Reliance on Herbs
In Ayurveda, the distinction between food and medicine is not as clear as in Western medicine. Food and diet are important components of Ayurvedic practice, and so there is a heavy reliance on treatments based on herbs and plants, oils (such as sesame oil), common spices (such as turmeric), and other naturally occurring substances.
Currently, some 5,000 products are included in the “pharmacy” of Ayurvedic treatments. Historically, plant compounds have been grouped into categories according to their effects. For example, some compounds are thought to heal, promote vitality, or relieve pain. The compounds are described in many texts prepared through national medical agencies in India. The following are examples of commonly used herbs:
- The spice turmeric has been used for various diseases and conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and wound healing.
- An extract from the resin from a tropical shrub (Commiphora mukul, or guggul) has been used for a variety of illnesses. In recent years, there has been research interest in its use to lower cholesterol.
- The essential oil extracted from Holy Basil is used as counteract depression and mental stress.
India has 16 agro-climatic zones, 45,000 different plant species, and 15,000 medicinal plants. The Indian Systems of Medicine have identified 1,500 medicinal plants, of which 500 species are mostly used in the preparation of drugs. These medicinal plants contribute to 80% of the raw materials used in the preparation of Ayurvedic Medicine.