0 In Ayurveda

No, but really: what is Ayurveda?

I was skimming PubMed last night for nerdy articles about Ashwagandha (an Ayurvedic super-herb often called ‘Indian Ginseng’) in prep for a blog post I’m writing but I came across this beautiful description of Ayruveda and I wanted to share it with all you post haste. Ayurveda is vast both in scope but also in history and, at times, it can be difficult to cram all that vastness into an elevator pitch when someone asks ‘What is Ayurveda?’.  So, I present to you the words of Murphy et al. in their paper titled “Scientific basis for the use of Indian ayurvedic medicinal plants in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders: ashwagandha.”  Not quite an elevator pitch but still very much worth a listen: (bold added for emphasis)

Ashwagandha: Ayurvedic super-herb!

Ashwagandha: Ayurvedic super-herb!







‘Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, which means “the scripture for longevity”. It represents an ancient system of traditional medicine prevalent in India and in several other south Asian countries. It is based on a holistic view of treatment which is believed to cure human diseases through establishment of equilibrium in the different elements of human life, the body, the mind, the intellect and the soul [1]. Ayurveda dates back to the period of the Indus Valley civilization (about 3000 B.C) and has been passed on through generations of oral tradition, like the other four sacred texts (Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvanaveda) which were composed between 12(th) and 7(th) century B.C [2, 3]. References to the herbal medicines of Ayurveda are found in all of the other four Vedas, suggesting that Ayurveda predates the other Vedas by at least several centuries. It was already in full practice at the time of Buddha (6(th) century B.C) and had produced two of the greatest physicians of ancient India, Charaka and Shushrutha who composed the basic texts of their trade, the Samhitas. By this time, ayurveda had already developed eight different subspecialties of medical treatment, named Ashtanga, which included surgery, internal medicine, ENT, pediatrics, toxicology, health and longevity, and spiritual healing [4]. Ayurvedic medicine was mainly composed of herbal preparations which were occasionally combined with different levels of other compounds, as supplements [5]. In the Ayurvedic system, the herbs used for medicinal purposes are classed as brain tonics or rejuvenators. Among the plants most often used in Ayurveda are, in the descending order of importance: (a) Ashwagandha, (b) Brahmi, (c) Jatamansi, (d) Jyotishmati, (e) Mandukparni, (f) Shankhapushpi, and (g) Vacha.’

Full citation: Ven Murthy MR1, Ranjekar PK, Ramassamy C, Deshpande M. (2010) Scientific basis for the use of Indian ayurvedic medicinal plants in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders: ashwagandha. Cent Nerv Syst Agents Med Chem. 2010 Sep 1;10(3):238-46.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20528765/?i=2&from=/27316579/related

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