Super Herbs of Ayurveda: The Healing Powers of India’s Most Legendary Medicinal Plants
You’ve likely heard about them. Perhaps you’ve even experimented with one or more from time to time. Their stories have become so legendary, their unique qualities so unusual, that they are revered by herbalists and healers across the planet.
Ayurveda, the ancient healing science of India, includes a vast collection of herbs within its rich tradition. Yet, there are some herbs that stand on their own as unique treasures. They are the superstar herbs of Ayurveda. If you take the time to learn about them and how to use them properly, they could become great allies in your life.
Nowadays we’re all used to hearing about the latest medicine or ‘superfood’ that is going to take away all our ailments and give us long-lasting vitality for the rest of our days. Perhaps we try it out, we wonder if we are receiving its benefits, and all too often it is retired to the far corner of our kitchen cabinet never to be opened again.
The reality is that herbs are not part of a coming and going fad. They’ve been used for hundreds of years with great success by skilled healers taking care of their patients, yogis aspiring to experience the great potentials of love and consciousness, and everyday people wishing to experience greater vitality and alleviate the suffering from their lives.
Generally speaking, there are no ‘quick fixes’. Anything with lasting value will require some time, education and consistency. If you’re looking for an instant solution to your challenges, this isn’t for you. If you’re willing to dig a bit deeper, though, and really work to make a substantive change for yourself, then perhaps you’ll find this useful.
What Is A ‘Super Herb’?
For starters, I’d like to clarify the context for how I’m defining a ‘super herb’. It’s not enough to classify an herb as ‘superb’, without being specific as to what constitutes that classification. In order to do so in a complete way, we have to take a dive (or at least a dip) into the art of Dravya Guna, the wisdom-science of Ayurvedic herbology.
(This article is merely an introduction to The Super Herbs of Ayurveda Webcast in which we’ll be covering all of this and more.)
The 4 Key Energetics Of Every Herb
So for now, consider this. Every herb has four primary characteristics that make up its healing ‘constitution’. Every herb has:
- A dominant taste (rasa)
- A dominant energy (virya)
- A dominant post-digestive effect (vipak)
- Unique Intelligence (prabhav)
If you understand these three main characteristics of an herb (or food for that matter), you will have a pretty good understanding of how that herb will operate in your body and mind. While there may be many phenomenal herbs you could potentially choose from, by understanding these three aspects, you’ll be able to determine which of these herbs are going to be ideal for you and your life.
The first way to investigate an herb is through its taste (rasa). Its taste will give us clues as to that herb’s energy (virya). Its energy will tell us if the herb is either heating or cooling to the body/mind. It will tell us if the herb is going to dilate the channels of the body or constrict the channels of the body; will it speed up your digestion, or slow it down.
The taste and energy of the herb will give us insight into its ‘post-digestive effect’ (vipak). The post-digestive effect tells us whether that herb is going to cause a strengthening or a purification to your tissues.
Finally, each herb has its ‘special effects’ (prabhav). This tells us what organs and areas of the body the herb works on, or has an affinity towards. Does the herb alleviate mucous from the respiratory system? Does the herb build sexual stamina? Will it help you rest easy at night after a stressful day? These are examples of the herb’s ‘special effects’. Many people work primarily with the special effect but may overlook the other important energetics of the herb (taste, energy and post-digestive effect). Only with all four aspects do we possess holistic and powerful knowledge about that herb.
For example, take one of my favorite herbs, licorice. Licorice has a primarily sweet taste (rasa). Most herbs with a sweet taste, licorice included, also have cooling energy (virya). Herbs with a sweet taste and cooling energy typically will have a nurturing/strengthening effect on your tissues (vipak). Generally speaking, it’s a predictable pattern.
How about ginger? Ginger’s ‘taste’ is primarily pungent, or spicy. Most herbs with a spicy taste, ginger included, have heating energy. Herbs with a pungent taste and heating energy tend to have a purifying post-digestive effect, as is the case with ginger. Another predictable pattern that we find in most cases for most plants that we use for medicinal purposes.
However, sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. In rare circumstances, we discover a herb that doesn’t follow the normal patterns. These unusual occurrences are eye-opening to herbalists and alchemists alike. And this herbal outlier is the first qualification of our ‘super herbs’.
A Revered Vitality Herb
One example of a uniquely patterned ‘super herb’ is Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). We’ll cover several others on the webinar. Ashwagandha’s taste is primarily sweet. While most sweet herbs have cooling energy, Ashwagandha’s energy is warming. Its post-digestive effect is strengthening/nurturing. The vast majority of herbs that are sweet and strengthening, are typically cooling in nature and thus more difficult for the body to metabolize. Not so for Ashwagandha! Its’ gently warming energy makes it easier to digest and easier for the body to benefit from it’s wonderful ‘special effects’: immune system tonic, nervine tonic, aphrodisiac (to name only a few).
If you think about it, herbs are indeed intelligent…or at the very least agents of intelligence. Why do some herbs benefit the heart, while others benefit the liver? How are certain herbs able to alleviate a swollen prostate gland, while others could repair ulceration in the small intestine? Herbs can be extremely specific, and surprisingly effective. This is the herb’s ‘special effect’ (prabhav) or its unique intelligence.
Our second qualification for a ‘super herb’ is that it has a wide variety of effects on a wide variety of tissues and/or organs. While many ‘common’ herbs have one or two primary effects on an organ system or tissue layer within the body, the super herbs reach far and wide in their impact and effect.
Super herbs often possess ‘polarized benefits’. For instance, Ashwagandha is famous for its ability to both calm and energize. Turmeric can both warm your digestion and cool your inflammation. Triphala both detoxifies and rejuvenates. It is likely the uncommon energetic patterns that these herbs possess that give them the phenomenal ability to provide healing in an opposite, yet complementary direction!
The final qualification for a super herb is for me, the most important. We’ve already covered the energetic patterns of an herb, but there is also subtle energy that is of crucial importance…a vibrational frequency per se, that determines its effect on the mind and psycho-magnetic field of a human being.
While certain herbs can have powerful therapeutic effects, we also consider their subtle energy. Valerian is a rockstar when it comes to helping a person fall into a deep sleep, yet its impact is dulling to the mind and body.
Cayenne pepper is in the upper echelon of circulatory stimulants, yet its energy is so powerfully active that if it is overused, it could overstimulate or inflame.
The super herbs all possess what Ayurveda calls, sattvic energy. In other words, they encourage clarity, compassion, and calm, within the mind and body of the person who ingests them.
For this reason yogis, meditators, and healers have revered these super herbs for time immemorial. I invite you to join me for the special ‘Super Herbs’ Webcast. I invite you to study these herbs, integrate them into your life and allow them to work their healing magic within you.