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By Marie-Claire Akinyemi
Ayurveda , or Sanskrit for science of life originated in India over 3,000 years ago and remains one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. Though it may not be embraced by mainstream Western medicine, Ayurveda is growing in popularity, so much so that many, myself included are discovering the many health benefits of its herbs.
There’s a common saying in Ayurveda “what heals, also prevents”, which perfectly sums up how I feel about wellbeing in general. While I’ve been diligently incorporating preventative measures such as hot lemon water, my beloved Echinacea drops and even the less palatable kale and spinach green juice, Ayurvedic herbs now also feature prominently in that.
Not only are herbs effective in treating specific conditions, they can also improve your overall immune system, a constant work in progress for me. Though I was introduced to Ayurveda years ago, I just discovered the importance of Ayurvedic herbs. Used for many reasons including to boost immunity; support mental clarity and focus, calming the nerves, improving digestion and a personal favourite, dispelling toxins from the body and promoting the detoxification in the body.
I’ve compiled my go-to herbs for detoxing, improving digestion and maintaining overall health.
1. Ashwagandha Medicinally used in traditional Ayurveda as a rejuvenating tonic, Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng, contains properties that promote cognitive development, energy and stamina amongst other things. Amazingly it also known as a body-balancing herb and is thought to keep symptoms of insomnia, including anxiety at bay. Ashwagandha also boasts anti-inflammatory benefits thought to stabilize blood sugar, improve learning, memory, and reaction time and, which is why I like to call it a powerhouse herb.
2. Brahmi Native to North Eastern regions of India, Brahmi is an important medicinal herb that aids all from restlessness to anxiety. Recent studies have shown that Brahmi can supports normal mental function by improving memory retention and concentration , so if you’re looking for an alternative to your stack of puzzles, Sudoku, or other brain boosting games, try out brahmi.
3. Triphala Just what the doctor ordered if you’re in need of detoxification and rejuvenation. Triphala, roughly meaning ‘three fruits’ is made up of the dried fruits of amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki and has existed in Ayurveda for thousands of years. It can be used as a daily supplement to help achieve or restore balance, which is why you’ll find it more recommended than any other herb. Popular for its unique ability to cleanse and detoxify the system while simultaneously nourishing it, Triphala supports the functioning of the digestive and circulatory systems amongst others. For those of you who suffer from a sluggish digestion, bloating, IBS or just other sensitivities, Triphala is your herb!
4. Turmeric A favourite for spice and wellness goddesses alike, turmeric isn’t called the golden goddess for nothing. With its golden orange hue and myriad of uses, I think turmeric leaves are simply a must have. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, I would recommend trying it as a paste for the ultimate eczema battling ointment. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric has been known to reduce the production of enzymes responsible for inflammation in the body.
5. Neem Known to be a powerful blood purifier- that helps to remove toxins from the blood, lymph and liver- neem is often used to control blood glucose levels naturally, as well as cleanse the liver and support the overall immune system. It is also known to maintain a healthy and glowing complexion. While I don’t need to regulate my blood sugar levels, glowing skin skin is something I have been striving for, especially in the years of struggling with numerous skin ailments. It is widely used in Ayurveda because of its effectiveness in dealing with nearly all types of internal imbalances. Traditionally neem has been used to purify the blood, cleanse the liver and support the immune system. It is also commonly used to support healthy skin.
6. Pudina Otherwise known as mint, Pudina is without a doubt my favourite for months. The modest mint leaf has been indispensable in Indian cuisine for centuries and can be used in a variety of ways; crushing in your green salad, or the tried and trusted way, in tea. Add as little as two leaves in a cup of boiling hot water and drink as is or sweeten with a teaspoon of honey. Loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients, mint leaves can help keep stomach cramps and acidity at bay. And with anti-inflammatory properties, mint leaves also help to soothe skin infections, which is why mint juice can act as an excellent skin cleanser.
7. Amla Also known as Indian Gooseberry, Amla has been played an important part of Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Used to treat all from colds to coughs, and indigestion, Amla is well known for its high content in vitamin C and countless antioxidant properties.
8. Aloe Vera Known as ‘the Plant of immortality’ by the Egyptians, Aloe vera has been praised for its healing and nourishing benefits. In Ayurveda, it is used to treat rashes and improve digestion, amongst other things. Personally, a tub of organic aloe vera gel is never too far away, as I frequently use it to treat irritated skin mixed with one or two drops of tea tree oil and lavender oil.