The Background of Ayurvedic Medicine

Taken from “The Yoga of Herbs – An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine” written by: Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad

SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND

In order to understand the Ayurvedic approach to herbs, one must understand the basic system of Ayurveda, which is a complete healing science, including the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of life.

The ancient seers of India envisioned two fundamental principles behind existence: Purusha, the Primal Spirit, the principle of sentience of consciousness; and the Prakruti, or Great Nature, the principle of creativity. The union of these two, Spirit and Matter, produces all things.

Yet these two are also one, the primordial Two-in-One, Consciousness and its creative, executive force, Shiva-Shakti. Within all things is essence, individuality, consciousness – the Purusha.  Within all things is also the power of manifestation, the capacity for creative enfoldment – Prakruti.

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From these two great forces in their initial coming together is born Cosmic Intelligence, Mahat, which contains the seeds of all manifestation. Inherent in the Mahat are all laws of nature.

The Cosmic Intelligence also exists in the human being as the intelligence in the individual. As such it is called Buddhi, the means of awakening, developing fully which one becomes enlightened, a Buddha. Buddhi is our capacity for perception, our ability to discern the real from the unreal. But this intelligence, in its evolution into material forms, may give rise to the ego, the sense of separate self, or Ahamkara. It is the principle of division as it is only our sense of a separate ego that divides us from the unity of life.

In turn, the ego gives rise to the conditioned mind or conditioned consciousness called Manas, which, as our sense of self-consciousness, creates a protective thought-field around itself in which we become bound.

Finally, this links us up with the collective unconscious called Chitta, the storehouse of thoughts of all limited mentalities. Through the Chitta we remain under the influence of latencies, compulsions and drives of the earlier stages of evolution, going all the way back to the animal realm and before.

Ayurveda aims at a life in harmony with Cosmic Intelligence, whereby our own intelligence is perfected, so that through it we can return to unity with nature; and through nature our true self and spirit, the Purusha. This is the spiritual background of Ayurveda, which is the same as that of Yoga, and the basis of Ayurvedic psychology.

This requires the awakening of intelligence wherein we go beyond the rule of the ego. The ego is the basis for all deviation from nature. Health is natural, Prakruti. Disease is artificial, Vikruti. Hence, most diseases, except those natural to the course of time, are from the psychological imbalance born of unnecessary self-consciousness.

Turmeric – One of Nature’s Finest Herbs

Turmeric, an orange-colored spice imported from India, has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking for thousands of years.

In addition, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines utilize turmeric to clear infections and inflammations on the inside and outside of the body. But beyond the holistic health community, Western medical practitioners have recently come on board in recognizing the benefits of turmeric.

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The following is a quote from Dr. Andre Weil:

“Here’s a quick roundup of recent research on both turmeric and curcumin.

Curcumin seems to delay liver damage that can eventually lead to cirrhosis, according to preliminary experimental research at the Medical University Graz in Austria…

Rodent studies at the University of Texas indicate that curcumin inhibits the growth of a skin cancer, melanoma and also slows the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.

Researchers from the University of South Dakota have found that pretreatment with curcumin makes cancer cells more vulnerable to chemo and radiotherapy.

Epidemiologists have hypothesized that the turmeric that is part of daily curries eaten in India may help explain the low rate of Alzheimer’s disease in that country. Among people aged 70 to 79, the rate is less than one-quarter that of the United States.

And at least one new study suggests curcumin’s value for arthritis treatment. Since arthritis is so common and the results so interesting, it’s worth a closer look.

This research, from Italy, was a three-month trial involving 50 patients diagnosed by x-ray with osteoarthritis of the knee. The Italian team was investigating the effect on arthritis symptoms of a curcumin-based preparation optimized for better absorption. Participating patients took the formulation in addition to standard medical treatment; those in the second group continued following their physicians’ recommendations.

After 90 days, the researchers found a 58 percent decrease in overall reported pain and stiffness as well as an improvement in physical functioning among the curcumin group compared to the controls. They also found, via a standardized testing procedure, a 300 percent improvement in the emotional well being of the curcumin patients compared with the others. And blood tests showed a 16-fold decline in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation. Patients in the curcumin group were able to reduce their use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs by 63 percent, compared to the other group.

The bottom line that the therapeutic advantages of turmeric and curcumin are almost too numerous to list. An overview published in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology in 2007 states that, “Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses.”

We at Tattva’s Herbs believe that Turmeric is one of the most important healing herbs on our planet. It has been shown that you can maintain health throughout life by incorporating a healthy daily routine based on Ayurvedic principles, diet, and recommended herbal supplements.

Guggul – “One that protects against diseases.”

GuggulGuggul or guggulu (commiphora mukul, also commiphora wightii) is derived from the gummy resinous exudate of a plant closely related to myrrh that is found in arid to semi-arid areas of Northern India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This tree has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and Ayurvedic texts dating back to 600 BC recommend it for treatment of atherosclerosis and digestive disorders.

The Sanskrit definition of the term “guggul” is “one that protects against diseases.” This attests to the wide respect and therapeutic Ayurvedic applications for this botanical, considered to be the most important herb for the removal of “ama,” or toxic substances which accumulate as a result of sluggish digestion and circulation associated with a slowing of metabolism.

Similar to another important Ayurvedic preparation called triphala, guggul is considered tridoshic, or balancing to all three doshas in the body. The three doshas, or bodily constitutions represent the foundation of traditional Ayurveda. These are: kapha or the anabolic humour, watery humour; pitta or the catabolic, fiery humour; and vata, the air or nervous system humour. When all three humours are in balance, the result is health and wellness. When one or more are in excess or deficient this represents imbalance or disease. Guggul stimulates pitta and thus enhances warmth, digestion, circulatory and reproductive processes. It also regulates vata (nerve force) and kapha (fluidic aspects).

As an “ama”-resolving herb, guggul has a wide range of applications beginning with rheumatic and arthritic pains, lowering high cholesterol, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), and obesity. Guggul is warming and stimulates metabolism that is why it is one of the few botanicals that has been used to treat hypothyroid conditions. In addition, it is used to treat a sluggish liver, malaria, to stimulate libido, nervous diseases, bronchial congestion, cardiac and circulatory problems, weak digestion, gynecological problems, leucorrhea, sterility, impotence, and various skin diseases including acne and psoriasis. (One of the substances contained in Guggul which is known to lower cholesterol and triglycerides is also noted for its ability to decrease the redness and swelling that occurs in some types of acne) Guggul, as with other resins, is excreted through the skin, mucus membranes and the kidneys. This is what makes it particularly useful for the urinary tract and for a wide number of skin diseases.

Guggul has been used for over 3,000 years and is described in all of the classical Ayurvedic texts including the Sushruta Samhita (3rd to 4th centuries) where it is especially recommended for the treatment of rheumatic pains and obesity, as mentioned above. It is one of the most important rasayanas (herbal tonics) of Ayurveda where it is described as warm, dry, pungent-flavored, and aromatic with nutritive, lubricant, stimulant and digestion-enhancing properties. Current research substantiates its benefit for the treatment of elevated blood lipids and coronary and arterial plaque known as atherosclerosis. As a result, today in India standardized guggul extracts are being approved for lowering elevated serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

­Tattva’s Herbs natural supplements combine the wisdom of Mother Nature with the very latest technology known as supercritical extraction. This state of the art technology delivers a very pure extract that is both full spectrum and extremely concentrated at the same time. It is so pure that you can actually smell the qualities of the original herb in the extract, and you are greeted with this aroma when you open a bottle. It is sweet and powerful. There is simply no other extraction method so effective that you can actually smell the purity, fragrance and essence of the herb. This is a testimony to the great care that goes into the selection of the herbs and the supercritical extraction process itself. To give you an idea of the potency and concentration of the extract, we can often use as much as 200 to 250 pounds of fresh herbs to produce just one pound of supercritical extract. All of the herbs are grown on organic farms and selected with the greatest of care. The supercritical process produces an exceptionally broad representation of the herbs’ active constituents, which oftentimes traditional methods of extraction cannot even begin to extract. Furthermore, the supercritical process does not use any chemical solvents at all. Instead, it utilizes safe and environmentally friendly carbon dioxide, the same carbon dioxide that is found in your sparkling water.

Finally, the supercritical extract, post-supercritical extract (PSE) (a water-soluble extract), and the raw whole herb are combined to create our herbal formula. The finished product is superior in terms of both freshness and breadth of active constituents. It delivers the full spectrum of the herbs with a potency that cannot be surpassed. In addition, all of the herbs are independently tested for heavy metals and other contaminates. The result is an exquisite formula that delivers simplicity, purity and incredible potency all at once.

Click here for Tattva’s Herbs Guggul.

Nature’s Bounty: Currying Favor With the Brain

By Daniel A. Marano, published on November 01, 2009 – last reviewed on May 27, 2011

It is becoming increasingly difficult to make the distinction between food and drug. As scientists gain the ability to study the chemical components of food—notably fruits and vegetables—and trace their actions and interactions in our bodies at a molecular level, they’re finding that they contain potent bioactive compounds that have the capacity to improve overall health and even treat hard-core diseases.

The most important of these compounds also often create the most colorful of plants. They are classified as polyphenols, flavonoids being the most widely studied in the lab. You hopefully consume them in the form of fruits and berries; wine, tea and coffee; olives and so many more edibles. There are thousands of them. Their raison d’etre is to protect plants from damage ranging from solar radiation to fungal disease. The often-colorful agents prove to be just as important to the protection and longevity of our own bodies. And few prove to be more dazzling or potent than those found in turmeric.

Turmeric belongs to the ginger family, and the rhizome looks like a miniature version of fresh ginger. Although it lacks ginger’s zing, it boasts a distinctive orange flesh that has the ability to stain bright yellow everything that comes into contact with it. Native to Southeast Asia, turmeric is used extensively in both medicine and cooking. It can be found fresh at many Asian markets in the U.S. and, increasingly, in the produce section of larger organic markets.

 

Dried and pulverized, the turmeric root becomes the spice that imparts the yellow color to American mustard and curry powder. That might be all you know of it. But across Asia and Africa, turmeric has long been prized both as a fabric dye and as a medicine noted for antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric’s scientific name is Curcuma longa, and the polyphenolic compound that imparts the yellow color is called curcumin. It has become the focus of much research in the U.S. and elsewhere for its ability to fight inflammation and cancer and to interfere with the onset of cognitive decline associated with neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s.

Fresh turmeric contains no more than 4 percent curcumin, which, on its own, is poorly absorbed by the body. But lipids increase the rate of absorption—just as butter and olive oil boost the bioavailability of similarly colorful and healthful phenolic compounds like lycopene in tomatoes and carotenoids in carrots.

Turmeric plays an important role in traditional Chinese medicine as a component of herbal formulas that fight stress and depression. Ongoing research has shown curcumin to greatly reduce the effects of stress and the inflammatory cascades implicated in depression and other behavioral disorders.

In studies of Alzheimer’s disease, curcumin is proving to halt the buildup of amyloid-beta plaque that clogs the brain’s neural pathways and triggers the condition. Amyloid-betas are basically chains of amino acids, or proteins. They are to neurodegenerative diseases what fatty arterial plaque is to heart disease.

Given the limited bioavailability of curcumin, many of the most promising studies are now looking at synergistic pairings of the agent with other compounds to boost its power. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease recently reported a study looking at the effects of combining curcumin with vitamin D3, a nutrient we make from exposure to sunshine .

Using both naturally occurring curcuminoids and more bioavailable synthetic versions, scientists at UCLA and at UC Riverside were able to boost beneficial immune activity in Alzheimer’s patients. The spice supercharged the immune system’s macrophages to hunt down and bind with the harmful amyloid-beta plaque, taking the toxic substance out of commission.

Curcumin appears to target multiple facets of Alzheimer’s in addition to binding amyloid molecules to be carted off by the immune system. In separate studies at UCLA’s Alzheimer’s Research Laboratory, neuroscientists Greg Cole and Sally Frautschy are scrutinizing the role curcumin plays in safeguarding the brain. In a recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, they reported the ability of curcumin, combined with omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, to deliver a one-two punch to amyloid-beta plaque, combating both its production and its harmful buildup in brain tissue.

At the University of Michigan, chemist Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy is focused on elucidating curcumin’s general operating mechanisms. “Very interesting things are happening at the cellular membrane level, with the lipid and polyphenol interaction rather than the protein interactions,” he reports. With the use of advanced nuclear magnetic resonance imaging techniques his lab has pioneered, he is homing in on how curcumin fortifies cell membranes. His interest in the spice is not accidental; he grew up in India, where he was given turmeric-infused milk as a cold remedy and the “holy powder” is prized for its ability to fight congestion and heal wounds.

Curcumin is a kind of molecular disciplinarian most comfortable ensconced in the fatty membranes of cell walls, where it can help the cell resist viruses and even malignancy, says Ramamoorthy: “The membrane goes from being crazy and floppy to being more disciplined and ordered, so information flow through it can be controlled.” Even at low concentrations, the spice exerts profound effects on cellular membranes, he reports in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. It could be of value not just against Alzheimer’s but other degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and even diabetes.

Ramamoorthy and colleagues are thinking both smaller and broader. They are creating nanoparticles of curcumin and using NMR imaging to compare curcumin to other powerful plant compounds like resveratrol (in grapes and red wine) and capsaicin (the heat in red chilies). The goal is to illuminate just how phenolic compounds grab our attention—not just by their color but by their ability to improve human health, longevity, and cognition.

Nice Spice

In addition to its ability to combat neurodegeneration, curcumin has many other potential health and medical uses now under investigation.

  • Herpes infection: Studies have shown that low levels of the spice interfere with replication of the herpes simplex virus.
  • Gastrointestinal cancer: Trials in patients with colorectal cancer show that oral supplementation can produce bioactive levels of the compound in the gut.
  • Arthritis: Curcumin is under investigation in numerous labs for its ability to block signaling pathways that lead to inflammation.