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Commonly called siberian ginseng but really a distant relative of the “true” asian/panax ginseng, eleuthero is worthy of a spot in your diet, especially if you constantly feel worn out.
We’ll tell you why.
The herb is an adaptogen – which means it can help your body and mind endure periods of stress. Your energy is directed to where it’s needed the most in your body and you’re not spending your precious reserves frivolously.
The aloe vera plant, a succulent, stores water in its leaves to survive in dry regions. The slightly yellow gel you see when you split the leaves in half is nothing but water storage cells. Even though about 99% of these cells is just water, the remaining 1% has compounds that are health promoting.
Take a quick look:
Adding to its accolades, aloe vera has seven of the eight essential amino acids that your body can’t synthesize on its own and needs from food.
Often considered the “best among the sour fruits,” the amla fruit (also known as amalaki) has earned a spot in go-to ayurvedic concoctions like chyawanprash and triphala. It finds its footing in all five tastes – sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent – and promises to make you feel a lot more upbeat.
The fruit’s USP is its rich reserve of vitamin C (720 mg/100 gm or 1 gm in 100 ml juice) along with other antioxidants, particularly tannins.
Also known as kalmegha (“King of the Bitters”) or bhunimba, andrographis wraps beneficial compounds in its roots and leaves. Two groups of compounds – diterpenoid lactones (extremely bitter to taste) and flavonoids (responsible for color) – can help your immune system remain an impenetrable shield. That’s not to say there aren’t other benefits.
Andrographolide is usually seen as the star of the show, though its derivatives make an impact as well.
The stem bark of the arjuna tree is a medicinal treasure chest. It houses a complex concoction of triterpenoids (volatile liquids), glycosides (carbohydrate compounds), flavonoids (heavy-duty antioxidants), tannins (also antioxidants), and minerals – all of which have nothing but your best interests at heart.
Why It’s So Great 1. Promotes Heart Health You don’t need to go out of your way to take care of your heart. Basic good habits and a good diet can ensure it.
Our bodies need to constantly adapt to ever-changing environments and situations. This involves knowing how to deal with both physical and mental stressors, ranging from cold temperatures to social phobias. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it can help your body adapt – without targeting any one system or organ. It casts a wider net of benefits.
Most of the credit for ashwagandha’s benefits goes to a group of compounds called withanolides.
A creeping marsh plant, bacopa (also known as brahmi in Sanskrit) is all kinds of good for your brain. It is also an adaptogen – which means it helps your body cope with both physical and mental stress.
The leaves are especially valuable with their arsenal of health-promoting compounds. Here’s a quick look:
Though the bacosides steal most of the limelight for bacopa’s health benefits, we can’t ignore the fact that any herb is a lot more complex than isolated compounds.
The laurel wreaths associated with the deity Apollo and the Roman legend Caesar are nothing but bay leaves woven into crowns. They’re taken from the bay laurel tree.
The leaves aren’t just symbols of victory but hold a deeper value for the human body. Here are the compounds that make them worth your while, 1,8-cineole being especially helpful:
Why It’s So Great 1. Supports Digestive Health Digestion is a complex process.
Belleric myrobalan, also know as bibhitaki in Sanskit which literally translates to “fearless,” is believed to take away the fear of disease. While that may seem far-fetched at first, we’d say first understand what the tree offers and see if you can trace any of the benefits back to your body’s needs. If you have a match, there’s nothing like it.
This is also why belleric myrobalan has earned a spot in the tri-ingredient ayurvedic tonic called triphala.
Also known as “gale of the wind,” bhumiamalaki is a field weed that is all kinds of good for your liver and digestion. It’s also believed to dissolve kidney stones, earning the additional title of “stonebreaker.”
The fame preceding the herb stems from the battalion of beneficial compounds tucked away in its leaves.
Why It’s So Great 1. Supports the Liver Like a friend on constant standby, your liver bears the brunt of all the bad lifestyle choices you make – eating junk food, not exercising, drinking too much, smoking.
Boerhavia, also known as punarnava, very tactfully focuses on three important facets of your health – your immunity, your blood glucose, and your liver function. All of its goodness is hidden away in its unassuming leaves and roots.
As you can tell from the names, purnavarine and punarnavoside have grabbed the most attention from white coats, and rightfully so! The boeravinones aren’t too far behind either.
With such a supportive team of compounds, it’s no wonder the herb has been handed down generations of ayurvedic wisdom.
The credit for cardamom’s health benefits can largely be given to the volatile oils in its seeds – the very oils that make it intensely aromatic and flavorful. The oils terpinene, cineol, and limonene play a big part.
Why It’s So Great 1. Boosts Immunity What do your immune cells do when they see something they recognize as foreign, like bacteria? They “eat” them and shoot them with ammo we know as free radicals.
Belonging to the daisy family, the chamomile herb offers a bouquet of health benefits through its white and yellow flowers. The volatile oils in the flowers carry a range of compounds that mean your nervous and digestive systems well.
The compounds α-bisabolol, chamazulene, and apigenin are given the most credit for chamomile’s health benefits.
Why It’s So Great 1. Induces Sleep With addictive gadgets, lengthy to-do lists, and the perpetual need pick up the pace, your nervous system is constantly bombarded with external stimuli (like lights, sounds, smells).
The 25-meter tall chebulic myrobalan tree has a tall list of compounds that are quick to smooth digestion and kindle the brain. Also known as haritaki, they’re tucked away in the unassuming green drupe-like fruits of the tree – most useful when dry and ripe.
You may be familiar with chebulic myrobalan’s more established role in the tri-ingredient ayurvedic tonic triphala. However, on its own too, it has loads to offer – earning itself the title “the King of Medicines.
The white-flowered chitrak plant is a herbal underdog that not many know of. In reality, true to its namesake the spotted leopard, it harnesses a fiery quality that the body can use to its advantage.
The gains mostly lie in its roots. Here’s a quick look at the compounds that help:
Why It’s So Great 1. Promotes Digestive Health What you eat determines how well you digest. Chitrak is one of the herbs you can eat to maintain the good health and functionality of your digestive system.
Though scorned upon as a stubborn weed, the grass-like cyperus plant, also known as musta, has many health tricks up its sleeves – in this case, its underground stem (rhizome and tubers).
Aromatic compounds called sesquiterpenes get all the praise and recognition, but it’s likely a team effort of different groups of compounds giving your health a boost.
Why It’s So Great 1. Supports Digestive Health You must have noticed by now that your energy level is as good as your digestion.
Four herbs are referred to as dwarf morning glory, also known as shankhpushpi – Convolvulus pluricaulis, Evolvulus alsinoides, Clitoria ternatea, and Canscora decussate. Convolvulus pluricaulis is considered the “true” dwarf morning glory, while the other three are considered replacements depending on their availability in a geographical area.
Best known as a brain tonic, dwarf morning glory has its entire aerial part chipping in beneficial compounds. Here’s what they carry:
Though often considered a troublesome weed, eclipta (also called bhringaraj or false daisies) is quite the herbal antidote. Most of the magic lies in the leaves and roots, though the plant as a whole has loads to offer too.
Here’s a quick breakdown of its beneficial compounds:
Why It’s So Great 1. Protects the Liver Your liver is like a trusty butler that removes all traces of bad habits (unhealthy food, alcohol, pollutants) from your body.
The fresh burst of flavor typically delivered by fennel seeds can be accredited to a compound called anethole – also found in anise and licorice. Anethole is health promoting and, together with other compounds, brings a range of benefits to the table, quite literally.
The seeds render most of the benefits, so they’re what you should stock up on.
Why It’s So Great 1. Promotes Digestive Health Fennel has long been used as a digestive aid, whether added to meals or had separately.
Well deserving of the title “The Queen of Herbs,” holy basil or tulsi is quite the multitasker in the health department. You’ll reap the most benefits if you’re patient with it, but even a single cup could perk up your energy levels.
The mojo is in the leaves, more specifically the oil of the leaves.
Eugenol, a phenolic compound, deserves the most accolades. But the rule of thumb for herbs, or any natural food, though is that whole is always better than isolated active ingredients; so think of it as a team of compounds working together.
Looking out for your overall well-being, Indian kudzu (also known as vidari) brings balance to both your body and your mind. Its rock-like root tubers have chemicals to help do just that. They mostly include pigment compounds called flavonoids and their derivatives.
If you venture to do some of your own research on Indian kudzu, you’ll repeatedly come across puerarin, daidzein, and genistein. These three compounds somehow form a team and bring about most of Indian kudzu’s benefits.
When you’re looking to create a simple, daily habit that will help you feel a lot healthier, having Indian tinospora may be a good bet. Also called amrita or guduchi, the medicinal herb is loaded with compounds that power up your immune system, giving you more spring in your step.
The mature stem is the most beneficial part of the plant, though the leaves and roots contribute as well. Take a look at their components:
The roots and rhizome (horizontal underground stem) of the jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) plant are not as delicate as they appear. They are home to compounds that can calm your mind and defend your pancreas.
The compounds which seem to shine through are jatamansic acid, nardostachysin, nardal, and nardin.
Why It’s So Great 1. Promotes Mental Well-being Everyday stress can get the best among us down. But what’s reassuring is that the body has everything you need to regain your emotional balance.
Growing wild with yellow and green berries and yellow thorns, the kantakari herb is home to a number of health-promoting compounds. The whole plant often proves useful; however, the dried roots are especially of value.
The compounds diosgenin and solasodine gain the most credit for kantakari’s health benefits, though being a herb, it’s probably a more complex network of compounds working in unison.
Why It’s So Great 1. Helps with Respiration Kantakari helps your airways relax, which allows you to breathe with greater ease, especially when you have a cold or flu.
A regular for those nurturing a sweet tooth through candies, chewing gums, and beverages, licorice root is popular for being just that – sweet. However, it has so much more to offer than flavor alone. Packed into its root are compounds that travel to your liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart and can do you a world of good.
Before getting into the details of how exactly it helps, let’s address a common concern about its consumption.
What do Pope Francis, Lionel Messi, and Madonna have in common? Maté tea.
Chances are, if you’ve heard about maté tea, you’ve heard of maté (also called yerba maté). Maté (Ilex paraguariensis) is the herb that lends itself to this once exotic drink. This popular beverage of South America (mainly Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil) has now caught on in the USA. You would find maté tea bags and powder in supermarkets and health food stores.
Neither a nut nor tough to crack, nutmeg is the seed of the plant Myristica fragrans. It can be grated or powdered into a flavoring spice, blending well into comforting baked goodies and energizing beverages. But is it healthy? Rest assured.
The seed has two oils: an essential oil and nutmeg butter. The essential oil is responsible for nutmeg’s unique flavor and fragrance while also carrying health-promoting compounds. Nutmeg butter needs a lot more research on it.
A climbing vine with delicate flowers and juicy fruits, passionflower is one of Nature’s many “chill pills.” Its leaves and roots are home to relaxing compounds waiting to be tapped into.
Why It’s So Great 1. Induces Sleep It’s funny how we’re always willing to compromise on sleep in the attempt to be more productive. Truth be told, we’ve got it backward. Depriving your body of sleep is depriving it of the fuel it needs to put on a good show.
First off, shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) is also called asparagus, but it is not the same as the vegetable (Asparagus officinalis) you’re likely familiar with – same genus, different species.
Shatavari holds great value in the ayurvedic universe because of its versatile reach in the body, owing most of its benefits to a group of compounds called steroidal saponins. Pigment compounds called flavonoids also pull their weight.
The roots of the plant store most of these chemicals and are, hence, the most health-promoting part of the plant.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata), garden mint, or common mint, call it what you will, you must have come across the herb in your mouthwash, lip balm, or iced tea. Besides the boost of freshness it blatantly promises, spearmint is known for its digestive benefits.
Why It’s So Great 1. Helps with Digestion A good digestion is the first step to good health. So any food or herb that ensures that your digestive process remains efficient is always welcome.
You don’t very often come across herbs that are particularly good for your kidneys. Voila! Tribulus, also known as gokshura, does that and more. You need to look to the fruits and roots of the plant to receive benefits.
Two group of compounds do all the hard work – saponins (foam when shaken with water) and flavonoids (color-giving pigments). The saponins called protodioscin and tribulosin are especially important.
Interestingly, the components of tribulus vary depending on where the plant is grown.
The turmeric root has around 235 identified compounds capable of working in harmony in your body and improving your health. The most noteworthy are curcuminoids, responsible for turmeric’s trademark orange-yellow color, and volatile oils.
While recent research is biased toward curcumin as turmeric’s most potent compound, there are studies that suggest other components contribute to our health as well.
Why It’s So Great 1. Strengthens Immunity The immune system is constantly at war with invaders like bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and anything that doesn’t match the body’s own sensibilities – say, the normal wear and tear of joints with age.
Best known for its use as a nerve tonic and immunity booster, velvet bean, also known as kapikacchu, owes its accolades to a compound called L-dopa or levodopa. The body, too, naturally synthesizes this compound, which it converts to dopamine – a game changer for mental well-being. With an extra supply of L-dopa from this legume, you could smoothly transition from healthy to healthier.
The seeds are where the magic lies, including rich reserves of protein.
Vidanga (Embelia ribes) is a woody, almost creeper-like herb whose fruits can be easily mistaken for black pepper. The fruits bring a unique set of health benefits to the table, including anti-parasitic action and appetite control. The roots offer benefits as well.
Here’s a quick look at some of vidanga’s health-promoting compounds:
Most studies have exclusively glorified the compound embelin. While it certainly is a crucial component, we cannot dismiss the other compounds.