Saturday, 12 April 2008

Back To Herbal Roots

Publication: Times Of India
Author: Anisha Sharma

Literally! Lucknowites are discovering the benefits and joys of medicinal plants and herbs in their gardens.

Green doc is the new fad around town going by Lucknowites’love for growing medicinal plants at home. Medicinal flora like shankhpushpi, sadabahar, brahmi, amla, tulsi, pudina, ajwain, lemon grass, neem, haldi, kali mirch, aloe vera and wheat grass curry favour with green fingered health freaks in the city.

There’s no denying that an increased global interest in herbal health supplements, aroma therapy, Ayurveda and preservation of biodiversity may be responsible for the popularity of indoor and outdoor medicinal plants.

While Swami Ramdev’s advice at public gatherings to plant saplings of medicinal trees and herbs like neem, mahua, tulsi, giloi, etc in and around their homes to mark a family celebration such as a birthday or wedding anniversary also carries weight.

In agreement with him, housewife Vinita Sharma manages a neat harvest of ashwagandha, nagdhon, malati, aloe vera and tulsi at home. “In consultation with books and and an elderly Vaidyaji, I use these plants in home remedies to alleviate BP, muscular pain and respiratory troubles among others,” she says.

While Vinita was influenced by Swami Ramdev, artist Anita Narain nurtured a variety of medicinal and aromatic plants instinctively.

Bubbling with excitement she speaks about her diverse collection and equally diverse sources, “I picked up black pepper saplings and haldi rhizomes from Kakori and a mosquito repellent herb from the suburbs of Jim Corbett National Park.”

She professes that her collection of lemon grass, wheat grass, ajwain, sadabahar, krishna tulsi, amla, neem, sehjan and eucalyptus is a sensual treat: “Their presence and fragrance itself is so uplifting!”

“Rightly so,” adds Dr Narendra Singh, director, International Institute of Herbal Medicine, “Herbs have tangible potency in their very being. Their aromatic content purifies the air, while their systematic use in medicines is, of course, gaining popularity at a dizzying speed. Growing these at home is a good way of staying connected with these sustainers of good health.”

Lucknow based Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) goes with the doc’s logic while promoting these plants through school children, government organisations, NGOs and farmers, according to deputy director Dr AK Singh.

As heightened awareness escalates the demand, local nursery wallahs are keeping up with the trend. Jagannath Singh, like his fellow nursery owners, effortlessly rattles off names, previously less familiar –”Shatavari, aloe vera, ashwagandha, sarpgandha… sab mil jayega, madam.”

Even when supply on demand fetches a good price, clients are willing to pay almost anything, observes Jagannath, and chuckles under his breath, “What is this new craze about medicinal plants? We always had our neem, rendi, pakar, babool, tulsi and the rest. How could you forget them?”

By the looks of it, Lucknow is fast jogging its memory on this front!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Caring For Your Feet With Herbs

Publication: The Star

In the human body, the feet are the most strained parts, yet the feet are often not considered as important as other parts of the body. And so while many of us care for the health and vitality of our other organs, often our feet tend to be neglected. However, foot problems are myriad, and when neglected, can be troublesome. Foot problems include smelly feet, athlete’s foot, verrucae, corns and infected toenails.

Smelly feet are usually caused by excessive perspiration and an over-growth of fungi and/or bacteria. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection. It is contagious via direct contact, wet floors and shared footwear.

Verrucae are flat warts in the sole of the foot. They are forced under the skin and may occur in clusters. The surface is greyish and crumbly, and they may contain small black points (due to swollen blood vessels). Corns are hard skin that build up on areas of the feet that are subject to pressure or friction, such as the little toe.

Traditional sciences like Ayurveda mention the use of many natural ingredients that can care for your feet. Infected toenails are commonly the result of a fungal infection, a condition known as onychomycosis. Toenails affected by onychomycosis are often brittle, discoloured or yellowish. Walking barefoot on rough surfaces or excessive exposure of bare feet to the sun, wind or water causes cracks on the heels and soles, which cause dryness and roughness of the feet.

Although not classified as a foot disease, many people experience dry soles and heels, and this is common amongst women who expose their feet to the environment. Atmospheric exposure removes moisture from the skin and make the feet and soles dry and hard. Dry soles and heels later end up in cracked feet.

Antimicrobial agents in the form of creams are a common treatment in infectious foot problems, while moisturisers and keratolytic (an agent that removes dead and toughened skin cells) agents assist in making dry soles and heels return to normal. The use of chemical keratolytic agents at times lead to local irritation and contact dermatitis.

Ayurveda mentions the use of many natural ingredients that can care for your feet. These ingredients, by virtue of their keratolytic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, improve blood circulation in the feet, relieve pain and tiredness, smoothen the skin and help heal wounds, corns and bunions.

Ardaka; Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been used in traditional medicine in the management of painful, arthritic, inflammatory conditions. Ginger is also a rich source of antimicrobials and antioxidants, which renders it invaluable in the treatment of infections and wounds.

Methi; Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) is well known for its anti-diabetic actions and it is also credited with skin care properties. The seeds are used externally in poultices for boils, abscesses and ulcers, and internally as an emollient for inflammation. Fenugreek is also well known for its antioxidants properties. For cosmetic purposes, fenugreek has a reputation as a skin softener and in Western herbalist teaching, it is often recommended as a component in skin soothing preparations.

Haridra; Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a skin-friendly herb and is valued for its antimicrobial activity. Its major component, curcumin, has antiseptic and antioxidant properties. These properties provide relief in cases of fungal and bacterial infections of the feet. Turmeric also has wound healing properties. A combination of these herbs and natural agents, which provide antimicrobial, keratolyitic and moisturising actions, mixed in the right proportions serve as an effective treatment for problems of the foot.

Sal tree (Shorea robusta) is a large sub-deciduous tree, which on tapping yields an oleoresin which contains triterpenoids. The resin is used in indigenous systems of medicine as an astringent and detergent. It is also used as an ingredient in ointments for skin diseases. Sal butter, which is expressed from the seed of the Sal tree, prevents drying of the skin, prevents development of wrinkles, and lends some protection against the sun and the environment.

Madhu; Honey (Meldespumatum) has many virtues that is useful in foot care. It is a rich source of sugars, vitamins and minerals and helps nourish the skin. Its ability to attract water helps it keep the skin soft and supple. Honey is also a natural cleanser and is used in many skin-cleansing formulations. Honey’s prospects in skincare are looking even sweeter; research is currently underway to develop a process using honey to create alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). AHAs are an important ingredient in many skin creams and moisturisers because they help exfoliate the skin. Increased exfoliation, or renewal of the skin cells, can give skin a younger, more vibrant look. Honey contains antimicrobial agents which prevent infections by killing the bacteria in and around wounds. Honey is in fact popular as a wound dressing material and has been rediscovered by the medical profession for the treatment of burns, infected wounds, and skin ulcers. As a dressing on wounds, honey provides a moist healing environment, rapidly clears infection, deodorises, and reduces inflammation, oedema and exudation. Also, it increases the rate of healing by stimulation of angiogenesis (blood vessel formation) and granulation, making skin grafting unnecessary and giving excellent cosmetic results.
1. Molan PC. The potential of honey to promote oral wellness. Gen Dent. 2001 Nov-Dec;49(6):584-9.
2. Molan PC. Potential of honey in the treatment of wounds and burns. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2(1):13-9
3. Mascolo N, Jain R, Jain SC, Capasso F. Ethnopharmacologic investigation of ginger (Zingiber officinale). J Ethnopharmacol. 1989 Nov;27(1-2):129-40.
4. Dixit P, Ghaskadbi S, Mohan H, Devasagayam TP. Antioxidant properties of germinated fenugreek seeds. Phytother Res. 2005 Nov;19(11):977-83.

How You Can Boost Your Immunity

Publication: Healthy Wealthy and Wise
Author: Dr. Pankaj and Smita Naram

Immunity is a word that’s on everyone’s lips as headline after headline appears about the Bird Flu possibly moving closer. Even when people try to relax on a therapeutic cruise, nasty bacteria come along for the ride! Without yearly shots, many people tend to develop serious respiratory winter colds and flu. There just seems to be no getting away from these foreign invaders. They are everywhere! So creating a strong immune system is becoming more essential for all of us.

As happens with many people these days, Dinanath Das had been hit with 5-6 such serious infections each year when he arrived at our Mumbai Ayushakti Ayurved clinic. Every time a cold or flu came around, he was the first to get it! He no sooner did he get over one but the next began. So that day, he had already resolved to make some big changes. To strengthen his system, he knew that he had to first give it a cleaning like he had never done before. His obesity was also part of the problem.

Sure enough, upon checking his pulse, we discovered Dinanath’s immune system was extremely low, his metabolism was sluggish and his body’s Ojas level had become marginal. Ojas is literally the nectar that results from the body’s whole metabolic cycle – once all the tissues are nourished properly. It is the key player in either vibrant health or a rash of immune-related illnesses. Ojas protects, vitalizes and strengthens the entire body. When Ojas is in good supply in your body, stressful situations don’t affect you, nor do the emotional and mental roller coaster rides of your life.

After detoxifying for several weeks with deep panchakarma cleansing treatments, eating carefully and taking a series of potent Ayurvedic herbal supplements, Dinanath lost over 30 pounds. Within six months of taking herbs and eating with greater awareness, he once again became healthy. His immune system now functions as it should. The simple things that helped Dinanath can also help you to strengthen your immunity. We have seen this happen in literally thousands of cases in Europe, America, Australia and India.

Immunity gets nourished only after all tissues are nourished very well in the body. Tissues get fed only when our digestion and metabolism functions at optimum level. If you don’t digest everything you eat, then even extremely nourishing food is not available to you. If your body doesn’t transform what you’ve digested through metabolism, your tissues don’t regenerate. That’s when your immune system struggles and weakens. You feel sluggish, tired and your immune system can no longer fight things off.

To keep your immune system in tiptop shape, Ayurveda says that it’s essential to protect your digestion and metabolism. Emotional stress is one of the biggest killers of Agni – the force behind digestion and metabolism. Stress weakens Ojas . That’s why we always work with people’s immunity, not just on the physical level, but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Strengthening these levels contributes to a strong immune system.

A man named Andy came to see us ten years ago in Italy. He told me, “Dr. Pankaj Naram, I have come to show you my pulse to find out when I’m going to die. I have Hepatitis A, B, C positive, HIV and now AIDS, which has progressed, and these are my medical reports.” Putting his reports aside, I started treating him on a program with herbal supplements, a dietary regimen, lifestyle changes and marma (subtle energy point therapy). Andy made incredible progress. His immunity factors changed dramatically and his health became stronger. Today he is married and living a normal life.

These cases may be more extreme than yours. But by following a few simple tips, you can stay healthy and lead an energetic, enthusiastic and tranquil life!

A simple home remedy that strengthens your immunity:

Power Breakfast

Dates 3
Almonds 4
Whole cardamom 2
Fennel seeds 1 tsp
Ghee ½ tsp

1. Soak all overnight, except the ghee.
2. Drain & peel cardamom & almonds in morning.
3. Add half a glass of water (or milk) and ghee.
4. Blend all to prepare a drink.
5. Drink following your morning tea or coffee.

This breakfast will keep your energy high all day. Dates and almonds provide strength and nutrients. Fennel and cardamom aid in the digestive process. Later, you should have a normal breakfast only if you are really hungry.

About the Author: A strong immune system will give power and energy to your life! Read more ways to build this important system in Dr. Smita Naram’s book, Secrets of Natural Health available by calling 888-AYURVED and visit their website at:

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Candida: Restoring Balance with Ayurveda

Author: Shreelata Suresh

Candida albicans is a yeast-like fungus that lives in the mouth and throat, the intestinal tract and the genital tract. Normally, the population of candida is in healthy balance with other intestinal flora. However, sometimes its population explodes because of various factors such as an improper diet, bursts of intense stress or ongoing low-grade stress that isn’t managed effectively combined with poor sleep/exercise routines or antibiotics or oral contraceptives—any dietary or lifestyle imbalances that compromise natural immunity can result in the yeast bacteria getting out of control and escaping the bounds of its normal abodes to other parts of the body.

An out-of-control population of the yeast bacteria has been linked to a multitude of seemingly unrelated symptoms, including abdominal bloating and gas, coated tongue, nausea, fatigue, respiratory system imbalance, frequent UTI, genital area infections, skin problems, spaciness and inability to focus and emotional imbalance. If left uncorrected, the different systems of the body become sluggish and ama-clogged, creating an even more favorable environment for the growth of the yeast fungi and setting up a vicious cycle of poor health.

Ayurvedic healers recommend a holistic approach to restoring balance that includes diet, lifestyle recommendations and herbs and spices. It takes patience, discipline and a full commitment to one’s health to restore balance and stay in balance, but the results are well worth the effort.

If you are pregnant or lactating, or experiencing mental, emotional or physical symptoms, it is best to consult a physician who can recommend an individual program for balance after an assessment. Here are some suggestions for restoring balance:

Dietary dos and don’ts

First, what you should stay away from:

Avoid sweet, heavy, cold foods. Sugars create an environment that facilitates the growth of yeast bacteria. Sweet, heavy, cold foods overtax an already weakened digestive system and create mote internal toxins. Fruit juices and very sweet fruits such as grapes should also be avoided.

Avoid leftovers. Even if refrigerated, leftovers are conducive to growth of mold and bacteria, and they are harder to digest than fresh foods, prepared fresh and eaten immediately.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and carbonated beverages.

Avoid processed and junk foods and refined flours. Reduce white rice.

Avoid yeasted breads and pastas, aged cheeses, mushrooms and peanuts.

Avoid fermented foods such as vinegar and products that contain fermented foods as ingredients.

Here are guidelines for what you should include in your daily diet.

Eat plenty of vegetables. Include small portions of bitter and pungent vegetables such as bitter greens, bitter gourd, tender fenugreek sprouts and daikon radish in combination with tridoshic vegetables such as zucchini, loki squash, asparagus, carrot, green beans and tender greens. Avoid or minimize nightshades, which tend to clog the channels of the body, except for small amounts of cayenne if you can tolerate it, used in combination with other spices and herbs. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts in small quantities, chopped small and cooked with digestion-enhancing spices are also helpful. Ayurvedic healers recommend briefly steam-cooking vegetables, covered, rather than eating them raw, to improve digestibility.

Start the day with the hot lemon treatment. Squeeze the juice of a medium-sized lemon into a cup of hot water and drink it first thing in the morning. The acidic nature and antibacterial properties of lemon help discourage yeast proliferation, and the hot drink helps regularity, which is crucial to keep the digestive system free of toxin build-up.

A blend of equal parts of lemon juice and olive oil can be used as a dressing on vegetables for enhanced digestion and support for the liver. About a tablespoon of a blend of fresh ginger juice, lemon and a little rock salt taken a half-hour before a meal aids digestion.

Fresh fruit can be healthy sources of the sweet taste. Once balance is restored, one helping of dosha-appropriate fruit can be eaten during the day. Fruits that contain an element of the bitter, such as grapefruit or papaya, are excellent choices. Pomegranate helps enhance digestion. Avoid melons and extremely sweet fruit such as grapes.

Whole grains and small dhals (beans) offer sustenance and fiber. Reduce the intake of white rice. Choose instead from oats and oatmeal, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, barley and rye. Whole-wheat flatbreads, especially with some psyllium added to the dough, enhance the elimination of wastes from the digestive tract. Mung dhal is easier to digest than larger beans, especially when cooked with herbs and spices, while being nutritious. Try khicharee, a one-dish meal made with mung dhal, vegetables and either brown rice or cracked wheat.

Drink a tall glass of digestive lassi each day at lunch. Digestive lassi is made by blending fresh plain yogurt (with active cultures) with pure water and digestion-enhancing herbs and spices. Ayurvedic healers highly recommend lassi as a way of replenishing healthy intestinal flora without clogging the channels of the body. Try fresh ginger root, rock salt, dry-roasted and ground cumin, fresh cilantro and organic rosehips in a blend of 40% yogurt and 60% pure water. Lassi and/or yogurt should not be consumed after sundown.

Cook with spices that enhance digestion and fight toxins. Turmeric, black pepper, dried ginger, cumin, cinnamon and fenugreek are good choices. Spices should be eaten cooked, not raw. Either sauté them in a small amount of ghee or olive oil and add to dishes or add during the last 10 minutes of the cooking process. Black pepper, when eaten cooked, is a bio-availability enhancer.

Cook some dishes in small amounts of coconut oil or a blend of coconut oil and ghee or olive oil. Coconut oil has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Drink lots of warm water. Regular intake of warm water through the day can help flush toxins out regularly through the urine and perspiration and make it difficult for harmful bacteria or yeast to sit around and breed.

One final word on diet. Ayurvedic healers recommend really paying attention to what specific foods do for your body and making dietary choices that help the most for you as an individual. A wide variety of healthy food choices is available and you can pick the ones that you enjoy and that work for your physiology. Keeping a food journal may be helpful, to help track what you are eating and to hone in on the foods that work the best for you. To stick to healthy eating patterns, your diet has to be enjoyable and appealing.


Deep breathing: Breathing shallow reduces the quantity of life-supporting prana you receive with each breath. Practice deep breathing consciously until it becomes a habit.

Sleep: It is important to get an adequate amount of good-quality sleep each night to replenish energy levels and to give the self-defense mechanisms of the body the opportunity to purify the system. Make it a habit to go to bed before 10 p.m. and rise early.

Exercise: Exercise moderately everyday, choosing types of exercise that are appropriate for your body-type and needs for balance. Exercise in the mornings, and in the fresh air outdoors when you can.

Massage: A daily warm oil self-massage can help support energy levels, promote ease of falling asleep, support the health of muscles and joints, help release toxins from the deeper layers of the body for elimination, and support mental and emotional balance.

Stress Management: Stress compromises your immune system. Practicing relaxing yoga postures, meditation and rest-and-recharge time can help you mange stress so that it does not become disruptive. Seek help if you think support would be helpful in order to manage stress. Hygiene and topical help: Cleanse regularly but do not over-cleanse, which can irritate the skin. Use natural gentle cleansers, fragrance-free if you are sensitive even to natural essential oils or floral waters. 100% pure aloe and pure organic coconut oil may help provide soothing topical comfort. Coconut oil has antibacterial properties as well. Keep skin dry and aired as much as possible. Wear organic cotton clothing and sleep on cotton bed linens.

Cleansing: Ayurvedic healers recommend a 45-day period of internal cleansing with every change of seasons to help get rid of accumulated ama (toxins).

Herbal Rasayanas for Support

Amalaki Rasayana helps enhance digestion, helps support natural energy levels, helps support the sinuses and the respiratory system and the health of the genito-urinary tract and is a rich source of Vitamin C that helps create an acidic environment that inhibits the growth of the yeast bacteria. Take 2 tablets twice a day with warm water or as directed by your ayurvedic physician.

Triphala Rasayana is a digestive toner and helps regularity without being harsh or habit-forming. 2-3 tablets of Triphala can be taken about an hour before bed during the 45-day internal cleansing period and one tablet once or twice a day all through the year as maintenance support.

Trikatu is a blend of dried ginger, long pepper and pepper that helps enhance digestion and facilitates the cleansing of toxins from the physiology. Take in combination with the Amalaki Rasayana to counter any heating of the body.

Neem Rasayana is a renowned ayurvedic antibacterial and antifungal. Take Neem in conjunction with pure aloe or Amalaki for balanced support.

Ashwagandha Rasayana helps support your physiology in managing stress, helps promote good sleep and helps support natural energy levels.