Indian herb is the broad terminology used to describe a plant - either whole or in part, that has culinary uses as well as certain health benefits associated with it. In India especially, plants and herbs have been valued since time immemorial for their therapeutic effects as this is the country where the oldest system of health care in the world, Ayurveda originated some 3500 years ago. Ayurvedic scriptures explained the complex mechanism of the human body and how the use of specific herbs and herbal combinations could effectively provide relief when the body’s normal regulatory mechanism gets affected by any abnormal health conditions.
Today herbal remedies abound for even the smallest of health concerns. In fact, across the globe, use of Indian herbs in treatments has never been more popular. Some of the most important herbs and their uses are listed.
Indian herbs and their benefits
Aloe vera enjoys a long history as a multi-purpose plant. Both, the gel from the leaf pulp as well as aloe juice extract can be used. Aloe has been studied for its wound-healing potential. The gel is used as a topical application for skin rashes, burns and wounds. Aloe juice is suggested for constipation, ulcers, diabetes, arthritis and other conditions but there is documented evidence for its use as a laxative.
Ashwagandha also known as Withania somnifera, Winter cherry or Indian winter cherry, is considered to be a time tested herbal immunity booster, hence also referred to as Indian ginseng. It acts as a tonic that helps alleviate stress and problems associated with it. It also calms the nerves and promotes restful sleep. It is believed to help in conditions like Multiple Sclerosis and Alzeimer’s disease. Its anti-inflammatory action helps in painful arthritis. It is sometimes used as sedative and a mild laxative too.
Brahmi was, and continues to be, considered the premier herb for age-related mental decline. Its action aids in improving cognitive processes such as long-term memory function. By stimulating neural activity this herb facilitates learning, increases concentration power as well as intellectual and cognitive function. Apart from being a brain tonic it also soothes the nerves and stimulates hair growth.
Curry leaves form an important constituent of South-Indian recipes. In Cambodia, a dry roasted powder of these leaves is added to flavour a sour soup dish called Maju krueng. Also used as a herb in Ayurvedic medicine, curry leaves are a rich source of Iron and have anti-diabetic, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-hypercholesterolemic and hepato-protective functions. Anti-cancer activity of this herb is under research.
Gymnema Sylvestra also called the miracle fruit, is a herb native to tropical forests of central and southern India. Its use as a natural treatment for Diabetes has been established centuries ago. The gymnemic acids released on chewing gymnema sylvestra leaves suppresses the sweet sensation and thus aids in supressing sugar cravings. However it cannot replace Insulin in the treatment of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Thus we see how Indian herbs play a significant role in promoting better health and wellbeing. They are considered safe and effective but should be consumed only under medical supervision.