethargy that drove him to drink Pepsi-Cola.

In accordance with the basic principles of Ayurveda, although white sugar is a poison for all three doshas, its use must be handled very differently depending upon agni type. It is essential, as we have seen, to provide dietary counseling and to offer appropriate stress- reduction strategies, as sugar consumption is a manifestation of mental stress and a cause of physiological stress. Because of the importance of stress in the overall picture, it may often be wise to begin the treatment program with the appropriate stress-reducing herbs and to hold the other suggestions for a later appointment.



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Manet Smoker

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In working with addicted patients, the practitioner must be clear not to be an enabler, helping the addict to have an easier time while he or she continues to pursue a self destructive lifestyle. In the next few editions of the Vine, we will offer a series on working with addictions.


Social acceptance has for long dogged efforts to reduce the incidence of smoking. Today, with an appreciation of the harmful effects of second hand smoke, social acceptance of smoking is finally giving way to widespread efforts to limit smoking, with even such unlikely venues as restaurants in Italy and pubs in Ireland banning smoking.


Cigarette smoke leaves tarry deposits on the lungs. The pink, elastic lung tissue becomes stiff and blackened, losing its elasticity and oxygen exchange potential, eventually leading to obstructive airway disease. Vata individuals are particularly prone to dry cough, raspy throat, poor circulation and peripheral vascular disease as a result of smoking. Smoking also reduces their appetite leading to visham agni and underweight. In the worst case, smoking can lead to gastric ulcers. Pitta individuals are the most likely to suffer from smoking-induced heart disease and hypertension, while sinus problems, post-nasal drip, chronic bronchitis and emphysema will affect kapha smokers.  Lung cancer or increased incidence of bladder cancer may affect all doshas.


In working with a smoker, it is essential to address the underlying cause of the addiction.  Vata smokes out of nervousness and pitta out of self-hate and self-destruction, but it is kapha who is the most vulnerable to the emotionally suppressive effect of smoking. Kapha uses smoking as a strategy to suppress deep-seated grief, which is held in the lungs. Other doshas may also adopt this strategy if they have been subjected to great grief, such as bereavement. Hence in seeing a smoker it is important to take a full emotional history including all childhood traumas as well as more recent events.


Because of the enabling issue, it is often best to offer minimal herbal support to the smoker initially. The best tactic is to explain to the smoker all the ways in which their habit is causing their current health concerns. As well as direct effects of smoking listed above, this also includes the indirect effects that result from provocation of the doshas as a result of the smoking habit, which falls into the category of prajnaparadh or crimes against innate wisdom.  The smoker should then be offered herbs such as Brahmi to help address the underlying grief, depression or anxiety. In addition, appropriate counseling should be recommended to deal with childhood or recent traumas.


Vata must be spoken to very gently, as if one were trying to coax a child. Discourage vata from quitting smoking suddenly, as this will lead to immense vata provocation. Also, smoking is a habit that is all too easy to quit--again and again. Slow steady, sustainable changes are best. It is wise to follow the Ayurvedic tobacco withdrawal protocol outlined below. Pitta should be reasoned with. It can be helpful to have materials in your office showing the difference between a smoker's lungs and a non-smoker's lungs. Encourage pitta to get online, do the research and appreciate the immense risk they are running. Appeal to their pride, encouraging them to access their will power and help them to see how quitting smoking will help them succeed in their goals in life. As for kapha, threaten them with the dire consequences of continuing to smoke. Point out how their lung pulse looked. If there are two doshas present in the lungs it is imperative to tell them that they are already developing obstructive airway disease.  All too often, kapha will quit smoking only after a life-threatening bout of pneumonia.


Awareness is the greatest tool in dealing with smoking. Conscious smoking is the first step in quitting. In conscious smoking, the patient agrees to smoke only when they are not doing anything else at the same time. Instruct them to smoke as a meditation, bringing awareness to their thoughts, feelings and body sensations before, during and after smoking. This can result in some amazing discoveries. One patient reported that she realized she was trying to kill herself by smoking, another said that he became aware of the grief over his mother's death that he was suppressing by smoking.


As soon as the individual is ready to begin the process of releasing their habit, they can begin the tobacco withdrawal protocol. A typical Ayurvedic smoking mix and client handout is shown below.


Smoking Mixture


30%             red clover

30%             calamus root--ground, not powdered

10-15% marshmallow root

5-10%             osha root--broken up well

5%       mullein


"If you are trying to cut out tobacco, start out with 60% herbal mixture, 40% tobacco, then gradually cut down the amount of tobacco weekly.

You need to buy rolling paper and roll your own cigarettes. 

This mixture is rejuvenating for the lungs and clears the mind and sharpens concentration."


It is important to explain to the client from the outset that herbs can be given to rejuvenate the lungs, balance the doshas and address their current health concerns, but that these herbs will not be effective as long as the smoking habit is continued. In particular, lung rejuvenatives should not be given until tobacco smoking has stopped. Healthy lung tissue cannot be built until smoking is discontinued. Once the client has stopped smoking, lung rejuvenatives are essential. Liquorice is a good choice to help with lung rejuvenation as well as raspy throat and pre-ulcerative conditions of the stomach or duodenum. Punarnava helps strengthen the lungs and is also anti-cancer in traditional usage. Ideally, first carry out the tobacco withdrawal, then give some shamanam herbs to begin to balance the doshas. Next give cleansing herbs in preparation for pancha karma and carry out a thorough cleanse.  Although vaman, therapeutic emesis, is a far from popular process, it will be invaluable for kapha in the process of recovering from smoking. Once pancha karma has been done, there is the optimum situation to rejuvenate the lungs using Chyavanprash as well as the herbs discussed above. It takes as year or so of not smoking to return the lungs to the pink, clean condition of a non-smoker. Hopefully, pancha karma and rasayana could greatly accelerate this process.


Pranayama is another beneficial process that should be commenced only after quitting smoking. Especially when someone is healing from pneumonia, asthma or obstructive airway disease, it is imperative for them to learn to breathe properly, filling the lung bases and bringing air all the way into the upper lungs. In addition, surya namaskar and chest-opening asanas such as cobra and camel pose will be of great benefit in healing the lungs and restoring a normal breathing pattern.   Finally, the root cause of the smoking habit can be best addressed by a meditation practice, with a focus on basic mindfulness and breath awareness. A practice such as the Empty Bowl Mediation taught by Dr Vasant Lad is ideal in bringing in a more refined awareness of the breath and That which lies beyond breath.


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The Merry Drinker by Frans Hals.

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In previous issues of The Vine, we have discussed working with smokers and with pot smokers. In this issue, we will look at the much more difficult issue of working with alcoholics. In a typical Ayurvedic practice, we are unlikely to see the flagrant, rock-bottom alcoholic--unless one of our clients relapses after being sober for some time. Alcoholism is difficult to work with because it is so often covert. For purposes of this discussion, we will consider anyone who uses alcohol on a regular, daily basis as, at the very least, a mild alcoholic. Try a simple test--tell them that their Ayurvedic herbs will not be effective a long as they are using alcohol on a regular basis. The defensiveness and denial with which your suggestion that they give up alcohol is met will soon tell you of the hold the substance has over them.


 When a patient fails to improve despite appropriate treatment, if may be worthwhile to consider whether they are a closet alcoholic and are hiding this obstacle to their healing from you. One client we saw insisted that he has stopped his daily wine habit, yet failed to make progress with his complaints of hyperacidity and indigestion. Growing impatient with his lack of improvement, he sought out other practitioners, with no greater success. It was his wife, also a client, who alerted us to the fact that both of them were still drinking on a daily basis. Another patient failed to improve on her Ayurvedic regimen and had not admitted to any substance issues. The only indication of her alcoholism was a persistent habit of being late for her appointments or canceling at the last minute as well as a tendency to be sometimes warm and sometimes extremely cold and unapproachable.


Another tricky group of alcoholics are the sporadic users or binge alcoholics. These individuals may be sober during the week and drunk on the weekend or refrain from alcohol for extended periods of time, punctuated by bouts of intense binging. In this group of users, denial runs rampant, since they are always "sober" between binges. Yet, difficult as it may be, it is essential for the individual to admit their addiction, to themselves and to you, in order to start on the road to recovery.


Alcoholics who are on Antabuse offer a particular challenge to the Ayurvedic practitioner. We recommend that Ayurvedic herbal regimens be given to such individuals only by an Ayurvedic physician with a good grounding in Allopathic pharmacology or an Ayurvedic practitioner who is also a medical doctor. Herb-drug interactions are extremely complex and understanding them requires a knowledge of Pharmacodynamics--the science of how drugs and herbs are transported, distributed, metabolized and excreted. However, such clients can be helped by ancillary therapies such as diet and lifestyle counseling, abhyanga, shirodhara, marma point massage using Sandalwood oil, and herbal dusting.


The people most likely to be drawn to alcoholism are of course pitta individuals, although kapha may be strongly attracted to beer. Pitta seeks out alcohol to alleviate stress and tension. It is the quest of the mood altering effect that marks the difference between a harmless use and an addiction. It is particularly important to appreciate that pitta individuals suffering from depression or manic depressive disorder may self-medicate with alcohol.


 In general, Ayurvedic therapies will not be successful until the client is sober, as attempts to balance the doshas cannot be effective when a prajnaparadh, or crime against Ayurvedic wisdom, continues. Thus, as a rule, it is important to emphasize that sobriety is a precondition for Ayurvedic treatment. "You want to be rid of your allergies? Please return when you are ready to quit alcohol, and than we can definitely deal with your allergies."

The patient in question waited three months before returning to announce, "I'm sober. Now let's work on the allergies." However, in the case of the person self-medicating for depression or manic depressive disorder, it is usually necessary to institute treatment for depression prior to withdrawal of alcohol. This can be approached by giving Brahmi tea one teaspoon per cup three times daily or by using Mental Clarity Formula. This formula lends itself well to work with alcoholics since it contains not only Brahmi and Bacopa but also Shankhapushpi, an important liver herb which is also effective for depression.


For anyone who has used alcohol to the point of being blind drunk or having blackouts, the esoteric aspect of Ayurveda points to the danger of bhutas or elementals which may have attached to the aura of  during the episode of near-unconsciousness. Such energies may impact the individual's ability to reform and engage in genuine recovery, since it is in the interests of the energy for the alcoholism to continue. A simple way to remove bhutas from the aura is to mix Shankhapushpi in ghee and burn it in the presence of the affected individual. If the client concerned might think that talk of bhutas is hocus-pocus, they can be told, accurately enough, that Shankhapushpi smoke is a good remedy for depression and addictions.


As soon as the client has embarked on a course of sobriety, an Ayurvedic detoxification program should be instituted. For two weeks, the client should eat kitcheri for lunch and dinner, accompanied by a sabji (cooked vegetable dish) of carrots, beets, daikons and bitter greens, seasoned with cumin, turmeric and cilantro. Abundant cilantro should be used to balance the dish for pitta.  For breakfast and mid-afternoon snack they should have juice of carrot, beet, daikon, cucumber and cilantro. The amount of beet and daikon used in the juice should be small relative to the other ingredients, to avoid provoking pitta. Each morning, they should take a half teaspoon of Mahasudarshan mixed in honey, followed by warm water, or, if preferred, Mahasudarshan tablets.  This should be taken at least twenty minutes before breakfast. At bed time they should take half a teaspoon of Triphala steeped for ten minutes in boiling water and strained. If Triphala tea is not well tolerated, Amlaki tea or tablets can be substituted.  This detoxification program is not only effective in cleansing the liver; it is also dramatic enough to signify a passage to a new, sober, life.


Following the detoxification program, it is essential to rebuild the liver. Liver Formula, which includes cleansing herbs such as Musta and Manjista, hepato-protectives such as Kutki and liver rejuvenatives such as Bhringaraj, is an ideal choice for this situation. An excellent anupan to ensure the optimum effectiveness of Liver Formula is Aloe Vera, two tablespoons with each dose of Liver Formula. Mahasudarshan can be continued for up to a month after the detoxification program. If the client has a "beer belly" or has gained excess weight as a result of the alcohol habit, Trim Support could be used after a six week course of Liver Formula.  For those who have been heavy users of alcohol, a peri-diabetic condition may be observed, including weight gain, blood sugar swings and sweet cravings. In this case, Sweet Ease can be used along with Trim Support, or an individualized formula can be prepared using herbs such as Shardunika to regenerate the pancreas, Turmeric to balance blood sugar and Chitrak to kindle agni and improve metabolism. Brahmi tea or Mental Clarity formula can be continued for some months if mood swings or depression are an issue.  In some cases, alcoholism may have led to periodontal disease. This can be managed with organic sesame oil mouthwash.


Pancha Karma will be of great value for the recovering alcoholic, but timing is an important consideration. Unless the alcoholism was extremely mild, it is often wise to wait at least six months before initiating pancha karma. This gives the individual time to become stable in their sobriety. Nothing is more dangerous than an alcohol relapse during or immediately following pancha karma. Typically, Pitta Massage Oil could be used for abhyanga in this situation. If alcoholic liver damage is an issue, the client will not be able to do internal oleation. In this case, Panchamrit can be substituted for the usual internal oleation. Amlaki is the best substance for virechan and Guduchi for basti in this case.


Panchamrit Recipe

 ½ bowl fresh homemade yogurt                       

            1 tsp honey                                               

            1 tsp turbinado sugar

            1 tsp tulsi power                       

            2 Tbsp lukewarm milk                                   

            1 tsp ghee                                               


Alcoholism arises from a state of depression, emptiness, meaninglessness or stress. Hence it is important to introduce stress-reducing practices such as yoga and pranayama and to encourage pursuit of meaning through meditation and selfless service. Nurturing lifestyle practices are necessary to fill the empty space left by the alcohol. For example, marma point aromatherapy can be done using Champa or Jasmine attar, while for diffusion aromatherapy Sandalwood oil can be used. A bed-time foot massage with

Bhringaraj oil or coconut Brahmi oil, a cup of warm milk with cardamom and cinnamon or a dose of Stress Ease with some soothing rose and coriander tea can replace an alcoholic "nightcap". The former weekend alcoholic can substitute a weekend self-nurturing routine such as abhyanga and shirodhara.


Continuous support from the Ayurvedic practitioner is essential in the process of recovery. This should be supplemented by attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous or by individual counseling. Through herbal therapies and pancha karma the physical and mental aspects of detoxification and recovery can be effectively addressed, while through subtle therapies and rejuvenation practices, the client can be helped to fill the inner void and find new meaning in life.




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English: This is Boerhavia diffusa,a herb, pop...

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When I was a child, a popular programme on BBC radio was Desert Island Discs, a show in which various celebrities chose the ten gramophone records they would want to have when marooned on a desert island.  I have often amused myself picking my ten Desert Island Herbs, and Punarnava is certainly among them. The name Punarnava means, quite literally, the Renewer, for local tribal folk observed that the dead, dry plant would spring again to new green life. On the theory of signatures, they took this to mean that the plant was rejuvenative--a fact now supported by rigorous scientific research.


Punarnava, boerhaavia diffusa in Latin, is known in English as Spreading Hogweed. It is an abundant weed, found growing in poor soil and native to both India and Brazil, where it is known as Erva tostão. It belongs to the Four o'clock family or Nyctaginaceae. The flowers are red, pink or white in colour. Supplies of Punarnava are often contaminated with a similar looking white flowered plant of the trianthema species, which does not contain punarnavine. For this reason, it is essential to be sure of obtaining certified organic Punarnava, as this will have a more reliable potency. Rasa is sweet and bitter, virya is heating and vipak is pungent. It reduces vata and kapha and may stimulate pitta in excess, though modest amounts will reduce pitta through sweet rasa. Active chemical components include flavonoids, alkaloids, steroids, triterpinoids, lipids, lignins, carbohydrates, proteins and glycoproteins. Some of the most important active components include puranavine and punarnavoside.


Punarnava is a folk medicine and super-food as well as a classical Ayurvedic Rasayana. In India, it is used by traditional tribal healers in Chhattisgarh, Bagbahera and Pithora regions. Healers apply Punarnava to the vagina to hasten delivery and also tie the roots, wrapped in red cord, around the woman's waist. They also apply Punarnava mixed in whey to breast abscesses. For eye sties they use Punarnava mixed in ghee, and for conjunctivitis, Punarnava in honey. They make Punarnava oil with Nirgundi to ease arthritic aches and pains. The Bhil tribal folk use Punarnava roots for blood dysentery.  Country folk plant Punarnava in their gardens to repel poisonous snakes and scorpions and in West Bengal and Assam, Punarnava leaves are eaten as a potherb and are understood to prevent renal calculi. In other areas, the entire plant, including the root, is eaten in curries and soups, while the seeds and roots are used in cereals and pancakes.

In South America, Erva tostão or Punarnava has long been used by traditional healers for maladies of the liver and kidneys.


In Ayurveda, Punarnava acts on the rasa, rakta and mamsa dhatus.It is used as a rasayana for lungs, heart, and kidneys as well as a diuretic, expectorant, and anti-diabetic. It reduces lung and peripheral oedema, is anti-rheumatic in painful and swollen joints, improves renal function, breaks up renal calculi, and is  valuable in nephrotic syndrome. As a bronchodilator and expectorant it is used in congestive cardiac failure, chronic bronchitis, bronchectasis and plural effusion. As an eye medicine, it is used in glaucoma and night blindness. Punarnava is frequently cited in the texts.  Dhanvanthari Nighantu states,

Punarnava Bhavedushna
Tiktaa rooksha Kaphaapaha
Sasopha Paandu hrid roga
Kaasorakshata Soolajit.

"Punarnava is bitter and heating. It is drying. It checks Kapha. It is useful in the treatment of diseases with swelling, anaemia, heart diseases, cough, blood spitting, and colic."

In skin diseases, a paste of the root with dadhimanda (water floating on curd) is used topically. (Chikitsa-Ch. 7. Charaka.) In urinary calculus, Punarnava decoction is recommended. (Chikitsa-Ch. 7. Sushruta). Sushruta also recommends milk boiled with Punarnava in fevers, and application of Punarnava paste in swelling of the testicles. In eye diseases, Bhavprakash says,

Dugdhena kandoom kshoudrena netrashravancha sarpisha pushpam, thailena thimiram, kanjikaena nisandhatam, Punarnava haratyaasu bhaskarasthimiram yatha.

"With milk in itching of the eyes, with honey in discharges, with ghee in white patches, with oil in immature cataracts, with rice washing water in night-blindness, Punarnava is useful in eye diseases."

In nephrotic oedema, a tea is made with Punarnava, ginger, khus and vetiver. In night blindness, a cup of cow's milk with a teaspoon of Punarnava is taken at bedtime. In enlarged spleen use one teaspoon Punarnava with Aloe Vera gel. In congestive cardiac failure give one teaspoon Punarnava and one teaspoon Arjun in honey.  In oedema a paste of Punarnava can be applied to the swollen areas. This is particularly useful in angioneurotic oedema of the face and eyes due to an allergic reaction, since Punarnava is anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory as well as reducing swellings. In itchy allergic eye conditions, bathe the eyes with Punarnava eyewash and in glaucoma use Punarnava eyedrops twice daily.

   In asthma, a teaspoon of Punarnava and half teaspoon Pippali can be given in honey. In epilepsy Punarnava can be combined with Vacha and Brahmi to reduce brain swelling and have an anticonvulsant effect. In allergic rashes, mix Punarnava with ghee and honey. In urinary tract infection, Punarnava tea is beneficial.

Compounds of Punarnava include Punarnavadyarishta, Punarnava Mandura and Punarnava Guggulu. Punarnavadyarishta, a medicated wine, is used in heart disease, anaemia, severe swelling, splenomegaly, fever, anorexia, cough and numerous other conditions. (Chikitsasthanam 12  37, Charaka). Punarnava Mandura, containing iron, is especially valuable in anaemia though it is also recommended for malaria, piles and intestinal parasites. (Chikitsasthanam 16 98, Charaka). More readily available in the US and of outstanding value is Punarnava Guggulu. This is the most valuable herbal compound for kidney stones and should be taken daily on a preventative basis by anyone with a history of kidney stones. It is also useful for obesity, goitre, water retention, glaucoma, diabetes and kapha type arthritis.

Punarnava has been extensively researched, with findings backing up its traditional uses. It has been demonstrated that punarnavoside is diuretic, (Gaitonde et al 1974)  anti-inflammatory, (Bhalla et al 1968) anti-fibrinolytic, (Jain and Khanna 1989)  antibacterical (Olukoya et al 1993) and anti-convulsant ( Adesina 1979). Punarnava has also been shown to be  hepatoprotective and choleretic, cardiokine, anti-cancer and anti-oxidant. It should always be considered in Hepatitis C because it has demonstrable hepato-protective action. Sony and Bhatt demonstrated effectiveness of an herbal mixture containing Punarnava in entamoeba histolytica (1995). It is also anti-fungal.

Pari and Sateesh ,2004, demonstrated the effectiveness of Punarnava in diabetes and its ability to lower blood lipids in diabetes, as well as showing the antioxidant impact  this  herb has in diabetes.  In cancer, Punarnava is anti-metastatic (Leyon et al 2005), as well as cancer preventive.

This immensely useful herb offers hope for many otherwise incurable or difficult to treat conditions including cancer, diabetes, obesity, kidney stones, renal failure and hepatitis C. It is also of great use in common conditions such as allergies and conjunctivitis. Hence, Punarnava is near the top of my list of Desert Island Herbs.


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Wonders of Pippali

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Plant of Piper longum syn P. retrofractum

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Among the most celebrated Ayurvedic herbs is Pippali, renowned for its benefits for the lungs but valuable in many other capacities too. Literature on Pippali can be found in both classical texts and contemporary peer reviewed journals. Pippali can be used in four capacities--as a culinary spice of rare distinction, as a home remedy, as a powerful medicinal herb and as a catalyst to potentiate the action of other herbs and drugs.

Pippali (piper longum,) is indigenous to India and Sri Lanka, although a very similar plant is found in Indonesia. A member of the family piperacae, Pippali is a perennial aromatic shrub. The flowers of Pippali grow in spikes, which are harvested and dried to form the Long Pepper. The root, Pippali Moola, is also a valuable herb widely mentioned in classical texts. It is important to note that, unlike cayenne pepper, and despite common misunderstanding, Pippali is not in the nightshade family and is perfectly acceptable to those who are unable to tolerate nightshades.

Pippali has as pungent rasa and sweet vipak. Its virya is anushnashita--neither hot nor cold, a fact the renders it invaluable for pitta.  It contains volatile oil, alkaloids piperin and piperlonguminine, terpenoids and N-isobutyl deca-trans-2-trans-4-dienamide, a waxy alkaloid.

Pippali regulates sroto- agni of pranavahasrotas, the respiratory tract. It acts as a bronchodilator, decongestant, expectorant, and lung rejuvenative. In annavahasrotas, the digestive tract, it also has powerful actions as carminative and deepan (agni kindler). Pippali kindles bhutagni in the liver, improving liver function, and is a metabolic stimulant, aiding the thermogenic response by increasing the level of thyroid hormone.

As a culinary spice, Pippali has been celebrated for its unique combination of pungent and sweet. It was an essential ingredient in Roman cooking and is used to this day in the cuisine of Morocco and Ethiopia, where it is an ingredient in berebere, a masala mix. Although its use in Indian cuisine has been replaced by the much harsher cayenne pepper introduced by the Portuguese, it is still used in certain traditional pickles.

As a home remedy, Pippali should be in every winter medicine cabinet. As always, choice of anupan will determine which aspect of the action of Pippali will predominate.  A pinch of Pippali in aloe vera gel will immediately relieve bronchospasm in an episode of bronchitis or severe cough. The same recipe can also be used before meals to help with intolerance to fats. In asthma, a quarter teaspoon of Pippali can be mixed in a teaspoon of honey and taken three times daily after meals. For hyperacidity, a quarter teaspoon of Pippali can be mixed with a half teaspoon of rock candy and a half cup of room temperature milk. A pinch of Pippali with a teaspoon of crushed rock candy is a good home remedy for hoarseness of the voice.

To enhance prana, a quarter teaspoon of Pippali can be mixed in ghee and taken in the morning. As a rejuvenative home remedy in chronic fatigue, a quarter teaspoon of Pippali can be taken daily with gritamadhu (a combination of ghee and honey) (1). As a carminative, a quarter teaspoon Pippali can be combined with a pinch of hing and a teaspoon of ghee and taken after meals. In haemorrhoids, make a Pippali yoghurt drink. Combine two tablespoons of yoghurt, a cup of pure water and a pinch of Pippali, blend together and drink after lunch and dinner. In obesity, combine a pinch of Pippali with a teaspoon of honey and drink in the mornings followed by hot water, for enhanced thyroid function and fat burning.

In chronic cough, asthma and low agni, Pippali milk can be used. Make a medicated milk by adding a quarter cup of water to a cup of milk. Add a pinch of Pippali and cook back down to one cup. Pippali is safe to use in pregnancy in small amounts. For asthma in pregnancy, a small amount of Pippali can be taken, mixed in ghee. A medicated ghee can also be made with Pippali, cooking a decoction of Pippali into ghee until all the water is absorbed. This is an excellent remedy for healing lungs that have been damaged by smoking.

As a medicinal herb, Pippali can be used to heal and rejuvenate pranavahasrotas. It is an excellent addition to any spring rejuvenative formula. As a powerful herb, it should be used in smaller proportions in the formula. It combines well with Punarnava in formulas for pranavahasrotas (respiratory conditions), with Shankhapushpi for chronic liver disease, with Ashwagandha in fatigue conditions and with Guggulu in rheumatoid arthritis.  It is also of value in anti-parasitical formulas.

In bronchial asthma, the famous Vardaman Pippali Rasayana can be used as described in detail in Charak Samhita. An increasing amount of Pippali is taken each day; with milk. Amounts of Pippali and their rate of increase are determined by the strength of the patient.  Once a peak is reached the amount of Pippali is slowly reduced each day (2). Meanwhile, a strict diet is followed. For Westerners, tolerance of Pippali is lower. It is best to find the point at which Pippali will cause hyperacidity, lower the dose to below that level, continue at that level for a week and then slowly reduce the amount.

There are a number of classical preparations featuring Pippali. These include Trikatu, Sitopaladi, Talisadi, Pippali Asavam and Pippali Prash. All these preparations make use of the powerful effects of Pippali on pranavahasrotas.

Recent research conforms the effectiveness of Pippali in a variety of situations. Several have shown immunostimulatory and antigiardial effects of Pippali (3). Pippali is similarly effective against entamoeba hystolytica. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Phytomedicine shows that Pippali inhibits liver fibrosis in animal studies. This provides support for the traditional use of Pippali in alcoholic liver disease and chronic hepatitis(4) A.K Agarwal et al demonstrated the protective effect of Pippali against gastric ulcers in rats.  "The antiulcerogenic effect seemed to be due to the augmentation of mucin secretion and decreased cell shedding rather than offensive acid and pepsin secretion which however, were found to be increased by them."(5). Pippali's anti-inflammatory and analgaesic effects may be equal to that of Ibuprofen, according to one animal study (6). "This indicates that P. longum root has weak opioid but potent NSAID( non steroidal anti-inflammatory) type of analgesic activity".

Another study demonstrated that Pippali is a useful anti-cancer agent. (7) "These results indicate the potential use of spices as anti-cancer agents as well as anti-tumour promoters." This study is very interesting in highlighting the usefulness of Pipplai both to recovering smokers, at risk for lung cancer, and to those with Hepatitis C, at risk for liver cancer.

Finally, in addition to its powerful effects as a medicinal herb in its own right, Pippali is also valuable as a catalytic agent to potentiate the actions of other herbs or drugs. The most important classical example of this usage of Pippali is of course Chyavanprash. In this formulation, Pippali functions as a catalytic agent to enhance the rejuvenative, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and lung infection-fighting capabilities of Amlaki, the chief herb in Chyavanprash. Pippali has also been shown to enhance the effects of antibiotics. (8) In this study, Pippali was found to be a phytochemical potentiator of Ciprofloxacin against Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium which can cause a variety of diseases including lung infections. This study points to the usefulness of taking sitopaladi alongside an antibiotic in serious bacterial infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It is important to note that in certain situations, the potentiating effect of Pippali may be dangerous in terms of herb-drug interactions. Neither Pippali nor black pepper should be used in individuals taking the beta blocker Propanalol, also known as Inderal, because piperine enhances the effects of this drug, with potentially dangerous consequences. It is also important to avoid Pippali when a patient is taking anti-coagulants.

Although Pippali is most famous for its rejuvenative impact on pranvahsrotas, ancient texts and contemporary studies point to wide-ranging effectiveness  of Pippali in respiratory, liver, digestive, metabolic, parasitic and malignant conditions.  In terms of Pippali's usefulness in pravavahasrotas, anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and rejuvenative effects all synergize to create outstanding effectiveness in infectious and degenerative lung and upper respiratory diseases.

1. Chikitsasthan, Ch.1 v 32

2. Chikitsasthan, Ch.1 v36-40

3. Tripati et al Antigiardial and immunostimulatory effect of Piper longum on giardiasis due to Giardia lamblia. Phytother Res. 1999 Nov;13(7):561-5; Agarwal et al  Management of giardiasis by a herbal drug 'Pippali Rasayana': a clinical study.


4. Plant Products as Antimicrobial Agents. Marjorie Murphy Cowan, Department of Microbiology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056. Clin Microbiol Rev. 1999 October; 12(4): 564-582.


5. J Ethnopharmacol. 1997 May; (3):233-6


6Phytomedicine. 2006 Feb;13(3):196-8. Epub 2005 Jun 24. Inhibition of CCl4-induced liver fibrosis by Piper longum Linn. Christina AJ, Saraswathy GR, Robert SJ, Kothai R, Chidambaranathan N, Nalini G, Therasal RL. Department of Pharmacology, KM College of Pharmacy, Uthangudi, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.)


7. Indian J Exp Biol. 2000 Oct; 38(10):994-8.


8. Indian J Exp Biol. 2003 Jun;41(6):649-51.


9. Unnikrishnan MC, Kuttan R; Cancer Lett. 1990 May 15;51(1):85-9.


10. Inshad Ali Khan, Zahid Mehmood Mirza, Ashwani Kumar, Vijeshwar Verma, and Ghulam Nabi Qazi, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, February 2006, p. 810-812, Vol. 50, No. 2.



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The human shoulder joint

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In this article, we will take a look at an extremely common cause of shoulder pain: rotator cuff injuries. We will look first at the normal anatomy and movements of the shoulder. Then we will consider the epidemiology and Ayurvedic management of rotator cuff injuries.

The human shoulder is a remarkable piece of engineering and one of the most mobile joints in the human body. Shoulder joints of different species are adapted to a variety of functions, from flying in the case of avian shoulders to quadripedal walking and running in the case of most mammals. Human shoulders reflect both our phylogenetic heritage as tree-swinging primates (arboreals) as well as the unique needs of our species such as spear throwing, tool making and enhancing speech with gesture. "The dorsal position of a highly-mobile scapula and the lateral orientation of the small, shallow glenoid fossa articulating with a medially-directed large round humeral head open up a nearly complete sphere of motion allowing the hand to be positioned almost anywhere around the body."  (1). The shoulder is a complex of several joints, including the sternoclavicular joint, acromioclavicular joint, glenohumeral ball and socket joint (GH) joint, and scapulothoracic (ST) joint or pseudoarticulation. These articulations work together to carry out normal shoulder motion. The majority of motion occurs at the GH and ST joints. (2,3).

Human shoulder joint movements include:

·      Scapular retraction (squeezing the shoulder blades together) using rhomboideus major and minor and trapezius

·      Scapular protraction (as in hugging yourself) using serratus anterior and pectoral muscles

·      Scapular elevation (shrugging shoulders) using levator scapulae and upper trapezius

·      Scapular depression (slumping shoulders) using pectoralis minor, latissimus dorsi and subclavius

·      Arm abduction, lifting arms away from body to 90',  (deltoid) followed by additional upward rotation of scapula to raise arms above the head (trapezius, serratus anterior).

·      Arm adduction, first bringing arms back down to 90' via downward rotation of scapula using pectorals, subclavius and latissimus dorsi; followed by true adduction, which additionally uses teres major and deltoid.

·      Arm flexion (reaching arm forward) using pectoralis major, coracobracialis, biceps, deltoid

·      Arm extension (pointing humerus backwards) using latissimus dorsi, teres major, triceps and deltoid

·      Medial rotation (turning upper arm in) using subscapularis,  latissimus dorsi, teres major, pectoralis major and deltoid

·      Lateral rotation (turning upper arm out) using infraspinatus, teres minor, deltoid

·      Circumduction (circular movement of arms up to 90') using pectoralis major, subscapularis, coracobrachialis, biceps, supraspinatus, deltoid, latissimus dorsi, teres muscles, infraspinatus and triceps. (3).

Some authorities suggest that on leaving our arboreal lifestyle, we fail to use our shoulder joint to full capacity, thus creating a tendency to osteo-arthritis of the shoulder (4). If this hypothesis is true, it provides a powerful justification for activities such as hatha yoga and chi gong in maintaining shoulder joint health through movement. Elderly subjects have been shown to have reduced shoulder joint movement after a lifetimes of under-use of some movements and over-use of others (5).

The rotator cuff is composed of four muscles whose tendons splay out and interdigitate to form a common, continuous insertion on the humerus, providing stability to the shoulder joint (6). The four main muscles of the rotator cuff are suspraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres major and subscapularis. Originating above the spine of the scapula, supraspinatus inserts on the greater tuberosity of the humerus. As the deltoid abducts the shoulder joint, supraspinatus fires to stablize the joint (7).  Infraspinatus, originating below the spine of the scapula, insets posteriorly on the greater tuberosity of the humerus and, as stated above, asssists in lateral rotation. Teres minor, originating on the lateral border of the scapular, inserts inferiorly on the greater tuberosity of the humerus and as we have seen, is involved in lateral rotation. Originating between the scapula and the ribs on the anterior surface of the scapula, subscapularis inserts on the lesser tuberosity of the humerus and is involved in medial rotation of the arm. However, although the rotator cuff muscles are associated with the above-mentioned shoulder motions, it is important to understand that their main function is to provide stability to the GH joint by compressing the humeral head on the glenoid (8).

Rotator cuff injuries are common in all ages and range from reversible tendinitis to massive tears involving supraspinatus, infraspinatus and subscapularis. Repetitive overhead movements such as pitching in baseball can cause rotator cuff injuries in younger people, or, less commonly, a trauma such as a fall or car accident can tear the rotator cuff (9). Older patients may present with a history of gradual onset of shoulder pain, with no clear history of trauma and yet are often shown on MRI to have significant partial or compete rotator cuff tears (10, 11). On cadaver studies, 39% of individuals over sixty were found to have full-thickness rotator cuff tears with an even higher incidence of partial tears (12). These injuries on elders are probably due to age related degeneration and compromised microvascular supply (13,14).

The main symptoms of rotator cuff injuries are shoulder pain and diminished range of motion; additional symptoms include weakness, swelling, instability and popping of the joint. In elders, a significant rotator cuff tear may present with insidious symptoms. Therefore, in patients over sixty-five, passive and active shoulder range of motion should routinely be examined, since rotator cuff injuries are prevalent in over a third of this population. When active elevation is less than passive elevation, this points to a rotator cuff injury.

Patients presenting with shoulder pain should have a full check up with a medical practitioner before proceeding ahead with Ayurvedic treatments for the rotator cuff. This is particularly important because both angina pectoris due to iscaemic heart disease and myocardial infarction (heart attack and its sequelae) are included in the differential diagnosis of shoulder pain. Additionally, the nature and extent of the tear can best be determined by imagining such as MRI.

While the most massive tears are usually referred for orthopedic surgery, most rotator cuff injuries are managed by conservative measures and can be addressed by systemic and localized Ayurvedic treatments. Therapy must address the cycle of pain/underuse/loss of conditioning/ joint laxity. First this cycle is broken by local and systemic measures to reduce inflammation. Then the shoulder muscles can be ongoingly conditioned to sustain maximum functioning.

 For reducing pain and inflammation, herbs, home remedies and Ayurvedic bodywork can be applied. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as guduchi, kaishore guggulu, tulsi, turmeric and licorice can be given orally to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling (15). Anti-inflammatory home remedies include ginger tea and Trinity Tea (tulsi, turmeric and ginger tea). Localized home treatments can be applied using anti-inflammatory oils such as castor oil and mahanarayan tailam (15) prior to a hot shower. Alternate hot and cold packs can also be given, using a bowl of ice water, a bowl of hot mustard seed tea and two cloths. First a hot pack is applied, then a cold pack, then hot, then cold for a counter-irritant impact. Bath therapy can also be used, first massaging the shoulder with castor oil and then taking a ginger-baking soda tub.

Many classical Ayurvedic body treatments can be applied to the shoulder to reduce the pain and inflammation of a torn rotator cuff. Mardana or pressure massage is recommended for snayugata vata or vata invading tendons (16). After applying mahanarayan oil the therapist gives vijayamala hasta (straight pressure massage on neck), viparita vijayamala hasta (oblique pressure massage on neck), shaila hasta (massaging front of shoulder), dheera hasta (circular massage on shoulder) and chakra hasta (rotary massage on shoulder (17). Valuka sveda using a hot sand bag is helpful to alleviate pain and swelling (18). Patrapinda sveda can be offered using leaves of datura, abundant in the United States as Jimson weed or Angel trumpet. The datura leaves are fried in oil and placed in muslin bags. Then mahanarayana oil is applied to the shoulder the shoulder and the comfortable hot pinda packs are massaged over the area. This treatment is effective for muscle and tendon injuries (19). Nadi svedan therapy using localized steam medicated with nirgundi is also extremely valuable in rotator cuff injuries (20). Taila dhara treatments with mahanaryana oil can alos be applied locally to the shoulder using the same setup as for shirodhara but adjusting the positioning (21).

After pain and inflammation have been managed, yoga therapy can be employed to strengthen the shoulder and restore range of motion. A qualified yoga therapist should perform this function. Improving posture, especially with regard to thoracic kyphosis, is important in preventing rotator cuff impingement. Modified dog poses against a wall help stabilize the scapula. Cat Bow can be utilized to strengthen shoulder extensors (22, 23). Modified cobra poses can be helpful in strengthen the rotator cuff, as can shoulder shrugs and shoulder circles. Use of yoga therapy, physical therapy or Chi Gong is a vital part of the care cycle, which necessarily involves both reduction of inflammation and restoratio of range of motion.

As we have seen, rotator cuff injuries are extremely common and require careful assessment. All but the  most severe cases can be well addressed by a combination of Ayurvedic treatment and skilled yoga therapy.

1.  Grine FE,  Fleagle JG, Leakey RE The First Humans: Origin and Early Evolution of the Genus Homo Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthroplology Springer Science 2009 p 64

2. Codman EA. The Shoulder. Boston, Mass: Thomas Todd; 1934.

3. Pronk GM, van der Helm FC, Rozendaal LA. Interaction between the joints in the shoulder mechanism: the function of the costoclavicular, conoid and trapezoid ligaments. Proc Inst Mech Eng H. 1993;207(4):219-29.

4. Alexander CJ, Utilisation of joint movement range in arboreal primates compared with human subjects: an evolutionary frame for primary osteoarthritis. Ann Rheum Dis 1994;53:720-725 doi:10.1136/ard.53.11.720

5. Chakravarty K, Webley M. Shoulder joint movement and its relationship to disability in the elderly. J Rheumatol. 1993 Aug;20(8):1359-61

6. Clark JM, Harryman DT 2nd. Tendons, ligaments, and capsule of the rotator cuff. Gross and microscopic anatomy J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1992 Jun;74(5):713-25.

7. Steindler A. Kinesiology of Human Body Under Normal and Pathological Conditions. Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas Publishing; 1984.

8. Wuelker N, Korell M, Thren K. Dynamic glenohumeral joint stability. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. Jan-Feb 1998;7(1):43-52

9. Neer CS 2nd, Welsh RP. The shoulder in sports. Orthop Clin North Am. Jul 1977;8(3):583-91.

10.  Cailliet R. Shoulder Pain. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: FA Davis Publishers; 1991:42-6.

11.  Baker CL, ed. Shoulder impingement and rotator cuff lesions. The Hughston Clinic Sports Medicine Book. Baltimore, Md: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 1995:272-9.

12. Bigliani LU, Morrison DS, April EW. The morphology of the acromion and its relationship to rotator cuff tears. Orthop Trans. 1986;10:228.

13. Yamanaka K, Fukda H. Aging process of the supraspinatus tendon in surgical disorders of the shoulder. In: Watson N, ed. Surgical Disorders of the Shoulder. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 1991:247.

14. hr JF, Uhthoff HK. The microvascular pattern of the supraspinatus tendon. Clin Orthop Relat Res. May 1990;254:35-8.

15. Singh A, Malhotra S, Subban R Anti-inflammatory and analgesic agents from Indian medicinal plants Int. J. Integ. Biol., 2008, 3(1):  57-72

16. Shrinivasa Acharya G, Panchakarma Illustrated, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishtan Delhi 2006 p167

17. ibid pp 169-171.

18. ibid pp 215-219

19. ibid 220-225

20. ibid p 226

21. Dash B, Massage therapy in Ayurveda, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, 1992 p 64

22. Hinnen BF Rotator Cuff and similar Shoulder Injuries Structural Yoga Therapy Research Paper

23. Stiles, Mukunda. Structural Yoga Therapy - Adapting to the Individual. Boston, Weiser Books, 2001


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Last month, we looked at easily curable conditions of prana vaha srotas as well as those curable with difficulty.  This month, we will look at chronic (yapya) conditions of prana vaha srotas and also mention briefly how to be aware of potentially fatal conditions.


One extremely common yapya respiratory condition is chronic rhinitis, affecting as many as 40% of the US population. One of the world's most common chronic disorders, rhinitis affects the entire spectrum of life from infancy to old age (1). Sushrut discusses thirty-one diseases of the nose, including Apinasa (rhinitis) and pratishaya (nasal catarrh)(2). Apinasa is classified as a disease of vata and kapha (2). Pratishaya with dryness, hoarsenss, temporal headache and nasal obstruction arises from Vata (3), with thirst, yellowish nasal discharge and a feeling of hot smoky breath, pitta is involved (4) and with thick white or yellowish catarrh, swollen eyes, heaviness and itchy throat and palate, kapha is implicated.

 From a modern standpoint, classification of rhinitis is less based on clinical presentation and more on etiology. Rhinitis is either allergic or non-allergic. Allergic rhinitis results from IgE reactivity to both outdoor, seasonal allergens such as pollens and indoor allergens including moulds, house dust and animal dander. It is often associated with another chronic condition of prana vaha srotas, asthma. (See for a previous Vine discussion of asthma). While allergic rhinitis is common in infants, children and young adults (5), non-allergic rhinitis becomes increasingly prevalent in older adults and is more common in women (1). Although there are many etiologies of non-allergic rhinitis, some of the most common include chronic sinusitis, allergic fungal sinusitis, eosinophilic nasal polyps (6) and deviated nasal septum. For an in depth treatment of chronic sinusitis and allergic fungal sinusitis see archived Vine article Irritants such as dust, smoking and household cleaning agents can cause or contribute to rhinitis, as expressed by both Madhava and current medicine (7, 8). Hormonal causes of non-allergic rhinitis include pregnancy, menstruation, puberty and hormone replacement therapy as well as hypothroidism (8).

As we review the various ways of classifying rhinitis, we can see that the Western medicine classifications are more useful in terms of Western treatments. For example, allergic rhinitis would respond to anti-histamines whereas other kinds will not. By the same token, Sushrut's symptom based classification is more useful for Ayurvedic treatment since it points to the dosha involved and hence to the appropriate therapies.


Patients with chronic rhinitis frequently present for Ayurvedic treatment as an alternative to steroidal and non-steroidal nasal sprays and systemic antihistamines. Indeed, the persistent nature of this condition has led doctors, as well as patients, to look 'outside the box' for adjuvant therapies. As an example, a friend of mine recently visited National Jewish Hospital in Denver, one of the premier respiratory hospitals, only to be told to increase his use of the nasal rinse cup from once to twice a day! A number of studies have been done, demonstrating the effect of jala neti or saline irrigation using a nasal rinse cup.  As one abstract puts it, "The use of nasal irrigation for the treatment of nose and sinus complaints has its foundations in yogic and homeopathic traditions. It is often prescribed as an adjunct to other treatments such as intranasal steroids or antibiotics. ...This review summarises the evidence for the effect of saline irrigations in the management of the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis. There is evidence that they relieve symptoms, help as an adjunct to treatment and are well tolerated by the majority of patients. While there is no evidence that saline is a replacement for standard therapies, the addition of topical nasal saline is likely to improve symptom control in patients with persistent sino-nasal disease....There are no significant side-effects reported in trials."     ( 9)

An earlier study also indicated that "Endonasal irrigations with salt solutions are effective in the treatment of chronic sinusitis," (10) and an Australian study investigating nasal irrigation showed that neti, also known as nasal douche, was more effective than nasal sprays or nebulizers and effectively reached the maxillary sinuses and frontal recesses. The sphenoidal and frontal sinuses are not easily reached by irrigation methods. (11).

While local use of oils and herbs in the form of nasya have not been investigated to the same extent, some recent studies published by Gujerat Ayurved University indicate that nasya therapies are effective in both allergic and atropic rhinitis. Local (nasal) administration of herb via nasya was effective in giving immediate relief of signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis and can best be paired with longer acting systemic herbs such as turmeric. (12). Nasya is also effective in atropic (non-allergic ) rhinitis (13).

Similarly, in terms of asthma, there has been a search for adjuvant therapies for this chronic condition. Steam inhalation, using natural mineral saline is one valuable adjuvant. The Ayurvedic use of steam and herbal smokes for administering medicines directly to the lungs is the precursor of today's asthma inhalers (14). Yoga therapy is also valuable in managing asthma. "Forty six young asthmatics with a history of childhood asthma were admitted for yoga training. Effects of training on resting pulmonary functions, exercise capacity, and exercise-induced bronchial lability index were measured. Yoga training resulted in a significant increase in pulmonary function and exercise capacity. A follow-up study spanning two years showed a good response with reduced symptom score and drug requirements in these subjects. It is concluded that yoga training is beneficial for young asthmatics." (15).

Herbal therapies of course are also effective for asthma, including Boswellia (16) and kapi kacchu (17). Ayurvedic and yogic therapies including neti, nasya, steam inhalation herbal smokes, yoga therapy and oral herbs can be of tremendous use in enhancing quality of life for patients with chronic prana vaha srotas conditions and reducing the amount of medications they need to use.

With regard to fatal conditions of prana vaha srotas, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related death both in the United States and throughout the world (18). Ayurvedic practitioners as well as primary care physicians should be highly suspicious in the case of any person with a history of smoking who presents with cough, breathlessness or wheezing or simply fatigue and malaise. A pneumonia or bronchitis may be more than it seems as lung cancer may frequently present as pneumonia or bronchitis. Swift referral for chest X ray is vital to avoid overlooking cancer. Patients with a history of coal mining or working in or living near an asbestos plant should also be treated with great caution in the event of a history of cough as they too are susceptible to lung cancer. And of course, one should not forget spouses of chain smokers, who may have been exposed to a lifetime of carcinogenic second and third-hand smoke. Tridoshic disturbance of overall vikruti, of the lung pulse or of the rasa dahtu pulse can lead the Ayurvedic practitioner suspect lung cancer, although these same pulse findings may also hold good in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  

To give some examples, some years ago a fifty-year-old woman presented with a non-specific complaint of "feeling unwell". She had never smoked cigarettes, although she was a marijuana smoker. However, her husband was a former chain-smoker. A few weeks later, she presented with cough and breathlessness and tridoshic disturbance in her lung pulse. Suspecting pneumonia, we referred her to her primary care practitioner, who diagnosed bronchitis and sent her home with antibiotics.  Days later she was admitted to hospital with for pneumonia and within three months she had died of advanced pulmonary adenocarcinoma.  This story serves to remind us of how nebulous the initial presentation of lung cancer may be.

A seventy five year old former smoker complained of chest pain during winter and was diagnosed with pneumonia and put on antibiotics. Bronchoscopy revealed Stage IV adenocarcinoma of the lungs and she presented for Ayurvedic adjuvant therapy alongside her chemotherapy. She went into remission for some time but recently, again in winter, developed cough and breathlessness and was found to have a pleural effusion, which may be malignant in origin. This case history too illustrates how difficult it is to diagnose lung cancer until a late stage of the condition and how closely its symptoms can mimic typical winter ailments.

Ayurvedic practitioners can facilitate considerable improvements in quality of life for patients suffering from chronic conditions of prana vaha srotas. When working with respiratory conditions, it is important to take note of lung cancer risk factors and to be aware that this condition can present as a typical winter chest infection.



1. John W. Georgitis  Prevalence and differential diagnosis of chronic rhinitis Current Allergy and Asthma Reports Volume 1, Number 3 / May, 2001

2. Su. Uttarasthan, XXII

3 ibid XXIV 6

4 ibid v 7-8

5 Quoc A Nguyen, MD Allergic Rhinits

6. Maria Staevska and James N. Baraniuk Persistent nonallergic rhinosinusitis Current Allergy and Asthma Reports Volume 5, Number 3 / May, 2005

7. Madhava Nidhanam Ch 58 v 13-14

8. Vijay R Ramakrishnan, MD, Nonallergic Rhinitis

9. Richard Harvey, Saiful Alam Hannan, Lydia Badia, Glenis Scadding, Nasal saline irrigations for the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis  Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 Oct;137(4):532-4.

10. G. Bachmann, Gerhard Hommel and Olaf Michel Effect of irrigation of the nose with isotonic salt solution on adult patients with chronic paranasal sinus disease European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology Volume 257, Number 10 / December, 2000

11. Peter-John Wormald, Tim Cain, Lyndell Oates et al, A Comparative Study of Three Methods of Nasal Irrigation The Laryngoscope Volume 114 Issue 12, Pages 2224 - 2227

12. Neha j Modha ,V.D. Shukla, MS Baghel Clinical study of Anurjata Janita Pratishaya (allergic rhinitis) and comparative assessment of nasya karma Ayur-vol 30 No 1 2009 47-54

13. BV DHARMENDRASINH, K SINGH, KN PANSARA, et al A clinical study of Vyoshadivati and Pathadi Taila Nasya on Apinasa-Atrophic Rhinitis Ayu vol 30 No 4 2009 475-47

14. Mark Sanders Inhalation therapy: an historical review Primary Care Respiratory Journal (2007) 16(2): 71-81

15. S. C. Jain; L. Rai; A. Valecha; U. K. Jha; S. O. D. Bhatnagar; K. Ram Effect of Yoga Training on Exercise Tolerance in Adolescents with Childhood Asthma   Journal of Asthma, Volume Issue 6 December 1991 , pages 437 - 442

16. Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, Gupta S, Lüdtke R, Safayhi H, Ammon HP.Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study  Eur J Med Res. 1998 Nov 17;3(11):511-4

17. Mallaiah, GK | Thirupathi, K | Ganapaty, S | Rao, PT | Mohan, GK Phytochemical and AntimicrobialStudies on the Seeds of Mucuna Monosperma DC Current Trends in Biotechnology and Pharmacy. Vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 442-446. Jul 2008.

18. Syed Huq,



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Deutsch: Atemsystem English: Respiratory system

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According to Vagbhat, "Prana vaha srotas' chief organs are hridaya (the heart) and mahasrotas (alimentary tract), it gets vitiated by dryness and depletion, suppression of thirst, hunger and other urges. Respiration being increased, decreased, difficult or interrupted, accompanied by pain or sound, are the chief signs of vitiation" (1). Nowadays the respiratory tract is seen as synonymous with the marga or pathway of pranavahasrotas, its root being in the left side of the heart, which receives oxygenated blood from the lungs.

Conditions of prana vaha srotas may occur in either the upper or respiratory tract and may be either easily curable, curable with difficulty, chronic incurable (yapya) or fatal.

Easily curable conditions of prana vaha srotas

Easily curable conditions of prana vaha Srotas include the common cold, hay fever, pharyngitis and laryngitis as well as many forms of influenza. Essentially these conditions fall into the category of abhaisaja sadhya or curable without medicine, since they are typically self-limiting viral infections which resolve within a few days to three weeks to allergies which dissipate when the allergen is absent. However, it is advisable to treat these conditions for two reasons; firstly, to help them resolve more quickly since they cause discomfort and inconvenience and secondly, to prevent complications. Easily curable conditions of prana vaha srotas may invade into deeper dhatus, as when rhinosinusitis localizes into asthi dhatu to create sinusitis proper. They may also move from the upper to the lower respiratory tract to cause conditions such as bronchitis. And they may progress through the stages of samprapti all the way to bheda, to create a dangerous condition such as a lung abscess.

Easily curable conditions of prana vaha srotas can often be managed with the use of home remedies, localized treatments and simple Ayurvedic medicines.  Provide your patients with a checklist of products they should have on hand and ways to use them.

Winter/Spring Checklist

(If you are pregnant, diabetic, have high blood pressure or are taking blood thinners, please consult your practitioner before using these remedies)

Nsal Rinse Cup: use for colds, sinus infections and allergies

Neem Soap: Use for hand washing especially during flu season

Natural mineral salt:

·      Use in tub to relieve coughs and colds

·      Use in neti pot for sinus conditions and allergi