Boerhavia (Punarnava)

Immunity is a tricky business, but Boerhavia diffusa can run it right. In the face of a threat, it boosts several types of immune cells like macrophages and antibodies and lowers cortisol which can dampen the immune response. But at other times, when a high-strung immunity does more harm than good, it puts a lid on the production of certain immune cells and blocks pro-inflammatory signals. The herb also plays a role in glucose and fat metabolism by increasing the release of insulin and bile, respectively.

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.

Why It’s So Great

1. Modulates the Immune System

As you speak, eat, sleep, work, relax, vacation, and exercise, your immune system is at work… ALL THE TIME. It’s on the prowl looking for uninvited guests (disease-causing pathogens), making sure your organs are protected, jumping to action at times, and at others, maintaining the status quo. There’s so much happening behind the scenes so that you don’t fall sick! Turns out, boerhavia is a fan – thankfully, one that helps.

It boosts immunity:

The creeping herb bolsters different divisions of the immune system’s army: the front-liners (macrophages, especially those in the kidney, lymph nodes, bone marrow, and spleen), artillery (antibody-producing B cells), cavalry (cytotoxic T cells), and infantry (cytokines). The result? A stronger immunity.

It also steps in when you are stressed. More stress means more of the stress hormone cortisol and by consequence, a weaker immune system. Rings a bell? You have often been told not to stress too much or you’ll fall ill.

  • Boerhavia somehow puts a lid on how much cortisol is produced and in doing so, helps your immunity do its thing freely.

Syringaresinol mono-β-D-glucoside (root), punarnavine (root), and quercetin are the chemicals of the hour here.

It also suppresses immunity:

Remember when we said that the immune system needs to pull back at times? It doesn’t always need to be on high alert. In fact, it shouldn’t because it can turn against your body’s own cells. Boerhavia understands the need to balance this behavior.

  • When required, it hits the brakes on the activation and multiplication of the immune system’s T cells and natural killer cells. The compound eupalitin-3-O-β-D-galactopyranoside takes care of this, while boeravinone K inhibits the COX enzymes. COX enzymes are all about heightening the immune response through inflammation. Liriodendrin, quercetin, and kaempferol from the roots and leaves are other anti-inflammatory compounds.

This opposition to inflammation possibly explains the herb’s traditional use in reducing pain and swelling.

What this means is that if you start having boerhavia on a regular basis, your immune system may be able to better fine-tune its reactions and become more efficient in how it works.

2. Stabilizes Blood Glucose

After you’ve eaten a carb-heavy meal (think rice, cakes, bread), your blood glucose increases for a bit but is supposed to come back down to normal. The hormone insulin helps do this by moving glucose from the blood into your cells to be used for energy. Boerhavia can make the process smoother.

  • It gives your insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells a nudge so that more insulin is produced and your body is better able to use the glucose in your blood.

3. Protects the Liver

And now for your body’s critical detox organ, the liver! The liver produces bile – the reason why your body is able to digest fat, use the vitamins A, D, E, and K, and get rid of certain toxic wastes. So anything that increases your bile flow is definitely a friend of your liver.

  • Boerhavia’s compounds, androst 5-ene analogue and 6, 5’-dimethoxy- 5, 7, 3’-trihydroxyflavone, play the part.

Lifestyle Tip

While most of the world seems incognizant to the benefits of this wonderful herb, boerhavia’s leaves are eaten as a green vegetable in certain parts of India. If you can lay your hands on them, make a salad or a green smoothie.

If not, try to get hold of the root powder. About half a teaspoon mixed with water every day should bring all of the herb’s benefits to your table.

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