How To Use Ayurvedic Herbs for Health

How To Use Ayurvedic Herbs for Health

From adaptogens like ashwagandha to fruit powders like amla, to spices like ginger, there are many Ayurvedic herbs to choose from. Read on for a comprehensive introduction to Ayurveda and how to use Ayurvedic herbs for health.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an ancient system of holistic healing from India that is over five thousand years old. The name “Ayurveda,” comes from two Sanskrit words, “ayur” and “veda.” “Ayur” means life, and “veda” means sacred knowledge or science. “Ayurveda” is therefore translated as the sacred knowledge of life. 

Ayurveda is a holistic practice that supports our innate capacity for wellness. Its foundation is built upon the nature of the five elements and how they show up and interact with our systems and environment. When incorporated as a lifestyle, Ayurveda can help us achieve and maintain balance.  

The five elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether – interact with the life energy in our bodies in specific ways according to their nature. This phenomenon is categorised into three main “doshas” - vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata is characterised by air and ether, pitta by fire and water, and kapha by earth and water.  

Whilst all three doshas are present in each living being, everyone is born with a dominant dosha or unique combination of doshas, which is called our “prakriti” or constitution. Each dosha ebbs and flows and can either be balanced or imbalanced depending on our individual circumstance and lifestyle - how and what we’re eating, how we’re sleeping and exercising, how often we travel - as well as the climate, weather and seasons.  

Whilst understanding your primary dosha, or constitution, is the first step in achieving balance and optimal health, learning how your entire lifestyle affects this balance is essential in Ayurveda. Hence the reason why Ayurveda is more of a way of living and holistic practice than a one-shot approach to health.

How to Use Ayurvedic Herbs for Health?

Please be advised that every herb will have different effects for different people, depending on an individual’s constitution, lifestyle, imbalances and/or ailments. Additionally, please note that when taking many of these herbs, it is advised to take breaks and not take them for prolonged periods of time. As a result, please always consult a medical herbalist or Ayurvedic practitioner before taking a herb.

We've put together a list of some of the more common herbs used in Ayurveda and how to use them for health. Please note this doesn't include every herb that is traditionally used in Ayurveda.

Amla 

  • Eaten straight as a fruit or made into jams and chutneys amla
  • Amla powder can be added to smoothies, encapsulated or mixed with a little water 
  • The powder is widely used for Ayurvedic hair treatments 
  • A thin paste can be made by combining amla powder in water and then applied to the scalp and left for 15 minutes 
  • Read more about its benefits here

 Ashwagandha

  • Ashwagandha powder was traditionally mixed with ghee, honey, or water and either ingested or applied topically to joints or as part of a skincare routine
  • It is also available in tablet or capsule form
  • The dosage of ashwagandha depends largely on your constitution, lifestyle and what conditions you’re taking it for
  • To learn more about its benefits, click here

Boswellia (Frankincense, Salai Guggula) 

  • Traditionally taken internally in Ayurveda Boswellia
  • The essential oil is used in Ayurvedic aromatherapy for its calming and replenishing effects on the nervous system as well as for treating respiratory complaints 
  • The oil can also be used topically, mixed with a carrier oil for application to areas of complaint 
  • For more information about its benefits, click here

Brahmi

  • Traditionally, brahmi powder is infused in ghee to take internally 
  • While capsules and tablets are most common, a decoction can also be made with the powder 
  • Whilst it can be taken in the evening, after food for sleep disturbances, people with normal sleep find it too stimulating and are advised to take it in the morning instead 
  • Read more about brahmi’s benefits here

Cardamom 

  • Called “the queen of the spices” in its native India  
  • Can be made into a tea on its own or with other spices 
  • Used to flavour baked goods and a fantastic addition to curries 
  • To learn more about its benefits, click here

Clovescloves

  • Cloves is a warming spice, best used in teas, baked goods, spice rubs, stews and curries
  • For more information about cloves’ benefits, click here

Ginger

  • Use fresh ginger in teas, stews, stir-fries, curries 
  • Dried ginger provides a very different flavour profile to fresh ginger and can additionally be added to spice mixes 
  • Read more about ginger’s benefits here

Gokshura (Tribulus) 

  • Usually available in powdered form and can be taken as a capsule or tablet 
  • Not recommended for long-term use 
  • To learn more about its benefits, click here

Gotu Kola gotu kola

  • Gotu kola is regarded as a rejuvenative herb 
  • Traditionally used in helping memory loss and fighting aliments of the mind 
  • For more information about gotu kola’s benefits, click here

Gurmar (Gymnema)

  • Traditionally taken in powder form as capsules or in tablets 
  • Because of its possible influence on blood sugar levels and absorption of carbohydrates, it is recommended to take it half an hour before food 
  • To learn more about gymnema’s benefits, click here

Kapikacchu (Mucuna) 

  • Traditionally taken in powder form with warm milk 
  • Can also mix into food 
  • Read more about its benefits here

Methi (Fenugreek) fenugreek

  • Methi, or fenugreek, seeds are traditionally dry-roasted whole before adding to food 
  • Can also be added in powdered form to stews, soups, curries and dal for added flavour  
  • For more information about fenugreek’s benefits, click here

Neem 

  • Neem seeds, fruit, leaves, flowers, roots, bark and oil are all used for overall health in Ayurvedic medicine and skincare routines 
  • When taken internally, it is advisable not to take over an extended period 
  • Neem seed oil can be used as a body oil for dry, itchy skin as well as a hair oil to ease dandruff – just beware of its very strong scent  
  • To learn more about neem’s benefits, click here

Triphala

  • Triphala translates to “three fruits” and is an ancient blend of amla, bibhitaki and haritaki 
  • Considered effective for all the “dosha” constitutions 
  • It is recommended to take half a teaspoon of Triphala at night and with each dose you will experience a different taste 
  • The theory being that whatever you taste within Triphala is missing from your diet, which can guide you include these missing tastes into your diet and create more harmony in your system 
  • Read more about triphala’s benefits here

Tulsi tulsi

  • It is revered as a sacred plant in India, where it is often kept in centre courtyards for its purifying influence on its environment 
  • Traditionally taken as a tea, the powder can also be taken mixed in your choice of liquid, blended into a smoothie or simply in capsule form 
  • For more information about tulsi, click here

Turmeric 

  • It is also traditionally used as part of Ayurvedic skincare and dental routines 
  • Whilst available to take in capsule form, turmeric is easily added to any dish, including teas and golden milk
  • It is best absorbed when taken alongside vitamin C, which is why you’ll often find it paired with black pepper 
  • To learn more about turmeric’s benefits, click here
More Information

Which Ayurvedic herbs are you most interested in? Let us know at @indigo_herbs - we'd love to hear from you! If you'd like to learn more, click here for a list of blog posts about Ayurveda and herbs used in Ayurveda.