Ayurveda refers to the traditional health and healing system of India. In Sanskrit, the word Ayurveda consists of the words ayus, meaning "longevity," and veda, meaning "science" – together meaning the "science of life." The core philosophy is guided by in-depth understanding of the five great elements as recognized by Ayurvedic teachings: air, space, fire, water, and earth. Achieving balance and order in connection with these elements is considered crucial to health and wellness on all levels of being - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Ayurveda works by balancing the three basic energies, called doshas, which we all possess in unique proportions. Each dosha contains two of the five elements. The three doshas are: vata (air & space), pitta (fire & water), and kapha (water & earth). Each person usually reflects one prominent dosha, and when this dosha becomes imbalanced, the body experiences symptoms and illness related to the dosha’s properties. Ayurveda uses traditional herbal formulas and personalized diet recommendations, among other modalities, to balance the doshas and reestablish health and wellness. Currently, more than 600 herbal formulas and 250 single plant extracts are used in Ayurveda.
As an integrative medical doctor and healer, I often integrate Ayurveda modalities and principles into my practice. Certain highly-revered Ayurvedic herbs have been shown in scientific studies to be beneficial in promoting healthy metabolic function by addressing blood sugar imbalances and other critical diabetes and metabolic health issues.
Some of these beneficial herbs include gymnema leaf, cassia bark, fenugreek seed, holy basil leaf, jambolan seed, and other natural ingredients, which all work synergistically to balance and maintain a healthy metabolic system, thus helping to prevent and control Metabolic Syndrome and diabetes type 2.
Here are a few of my top recommended Ayurvedic herbs:
1 - Gymnema Leaf - Studies of the effects of gymnema leaf have demonstrated its ability to support healthy insulin levels. In Hinduism, gymnema is called gurmar, which means “destroyer of sugar,” and research shows that this plant contains substances which decrease the absorption of sugar in the intestine. Gymnema may also increase the amount of insulin in the body and may enhance pancreatic cell growth, further benefiting insulin production in the body, as insulin is made in the pancreas.
2 - Cassia or Cinnamon - Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic health systems have used Cassia cinnamon, or Chinese cinnamon, for thousands of years. Recent research indicates that cinnamon may reduce fasting blood sugar levels, with polyphenols that help maintain insulin sensitivity. It's one of the oldest known spices that comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, and is dried and commonly rolled into cinnamon sticks that may be used in tea. Cinnamon can also be ground into a powder and sprinkled on foods for added flavor and spice.
3 - Fenugreek Seed - Several human intervention trials have also shown that fenugreek seeds positively affect metabolic health. Fenugreek seeds have a slightly bitter taste when raw, but when they are sprouted, the flavor becomes pungently sweet, adding a unique taste to salads and other foods. Fenugreek seeds may also be lightly dry roasted to enhance their flavor and reduce their bitterness.
4 - Holy Basil Leaf - Holy basil, called Tulsi in India, is also widely used for a broad range of health conditions, including blood sugar imbalances, and is an essential herb in Ayurveda. Holy basil tea, dried leaves and extracts are widely available and used to aid meditation, correct internal imbalances, and strengthen overall health and well being.
These various herbs have a long tradition of use in Ayurveda, to heal the body and harmonize the mind and spirit. The numerous beneficial compounds found within these botanicals offer strong antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, adaptogenic, and immune-enhancing properties, which effectively promote overall health and support the body's natural defenses. These time-tested ingredients have been shown in studies to support healthy blood glucose levels, reduce inflammation and help correct imbalances in the body, among other health benefits. For more valuable health information on traditionally used herbs and botanicals, visit dreliaz.org.