History of Brahmi
Gotu Kola also known as “Brahmi”, which is derived from Hinduism meaning the “Brahman”. The Brahman is the unchanging reality amidst and beyond the world. In Sanskrit it is Sat-cit-ananda, which is being-consciousness-bliss and is the highest reality.
Throughout its history, Brahmi has been one of the more important herbs when it comes to Ayurvedic medicine. In India, the herb was used with newborn children, with the wide held belief being that the herb would cause the child to become more open minded and intelligent; essentially the Brahmi was actually believed to free the mind of the child.
Additionally, the herb was well known and used by the great sages of Indian philosophy, who appropriately gave it its name which means ‘knowledge’. Charaka, Ayurveda’s third legendary physician, who identifies the seasons and times of day when a particular plant’s medicinal powers achieve their maximum potency, states that the true value of brahmi lies in its outstanding performance against senile decay and loss of memory, and its capacity for enhancing verbal articulation.
One interesting piece of evidence for its effectiveness is given by Appa Rao in Medicinal Plants of India: “A double blind clinical test was conducted on thirty mentally retarded children, who were free from epilepsy and other neurological conditions, to study the effect of the drug extracted from Indian pennywort (brahmi) on general mental ability. The results indicated a significant improvement in both general ability and behavioural patterns when the drug was administered for a short period of twelve weeks.”
About the plant
Brahmi, a plant from the Umbelliferae family, is the Sanskrit name for the Indian pennywort, also known as khulakudi in Hindi. In the dictionary of herbs it is known as somavati or saraswati. It is a so-called ‘weed’ which is found growing wild in marshlands and reservoirs, and near the banks of rivers and lakes all over India and South Africa. This herb creeps along the ground, rooting at the nodes, and has small light green leaves fluted around the edges. In taste it resembles parsley, but unlike parsley it is slightly bitter. The entire plant, especially the leaves, is used for medicinal purposes. It is perhaps the most important nervine herb used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Brahmi and the yogi
Brahmi is an important food for yogis and improves meditation. A dosage of brahmi taken before meditation is a great aid in this practice. It helps to awaken the crown chakra at the top of the head (sahasrara), and balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Brahmi is one of the best herbs for balancing and rejuvenating the whole mind and consciousness system.
Consisting of triterpenoid saponins, sapogenins, Calcium, Phosphorous, Iron, Potassium, Beta-Carotene, Thiamine, Riboflavin and Niacin.
The exact origin of turmeric is not known but it originates from South or Southeast Asia, most probably from western India.
Turmeric is a sterile plant, and does not produce seed. It is thought to have arisen by selection and vegetative propagation of a hybrid between the wild turmeric (Curcuma aromatica), native to India, Sri Lanka and the eastern Himalayas and some other closely related species.
Turmeric has been grown in India since ancient times. It reached China by 700 AD, East Africa by 800 AD and West Africa by 1200. It was introduced to Jamaica in the 18th Century. Today, turmeric is widely cultivated throughout the tropics.
Turmeric was probably cultivated at first as a dye, and then became valued as a condiment as well as for cosmetic purposes. It is often used in cooking as a substitute for the more costly saffron. In the 13th century Marco Polo wrote of this spice, marvelling at a vegetable which exhibited qualities so similar to saffron.
Familiar to the contemporary world as a prime component of curry powder, the orange-yellow rhizome’s striking colour lent it a special aura in ancient India. It has always been considered an auspicious material in the sub-continent, both amongst the Aryan cultures (mostly northern) and the Dravidian cultures (mostly southern) and its value may extend far in history to the beliefs of ancient indigenous peoples. Turmeric’s common name in the north, haldi, derives from the Sanskrit haridra, and in the south it is called manjal, a word that is frequently used in ancient Tamil literature.
Turmeric has a long history of medicinal use in South Asia, cited in Sanskrit medical treatises and widely used in Ayurvedic and Unani systems. Susruta’s Ayurvedic Compendium, dating to 250 BC, recommends an ointment containing turmeric to relieve the effects of poisoned food.
Turmeric has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and can help you avoid discomfort associated with strength-building postures by reducing the buildup of free radicals that occurs as your muscle tissues consume oxygen; this also reduces post-practice pain and recovery time. Research published in the 1993 Journal of Ethnopharmacology (vol.38) showed turmeric to be a nutrient for connective tissue, stabilizing the collagen fibers and preventing adhesions caused by stress and overstretching.
Traditionally, turmeric is said to provide the energy of the Divine Mother and grant prosperity. It cleanses the chakras, purifies the channels of the subtle body and helps stretch the ligaments and, therefore, is highly recommended for the practice of hatha yoga. Mixed with honey, turmeric can be used externally for sprains and strains. Cinnamon bark is known throughout Asia for its ability to strengthen, warm, and harmonize the flow of circulation into the muscles, joints, and bones. And in the Taoist yoga systems of the Far East, a combination of peony root and licorice root is used to reduce muscle tension.
On the path of yoga the opportunity to cultivate flexibility is a gift that comes to us in many forms in addition to asana. It is a simple alchemy found in the way we live and work, our diet, emotions, and the karmic actions that affect the physical and subtle body. In a society where we look for the answers to our suffering in a pill, we must not forget that nature has given us herbs not only as remedies but also as special energetic foods to help us grow in our lives and, most especially, in our yoga practice.
There are 92 Constituents in turmeric, some of which are antioxidants including vitamins C and E, proteins, high in vitamin A, carotenoids, magnesium, selenium, iron, niacin, potassium, selenium, and cineole which stimulates the central nervous system and also helps the body to dispose of contaminants and waste. 1-alpha curcumene, 1-beta-curcumene, camphene, camphor, various forms of curcumin.
The fragrant Rhodiola rosea root, also known as roseroot, has been used throughout history in Iceland, Sweden, France, Russia, and Greece. Popular with the Vikings to enhance mental and physical endurance, this revered adaptogen was included in the first Swedish Pharmacopeia. This Alpine plant, also known as “Golden Root” has been prized by many generations above all other indigenous plants as “The Ultimate Traditional Medicine for General Health, Mental & Physical Performance and Longevity.”
The history, not myth or legend, of Roseroot’s extraordinary healing and invigorating properties extend back several thousand years, even to pre-written history of Siberia. For millennia, Roseroot was revered as a “gift of the spirits” by the people of the local region. Traditionally, this marvelous plant was given to betrothed Siberian couples to ensure the birth of many healthy children.
Spanning generations, the prime harvesting locations, time of year and method of extraction of the choicest of roots had been a well kept family secret, as well as a tightly controlled Governmental Russian secret. Only recently has the Western World gained the knowledge of Rhodiola rosea’s true adaptogenic and timeless health promoting properties.
In the west, Rhodiola rosea is still not well known. It has not made significant inroads in the North American natural products market. This may be due to the fact that most of the research comes from Russia and Scandinavia. Nearly 200 studies have been published mainly in Slavic and Scandinavian languages since 1960, rarely translated into English.
Roseroot and the Yogi
To meet the challenges of life in today’s fast-paced, high stress world, Roseroot appears ideal. In human studies, Roseroot fights fatigue, combats stress, and possesses both antioxidant and anticancer properties. Roseroot protects body and mind against oxygen deprivation, enhances overall immune function, and promotes healthy sexual function in men and women. According to published science, this activity is largely attributed to a group of pharmacologically active compounds in the root called rosavins.
In the brain, Roseroot helps to improve various parameters of brain function including attention, memory, thought formation, calculating, evaluating, planning, and overall learning.
This amazing plant is a first-rate adaptogen. By definition, this means that Rhodiola rosea demonstrates extraordinary safety, offers very broad benefits to body and mind, and specifically helps the user to adapt better to any and all forms of physical and mental stress.
In various human studies, Roseroot improved strength, endurance, stamina, physical work capacity, recovery time from exertion, motor coordination, and cardiovascular measurements. Roseroot decreases fatigue, exhaustion. This makes Rhodiola rosea a superior yoga performance aid.
Research has shown the following health-promoting applications of Rhodiola rosea:
o Stimulating effect on the central nervous system in small or medium doses.
o Sedative effects in larger doses.
o Builds physical endurance, and curtails recovery time after exercise.
o Improves function of thyroid without causing hyperthyroidism.
o Better functioning of thymus gland and protection from the involution that occurs with aging.
o Anti-depressive activity in persons with mild to moderate depression.
o Appears to increase learning, thinking, and memory.
o Improves physical fitness, mental fatigue under stressful conditions, coordination, and general well being.
o Increases intellectual capacity by improving perception and processing of information.
o Reduces stress-induced cardiac damage.
o As an antioxidant may protect the nervous system from oxidative damage by free radicals.
As far as phytochemicals, scientists have identified about 140 chemical compounds in Roseroot.
Phenylpropanoids such as rosavin, rosarin and rosin are typical components of Rhodiola rosea root. Other constituents include salidroside (a hydroxyphenethyl (tyrosol) glucoside) and the monoterpene rosiridin. Salidroside is present in a variety of species, including some outside the Rhodiola genus. The term rosavins is used collectively for rosavin, rosin and rosarin.
Other constituents of Rhodiola root include flavonoids, tannins and an essential oil. (In comparison with some other medicinal roots, Rhodiola root contains a low content of essential oil.) In terms of the characteristic rose fragrance of the root, several compounds with a rose odour and other floral notes have been identified from specimens grown in Norway. Geraniol was found to be the main rose-like odour compound, which is one of the most abundant monoterpene alcohols in the essential oil from roses.
Medicinal Mushroom Red Reishi
Red Reishi Mushroom is an herbal mushroom known to have miraculous health benefits, and is commonly known as the “Mushroom of Immortality”. It was first found in East Asia and has been used as a medicinal mushroom in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 4000 years. And, due to the rarity of the mushroom (it’s estimated that only 2 or 3 out of 10,000 trees will have the mushroom growing from it) it was only consumed by emperors and royalty.
Reishi comes in several different colors, although the red has proven to be more potent than the others. Reishi is commonly thought of as a spiritual mushroom that helps bring energy to the body and stillness to the mind. This is why it is extremely popular with yoga/meditation practitioners and is taking by the masters of Kung Fu and Tai Chi. In Chinese art, the mushroom symbolizes great health and longevity, as depicted in the Imperial City. It was a talisman for luck in the traditional cultures of China, and the goddess of healing, Gyangin, can be seen holding a Reishi mushroom.
There are several ingredients that make up the Reishi mushroom; one of these ingredients is called Polysaccharides, which contain beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is known for its ability to enhance the immune system. In fact it is one of the strongest immune system boosters known to man. Another active ingredient in Reishi is triterpenes. The type found in Reishi mushrooms is known as ganaderic acid. Ganaderic acid has a proven ability to symptoms of allergies by stopping the release of histamines. It can also improve the bodies use of oxygen and help the functioning of the liver. Ganadermic acids may also reduce blood pressure and control healthy cholesterol levels.
Benefits to Life Practice
Red Reishi is a powerful anti-oxidant, boosts the immune system, suppresses the growth of cancer tumours, helps people with chronic asthma, shows strong anti-inflammatory properties, relieves arthritis, helps to control blood pressure and reduces cholesterol, alleviates allergies, regulates blood sugar, aids in treating herpes and cold sores, supports cardiovascular health, protects against radiation damage, is a sleep aid, strengthens the heart/liver/ lungs, relieves muscle aches and much more.
With its potent ability to bring a soothing and grounding effect to the nervous system, a focus to the mind, and act as a warrior to bodily health, Reishi can only improve your practice of life and yoga.
A hearty and abundant medicine with much promise. Constituents include an array of alkaloids, triterpine acids, ergosterols, fumaric acid, coumarins, lactone, mannitol, and many polysaccharides.
Various forms of Ginseng have been used in medicine for more than 7000 years. Several species grow around the world, and though some are preferred for specific benefits, all are considered to have similar properties as an effective general rejuvenator.
Siberian Eleuthero is a distant relative of American and Asian Ginsengs (Panax sp.), with some overlap in its uses, but is a distinct plant with different active chemical components and does not contain ginsenosides, the active ingredients found in both Asian and American Ginseng. Eleuthero displays many properties common with true ginseng. Records of Chinese medicine describe the usage of Eleuthero for at least two thousand years for the purposes of increasing energy, longevity and vitality, improving general health, restoring weak memory, relieving stiffness and tension in the soft tissues and joints, as well as increasing resistance to respiratory infections.
Today Eleuthero is one of the most well researched adaptogens. Numerous experimental and clinical studies confirm its adaptogenic properties including ability to increase non-specific body resistance to stress, fatigue, disease, and harmful chemicals.
Clinical data supports the use of Eleuthero as a restorative tonic for enhancing mental and physical performance in cases of exhaustion and tiredness, weakness, and during recovery following an attack of disease, a surgical intervention or an injury. A review of clinical trials involving over 2,100 healthy individuals found that Eleuthero root improved resistance to adverse physical conditions such as heat, noise, increased work-load, and exercise. Eleuthero root also increased mental alertness and work output as well as improved both the quality of work performed under stressful conditions and athletic performance.
Eleuthero has been shown to normalize adrenal and thyroid function – the two critical self regulation mechanisms in our body. It also balanced blood pressure and blood sugar levels in both animal and experimental studies. While analyzing Eleuthero composition researchers have identified six compounds with antioxidant properties, four compounds exhibiting anticancer actions and two compounds producing immune-enhancing effects. Adding an Eleuthero preparation to blood samples from healthy donors resulted in 30-45% increase in phagocytosis – our body’s protective reaction involving capturing of waste material, harmful microorganisms and other foreign inclusions by white blood cells.
Another study demonstrated that a Eleuthero root exhibits strong antiviral activity. It inhibited the reproduction of human rhinovirus (one of the major causes of the common cold), human respiratory syncytial virus (cause of respiratory illness), and influenza A (flu) virus in infected cell cultures. Eleuthero has even been shown to improve short-term memory and overall mental performance in healthy individuals. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study done on middle-aged people found that Eleuthero significantly improved their selective memory, feelings of well-being, and activity levels.
Eleuthero’s anti-fatigue effect as well as its beneficial influence on endurance and the capacity to work (both mentally and physically) might be explained by its ability to increase the capability of the body’s cells to utilize phosphorus-containing energy molecules and to dispose of various byproducts of metabolism. Furthermore, Eleuthero has been shown to increase the resistance of rats to the toxic effects of harmful chemicals.
Siberian Eleuthero is known all over the world now as one of the best adaptogenic agents ever used by man. There just isn’t much else that can deliver so much wonderful raw working energy. It is truly the king of adaptogens.
Summary, Siberian Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosis) also known as Siberian Ginseng is more tonifying than the true Ginsengs (Panax sp.). It is neutral energetically and so is appropriate for daily use. Taken regularly, it enhances immune function, increases cortisone levels and anti-inflammatory response, and it promotes improved cognitive and physical performance in human studies. Also remember, unlike the Panax sp. it will lower high blood pressure, not raise it (unless it is already very low).
Eleuthero for Yogis
Traditional Yoga has always rested on a special yogic diet and special yogic herbs to go along with it. Yoga postures are something that we do, an expression of our energy. This depends upon how we feed ourselves, what provides the fuel for our energy production.
Herbs are powerful aids in the practice of yoga. They are useful not only for treating diseases and for rejuvenation but for awakening all our higher faculties. Anyone involved in yoga should consider taking helpful herbs on a regular basis. Yogis commonly have taken herbs to aid in their practice and to stimulate both prana and the higher mind.
Many of the oriental tonic herbs becoming popular in this country today are excellent for yoga practice because they increase our deeper vital energies (chi or prana). Such herbs possess overall strengthening properties for the muscles and nerves, especially helpful for vegetarians who may need a deeper form of nutrition. Herbs are important adjuncts that can catalyze processes that otherwise may be difficult to achieve.
Siberian ginseng (Eleuthrococcus senticossus) is widely used for improving athletic performance, promoting elasticity of the joints and tendons, preventing injury during exercise and countering arthritis, particularly the chronic and degenerative type. These uses make it very helpful for asana practice. Eleuthero increases flexibility, promotes circulation and stimulates the movement of energy. It aids in the proper performance of asanas by improving musculoskeletal function and coordination. They are usually classified as anti-rheumatic or anti-arthritic agents.
The major constituents are ciwujianoside A-E, eleutheroside B (syringin), eleutherosides A-M, friedelin, isofraxidin and acanthoside-D.
Vasodilator & Superfood Ginger
Ginger is one of the most well researched herbs in the world. For over 5000 years, the Indian and Chinese civilizations recognized it for its powerful health-enhancing properties.
Ginger has a long history of use in South Asia, both in dried and fresh form. The Hindu epic Mahabharata written around the 4th century BC describes a meal where meat is stewed with ginger and other spices. It was also an important plant in the traditional Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine.
In the Manasollasa literature written in the 11th century AD ginger was mentioned as a flavouring for buttermilk drinks. Its use as a food became much more widespread by the 13th century AD with the advent of Muslim rule in India. It became popular to prepare meat dishes and drinks using ginger pastes. Fruit juices, tea, buttermilk and curd products were spiced with ginger.
Ginger was also highly important as an article of trade and was exported from India to the Roman empire 2000 years ago where it was valued more for its medicinal properties than as an ingredient in cookery.
It continued as an article of trade to Europe even after the fall of the Roman empire, with Arab merchants controlling the trade in ginger and other spices for centuries. By medieval times, it was being imported in preserved form, to be used in sweets.
Together with black pepper, ginger was one of the most commonly traded spices during the 13th and 14th centuries. Arabs carried the rhizomes on their voyages to East Africa to plant at coastal settlements and on Zanzibar. During this time in England, ginger was sought after, and one pound in weight of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep.
Ginger and Yoga
For yoga practitioners in particular, it is revered for its positive effects on the respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems.
Got a sore area from a yoga stretch? Ginger is a marvelous anti-inflammatory and promotes a healing circulation around strains, sprains, and even arthritic conditions.
Can’t get a full deep breath in your yoga class? During the colder months when our respiratory systems may become compromised and hamper our yoga and pranayama practices, ginger comes to the rescue. It is well known for its warming action on the upper respiratory tract and has been used to treat colds and flu.
Tummy a little full before yoga practice or upset afterwards? Ginger stimulates digestion, removes cramps and bloating, and keeps the fires burning inside.
Suffering from yoga-inhibiting conditions like migraines, menstrual cramps, nausea, morning sickness, or just tiredness? Ginger to the rescue, with proven results in helping relieve all these symptoms.
Ginger has even been shown to elevate your mood and its cineole content helps contribute to stress relief as well – a perfect yoga class complement!
In his book The Yoga of Herbs, Dr. David Frawley describes ginger as perhaps the most “sattvic” of the spices. In yoga, the quality of sattva is lightness, clarity, and the distinguishing trademark of the meditative mind.
In Ayurveda, the healing sister science of Yoga, ginger is called “vishwabhesaj,” or the “universal medicine.” My teacher Yogi Bhajan often recommended ginger as a powerful healing herb for both men and women and stated on several occasions that it also has a therapeutic effect on lower back problems, particularly those associated with the fourth lower vertebrae.
How can you use ginger to make you a healthy and better yoga practitioner? You can eat it, drink it, snort it or wear it.
1,8-cineole, 2-octanone, alanine, alpha-carotene, alpha-linoleic acid, alpha-phellandrene, arginine, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, betaine, campesterol, capsaicin, capsanthin, carvone, fiber, folacin, glutamic acid, hesperidin, isoleucine, isovaleric acid, kaempferol, manganese, myrcene, p-coumaric acid, potassium, proline, quercetin, scopoletin, solanine, thiamin, thujone, tryptophan, valine, zeaxanthin, zinc.