Herbs and Spices
“Open sesame” is a familiar phrase to anyone who has read or heard the story of ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ from the Arabian Nights. The two words that magically opened a cave filled with treasures, reflect the characteristic of the Sesame seed pod, which bursts open spontaneously when the seed ripens and reaches maturity. Sesame seeds have been part of Indian culture for thousands of years and are an integral part of religious ceremonies, rituals, and most auspicious occasions. These seeds may be one of the oldest condiments known to man, and have been widely used to add a nutty flavor and delicious crunch to many dishes. Sesame seed is rich in a number of nutrients, including calcium, copper, manganese, iron, zinc, thiamine, and magnesium. It also contains a good bit of dietary fibre. Sesame seeds are mentioned in the ancient sacred texts the Vedas, and have been used in the treatment protocols and products of Ayurveda, the Mother of all healing systems. The sesame seed, from an Ayurvedic perspective, is sweet, pungent, astringent, bitter, and has a heating effect. These seeds are highly valued for their light golden coloured oil.
Nourishing, Healing, Calming
Nourishing, calming and warming, sesame oil is a fundamental part of Ayurvedic massages. It is said that a self massage with sesame seed oil promotes physical strength, nourishes muscles and bones, and facilitates comfortable joint movement. Ayurvedic physicians also recommend it for promoting sound sleep, strengthening the intellect and nervous system, and nourishing the skin and hair. In addition to self massage, Sesame seed oil is vital in the Panchakarma therapies of Ayurveda. These are purification procedures that dissolve metabolic waste products and environmental toxins from our tissues in a gentle and effective way and eliminate them from the body. Kerala, one of the top tourist attractions in the world today, is especially renowned as the most favoured destination for panchakarma therapy conducted under the expert supervision and guidance of Ayurvedic physicicans whose lineage goes back to the ancient sages.
Tiny but Potent
The Sesame seed may be tiny, but it packs a powerful punch. Sesame oil is extremely beneficial in case of dandruff. Massage the scalp with Sesame oil for 30 minutes and cover the head with a hot towel that has been soaked in hot water and squeezed. To promote healthy sleep patterns, massage the scalp and soles of the feet with Sesame oil before bedtime. Sesame is beneficial for the teeth and strengthens them. Take 10 gm of Sesame and chew it slowly daily for maximum benefit. You can also swish the oil in your mouth to reduce the amount of bacteria present and to support strong teeth and gums. . In case of arthritis, knee pain and other joint problems, add ginger juice in Sesame oil and boil till ginger juice evaporates completely. Sieve the remaining oil and store it in a bottle. Massage the painful area with this oil.
The benefits of Sesame oil apply to almost every part of the body. Add Sesame oil and turmeric powder in milk and heat it slightly, apply this paste on the face everyday regularly. This makes the skin smooth and soft and also removes pimples. In the case of dry cough take four to five teaspoons spoons of black pepper and same amount of Sesame. Boil it in one glass of water till it reduces to half the quantity, and drink the concoction thrice daily for relief. Warm Sesame oil, rubbed on the abdomen can reduce stomach cramps. The oil is also used in Ayurveda to lubricate and support the bowel, soften the stool and also as a vaginal douche. Consumption of sesame seeds is recommended to improve sexual capacity as it increases the sperm count. 100 gm sesame contains 1.5 gm calcium, 5.5 gm phosphorous, and 10 gm iron. Sesame contains Vitamin B complex and also lecithin which is beneficial for the brain. Is it any wonder then that these little seeds are considered Ayurveda’s “open Sesame” to good health?
The fragrance of mint- known as ‘podina’ in many Indian languages- has wafted down through the ages, adding spice and flavor that transform ordinary dishes into gourmet fare. Podina however, is also renowned in Ayurveda as a herb that which ‘wakes up’ the senses and decongests the orifices of the head. It also has calming and relaxing properties and helps in digestion too. According to Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of healing, the body has three vital forces or doshas, known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These doshas are balanced in a proportion that is unique to every individual, and his or her good health depends on maintaining that perfect balance. Ayurvedic physicians tell us that when this balance is upset, Podina helps to restore it.
This hardy perennial is full of aromatic menthol. It is rich in many chemicals, vitamins and minerals such as Niacin, Carotene, Folic Acid, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Protein, Fat, Minerals, Carbohydrates, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Chromium, Oxalic Acid, Menthol and Phytin Phosphorus.
Podina is a herbaceous perennial herb that is found throughout Western Europe, Western and Central Asia and North America. In Kerala ,the sunny South Indian state where Ayurveda has been a way of life for thousands of years, it is grown in kitchen gardens and pots for its culinary as well as many medicinal uses. The plant is highly effective in treating rhinitis, cough sore throat, colic, and vomiting. It serves as a good blood cleanser, since it is antiseptic and anti-bacterial, and plays a significant role in alleviating swollen gums, mouth ulcers and toothaches. Crushed and bruised Podina leaves are used in treating insect bites, while a decoction and infusion of its leaves and stems helps reduce fever stomach aches. Fresh leaves of podina are crushed and sniffed for dizziness and the crushed leaves are also applied on the forehead and temple, to cure headaches.
Podina is the basis for many home remedies in Ayurveda. In case of a toothache, boil 6 tablespoons of Podina leaves in 2 glasses of water, for 15 minutes. Strain and cool the water. Divide it into two parts and take each part after 3 to 4 hours. To treat arthritis, take some fresh leaves and heat on low flame. Pound them and apply on the painful joints or muscles, when still warm. For a mouthwash, soak 2 tablespoons of chopped leaves in a glass of hot water for 30 minutes and strain and use infusion. Tea prepared with Podina leaves to which a tsp. each of lime juice and honey are added is an excellent cure for common cold, sore throat and that bloated sensation in the stomach after a heavy meal. A face pack of fresh Podina leaves cures pimples and blackheads and is a very good moisturizer.
It is not advisable to use mint oil directly on the skin, or to give it in a concentrated form to children, pregnant women, nursing mothers or those who have asthma, gall bladder or liver problems. It is also important to remember that in the case of illness, the dose and method of taking Podina are crucial, and depend on an individual’s constitution and need, as determined by an Ayurvedic physician.
Manjistha, or Rubia Cordifolia to give it its scientific name, is a branched climber with small, greenish white flowers that are arranged in a cluster of round, fleshy, purple fruits. Its roots have a brownish red bark from which a red dye is obtained. This plant grows well in hilly districts, and the root has medicinal values.
Manjistha is considered to be one of the most valuable herbs in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest health care system that originated in India. The ancient physician and sage, Charaka has categorized the herb as varnya or that which improves the complexion, jvarahara, or that which reduces fever, and visaghna or that which detoxifies. It is also a well known rasayana – a rejuvenative.
Another great sage, Sushruta has mentioned Manjistha as pittasamsamana or that which pacifies the pitta doshas. Acccording to Ayurveda, it is only when the three life energies or doshas, that make up every individual’s constitution, are perfectly balanced can a person enjoy good health. These doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and any imbalance results in ill health. It is imbalances of the Pitta dosha that can be effectively countered by Manjistha.
In Kerala where Ayurveda in its purest form has been practiced for thousands of years, Manjistha has been recommended by Ayurvedic physicians from times immemorial, for its blood purifying and anti-oxidant properties. Its Ayurvedic properties are classified as being bitter, astringent and sweet in taste and heavy, dry and hot in effect.
Herb of Choice for Total Healthcare.
Manjistha is one of Ayurveda’s most popular herbs for lymphatic support. When the lymph system become sluggish, people complain of fatigue, exhaustion, skin problems, sore throats, puffy hands and feet, and weight gain. Manjistha supports the natural functions of the lymphatic system, as it facilitates nutrition of the cells and removal of wastes from the body. If chronic wounds are washed with the decoction of Manjistha and dressed with its solid extract, healing is hastened. In the case of fractures, an external splint of Manjistha is beneficial. Manjistha is used in treating hepatitis, diabetes and urinary calculi.
Manjistha is a very good skincare herb. Used externally and internally, it makes the skin lustrous and glowing and helps to remove pimples, freckles and discoloration. Its finely crushed powder can be simply applied on the face after mixing it with little honey. A combination of 100 gms dried and crushed orange peels and 50 gms each of sandal powder, turmeric and Manjistha, makes an excellent face pack. So Manjistha not only prevents health problems, heals and cures, it beautifies as well. This is what makes it Ayurveda’s herb of choice for total healthcare, not just in the past, but today too.
Flax seeds or linseeds as they are also known have been used in Ayurvedic preparations for ages, because of their therapeutic properties. They are the seeds of a plant that is grown all over the world, and that comes in many varieties. Oil is extracted from seeds, and fiber from the stems. The fiber is used to make thread and for linen cloth. The seeds are sweet and oily with a mild smell. According to Ayurveda these seeds have hot, pungent, heavy, purgative and strengthening properties.
Flaxseed has a nutty flavor and is used in bread and bakery products. The seeds from the flaxseed plant are also used to make linseed cakes and in liniments Generally speaking, though, linseed grown in hot climates is considered to be the best for medicinal purposes. In Kerala, a state in South India where the purest form of Ayurveda has been practiced for thousands of years, linseeds play a key role in several Ayurvedic protocols like Virechana which is medicated purgation therapy. Virechana cleanses the sweat glands, small intestine, colon, kidneys, stomach, liver and spleen. A number of effective and safe herbs, including Linseed, are used for this purpose.
Benefits of Flaxseed
Flaxseed oil is a potent source of essential fatty acids which the body cannot make on its own. Apart from having Omega-6 fatty acids in the form of linoleic acid – the same good fats that are present in most other edible vegetable oils- , flaxseed oil has Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alfa- linoleic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids offer protection against heart disease by getting to the membrane of body cells and acting as guards that admit only healthy substances and bar damaging ones. Thus flaxseed oil helps to lower bad cholesterol which causes heart disease, angina and high blood pressure.
The essential fatty acids present in flaxseeds also help in the transmission of nervous impulses. This makes flaxseed oil very useful for numbness and tingling as well as for preventing serious nerve ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Flaxseed oil also helps in speeding up the healing of skin lesions, and has proved very effective for everything from acne to psoriasis, to eczema and to sunburn. It promotes the health of hair and nails and contains substances called lignans, which have beneficial effect on the hormonal system of the body. .
Another important benefit is that flaxseeds contain phyto-oestrogens that can mimic the human sex hormone estrogen. In this capacity the oil is useful for infertility, impotence, menstrual cramps, endometriosis and menopausal problems. Crushed flaxseeds are an excellent source of fiber and absorb water 10 to 14 times their weight. As a result crushed flaxseeds are effective in cases of constipation. The crushed seeds have a bulking effect, reduce hunger in those trying to eat less and help in binding with and removing fats and cholesterol. The high fibre content also makes flaxseeds a good ingredient in foods that would control blood sugar.
Ayurvedic Home Remedies
There are many home remedies with flax seeds that are simple and effective. Take one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds mixed with 5 to 10 ounces of water to curb hunger between meals or as a therapy to reduce cholesterol or blood sugar. Ayurvedic physicians suggest a hot poultice of flaxseed oil to treat eczema and other skin complaints. For headaches, grind seeds in cold water and apply on forehead..This is also good for insect bites. For reddish eyes, grind seeds and apply pulp around the eyes. Linseeds ground with Isagbol and applied on painful joints can bring welcome relief while a poultice of linseed oil is helpful in cases of arthritis too. A word of caution though… linseed imparts a lot of heat and so in cases of prolonged use, it is best that it is used under the guidance of an Ayurvedic physician or ‘vaidya’.
The word ‘mulberry’ is usually associated with silkworms, but the Indian Mulberry also plays an important role in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of holistic healing. The plant grows in many parts of India, and one variety especially does well in the southern states like Kerala, as this species flourishes in warm balmy weather. The powdered extracts from the roots, leaves and fruit of the Indian Mulberry, which is known as ‘Noni’, have been traditionally used as a sedative and for many other Ayurvedic medicinal purposes. The plant, which can grow up to 9 m tall, has large, simple, dark green, shiny and deeply veined leaves. Some species grow well well on sandy or rocky shores and apart from saline conditions, the plant also can withstand drought.
The Indian Mulberry has flowers and fruits all year round. The flowers are small and white. The fruit is a multiple fruit that has a pungent odor when ripening. Mulberries are eaten as fruit and are also used to make, juices, sauces, muffins, cakes, cookies, tarts, wines, ice creams, smoothies, yogurt and jam. Sherbets are made from black, red and white mulberries…and of course Mulberry leaves are the only source of food for silkworms.
Mulberries are a literal powerhouse of nutrition. They are very rich in Vitamins B C, K and the element iron. Good levels of fiber, riboflavin, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, potassium and calcium are also found in mulberries. They are an excellent source of the antioxidants resveratrol, zeaxanthin, lutein ,and to a lesser extent the alpha and beta carotene. The leaves contain 18 amino acids, while the fruit mulberry contains a number of phytochemicals, including lignans, oligo- and polysaccharides, flavonoids, iridoids, fatty acids, scopoletin, catechin, beta-sitosterol, damnacanthal, and alkaloids.
Role in Ayurveda
Various parts of the Indian mulberry are used for medicinal purposes, such as containing fever, and also as a tonic. Eye problems, skin wounds, gum and throat problems, respiratory problems, constipation, stomach pains and post delivery pains are treated using its leaves, flowers, fruit and bark. The leaves are used in a gargle for throat infections, while heated leaves of the plant are applied to the chest, in order to relieve coughs, nausea and colic. The fruits are used to treat fever, depression, and sore throat as they are cooling. The bark of the Mulberry root is used as purgative and anthelmintic, while its juice is used to treat high blood pressure.
Mulberries are used in Ayurvedic preparations to reduce cholesterol, prevent blood clots and heart palpitations as well as to aid in weight loss, build immunity, benefit the digestive system, enhance appetite and check anemia and insomnia. Mulberry is also used in Ayurveda to soothe the nerves, relieve tiredness and fatigue. A simple home remedy for mouth ulcers and enlarged glands is to gargle with a solution of mulberry sherbet. Add 1 tsp of mulberry sherbet to a cup of water to make this solution. Interestingly, some recent studies conducted on Indian mulberry have suggested that it is capable of inhibiting the formation and growth of cancer cells. It activates the immune system of the body and has shown promise in helping combat leukemia, which is induced by retrovirus infection. So the next time you come across the word “mulberry”, don’t just think of silkworms or jams and jellies- think of Ayurveda and the myriads of ways this system of healing uses the Mulberry for your good health.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of health and longevity, teaches us that true beauty can be achieved when you undertake your daily health and hygiene routines with the knowledge that you are a unique manifestation of Life’s vital energy. In Kerala, a state in South west India, Ayurveda has been a way of life for almost 5000 years, and the legendary families of Ayurvedic physicians from this tropical paradise offer you a regimen designed especially to support the health of your feet, eyes, hair and face. In addition they also teach you simple ways by which you can ensure that you glow from head to toe.
Ayurveda for Your Feet and Eyes
The ancient Ayurvedic text, the Ashtanga Hridaya, identifies four major nerves in the feet that connect to the eyes. Therefore, a foot massage is an ideal way not only to relax but also to relieve eye strain. The first step is to fill a foot tub with cool water and mix in a tablespoon of honey and a handful each of dried lavender and fresh rose petals. This footbath is excellent to soothe the mind. Or you can fill a foot tub with lukewarm water and add 1 teaspoon of ginger powder. This will invigorate the body and increase circulation. For tired and swollen feet, fill a foot tub with very warm water and add 3 tablespoons of Epsom salt for 5 litres of water. Once you have decided on the foot bath that you need, submerge your feet, relax for 10 minutes, then remove your feet and pat them dry. Next, give yourself a foot massage, using sesame, olive, or coconut oil. Apply the oil generously throughout your massage. Finally, rinse your feet with warm water, dry thoroughly, and slip them into clean cotton socks, Well-massaged feet connect more completely with the earth when you stand or sit with your feet on the ground, giving your whole being a more stable and relaxed foundation- and well oiled feet are protected from cracking and peeling, thus reducing the chances for fungal and bacterial infections.
Bathing the eye makes your eyes sparkle and can also help rejuvenate tiny muscles that have been taxed by hours of computer use or driving. The Ayurvedic herbal powder, Triphala is excellent for bathing your eyes. It is made up of the amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki fruits and is a blood purifier as well as a whole-body rejuvenator. Triphala also has properties that support the ophthalmic nerves and eye muscles. Prepare the Triphala infusion by boiling 1 teaspoon of Triphala powder in 1 cup of water for about 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool completely, strain thoroughly, and using a cupped palm, bathe each open eye with cool Triphala water 3 times. Rinse the face with pure water, and pat dry. Next, close your eyes and cover them with rose petals, cucumber slices, or cilantro leaves. Place a cotton pad over each eye and tie a band of muslin cotton or a bandana around the eyes to create a loose blindfold. Finally after 10 minutes, remove the blindfold and apply a the dark eyeliner known as kajal that has been prepared according to Ayurvedic formulations. Kajal reduces glare in bright light, sharpens the vision, and encourages the growth and darkness of eyelashes
Ayurveda for your Hair and Face
For thousands of years, Indian women- especially those from Kerala, have kept their tresses lovely with sumptuous scalp oils made from coconuts, herbs, flowers, and spices You can use plain coconut or sesame oil that has been enriched with Ayurvedic botanicals like brahmi and bhringraj, You should massage the warm oil into your scalp, working downward and outward with your fingertips from the crown of your head. These herbal oils promote thick, lustrous, healthy hair and also ward off colds and flu. They relieve headaches, keep you cool in hot weather, and repair frayed nerves too. To finish, shampoo with a mild, cleanser, towel gently and then let your hair finish drying naturally.
For a glowing complexion, give yourself a wonderfully uncomplicated flaxseed facial. Grind flaxseeds in a coffee grinder, or buy a pre-ground meal. The concentrated essential fatty acids in flaxseed moisturize and protect the skin while the texture of the hulls stimulates circulation; cleans away dirt, sweat, and excess oils- and sloughs away dead skin cells. To increase the healing benefits complete your facial with a nourishing turmeric-yogurt mask made with 2 tablespoons plain yogurt mixed with 1/3 teaspoon honey and a pinch of turmeric powder. Rinse with cool water and pat dry with clean hands to seal in the good effects of your facial into your skin. So, be as healthy and beautiful as you were meant to be- Ayurveda can make it happen!
It has roots that resemble the matted hair of a Himalayan sage- and an intoxicating aroma. Its botanical name is Nardostachys jatamansi- but it is commonly known as Jatamansi. The name comes from its appearance- ‘jata’ means dreadlocks and ‘mansi’ means human. This plant, which is also called the spikenard, nard, nardin, and muskroot, has pink bell shaped flowers. It is an endangered medical herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine. Ayurveda describes Jatamansi as a combination of three tastes- bitter, astringent and sweet. Its chemical composition consists of a volatile oil and two alkaloids, besides an acid which is known as jatamansic acid.
Jatamansi is the most effective herb for putting an end to Vata imbalance. Vata is one of the three life forces or doshas- the other two are Pitta and Kapha. Ayurveda teaches us that it is these doshas that determine the constitution and health of an individual. They are balanced in a unique proportion in each of us, and any imbalance causes ill health. Vata dosha is responsible for all mental functioning and emotions
The seeds and fruits of the Jatamansi are the parts used for herbal remedies. In Kerala, a state in South India considered by many to be the home of Ayurveda, Jatamansi in root, oil and powder form has been used for hundreds of years by its traditional families of Ayurvedic physicians, as a nervine tonic and memory enhancer. It is also used to treat neurological disorders like epilepsy, hysteria, syncope, convulsions, and mental weakness. Due to its sedative action Jatamansi is very effective in chronic anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraine and tension headaches. Today, it is used in the Ayurvedic treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Oil of Jatamansi is used to treat palpitations of the heart as the herb possesses anti-arrhythmic properties. It helps in maintaining the circulatory system and in purifying the blood too. Jatamansi is very effective in treating respiratory problems. It relieves the phlegm in cough and is also used in cases of asthma. This herb is a strong antioxidant, a coolant, an anti-inflammatory agent and a diuretic. It is especially helpful in treating urine related problems, including kidney stones and renal colic as well as in treating fever, especially in combination with other herbs.
Ayurvedic physicians prescribe Jatamansi as an aphrodisiac. In the menopausal syndrome it is used in combination with other nervine tonics and also as an emmenagogue, for it promotes menstruation and has a cleansing effect on the uterus. At the same time, decoctions made from this herb are useful in hepatitis and in treating enlargement of the liver, as well as for problems with the digestive tract, including lack of appetite, poor digestion, flatulence and constipation.
Jatamansi is an antiseptic. The decoction of the root is applied on the affected areas in skin problems, burns, wounds, rashes, eczema, and allergies, and in skin infections caused by streptococcus bacteria known as erysipelas. In cases of severe headaches due to hypertension or migraine, you can take the herb twice a day for 2 weeks. The oil of the herb can be used to massage the head. The oil is obtained from the root of the herb, and is called Nard oil. It is used in the making of perfumes, incense, cosmetics and deodorants. So whether it is to combat stress or to relieve insomnia, to treat coughs or fever, or to get relief from respiratory, urinary, digestive, or skin problems, let the root that resembles the matted locks of a sage restore the balance of your life forces and restore you to good health.
A slice of ripe Papaya for breakfast is a great way to start your day, for this fruit is literally bursting with healing and rejuvenating enzymes. Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of medicine, with its roots in India, has recognized the unique qualities of Papaya and used it for many of its treatment protocols and herbal remedies. In Kerala, the tropical paradise in South India, the Papaya tree is a familiar sight, and the traditional families of Ayurvedic physicians for which this state is famed, all use this wonder fruit in many of their preparations and concoctions.
The Papaya is a versatile fruit. It is orange-yellow when ripe and used in jellies, preserves, and fruit juices. The green, unripe fruit is used in curries and salads as well as to tenderize meat, while the leaves and root of the plant are also used in a variety of dishes. In addition, the bark is used for rope making and the leaves can be used as a soap substitute and are excellent stain removers as well..
Papaya contains several unique protein-digesting proteolytic enzymes including papain and chymopapain. Proteolytic enzymes protect you by digesting and destroying the defense shields of viruses, tumors, allergens, yeasts, and various forms of fungus. Once the shield is destroyed, tumors and invading organisms are extremely vulnerable and are easily taken care of by the body’s own immune system.
Ayurveda recommends the use of the Papaya to balance Vatta and Pitta- two of the three life energies- the third being Kapha- which according to Ayurveda determine a person’s constitution. Only when the three energies are perfectly balanced in a proportion unique to every individual, will he or she enjoy good health.
Ayurvedic physicians use Papaya used for treating digestive problems and intestinal worms. It is a remedy for flatulence, liver disorders and infection of the pancreas, as well as for gastro-intestinal problems and enzyme deficiencies.. Ayurvedic medicines for arthritis use Papaya too .Fresh cuts or wounds are treated with applying the juice of a fresh fruit. The dried latex collected from unripe papaya fruits are used in the preparation of some Ayurvedic medicines that are effective in the treatment of warts, moles, eczema, and skin allergies. Apart from the fruits, the roots and leaves of this tree also have medicinal properties.
Papaya Home Remedies
To get rid of intestinal worms mix papaya latex with castor oil and take this mixture in the early mornings. For adults the quantity advised is 60 drops of the milk mixed with 30 drops of castor oil. In case of children, oral administration of 15 drops of castor oil mixed with 15 drops of the latex is suggested. This time tested remedy for intestinal worms is very effective and has no adverse side effects. The latex from the unripe fruit is also excellent for the rapid cure of stubborn ulcers in mouth, tongue, and throat. To treat skin diseases, especially scabies and scalp eczema, papaya latex is mixed with alum powder and the paste is applied on the affected areas. The area is then cleaned with warm water after an hour .One simple way to lose weight is by consuming unripe papaya fruits both raw and cooked.
Pregnant women should keep away from both unripe and ripe papaya fruit in the early stages of their pregnancy. These fruits have a tendency to abort the formation of the fetus. For the rest, inclusion of Papaya in your daily diet is the Ayurvedic way to keep the Doctor away!
Hindus believe that the whole of paradise is scented with the fragrance of chandan or sandalwood, the sacred tree of Lord Indra. This evergreen tree’s scientific name is Santalaceae Santalum Album, and it flourishes in India in places that have plentiful sunshine and moderate rainfall, especially the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, a tropical paradise in South India that is one of the world’s most favoured tourist destinations, the sandalwood forests of Marayur are a valuable resource. The severe shortage of sandalwood which is widely used in industries like perfume, soaps and medicine, has encouraged the corporate sector to embark on plantation of this endangered wood species.
The Sandalwood tree grows to a medium height of 30 feet. When the tree is 15 to 20 years old, oil collects in the heartwood, or the center of the trunk. The value of the wood is greater as the tree grows older. The tree reaches its peak at 60 years old, when is when it is harvested. The heartwood of the sandalwood tree is considered to be sacred. It is ground into powder and then steam-distilled into oil that is famed for its cooling fragrance and aroma. The remaining wood is used for carving, and is highly prized by artisans.
Sandalwood in Ayurveda
Sandalwood is a major remedy in Ayurvedic medicine. According to Ayurveda, the three life energies in our bodies are Pitta, Kapha, and Vata. These life energies are balanced in a proportion that is unique to every individual, and when the balance is disturbed, ill health is the result. Sandalwood has been known to reduce Pitta and Vata, when they are aggravated, and has a neutral effect on Kapha. It is considered to have bitter, sweet, astringent and cooling properties. In Ayurveda, its most important use is to sedate the nervous system by subduing nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia and reducing nerve pain. Researchers found that it even relaxes brain waves! Sandalwood balances the circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems too. A sandalwood syrup or chest balm helps relieve persistent coughs and sore throat. Among its other uses in Ayurveda, Sandalwood acts as a disinfectant, diuretic, expectorant and sedative. As massage oil, it can be rubbed over reproductive organs for bladder infection, and on hemorrhoids
Sandalwood is also excellent for skin care. The oil or the paste can help heal skin diseases such as infectious sores, ulcers, acne and rashes. Sandalwood powder helps smooth and cool the skin, and can be made into a paste, lotion or soap for cleansing, calming and hydrating sensitive or aging skin. Sandalwood also repairs skin damage and encourages new cell growth.
Sandalwood plays an important part in many Ayurvedic home remedies too. To treat pimples, make a paste of one teaspoon of sandalwood powder mixed with one teaspoon of turmeric. Add one teaspoon of water to make the paste, and apply to pimples before going to bed. For itchy skin, apply the mixture of one teaspoon of sandalwood powder with one teaspoon of turmeric and one teaspoon of lime juice. Leave on for 20 to 30 minutes and rinse with cool water. Sandalwood oil can be used as a moisturizer on the face and body and is also great for massaging. Mix five tablespoons of coconut oil with two teaspoons of almond oil. Add four teaspoons of sandalwood powder, and apply the mixture to the overexposed areas of your skin. You will notice a considerable improvement in your tan. Since ancient times, sandalwood paste has been used to relieve headache and control the body temperature during fever. However, excessive use of sandalwood should be avoided as it may cause allergies in some people, and for persistent problems, sandalwood preparations should be used only under the guidance of a trained Ayurvedic physician. Meanwhile, let the fragrance of sandalwood fill your home with the serenity of spirituality, and the glow of good health.
The rose, one of the most glorious of flowers, has been associated for thousands of years with beauty, fragrance and romance. History and legends tell us how Mughal Empresses and Egyptian Queens enhanced their beauty and allure by using rose petals and rose oil in baths and perfumes. Did you know that the rose has healing properties too, that play an important role in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of holistic medicine? In Kerala, the southernmost state of India, Ayurveda has been a way of life for generations, and traditional families of vaidyas, or Ayurvedic physicians, have developed several herbal remedies for a wide range of health problems, all using the rose.
Even though there are hundreds of varieties of wild and cultivated roses, it is only the Rosa Centifolia that is used in Ayurveda. The ayurvedic name for this particular rose is shatapattri, meaning ‘a hundred petals,’ and the Latin name is Rosa Centifolia, which also means ‘a hundred petals. This rose is used in many Rasayanas, the herbal formulas that promote overall health and longevity.
Ayurveda teaches us that good health depends on the perfect balance of the three life forces known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha, in each individual. These doshas are present in a unique proportion in each person, and when this balance is upset, ill health is the result. According to Ayurvedic wisdom, the rose balances Sadhaka Pitta, the sub-dosha of Pitta that governs the emotions and their effect on the heart .The rose therefore has a cooling effect on your mind, body and emotions- and so, there’s a physiological reason that roses have been the ideal gift to express love and forgiveness for thousands of years!
The Rose in Many Ways
Rose essence is one of the safest substances for healing. In case of skin disorders, it slows down ageing, increases smoothness, reduces wrinkles on the face and keeps the complexion glowing. Rose essence is also used for anti-stress therapy. As well as being an anti-depressant, rose is also an aphrodisiac. It is helpful in women’s Gynecological disorders and menopausal symptoms as it reduces excessive heat of the body. Rose essence has a cleaning effect on liver, kidneys and spleen, and is also good for respiratory disorders. It is even useful is useful in reducing extra fat from the body!
One of the most popular ways roses are used is in a herbal preparation known as Gulkand. Fresh rose petals are mixed with granular sugar and then kept under hot sun light. A semi-sold but thick paste similar to jam is produced through a specific process. Gulkand purifies the blood, sharpens the memory, improves eyesight and lifts the spirits. Fresh rose petals boiled with sugar and water in specific proportions, are then filtered to make fragrant syrup is known as “Gulkand Sharbat” or Gulkand syrup. This has nearly same healing qualities as Gulkand and can be used as a mild laxative, as well as to treat enlarged tonsils, sore throat and liver disorders. Gulkand and Gulkand syrup are useful for those suffering from frequent headaches and migraines and can act as a rejuvenative tonic for both young and old.
There are many other uses for Gulkand too. 1 – 2 teaspoons of Gulkand after meals helps to reduce acidity, prevents swelling in the intestine, and heals ulcers. This preparation is a very good digestive tonic – it helps to improve appetite, improves digestion and corrects digestive problems. Gulkand also helps to treat mouth ulcers while strengthening the teeth and gums. Having two teaspoons of Gulkand before venturing outdoors can help to prevent sunstroke and controls nose bleeds. It is good for those who have water retention problems, as it helps in increasing your urine output.
The medicinal properties of the rose are not lost on modern researchers, who are investigating the effect of the rose in balancing hormones and creating overall well-being. Yet, long before the advent of modern science, Ayurveda taught us that that the fragrant rose has three main medicinal properties. It is soothing, cooling, moisturizing – and above all, it can show us the way to love, beauty and good health.