ASHWAGANDHA: A perfect health supplement

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Ashwagandha – Introduction

The Sanskrit word Ashwagandha is made up of 2 words “Ashwa” meaning horse, and “Gandha” meaning the smell. Ashwagandha is a herb native to the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the wonder herbs of Ayurveda. It is a great tonic for the male reproductive system and is compared to Chinese Ginseng for its ability to improve potency.

Sanskrit names: Ashwagandha

English names: Indian Ginseng, Winter Cherry

Scientific name: Withania somnifera,

Family- Solanaceae

Part of Plant used: Roots, in dried or powdered form.

Benefits of Ashwagandha

According to Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is a Rasayana. The term “Rasayana” means a herb that is able to make an overall improvement in the functioning of the body. The newly coined modern term for the word Rasayan is Adaptogen. Adaptogen is a substance which has the potential to normalize the entire physiology of the body. Therefore Ashwagandha is not good for a single purpose, but great for multiple health purposes.  Some of the amazing health benefits of Ashwagandha, which are scientifically proven now are –

Antioxidant –

Ashwagandha is a has a huge store of multiple types of anti-oxidants like superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase. These anti-oxidants prevent early death of the body cells and help to prevent early aging in an individual.

Immunity Booster

Ashwagandha has an incredible capacity to boost immunity. It helps the body cells to develop resistance towards pathogens and rapidly changing external environment. It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Memory Booster

Ashwagandha is one of the best nervine tonics. It helps to protect the nerves from early degeneration. It helps to improve memory by increasing the health and functioning of the neurons.

Antipyretic

Ashwagandha is a natural antipyretic. It helps to control the fever and any kind of inflammation in the body.

Enhances Fertility

Ashwagandha is known best for its fertility improvement properties, esp for the male reproductive system. It improves both the quality and the quantity of semen. It is also very beneficial for the female reproductive system. It also helps to balance the reproductive hormones.

Natural Body Building Supplement

Ashwagandha helps to build the muscle mass, esp in men by enhancing the effects of male hormones and regulating the digestion.

Prevents Female Reproductive Problems

Ashwagandha helps to normalize the hormone function in females and is extensively used in Ayurvedic medicines for menstrual disorders, infertility, and uterine problems.

Prevents Arthritis

Ashwagandha significantly helps to prevent arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to prevent the autoimmune response in the joints. Thus it helps to delay the degeneration and debility in the joints due to arthritis. This property of Ashwagandha is esp. relevant in the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Prevents Auto-Immune Disorders

Ashwagandha helps to prevent autoimmune response in the body through its anti-inflammatory action. It can effectively prevent and manage diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and many more.

Prevents Diabetes

Ashwagandha acts on the pancreas and helps to normalize the insulin secretion. It also helps to regulate the blood sugar by enhancing the rate of metabolism.

Prevents Hypertension

Ashwagandha exerts cardioprotective action. It helps to prevent injury to heart and blood vessels due to stress or the wrong diet. It helps to reverse the process of atherosclerosis, thereby preventing stroke in the long run.

Prevents Cancer

Ashwagandha has exhibited significant anti-cancer activity in recent scientific experiments. It can help to bring down the rate of growth in breast cancer by reducing the rate of cell division. Ashwagandha is now actively used as a rejuvenation therapy alongside with allopathic cancer therapy.

Prevents Asthma

Ashwagandha is an excellent Ayurvedic decongestant. It is widely used in respiratory disorders like Asthma, bronchitis, chronic cough, and other upper respiratory tract infections.

Prevents Depression and Stress

Ashwagandha has sedative properties and can be used very effectively in the prevention and treatment of Depression, anxiety, stress etc. Apart from curing psychological disorders, Ashwagandha provides the added benefit of reversing the ill effects of negative emotions on the body metabolism.

There are many more medicinal uses of Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is good for bone health, body strength, depression, stress. It has excellent hepato-protective and neuroprotective properties. It helps to prevent constipation and boost the rate of overall metabolism.

Ashwagandha is one of the few Ayurvedic herbs that offer such wide-ranging benefits to the human body. It is good for almost each and every part of the body. Ashwagandha can be used as a health supplement, a preventive remedy and as well as a proper medicine. Besides, it causes no side effects even after a long-term usage. Therefore using Ashwagandha every day is a better health option than using unnatural chemical-based extracts of vitamins, minerals or proteins.

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Good Food and Bad Food According to Ayurveda – Food that should be consumed in miniscule quantities

There is some food that can be consumed regularly but only in small quantities or after a short break. Salt is the best example of such food. Too little salt or too much salt, both will spoil the dish. But just the appropriate amount can do wonders to both the taste and the health.

3 such food items are described in Charak Samhita, that might or might not be taken every day, but should be consumed only in a very small quantity.

  • Pippali (Long pepper)
  • Acids
  • Salt

Piper_longumPippali (Long pepper)

Ayurvedic properties of Pippali

Pippali or long pepper is light to digest, unctuous, sharp (rapid action), bitter with sweet vipaka and anushnasheet virya (not too hot or cold temperament).

Appropriate Use of Pippali

Looking at the qualities, it looks good for everyday use. Pippali is also used in many ayurvedic medicines. But, according to Acharya Charak, it should not be used every day because, after a long use, it has a tendency of increasing phlegm formation.

Excessive Use of Pippali

Regular consumption of Pippali is said to vitiate both Kapha and pitta. It does not pacify Vata also. It is beneficial to use Pippali only for a short duration and in small quantity, as prescribed by a trained Ayurveda physician.

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Acid

Ayurvedic properties of Acids (Charak Samhita)

Acid or Amla( Sanskrit) stimulates the taste buds, fuels the digestion, causes weight gain, increases the mental alertness, strengthens the sense organs, increases strength, balances the Vata, satisfies the heart, stimulates salivation, extracts the ingested food towards stomach( as a result of salivation) or extracts from the ingested food, lubricates/moistens the alimentary canal, nourishes the body. Acid is light, hot temperament and unctuous in nature.

Appropriate Use of Acid

Acidic food products such as aerated drinks, canned food, Tamarind, Vinegar, soya sauce, citric acid, lemon juice etc. should not be used in large quantity every day. They as be used as flavoring or seasoning agent in minimum required quantity. Also, elderly people should refrain from using such sour tasting edibles because these food items vitiate Vata and can cause joint pain, general body pain, and swelling. Too much of acid consumption should be strictly avoided during autumn, summer, and springtime for a healthy long life because these are the seasons where the body is the weakest. (Effect of Ritu (seasons) on Dosha)

According to the ideal food habits, the acidic food should be consumed in the middle of the meal as it will stimulate the digestion of the sweet food eaten earlier, it will kill the satiety generated by the sweet food, reheat the digestive tract and promote lubrication in the alimentary canal.

According to Ayurveda, a complete meal contains all 6 kinds of tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent). Therefore, some acid should be there in the diet every day in very small quantities. But in order to ensure that we do not need to add extremely sour food items like tamarind, vinegar, raw mango etc. to our meals. Some good sources of acids that can be used every day are Awla (Indian gooseberry), Orange, Sweet lemon, Citron, Pomegranate (slightly sour) etc.

Excessive Use of Acid 

It is important to note that all these symptoms are caused only due to excessive use of acid. Slight use of acidic substances by a healthy person will not cause the following symptoms. However, if the person already has vitiated pitta or is suffering from some disease, even a small amount of acid might cause significant damage, just like a small push to anyone standing on the brink of a pond might make him fall in the water.

Excessive use of acidic substances in daily food intake can cause a lot of problems –

  • It can affect dental health. An acidic environment in the mouth can promote dental cavity.
  • Acidic food over-excites the muscles in the eyes and causes them to shut. Such overstimulation might cause eye disorders.
  • Acidic food overstimulates the nerves in the skin and causes goosebumps.
  • Acidic food increases Pitta Dosha. Along with it, it creates all kinds of pitta problems like inflammation, swelling, balding etc.
  • Acidic food can cause blood disorders.
  • Acidic food causes inflammations in the muscular tissue
  • Acidic food slows down the metabolism
  • Acidic food causes swelling in the body of the degenerated, injured, thin and weak.

Apart from the above-stated disorders, excessive use of acids causes early hair fall, damage to eyesight and impotence. It is interesting that Charak Samhita specifically mentions that people in eastern countries (China, Thailand etc.) use too much acid in the food. This the reason for the specific facial features(chinky eyes) found in them (Charak Samhita: Viman Sthana – 17). However, earlier even the oriental people did not use vinegar and soya sauce every day. Their traditional daily diet was mainly rice and vegetables only. According to Confucius “Although there are plenty of meats, they should not be cooked more than the staple food.” Staple food here is the rice and the vegetables.

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Salt

Ayurvedic properties of Salt

Salt is a good digestive. It serves as a great humidifying agent. It stimulates the hunger. It helps to remove the Kapha . It helps in the formation of feces in the intestines. It is fast acting, spreads quickly in the body. It promotes the expulsion of the feces. It is a declogging agent. It eliminates vata too. It prevents the accumulation of Dosha. It can overpower all other tastes. It stimulates the saliva secretion. It is not heavy to digest, but unctuous and hot temperament.

Appropriate Use of Salt 

Salt should be used in minimum possible quantities. It can be used in almost all the dishes, but its amount should be minuscule. One should never consume excess salt.

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Excessive Use of Salt

Excessive use of salt can cause serious disorders in the body –

  • pollutes the pitta dosha and blood tissue. It can cause all kinds of blood and skin related disorders.
  • increases the heat and thirst in the body. Excess salt can even cause fainting.
  • can cause wasting in the muscles and promotes accumulation of poisonous substances in the body.
  • can cause loosening of the gums.
  • can cause impotence.
  • reduces the capability of sense organs.

According to Charak, excessive use of salt causes weakness and low stamina in the body, baldness, early hair whitening and wrinkled skin.

Basically, salt induces and stimulates the chemical or digestive processes that can turn destructive if uncontrolled. According to Ayurveda, salt is considered to the nutritive factor majorly responsible for accelerated aging.

Toxic Food According to Ayurveda

One famous Ayurvedic proverb states –
“The one who eats proper food does not need any medicine
The one who eats improper food will not benefit from any medicine”

According to Ayurveda, digestion is the key to strong immunity and healthy metabolism. When we eat improper food, it first affects the most important pillar of our health – our digestion.
Therefore good food is the basis of all health. Ayurveda states that food in its most natural form is the most nutritious, but food which is environmentally incompatible is toxic for the human body too. According to the above rule, the modern Ayurvedic standards for non-consumable food are defined as follows –

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Non-Organic Food

Vedas state that the food and water available to all human beings should be the same. Today this statement is so relevant in terms of non-organic food. Non-organic grains and vegetables are grown with the help of a bulk of pesticides and insecticides. These food items are hardly suitable for consumption. They can cause a variety of health issues, including multiple types of cancers. Therefore the new mantra for the Ayurvedic life is the organic food.
Most of the people are unaware that some of the pesticides and insecticides are designed to disrupt the physiological functions of the insects/pests. For example, an insecticide called “Roundup” acts on the intestines of the insects and tear the internal linings of their intestines. The insect population soon dies and the crops are thus saved. However, imagine what will happen when such food is ingested by the human. When we eat food that is sprayed with such pesticides, it affects our intestines in a similar way it affects the pests. Now it is scientifically proven that these chemicals cause severe damage to the intestines. They can make the intestines leaky after regular use for a long term. When the undigested food material oozes out of the leaky intestines into the abdominal cavity, it can cause severe allergies. Interestingly, a few decades back very few people would be suffering from allergies but nowadays people can develop an allergy to almost anything, right from peanuts to pollen, thanks to the non-organic food.

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Genetically Modified Food

The newest and the most overlooked health threat is the Genetically modified food. This is a more serious threat than the use of pesticides and insecticides. In case of genetically modified food, the genes of one organism are planted in the DNA of another organism, for example, genes of fish are planted in the DNA of rice so that the genetically modified rice crops will not rot in the case of floods. But this is good only for the farmers and more so for the seed manufacturing companies. It is neither good for the consumers or for the environment.

The Myth of GM Food

For a long time, it was propagated that genetically modified food is crucial to bring an end to the food security in the poor populations of the world. Therefore for decades, there was no open opposition against GM food, but Gm food does not solve any problem of the world. In fact it has added many severe problems that are more complicated than the food crises. What good is the food but that causes diseases when consumed?
The body has the natural potential to determine foreign objects and expel or kill them. Genetically modified food is not natural in its constitution. When it is consumed, the body fails to identify it as a nutritional substance. Genetically modified food is different in constitution than its natural counterpart. For example, if you see a person who has 3 eyes and 2 noses, you would definitely be scared and would run for protection. The body produces a similar response when it sees an unidentifiable object, which is basically a genetically modified food item. The body tends to attack the GM food and get it out of the body, instead of trying to absorb nutrition from it. Just imagine what will be the state of your health if your body is trying to kill your food!

The list of diseases that genetically modified food can produce is very long. The health problems caused by genetically modified food are –

  • Cancer
  • Allergies
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Intestinal Infections
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Auto-immune disorders (Rheumatoid Arthritis, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune hepatitis, scleroderma, celiac disease and many more)
  • Inflammatory disorders (asthma, peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, sinusitis, Crohn’s disease etc.)
  • Dementia
  • Autism
  • Developmental delay

For more information, please visit the link – Genetically Modified Food – The New Poison

2000px-Dharma_Wheel.svg.pngUnhealthy Karma

According to Ayurveda, the source of the food is very important. If the source of food is corrupt and evil, the food will bring the consequences in terms of karma. Because of this reason, in earlier times people refrained from eating in the house of anyone who is evil and corrupt.

In case of genetically modified, non-organic food, the farmers who buy the genetically modified seeds are forced to buy them again and again because genetically modified crops fail to produce seeds with similar qualities, as their parents. These genetically modified seeds not only require more fertilizers and other chemicals, they also consume more water than the natural seeds. Thus after a few years, the fields under farming for genetically modified food become infertile and the region faces the drought problem. Therefore we must stay reminded that if we are buying non-organic food, we are contributing to the problems of large-scale farmer suicide in our country.
It is important that all ardent supporters of Ayurveda should say no to non-organic and genetically modified for the sake of their health as well as for nature. What is Evil, is evil for all. It does not bring good to anyone. Let’s save ourselves and our environment from the evil GM food, generated out the greed of few people.

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Non Seasonal Food

Today we find almost all vegetables and fruits in almost all the seasons; we find greens around the year, which were naturally available only in winter. However, according to Ayurveda, this is a completely unhealthy trend. Ayurveda strictly prohibits one from consuming non-seasonal food. Non-seasonal food is considered to be unnatural and devoid of its original nutritional value. But unfortunately, because of the use of chemicals and genetical modification, many original and naturally occurring species of edible plants have become extinct. What we eat today might not exactly be food, it is “FOOD LIKE SUBSTANCE”.
Let us take the example of green leafy vegetables. Greens, unlike general knowledge, are hard to digest and cause a lot of digestive problems if not digested properly. The greens are naturally produced in winter, and winter is the season when the digestion is at its best. Therefore, the greens are full of their best nutritional qualities and also, the body is able to extract the best nutrition from them. Thus the perfect match of digestive power and nourishment is naturally achieved. On the other hand, digestive power if the weakest in the rainy season and thus not many food options are available in terms of vegetables and also fruits which can be consumed raw.  Watermelons are naturally produced in summer and help to prevent dehydration. Coconuts grow in hot and humid weather and are cool in temperament. Nature has a perfect match for all our nutritional requirements. Therefore, let’s follow nature for a perfect health.

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Global Food

According to Ayurveda, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains are best suitable for the native people. For example, Kesar (saffron) is a spice that is abundantly found in the cold regions of Kashmir. Kesar is a hot temperament herb according to Ayurveda and is naturally good for the local people. Dates are naturally found in the desert area and they are sweet and provide instant energy to the local people, where other kinds of vegetation might be scare. Therefore, according to the law of nature, everything grows naturally in the place where it is most required. Ssomething that is grown in a different climate than that of the place where you live, is not naturally compatible with your health. Therefore, if you do not have the money to buy exotic vegetables like zucchini or squash in India, or Quinoa in the USA, or Basmati rice in Canada’ consider yourself lucky! Local food is the best for you.

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Packaged/Junk Food

The packaged food contains dried vegetables, preservatives, acidity regulators, stabilizers, and a host of other chemicals apart from the real food substance. Packaged fast food also contains a lot of excess fat, sugar, and unwanted chemicals.

If we can avoid all of the above food items, then there is a huge possibility of our staying alive and active for a minimum of 100 years. Besides, we will save a lot of pollution caused by unnecessary transportation.


Jivem Shardah Shatam!
(May we live a 100 years)

Good Food and Bad Food According to Ayurveda – Food that should be consumed rarely II

First part of this post : Food that should be used rarely I

In the earlier post, we looked at the first 5 points. In this post let’s look at the others.

Food cooked in a mixture of milk and curd/yogurt etc.

  • Cottage Cheese(Chenna)
  • Pork (Red meat)
  • Beef (Red meat)
  • Fish
  • Curd
  • Buffalo meat (Red meat)
  • Urad Dal ( Black gram)
  • Sorghum(Jowar)

Continued with Curd

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Curd / Yogurt

Curd here means yogurt. The product made from curdling the milk with an acid like lemon is referred to as cheese.

Curd has lots of good qualities. It is a natural appetizer, digestive, semen enhancer, and unctuous and hot temperament food. It balances vata and promotes muscle development. However, it is acidic and should be avoided during autumn (sharad), summer (grishma), and spring(vasant). However, there is no strict rule and everything depends on the digestive system of the individual.

Autumn(sharad) is the time for pitta vitiation. It means that the pitta system of the body gets naturally imbalanced because of the external seasonal change. (Effect of Ritu (seasons) on Dosha)

Summer is the time of vata vitiation and spring is the time for kapha vitiation. It means that the body’s immunity, digestive capacity, and overall physiology is accommodating itself to the seasonal change. Therefore, it becomes more prone to diseases. It is important to have light and dosha balancing food during this time, according to the season. The curd is heavy to digest. Being acidic, it might hamper the digestion. Therefore it is advisable, esp for the children, elderly and patients, to avoid consuming curd during these particular seasonal changes.

Because of the above reasons, curd should not be consumed daily. Also, it is important to note that it should not be consumed at night for the same reasons.

Go Dinnerless! – Ayurveda advises light food at night

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Fish

Fish is again a heavy food to digest. It is also specifically stated to cause an imbalance in all 3 dosha or the physiological systems in the body. It has other positive qualities also. It is said to be hot temperament, sweet (Madhur Rasa) and unctuous; it gives strength and nourishes the muscle tissue. It can increase the quality and quantity of semen. But all these qualities can be utilized only if the fish is digested properly.

Even with the use of herbs and spices, everyday consumption of fish may severely derail the digestion. Let us consider an example of a seashell. It is pure calcium carbonate and very good for the body, but we cannot eat one plain seashell every day! It is very important to consider what a normal human body can absorb and what it cannot absorb. Only counting the nutrition or calories present in a substance does not ensure its proper absorption in the body. (processed seashells are an Ayurvedic medicine 🙂 )

Therefore fish should be consumed once in a week if you are young and healthy. Otherwise, it should be consumed either for medicinal purposes, very rarely, and in extremely small quantities. Also, it should be properly spiced with digestive spices.

Fish is a part of the daily diet for a huge population across the world and these people have lived healthily for generations, for example, Bengalis, Chinese, Japanese or any people living near the sea. But it is important to note that these populations have been poor for a long time. They were not able to eat fish every day and would consume a very small amount per person. However, in the past few decades, we have seen significant financial progress and increased fish consumption among these populations. At the same time, there is a marked increase in the lifestyle, autoimmune and other kinds of metabolic disorders in these populations. Once we start to consume something that is not good for the body, the body adjusts its physiological functions to a certain extent in order to accommodate the dietary disturbance. This phenomenon is called Satmya. This continues till the time, it reaches a yielding point where multiple diseases, that were pent-up in the metabolism, begin to surface.

urad-dhal-1750930_960_720 (1)Urad Dal

Urad Dal (Black gram) is described to be very dry and liable to cause diseases related to Vata Dosha. Plain boiled Urad Dal should never be consumed if possible. It should be mixed with other kinds of pulses. Also, it should be flavored by Vata reducing herbs like asafoetida, mustard seeds etc. even when you are eating it once in a while. If cooked directly and consumed without any hot temperament spices, it might cause severe vitiation of Vata Dosha.

The best way to use urad dal is the fermented/soaked form. This changes its dry nature and becomes slimy when soaked in water for more than 8 hours. Fermented urad dal is used daily in some places. It is an important constituent in idli/dosa batter and also as a flavoring in south Indian cuisine. But since it is used in the fermented form, it changes its dry constitution, becomes slimy and more easily digestible. Use of fried Urad Dal as a flavoring in south Indian meals is a very small part of the entire meal, so its effect is balanced by other constituents such as asafoetida, mustard seeds, Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds). Also, Dahi Vada, a north Indian delicacy, is made from Urad dal, soaked in the water overnight and ground with methi seeds (Anti-Vata herb).

sorghum-275258_960_720Sorghum(Jowar)

According to Charak Samhita(S.S – 27/19), sorghum is dry, cool, light and sweet astringent in taste. It promotes Vata and faeces formation in the body. It creates stamina and strength in the body and helps to remove Kapha related diseases. It is an ideal food for reducing and managing weight, without becoming weak.

But due to its dry, cool and light nature, it has a huge tendency to vitiate vata. Vata is prominent of all other dosha systems of the body. It can cause severe weakness, joint diseases, neurological problems and is an essential conductor of all disease-causing factors throughout the body.

Therefore, it should not be consumed during the rainy season, which is the time for natural vitiation of vata. Also, weak, thin and old people suffering from joint pain, body pain, nervous problems should not consume sorghum on a daily basis. It should be consumed once a week considering you are young, healthy with a great digestion.

In case you choose to eat the above food –

  • Make sure that you temper the dish with digestive herbs and spices
  • Don’t eat the above-mentioned food items at night
  • Don’t eat them cold
  • Don’t eat them in large quantity

Digestion is the Key

It is important to note that the food passes through the digestive tract (stomach and intestines) and is kept there for a specific period or until reaching a specific condition, whichever parameter is reached first. For example, the food is kept in the stomach until the ph. reaches a certain point or ideally for 1-2 hours. Similarly, there is a time range of digestion in the intestines also.

Sometimes because of wrong food choices, the body is not able to digest the food in this stipulated time. It can be because of heavy food or a large amount of food or both. So the food is held in the body for a longer duration. Normally, acid and bases in the alimentary canal save the food from getting decayed and turning in to poison. The flip side is that food putrefaction or decay starts if the food is held in the body for a longer time or the amount or quality of digestive juices is not enough to cover the digestion requirements. The undigested or under digested food creates toxins, gas, bloating etc. Also, the body energy is distracted and wasted in fighting any infection or discomfort arising out of this condition.

If this happens regularly, the person becomes more prone to diseases and faster aging. Therefore, it is crucial to see that the right food in the right amount goes inside your body and to avoid anything that is not compatible with normal human digestion.

Ayurveda for Excellent Digestion

How to get over Indigestion!