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  • Writer's pictureGeetanjali Chakraborty

Ayurvedic Treasures: Unveiling the Hidden Power of Lesser-Known Plants and Herbs


Participating in the International Herb Symposium 2019 was an absolute joy! This event, held every year at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts since 1992, serves as a hub for herb experts from around the world to share their knowledge with one another.


The symposium attracts a diverse community of healers, researchers, and enthusiasts, fostering a sense of sacredness and community through rituals like Native American ceremonial sage burning and drumming. The atmosphere at the conference was serene, creating an inviting space for attendees to connect and explore the healing properties of different herbs.


My personal interest at this symposium was to explore the intriguing juxtaposition that underscores the underlying principles of Ayurveda and herbology, which align deeply, emphasizing the sacred nature of plants and the importance of nurturing them with care. 


I was fascinated by the discovery of conference booths where a diverse array of plants, including Tulsi and Ashwagandha, were exhibited, hinting at the convergence between Ayurveda and herbology that I was looking to explore.


In this esteemed gathering, I had the privilege of leading three classes at the symposium, including Lesser Known Plants and Herbs in Ayurvedic Medicine, Introduction to Ayurveda, and an intensive section of my Stanford class titled Ayurveda's Algorithm: Nature's Code, which allowed for deeper exploration and sharing of Ayurvedic wisdom.


In the dual role of a teacher and participant, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with fellow enthusiasts and experts, collectively deepening our understanding of the lesser-known Ayurvedic effects of certain medicinal plants and herbs.


In this post, I will delve into the Lesser Known Plants component of my talk. 


Note: By 'Lesser Known,' I refer not to the familiarity of these plants, but rather to the lesser-known aspects of their Ayurvedic effects.


Pomegranate

Ayurvedic Fact Sheet: Pomegranate


Taste: Sweet, Sour, Astringent

Potency: Neutral (Neither cold nor hot)

Dosha: Balances all 3 doshas

Guna: Light, Unctuous

Parts Used: Leaves, Fruit, Peel/Rind, Fruit Seeds

Biological Name: Punica Granatum


Pomegranate is described as absorbent, unctuous, easily digestible, and has the unique ability to balance all three doshas, representing all five mahabhutas. It’s beneficial effects include:

  • Quenching thirst

  • Alleviating burning sensations

  • Managing fever

  • Stimulating blood generation

  • Recommended as the food of choice for anemia

  • Replenishing deficiencies in all tissues, especially blood

  • Promoting overall health and vitality


Ancient Text Classification: Bhavaprakash, Phala Varga, 101-104 categorizes pomegranate into two types: Sour Pomegranate and Sweet Pomegranate. The sour variety is anti-vata and kapha, while the sweet variety is anti-fever, light, and wholesome, indicating its specific effects on different doshas and overall health. 


Rose

Ayurvedic Fact Sheet: Rose


Taste: Bitter

Potency: Cooling

Dosha: Balances all 3 doshas

Guna: Light, Unctuous

Parts Used: Flower

Botanical Name: Rosa


Rose balances all three doshas (all five mahabhutas). According to Bhavaprakash, Pushpa Varga, 22-23, it’s beneficial effects include:

  • Purifying blood and reducing heat

  • Providing relief for dry, sensitive skin year-round, and for normal skin during summer, particularly through the use of a rose mask

Rose Takra (Buttermilk) Recipe:

Step 1: Mix Ingredients

In a bowl, combine 1/4th cup of organic whole milk yogurt with 1 cup of water.

Step 2: Whisk Until Foamy

Whisk the yogurt-water mixture vigorously for 4-5 minutes until it becomes slightly foamy. The longer you whisk, the lighter and more digestible the drink will be.

Step 3: Add Rose Water

Add 2-3 tbsp of rose water into the yogurt mixture. Continue whisking to ensure thorough blending of the rose water with the mixture.

Step 4: Enjoy the drink!

Pour the Rose Takra into glasses and serve chilled. Optionally, garnish with fresh rose petals for an added aesthetic touch.


Ashwagandha

Ayurvedic Fact Sheet: Ashwagandha


Taste: Sweet, Bitter

Potency: Neutral (Neither cold nor hot)

Dosha: Balances all three doshas

Guna: Light, Unctuous

Parts Used: Roots, Leaves, Seeds

Botanical Name: Withania Somnifera


As per Bhavaprakash, Guduchyadi Varga, 189-190, the beneficial effects of Ashwagandha include:

  • Reducing increased vata and kapha

  • Immunomodulatory (immunity enhancing) properties 

  • Serving as a strength builder when cooked with milk


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