Herbs

      Herbs represent the most effective Áyurvedic approach to healing illness. Their action is strongest when they are fresh, but they may also be used as decoctions, infusions, teas, powders, and pills. Pills have the least power, but retain their potency the longest. Below are some of the most commonly used Áyurvedic herbs available in America today.

      Herbs are classified according to which doßha they decrease and increase. Decreasing a doßha is useful for a person of that body type, while an herb that increases ones doßha will aggravate it. For example, a Váyu person will be helped by ginger, a warm herb, but be irritated by goldenseal, a dry, bitter herb. This is yet another reason the Áyurvedic paradigm is so extraordinary. This personalizing aspect of Áyurveda can be integrated into all other healing systems. Here we will see an example of this by classifying some Western herbs according to the Áyurvedic framework.

Áyurveda uses herbs according to their ener- gies or “energetics. The same five unique classi- fications discussed under nutrition in the last chap- ter also apply to herbs. Each herb has its own thera- peutic effects.

1. Initial taste

2. Element

3. Hot or cold effect

4. Post digestion effect

5. Special properties

 

 Taste is considered therapeutic for several rea- sons. The Sanskrit word for taste is rasa. It means delight or essence, both of which are healing. If the taste of the food is not pleasing, the gastric

fires may not digest the food, and thus proper nu- trition is not received. That is why Áyurvedic cook- ing is a science unto itself, blending the right amount of herbs for the right taste. In our society, we have confused our sense of taste with unwhole- some (artificial) objects of food, thereby creating disease.

 The Six Tastes

According to Áyurveda, all foods and liquids contain six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bit- ter, astringent, or combinations. As discussed in the previous chapter, each of the six tastes either increase, or decrease, each doßha. To review; Sweet: Reduces Váyu and Pitta and increases Kapha

Sour: Reduces Váyu and increases Pitta and Kapha Salty: Reduces Váyu and increases Pitta and Kapha Pungent: Reduces Kapha and increases Pitta and

Váyu

Bitter: Reduces Pitta and Kapha and increases

Váyu

Astringent: Reduces Pitta and Kapha and increases

Váyu

 

Everyone needs some of each of the six tastes every day. Depending on ones constitution, how- ever, persons mostly eat from the tastes that bal- ance their doßha. The key is moderation. In fact, a general rule of thumb in life is

 Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Physical and Mental Properties of the Six Tastes

The symbols V, P, K stand for Váyu, Pitta, and Kapha. For example, VP- K+ is read the following way: Váyu and Pitta are reduced; Kapha is increased.

 

Sweet VP- K+

Physical: Strengthens tissues, good for com- plexion, hair, throat, sense organs, ojas, children, and the elderly. It heals broken bones, effects lon- gevity, is an emollient, expectorant, and a mild laxative. Sweet tastes build the body, increase breast milk, and are difficult to digest.

Mental: Provides contentment and is harmoniz- ing.

In Excess: Causes overweight, indigestion, dia- betes, fainting, enlarged glands, and cancer.

 

Salty V PK+ (V+ in excess)

Physical: Clears channels and pores, improves digestion, produces sweat, enhances taste, pen- etrates tissues, causes lacerations, and bursting of tissues and abscesses.

Mental: Sedative, calms nerves, stops anxiety In Excess: Increases blood, causes balding, gray hair, wrinkles, thirst, skin diseases, herpes, weak-

ens body strength.

  

Sour V PK+

Physical: Good for the heart, digestion, relieves burning sensations, satiating, moistens, is easily digested, oily, dispels gas, nourishes, relieves thirst, aids circulation, aids all tissues except reproduc- tive, maintains acidity.

Mental: Awakens the mind and senses.

In Excess: Flabbiness, loss of strength, blind- ness, giddiness, itching irritation, pallor, herpes, swellings, smallpox, thirst, fevers.

 

Pungent K- P+ (V+ in excess)

Physical: Heals throat diseases, allergic rashes, skin disorders, edema, ulcer swelling; dries oili- ness, fat, and water; promotes hunger, taste, and digestion; eliminates doßha excesses, breaks up hard masses, expands body channels.

Mental: Opens the mind and senses.

In Excess: Causes thirst, fainting, tremors and pains, depletes reproductive fluid and strength.

 

Bitter PK V+

Physical: Heals anorexia, parasites, thirst, skin disorders, fever, nausea, burning sensations, cleanses breast milk and throat, is easily digested, promotes intelligence, and is drying.

Mental: Clears the senses the emotions. In Excess: Depletes tissues.

 

Astringent PK V+

Physical: Cleanses blood, stops bleeding, sweat, diarrhea, heals ulcers, is drying, difficult to digest, causes indigestion, tightens tissues, heals prolapse.

In Excess: Causes gas, thirst, emaciation, loss of virility; obstructs channels, causes constipation and pain in the heart area, inhibits digestion.

 

 

Hot

 

Hotter

 

Hottest

 

salty

 

sour

 

pungent

 

Cold

 

Colder

 

Coldest

 

sweet

 

astringent

 

bitter

 

Dry

 

Drier

 

Driest

 

astringent

 

bitter

 

pungent

 

Causes Constipation

 

Oily

 

Oilier

 

Oiliest

 

sour

 

salty

 

sweet

 

Promotes elimination of feces, urine, and gas

 

Digestibility

Difficult

 

More

Difficult

 

Most

Difficult

 

salty

 

astringent

 

sweet

 

Digestible

Easy

 

Easier

 

Easiest

 

sour

 

pungent

 

bitter

 

Tastes, Energy and Properties

With this information in mind, let us look at the various therapies, beginning with herbs. For each herb, the energetic description offers the trifold effect of ‘taste—energy—post-digestive taste. Below are 85 Áyurvedic herbs with uses.

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