With several recorded evidences in the recent past where Ayurveda has been able to cure several chronic ailments of people who were literally written off by modern conventional medicinal system, this ancient science of the Vedic era has slowly and gradually but surely started catching grounds of credibility. However, the roadblock is that due to lack of understanding of how Ayurvedic medicines work, either people show apprehensions while approaching this wonderful science and get devoid of its immense benefits or they blindly follow it, thinking that anything that is labelled as Ayurvedic is fine for them leading to further imbalances. This blog will explain the broad working of some of the widely used Ayurvedic medicines to impart basic knowledge of :-
- how they work,
- what actions they perform in the body which cannot be performed by allopathic medicines which is why they can cure chronic ailments,
- how their consumption during different times of the day can have different effects,
- how their indiscreet (including prolonged) use can lead to imbalances instead of curing and that is why anything herbal/ayurvedic doesn’t mean that it is good for everyone.
*** All Ayurvedic medicines work on the principle of six tastes that effect the fundamental forces of Ayurveda called as Vata, pitta and kapha (VPK) governing various mechanisms of our body. And that is why to understand this blog, you must click here to know about VPK and functioning of six tastes through these youtube videos. You may also pick up a copy of THE ROOT CAUSE book from the links given at the end of this post.
*** Please note that the aim of sharing this knowledge is not to self-medicate unless one has gained holistic expertise of this science.
Here we go… To begin with let us pick up basic herbs and then we shall move to their concoctions. So lets begin with Brahmi- called as King of Herbs.
Brahmi is a combination of bitter, astringent and mildly sweet tastes. Its bitterness is vasodilating (i.e. it dilates blood vessels). Now let us see how this herb works when consumed in different times of the day:-
- So when consumed in daytime, this herb’s vasodilation pushes more of blood towards the lower body and also towards the core. Its astringency constricts cells and takes blood deeper to those areas which were not receiving blood earlier due to swollen cells of the blood vessels, which were blocking the blood flow there and its sweetness nourishes the cells. Thus brahmi ensures that blood alongwith nutrition (sweetness) reaches deep parts of the body which were not receiving blood earlier and thus removes deep seated vata (it is like water will be able to reach deeper parts of a choked pipe only once the choking of the pipe is removed and it is astringency which removes this choking). So when consumed in daytime it helps to remove deep seated vata of the lower body like inflamed liver (primarily lower core).
- On the other side if this herb is taken in the night time before sleeping, it will retain more blood towards the core of the upper body especially brain (as now gravity will not pull the blood towards lower body) and that is how it will remove deep seated vata of the brain (i.e. prana vata) thus pacifying/curing vata diseases of the brain like epilepsy, depression, Alzheimer, Parkinson’s, dementia, stress, anxiety, vata hypertension, epilepsy, ADHD etc. Overall since this medicine settles prana vata and since aggravated prana vata is the triggering factor of most of the diseases in the world, this herb is a wonderful medicine to restore the lost blood flow from the brain. The reason that this medicine is called as Brahmi is because by pacifying ones prana vata, it calms down ones mind and takes it towards Brahm- the ultimate bliss/happiness.
***** Thus, it is extremely important to understand the time of administering these herbs and/or their concoctions. So a person with vata disease of the brain, whose digestive/elimination process is fit should never be given this medicine in the daytime while he/she is in upright position as this will further reduce blood from the brain and increase more vata. Conversely a person with vata issues in the lower body but having kapha mind (as seen in many people having CKD), would need this herb/its concoction, in the morning hours. Yes a person exhibiting traits of vata mind as well as vata in the lower body, may need it in night as well daytime but its extremely important to judge this part else the person may develop more imbalances than before the treatment. It has to be remembered that when we settle vata of one place, we are likely to increase it somewhere else. This is the reason that excess use of this herb/concoction can create dryness of the eyes/mouth/nose/headaches as even if taken in night, it pulls blood from peripherals (face etc.) to the core (brain is located in the core). Thus Vata people should as such be more careful while consuming this medicine and should use it only for a short time even if needed to settle Prana Vata etc.
Do check out this blog to understand the importance of Prana vata which is settled by Brahmi⇒ IMBALANCED PRANA VATA- THE ROOT CAUSE OF MOST OF THE DISEASES/CHAOS AND SATTVIC FOODS/LIFESTYLE -THE ONLY WAY TO PREVENT
Again rated as the king of the herbs, this medicine’s bitterness mimics Gaba, the calming neurotransmitter primarily found in brain, thereby reducing master pitta and that is why this herb calms down an anxious mind. Once pitta goes down in the nervous system (channels), the body is able to repair itself faster reducing dryness, emaciation of tissues and thus pacifying vata. It’s like insulation around a wire cannot repair unless current moving through it becomes so low that insulation doesn’t get burnt. However, this herb is astringent also and that is why it can increase vata in an already vata person creating even more anxiety than earlier including other side effects of high astringency like pitta in peripherals (that is why Ashwagandha is said to be warming). Moreover too much of Gaba (more than required) meaning very less of pitta can create issues like slowing down of blood circulation and improper breakdown of food and thus would increase even more vata in the long run. This is seen in those people who indiscreetly use Ashwagandha or Gaba (synthetically produced drug available on the counter) without knowing their constitution (prakriti) and current state of health (vikruti) and end up developing poor jatharagni (digestive fire) and/or bodyaches and/or anxiety.
Pearl is simply calcium carbonate (CaCO3) a very important ingredient in many Ayurvedic medicines which is used by even modern science to reduce or neutralize acidity in the body that gets produced due to excess pitta as a result of consumption of excess pungency/sourness not in line with one’s constitution/weather/location etc. Even conch and corals are primarily made up of CaCO3 and are used in formulations for reducing acidity.
*** Astrologically pearl represents moon and is recommended to be worn by those who are high on Pitta (Sun) to calm down their acidity.
Again primarily bitter in nature, this herb mimics Dopamine, a neurotransmitter found primarily in brain which becomes short in supply when enough blood doesn’t reach the brain (high prana vata) leading to issues like Parkinson’s. And this is why this herb is used to calm down a hyperactive mind. But yes it is not a permanent solution. The permanent solution lies in increasing blood flow to the brain through Brahmi and its concoctions.
This herb’s alkaloids (which impart its bitterness) work as beta blockers and thus reduce heart beats. The herb is also astringent in nature. Thus together these two tastes along with milk push more sweetness (of milk) through blood towards core of the body including heart and remove deep seated vata from there. This is a wonderful herb for those having weak heart (vata ridden characterized by palpitations) which may also be leading to high BP. Thus if ones high BP is generating due to primarily high Vata of the heart (and not the other parts of the body indicated by spike in heart pulse of the person/Rahu in the fourth house of ones birth chart), then this medicine will do wonders. However its wrong to use this herb for controlling BP if the same is generating because of overall narrowing of vessels (not specific to heart). This is because slower heart rate will reduce vata from the heart but may increase vata in peripherals leading to several health issues in the long run like nervousness, anxiety, twitching eye, mouth dryness etc. and also making one dependent on such medicines due to high Vata imbalance.
*** check out this blog..
ARISTHTAS AND SAVAS
Alcohol is bitter and therefore vasodilating and that is why in order to push the qualities of herb/s deeper into the targeted areas, Ayurveda uses Arishtas and Savas which have self generated alcohol (around 5 percent). Again depending upon where vata is sitting, these formulations should be used in daytime or nighttime.
This fruit is bitter (vasodilating), highly astringent, sweet and slightly pungent but cold in nature. Because of its tastes, its effects are similar to that of Brahmi. So while Brahmi is called so as it imparts Brahm Gyan (the ultimate knowledge of God Brahama, Woodapple is offered to Lord Shiva as it cools down the person by calming deep seated vata and pitta). Again like Brahmi, the time of its consumption has its effect either on the brain or on the digestive system.
And now lets discuss about the concoctions prepared by mixing these herbs. Please note before proceeding that composition of formulations may vary (though minutely) from one brand to another though the main herbs and overall principle remains same. Also to keep the blog short and crisp, the main ingredients of the formulations are being discussed.
This medicine is primarily composed of finely grounded pearl with rose water. So while pearl neutralizes acids in the body, the sourness (which was either the cause of acidity or got produced due to acids in the body) gets balanced by astringency of rose. Rose is cold too and hence pacifies pitta, which might have been the reason or result of sourness. Easy to guess that this medicine is excellent for conditions like GERD, pitta headaches and other inflammatory diseases etc.
Medha means wisdom and wisdom can be there only in a settled mind (not very high on vata). And that is why medha vati is used for settling diseases arising out of ones aggravated Vata like dementia, insomnia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, anxiety, vata depression. The formulation is primarily composed of Brahmi, Ashwagandha, Shankhpushpi, Jatmanashi, Serpentine, Praval and Mukta Pishti and fennel. When the brain doesn’t get enough blood, apart from its decay, it is also unable to effectively produce those chemicals (primarily neurotransmitters) which are required for the body to function normally. So while Brahmi reduces prana vata by gradually restoring blood supply to the brain, it also acts a carrier due to its bitterness (vasodilation) and astringency and pushes the qualities of other herbs/medicines of the concoction into the brain. Here, serpentine being a silicate of magnesium and other important minerals like iron etc. helps in pushing essential minerals to the emaciated brain and helps in calming down the overworked nerves especially due to magnesium. Jatamansi being bitter, astringent and sweet works similar to Brahmi and aids it in doing the job of settling overall pitta. Shankhpushpi is bitter and cooling and further helps to calm down the mind. Fennel’s job is to digest ama (toxins) stuck in vata ridden places.
*** Since Bael fruit also has similar properties as Brahmi, Manas Mitra another ayurvedic formulation uses Beal instead of brahmi to give a similar effect to mind as medha vati does. Certain brands also add Licorice in these medicines in very small quantities to fight inflammation as licorice mimics anabolic steroids of the body.
It has similar ingredients to that of Medha Vati however here Mutka Pishti is in higher ratio. This is because high pitta and its side effects get pacified by Mukta pishti and that is why this medicine is used to treat hypertension due to a high VP mind. Some brands use Sarpagandha too in this formulation to further calm down the mind. Certain brands also add Arjuna bark to strengthen a weak heart since mind and heart are closely connected.
This formulation uses three fruits (ginger, black pepper and pippali) whose aftertaste is primarily pungent (and very mildly astringent) is a good medicine for scraping off, excess fat/calcified cholesterol/toxins from the body, however it cannot remove deep seated plaque unlike Chyawanprash and Triphla as discussed in the coming paras.
Ayurveda calls Chyawanprash as a Rasayana- that elixir of herbs which gives wholesome nutrition and thus strength to the body. Chyawanprash is a combination of several herbs most of which are astringent, pungent and warm with Amla being the only herb which is predominantly sour and cold in nature (though Amla has other four tastes too except salty but its primary taste is sour). Of course, the herbs also provide different nutrients which are sweet in nature e.g. sesame seeds provide predominantly fats and some proteins, ghee and sesame provide fats and Vitamin e, honey provides carbs and antioxidants, many herbs like Amla (indian gooseberry) have alkaline effect post digestion in the body. The list is huge but this is to give you essence of the medicine. So while pungency dissolves plaque, astringency goes into deep seated areas by constricting cells to remove deep seated plaque thereby removing atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis (thickening/narrowing of blood vessels and thickening of blood). Here, we must understand that plaque is not like a simple dirt deposited on the surface of vessels or floating in blood. Instead it is deep seated creating a complex random structure with cells (of blood vessels and blood) and is made up of decomposed/oxidized/ill-structured proteins/fats/calcium/dirt etc. and therefore it cannot be completely scraped off by just push of blood flow (except the superficial plaque as done by Trikatu).
Plaque (called as Ama in Ayurveda) is sticky, heavy, slimy, cold and poisonous and so it needs exactly the opposite which is light/pungent/nutritious/warm. Sourness from Amla ensures that volume of the blood doesn’t get reduced due to astringency thereby not letting Vata/vata imbalance increase. Amla’s post digestive high alkalinity ensures that pungency and warmth of the herbs do not create acidic conditions. Amla is also extremely rich in Vitamin C which is not only a strong antioxidant but also aids in creating collagen for giving shape and elasticity to cells. Apart from Amla, the other herbs too impart lot of antioxidants to this medicine. Chyawanprash is normally consumed with milk so that it facilitates sweetness of milk and other herbs (including all macro and micronutrients i.e. proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins, fiber, iron, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, sulfur, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, iodine, fluoride, selenium) to move deep into the space created while dissolving plaque which helps in increasing the volume of blood while naturally and uniformly widening the blood vessels (unlike modern day BP medicines which dilate vessels without increasing the volume of blood thereby creating haywire circulation of blood called as Vata). Replacement of plaque with wholesome nutrition of milk also helps system to start working on natural feedback which otherwise was getting blocked due to plaque. Milk being cold in nature also helps to balance the heating effect of the medicine. Milk also helps to avoid burning sensation felt by certain people in their throat after consuming Chyawanprash. As a thumbrule, it should be consumed in the morning empty stomach with milk, however if weather gets too warm in the afternoon then consuming it in late evenings or night is also fine.
Overall, it is an excellent medicine for managing/reversing degenerative diseases (due to high Vata) like CHF, fibromyalgia, VP hypertension, poor immunity etc. as Vata meaning obstruction causes stagnation of blood resulting in drop in immunity. In fact, this medicine is an essential part of post Panchkarma regime as Panchkarma while restoring Vata balance, increases Vata in overall body which must be settled with such Rasayanas. Since this medicine is based on typical Vata pyramid (click here to learn about Vata pyramid), it should not be consumed by true Kapha people unless they are high in Vata. If pitta is high in the weather and/or body, then too we should avoid having chyawanprash, in which case one can consume amla itself to provide sourness, alkalinity and other micronutrients for setting vata. We must also understand that Chyawanprash can reduce Vata but cannot undo Vata imbalance which can be done only by removing those foods which increase Vata imbalance and doing right Yogasanas/Pranayama and Panchkarma (massages etc).
***Despite the coolness of Amla (further aided by sugar which also reduces pitta and is part of Chyawanprash), this medicine is usually predominantly pungent and warm in nature and therefore it should be carefully used by those already having high pitta especially during summers. Yes! it can be customized during summers by reducing pungency/warmth. In fact, the concoction of honey, lemon and cumin/ginger (pungency to depend upon extent of pitta present/needed) can be freshly prepared at home to work in ways similar to Chyawanprash. This concoction can be consumed alone if one has already consumed enough of sweetness (proteins/fats/carbs) especially in the morning or it can be had with wholesome food (goes without saying that it cannot be consumed with milk). In certain ways, homemade Chyawanprash or lemon concoction may be better than the one that is commercially prepared as commercial process (including heating and exposure to oxygen of the raw material) is highly likely to reduce or nullify the efficacy of antioxidants especially Vitamin C. Since sodium bicarbonate/calcium carbonate/pearl neutralize acid, they can be gainfully utilized (local application/consumption depending upon the need) to treat/cure high Vata diseases like CHF/fibromyalgia/neuropathic pains/muscle pain/piles/constipation/insomnia/VP hypertension as acid pinches weakly insulated nerves of a Vata person and generates pain/burning. This is because a Vata person should have reasonable quantity of pungent foods, good amount of sourness and sweetness. However sourness and pungency in high Vata area would create acidity and may pinch the nerves thereby causing pain/burning if Vata is very high, which can be neutralized with sodium/calcium carbonate. In other words, it will create a similar effect like that of chyawanprash to undo Vata by increasing Volume of blood without increasing acidity (though unlike Chyawanprash, it is almost impossible to get all macro and micronutrients in one meal itself).
***Very important to note that since Chyawanprash reduces Vata, it may become counterproductive where Vata imbalance is high leading to excess of Kapha in an area which is already higher on Kapha vis-a-vis other areas. Thus this medicine should be wisely used in Vata imbalance diseases like delayed hypertension/fibromyalgia/CHF/several Vata diseases of the brain etc. In such cases since Vata and Vata imbalance both are high, one should also keep performing right asanas/pranayama/stretching to undo Vata imbalance while reducing Vata with the help of Chyawanprash and foods based on this principle. Lastly, since synthesis of fresh blood while replacing it with old deeply deposited plaque is a slow process, one must have patience to wait for gaining health and healthy weight.
Watch this video to understand the constituents of Chyawanprash and for preparing it at home ⇒⇒ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geBVgZ-6H9A&list=PLeDvaVdWgg6MWD-v9sw6c7XD7PgN2OI8a&index=130
Triphla also works similar to Chyawanprash though not that effectively. This medicine is a combination of three fruits. The Astringent and pungent tastes of fruits Haritaki and Vibhataki help to burn toxins/fat and neutralize excess sourness in the body and Amalki neutralizes acidity in the body due to excess sourness and keep Vata in balance. The usual ratio of three herbs in equal quantity gives astringency to it. That is why it is a wonderful medicine for removing excess plump from the body but the issue is that it is good for those with kapha mind but not for vata minds as it increases vata due to astringency and pungency. So those who put on weight due to vata pushing kapha phenomenon cannot afford to take this medicine as it will create issues like headaches, insomnia etc. Yes! if consumed with milk and with slightly more of Amla, it wont increase Vata.
*** Since different weather conditions invoke different doshas, one may need to bring changes in composition of medicines meant for different purposes.
- All medicines work on the basic principle of six tastes and therefore a person who has complete understanding of six tastes can create most of the medicines even at home by using various food items.
- Most of the medicines having bitter taste including Arishtas and Savas, work through vasodilation using gravity and therefore their time of consumption (while in upright or lying down position) have different effects on different parts of the body and that is why this aspect (time of their consumption) is extremely important while prescribing them in absence of which it can create even more imbalances instead of repairing the existing ones.
- If you are taking a medicine forever, it means it is not curing your root cause. In other words, not even Ayurvedic medicines can be taken forever. They must be discontinued after doshas are balanced else prolonged use will imbalance doshas in the other direction like a see-saw.
Also check out this blog to know the Ayurvedic tastes of different day to day food items ⇒⇒⇒AYURVEDIC TASTES OF VARIOUS FOOD ITEMS USED IN DAY TODAY ROUTINE
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