Ancient Plant Wisdom. Ayurveda & Herbs
How well do you know the plant world? And how well acquainted are you with the inner living forest that's breathing inside of you? Wait, you didn't know you were a living, breathing forest? Then it is about time for you find out!
Indeed, the human body ––our brains, lungs, viscera, and other organs–– can be equated to a highly intricate and increasingly endangered rainforest. Left to its own devices and without many of the pernicious habits and routines most characteristic of the modern lifestyle, this forest that is 'us' would naturally find balance, guard off pests, control the overgrowth of potentially damaging species, and find its own version of homeostasis or bliss.
But the forests that we are nowadays rarely exist in such pristine and balance condition. Key species have all but disappeared from its surface; dangerous pathogens and pests rapidly grow rampant and take over entire chunks of the forest; and nutrients otherwise essential for the symbiotic functioning all of levels of life in our forestry aren't present anymore, and thus, they aren't getting to where they're needed as they once were. We have been dying a slow and silent form of inner-forest death for several decades now; and to make things worst, we have somehow lost the ability to even tell when our forest is getting out of balance and how best to get bring it back to it.
Believe it or not, barely a few of decades ago, our grandparents and the generations before their generation used to know on average at least a handful of plants and herbs each that they could resort to to guard off colds, heal a sore throat, appease rashes and eye infections, disinfect bruises, help with stomach discomfort, or mitigate toothaches and sores to name just a few things. That kind of wisdom ––the wisdom of the medicinal uses of our plant kingdom–– has been in slow decline for a few too many years now, though something of a revival seems to be taking place, in part, thanks to the spread of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda, as per our earlier entries, is the Indian-derived, century-old science of the preservation of a balanced health and a wholesome lifestyle mainly thanks to the aid of plant and herbal remedies and the use of Yoga. Our modern-day science did, in fact, evolve from a more 'rudimentary' form of wisdom that relied almost entirely on plant and animal composites ––extracts and substances derived from plants in our surroundings that were best adapted to deal with whatever pathogens existed in a context. And that wisdom still survives and coexists with modern day 'science' in many parts of the world because it works, notably in India, Japan, and China.
Despite the lengths we've traversed since the days of non-synthetic formulas, contemporary medicine still derives a great part of the active components in most drugs and treatments from our extremely wise animal and plant kingdoms; and while modern-day medicine is great at treating and curing acute conditions in a surprisingly short period of time, there are many tonics, herbs, plasters, and substances we can apply or consume on a regular basis to treat milder forms of ailments and boost our immune system to guard off disease.
Indeed, when it comes to soothing minor physical ailments of different sorts (be they physical, psychological, spiritual, or emotional) or to balancing out our inner forest (and our doshas!) Ayurveda counts with a bunch of 'must-have' herbs that any wannabe 'ayurvedor' should know to treat pretty much anything. We've taken the liberty of compiling just a few of the most useful and important for all of us to get re-acquainted with their magical qualities. Ready to unleash your inner Getafix?
Used as treatment for things as varied as arthritis, menstrual problems, anxiety, bipolar disorder, asthma, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive dirorder (OCD), insomnia, bronchitis, fibromyalgia, hiccups, and notably Parkinson's disease, Ashwagandha, Withania Somnifera, or Indian Ginseng, is a staple of the Ayurvedic cabinet. As with many of these plant treatments, the science around it still needs more backing, but sufficient evidence seems to exist in support of this plant's medicinal properties in the treatment of stress and anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis, to boost the immune system, and as a mild sedative.
Known as well as Curcuma Longa, Turmeric is believed to posses anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, aside of being commonly used as natural food spice and dye in many dishes. Made from the powder of the plant's root, and being a close relative of our friend the ginger, turmeric can be consumed orally, applied on the skin to sooth things like rashes, improve skin tone, or help with acne, as well as consumed for a variety of digestive conditions. In India, it's not unfrequent to add it to almost any dish you can think of, and though further research is needed to confirm whether or not the properties of curcumin (its main active principle) are efficacious as they are being consumed, existing studies do reveal promising results.
Also found under the names of Gotu Kola or Brahmi, this otherwise apparently mundane plant is credited to posses healing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial uses, being one of the scientifically proven palliative treatments for Lepra. Centella asiatica is also frequently consumed to alleviate stress-induced stomach ailments, as well as some instances of duodenal ulcer, and it is known to help with the improvement of cognitive health and hypertension. Applied onto the skin, it helps in the treatment of wounds, burns, ulcers due to its ability to accelerate the healing process.
A basic of most people's kitchens, Cumin or Cuminum Cyminum is also well known for its digestive and weight-control properties, it's believed to aid in lowering cholesterol and sugar levels, and has a very characteristic nutty smell and flavour that makes it hard to forget. Frequently used in mediterranean cuisine, cumin is also believed to help reduce food-borne illness such as diarrhea, for example, being also a source of antioxidants and a natural anti-bacterial.
Be Mindful of Dosage
Granted, there are many more herbs and plants worthy of our attention, both poisonous and non-poisonous, and we promise to deliver more on that. The plant kingdom is vast and full of surprises... But we want to be careful with dosage! So, we leave exploring some of our other plant and herby friends for an upcoming entry and, in the meantime, encourage you to meditate, eat well, re-balance the doshas, and practice Yoga.