The gifts of Mother Nature are at the heart of Ayurvedic medicine, yoga’s sister science. This natural system and philosophy of health care believes that plant medicine is one of the most powerful ways to treat and prevent disease. The following is a list of the top five medicinal plants, according to Ayurveda.
Another name for ashwagandha is Indian ginseng. Throughout the ages, ashwagandha has been used as a natural remedy for well-being and its health benefits are seemingly endless. It’s an incredibly popular adaptogenic herb and one that’s best known for its ability to relieve stress, improve immunity, and boost sexual function, cognition, energy and vitality. (Learn more in Unlocking the Stress in Your Body.)
It holds anti-inflammatory powers, nerve-protective properties and even helps support a healthy red blood cell count. Ashwagandha has become quite popular as a natural libido booster – especially for men. This treasure of a healing plant even promotes quality sleep. What more could you want in an herb? If you haven’t tried ashwagandha, now is the time – especially if you have a lot of vata dosha that needs to be calmed.
Neem is a plant in the pharmacopeia of Ayurveda best known for its ability to purify the skin and control blood sugar. Like ashwagandha, neem boasts a vast array of healing properties. It’s a great detoxifying herb that not only cleanses the skin, but also the liver. (Learn more about yogic detox practices in Lemon Ginger Morning Detox.) It’s believed to gently purify the blood while promoting healthy blood circulation as well. Like ashwagandha, neem boosts the immune system with its 100 plus bioactive ingredients. Neem is antibacterial and antifungal in nature and has been used to help support good oral health throughout the ages. In regards to the doshas, neem is used to balance many types of imbalances in both pitta and kapha doshas. If you’re looking for an herb to help give you a beautiful glowing complexion, you should definitely give this bitter herb a try.
Triphala is an Ayurvedic blend of three fruits – amalaki, haritaki and bibhitaki. It’s been used throughout the ages in Ayurveda as a laxative – perfect for promoting weight loss. As a gentle digestive aid, triphala helps with detoxification, digestion and elimination, while also improving skin health. Recent studies have shown this Ayurvedic herb has anti-cancer effects, as well as chemo-protective ones. It is well loved for its ability to boost the immune system and even promote hair growth. It’s usually taken as a tonic for health and longevity – eliminating excess pitta, vata and kapha from the body, and supporting overall health and well-being in the process.
Shatavari is best known as an ideal tonic for women. Its healing properties lie in its ability to promote fertility, relieve symptoms of PMS and support healthy functioning of reproductive organs. For nursing yoginis, this Ayurvedic herb helps with lactation by promoting healthy milk production. Shatavari helps maintain healthy hormones, making it a must-have supplement for women of all ages and in all stages of life. For both men and women, shatavari aids in digestion, boosts the immune system and helps with libido. Shatavari, also known as “100 souses,” is one Ayurvedic remedy you’ll want to include in your natural medicine cabinet if you’re looking for the perfect female herbal tonic.
Turmeric is probably the most important herbal remedy in the entire Ayurvedic pantheon. It’s also the most well-known outside of Ayurvedic circles. This free radical fighter is the king of all spices and one that most Indians cook with on a daily basis. This spice holds potent anti-cancer properties, as well as high levels of antioxidants – perfect for healing the body on many, many levels. Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory spice as well, helping to reduce swelling, pain and inflammation. In this way, the yellow spice helps with joint health, while also supporting immune function. It even aids in healthy weight loss. It does this because of its thermogenic properties, which helps the body heat up and burn calories faster and easier.
This South Asian pantry staple is known to promote brain health and long life. It is such a versatile spice, with so many culinary and healing uses alike. It has so many medicinal plant powers – from its antibacterial properties to anti-infective ones – from anti-inflammatory properties to antibiotic ones. The most important aspect of this healing spice is a rhizome that contains a powerful compound known as curcuminoid. This is the phytochemical that gives turmeric its bright yellow color. It’s also the active ingredient known to give turmeric its cancer preventative and cancer fighting properties. If you choose just one Ayurvedic plant to take every day, let it be turmeric. (Learn more in Why Do Yogis Love Turmeric?)