Eclipta (Bhringaraj)

The leaves and roots of Eclipta prostrata can do your liver a good turn by helping replace damaged liver cells and regenerating new liver cells. The herb can also regulate liver enzymes responsible for drug metabolism. It helps maintain blood glucose balance by slowing down formation of glucose from carbs and the conversion of glucose into fructose. It also nudges hair follicles into the growth phase, activating them and increasing the production of the color pigment called melanin.

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. It is your body’s first detox center. But the detox process itself gives rise to highly reactive cell-damaging chemicals called free radicals (oxidants). So your body keeps another group of chemicals called antioxidants on the alert for combat. Just like other antioxidant-rich foods and herbs, eclipta could help.

The coumestans in eclipta, particularly wedelolactone and demethylwedelolactone, and flavonoids help liver cells regenerate and replace damaged cells.

Eclipta may also be able to regulate essential liver enzymes called hepatic microsomal drug-metabolizing enzymes.

2. Promotes Hair Growth

All of us has had a phase where we’ve worried about hair – whether because of hairfall or because of slow hair growth.

Generally, there’s a good balance of hair follicles in the growth phase and those in the resting phase (the phase after hairfall), which is why you don’t go instantly bald. But sometimes, hair follicles could cut short their growth phase and become way too comfortable in their resting phase. It could be because something’s amiss in your diet or hair hygiene or simply because you are under stress.

Eclipta may be able to help your body into forcing hair follicles to “wake up” and switch to the growth phase. It also increases production of the hair pigment melanin, further increasing the number of active hair follicles.

3. Shields the Skin from Sun Damage

There are two major forces at work against healthy skin: aging and sun exposure. When you’re out in the sun, every time the sun’s rays touch your skin, damaging molecules called free radicals are generated (like superoxide radicals and ferrous ions). They are a problem because they snap your skin’s elastic bands, steal energy from healthy skin cells, and cause permanent damage.

The natural antioxidants on your skin do their best to fight the damage. Eclipta joins the fight and does from the inside what sunscreens do from the outside.

Working together with other compounds, chlorogenic acid in eclipta acts as a shield that takes most of the beating itself by absorbing both UV-A and UV-B rays. It also assists the natural antioxidants in the body in scavenging free radicals.

4. Stabilizes Blood Glucose

Managing blood glucose must be everyone’s business, not just the diabetic’s! How else would you manage your energy? Your body has a process in place to keep your blood glucose levels steady through the day. Herbs like eclipta could help it some more.

Eclipta inhibits the enzymes alpha-glucosidase and aldose reductase.

  • Alpha-glucosidase breaks down complex carbs into glucose, increasing blood glucose.
  • Aldose reductase is involved in converting glucose to fructose, which tends to accumulate and cause complications.

Four echinocystic acid glycosides, particularly eclalbasaponin VI, are at work here.

5. Helps the Heart

The heart is not something you start caring for only after you cross 50. You could start keeping it in good shape much before with proper lifestyle, exercise, and diet. As part of diet, you could look at foods that have antioxidants, can help maintain your cholesterol balance, and can keep your blood pressure steady. Like eclipta, which can do pretty much all of these.

Blood pressure: There are two effective approaches to lower blood pressure. One, you help blood vessels dilate. Two, you remove excess body fluids through urination. The potassium in eclipta leaves can be instrumental in both these approaches. The leaves also have a compound called culcumin that further helps lower blood pressure.

Lipid profile: On its own, LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) isn’t much of a threat; but throw an oxidizing free radical into the equation and you have a different story. Oxidized LDL-C can clog up arteries. Aging and poor lifestyle can increase both LDL-C and free radicals. A steady dose of eclipta in your diet may be able to help the situation with two different tactics. Its saponins and phytosterols first try to make sure there’s less LDL-C to begin with. They then also take care of the free radicals.

Lifestyle Tip

Exactly how much eclipta you should be having depends on your body constitution and current health. However, 2–3 gm of the powder divided over the course of a day may be a good place to start.

If you can lay your hands on fresh leaves, chew on 5–6 of them every morning for all-round benefits or crush them into a juice for a mouthwash.

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