Ayurveda, the ancient Indian herbal system of medicine has many important and useful herbs for women. Nature cure or Ayurveda helps women find their body rhythm, which is closely linked to nature. Hence, women respond better to Ayurveda treatment. The age old texts describe these unique herbs and medicinal plants and their compound formulations that can enhance the health of women. The Charaka Samhita is the most comprehensive resource of Ayurveda. This Samhita presents various categories of herbs and remedies for improving feminine health. The text groups a set of herbs under a specific title which explains the herbs and their properties, individually or in combination.
Here are three herbs that greatly benefit a woman's health and wellbeing.
Botanical name: emblica officinalis; family: euphorbiaceae
Amalaki commonly known as gooseberry is a small to medium-sized tree with a crooked trunk and spreading branches. The fruit is extensively used for medicinal purpose. Amalaki is native to tropical Southeast Asia, found particularly in central and southern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, southern China and the Mascarene Islands. It is commonly cultivated in gardens throughout India and grown commercially as a medicinal fruit.
Chemically, the amalaki fruit contains a series of diterpenes referred to as the gibberellins, as well as the triterpene lupeol, flavonoids [e.g. kaempherol-3-O-fl-Dglucoside, quercetin-3-O-fl-Dglucoside], and polyphenols. It is used in dyspepsia, gastritis, hyperacidity, hepatitis, constipation, flatulent colic, colitis, haemorrhoids, convalescence from fever, cough, asthma, skin diseases, bleeding disorders, menorrhagia [abnormally heavy and prolonged periods at regular intervals], anaemia, diabetes, gout, osteoporosis, premature greying, alopecia, asthenia, mental disorders, vertigo, palpitations, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
The dried fruit prepared as a decoction and taken on a regular basis is useful in menorrhagia and leucorrhoea [a condition in which there is a white discharge from the vagina], and is an excellent post-partum restorative. Similarly the chakradatta recommends the fresh juice of amalaki with amalaki churna, taken with ghee and honey as a vajikarana rasayana— aphrodasiac.
Botanical name: saraca indica; family: ceasalpinoidae
It’s a small ever green tree that grows to a height of 6-8ms. The bark has a warty surface which is brownish grey or sometimes black in colour. Flowers are fragrant, orange red coloured arranged in corymbs. Fruits are flat pods with ellipsoid shaped seeds. This tree is found on eastern side of Himalayas and shady evergreen forests of south India.
Major chemical contents of Ashoka are alkenes [C20 – C35] esters tannin catachin [+] catechole [-] epicatechin. Ashoka stimulates the uterus making the contractions frequent and prolonged without producing tonic contractions [during the monthly cycle and childbirth]. Due to this it has been helpful in uterine hemorrhagic conditions like menorrhagia, and metrorrahagia [irregular bleeding during and after menstrual cycle].
The classical preparation— Ashokarista the alcoholic extract of Ashoka along with the combination of other herbs available in market is useful in conditions like dysmenorrhoeal, bleeding due to dysfunction of uterus. But it should be taken under guidance of a capable ayurvedic physician. Decoction of the bark of Ashoka mixed with cold milk is an excellent remedy for irregular menstrual cycles and other bleeding disorders.
Botanical name: asparagus racemosus; family: liliacea
This is a creeper, which grows in low forest areas throughout India. A much-branched spinus under-shrub with tuberous, short rootstock bearing numerous fusiform and succulent roots. It grows wild in southern Europe, south west England, and southern Ireland. Most of the greenhouse varieties come from South Africa
Shatavari contains triterpene saponnins shatavarin I-IV, which are phytoestrogen compounds. These help in balancing the hormone levels in female body. This oestrogen is of plant origin and has strong stabilising and rejuvenating effect on both body and mind. Due to this unique property, it is useful in pre menstrual symptoms [PMS], infertility, dysmenorrhoeal, irregular menstrual cycle, menopause and lactation.
The greatest use of shatavari is for menopausal women with low oestrogen levels. The symptoms which include hot flushes, insomnia, night sweats, vaginal dryness that can be effectively managed by phytoestrogens present in shatavari.
Granules prepared out of purified root powder of shatavari taken one teaspoon with hot milk increases secretion of milk in lactating mothers.
Shatavari powder taken along with gokshura [tribulus terestris] and amalaki [emblica officinale] reduces oedema during pregnancy and gives rich nourishment to both mother and foetus. This also corrects the urinary tract infection [UTI] which pregnant women are often prone to.
Shatavari in combination with shankha puspi [conch flower plant] is very helpful in reducing stress, hot flushes, insomnia, pain and irritability associated with PMS.
Milk extract of shatavari and liquorices is the best medicine to reduce symptoms of menopause as both contain good amount of phytoestrogens. Shatavari taken with candy sugar cures gastritis.
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