Digestion, Stress, Anxiety, Sleep, Concentration, memory, weight and systemic inflammation. Ayurveda-land has an extensive materia medica with herbs and compounds, decoctions, pastes and salves for everything that ails you.
These are my top 7 for herbs or compounds (two are spices) that, in my direct experience (the laboratory of my own body), really do what they are supposed to do.
There are many others that work, that I use and know but these are the favorites and the most generally applicable to a broad population. Of course, since everything in Ayurveda depends upon the individual and their current state of relative health, these or any herbs may not be what you need. Also important to be aware that there is a lot of skepticism and uneven quality control swirling in the herbal world, so caveat emptor and use this list as a starting point.
One thing I always warn clients is not to shop unassisted on herbal websites. Every herb always sounds good to me and like something I need when I see it on a pretty site. I am embarrassed to tell you how many hundreds of dollars worth of perfectly good herbal remedies rot in a drawer until their expiration date when they get thrown away. So shop prudently and with good advice for YOU.
Another note of caution: Beware that especially with herbs you must be confident that what the label says is in that bottle is actually in that bottle, and that they are of excellent quality, purity and potency and tested for heavy metals and other toxins. Read the New York Times Article on herbal controversy. One must know the vendor to be reliably sourcing and selling the finest herbs, which means that they know and care about time and place of harvest, how and where grown. For this reason I have always recommended Banyan Botanicals and, full disclosure, are purveyors of each as they are available in the Lah Shop mostly because these are the preparations that I know and use.
The Lah Essential Remedies Cabinet:
1. Triphala: This is my best friend in the digestive health department. It is actually a balancing compound of three herbs (amalakin, Haritaki and Bibitaki) which together cleanse, replenish and nourish. Not a laxative per se, it does help with regularity. It does the work of natural internal cleansing, gentle maintenance of regularity, nourishing and revitalizing of the tissues, support healthy digestion and absorption, and is a natural antioxidant and source of vitamin c. I take this remedy for three weeks on and one week off and I make sure to pack this one to keep digestive/elimination working smoothly while traveling.
2. Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin, a polyphenol much touted for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-cancer properties. All of this translates assumptions of boosted immunity, digestive health, better memory and brain function and more. These typically come in tablets of 500mg. At the first sign of a cold I take 1,000. Sometimes I use 1/4 teaspoon powder and mix it with honey into a paste and lick that from the spoon for even more heating properties to break up the mucous. And then there is Golden Milk for a nourishing healing brew.
3. Ginger: This is my daily go-to in many forms for digestive health (elixir or fresh slices with pinch of salt and squeeze of lime prior to meal, tea post meal), for nausea, as a detoxifying bath with baking soda, fresh root slices for tea and cooking, and Daily Cup of Tea always.
4. Brahmi (mental clarity): Known as a mental rejuvenate used to improve nervous system function, memory and concentration, it is also the herb of meditation as it is said to have harmonious energies. I have it in both extract and tablet form. I am fond of the extract since I can put it in warm water in the morning and get that mental boost when i am feeling brain fog roll in. The leaf looks like a brain which is how I remembered its primary function on my final exams in ayurveda school. Click here or See below for the tablets in a formula I trust.
5. Ashwagandha: Stress less and sleep. This one supports the reserves of the body blocking stress messages (flight or flight signals) and promoting relaxation so the body can rest. One of a class of herbs known as an adaptogen , it functions to increases resistance to stress, anxiety, trauma and fatigue. Said to provide increased energy, stamina, virility and sex drive. I tend to use it when i am feeling run down and vulnerable, during particularly stressful times or travel and when i am basically too tired and stressed out to sleep. It is known as the Indian Ginseng.
6. Chyavanprash: Immune boosting, nourishing and 30x the Vitamin c of an orange,, not to mention a host of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Lick this tasty traditional Ayurvedic herbal jam off a spoon. I take a teaspoon daily when i feel any little thing starting to brew a sniffle, a tickle in my throat, feeling run down or someone around me has a raging cold! I also take this while traveling as an extra immune boost. In ayurveda-land the wisdom behind this Jam is that a healthy intestinal environment means better absorption of nutrients and better metabolic function – voila a healthier immune system! Totally organic, this Banyan Botanicals preparation I use actually tastes good enough to feed the kids.
7. “Trim Support”: Weight control the ayurvedic way. I have recommended this successfully to many clients who have use it to support a healthy weight management program including exercise and eating right. I use this myself after a spate of holiday eating when my system needs a cleansing detoxifying reset. This formula supports your systems metabolic function by maintaining healthy digestion and promoting elimination of toxins that clog up the system and contribute to excess weight. If you are feeling flighty or anxious and ungrounded (vats imbalanced) I would avoid this formula. The theory behind the formula is that improperly digested food creates toxins that coat the digestive tract, inhibiting absorption and leading to the accumulation of fat in the tissues. These herbs have a gentle scraping action to release and cleanse the system while rekindling the digestive fire, allowing proper digestion, absorption and assimilation.