Herbal Traditions of Ayurvedic Medicine: Early Uses and Texts

Originating in the Himalayas, deeply spiritual prophets were responsible for developing Ayurveda more than 5,000 years ago. During that time, the wisdom that they held was transferred from teacher to student until it was ultimately written down in Sanskrit poetry, better known as the Vedas. This article will present more information on the evolution of Indian herbal treatments, as well as list some of the herbs used in Ayurvedic healing.

In the Vedas, which date back to around 1500 BC, the foundation of the Indian culture was born. It involved the historical, religious, and medical knowledge of a growing culture. Throughout the years, the most significant of these texts included the Atharva Veda and the Rig Veda.

Punarvasu Atreya founded the first medical school devoted to Ayurvedic medicine around 800 BC. With the help of his pupils, he wrote down the medical information in the form of treatises that would eventually influence great thinkers and healers, such as Charaka , a scholar from 700 BC times. He went on to write the Chraka Samhita, which described 1,500 plants and identified 350 of them that could serve as decent medicines. To this day, practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine refer to this text.

Another major publication associated with Ayurvedic medicine is the Susruta Samhita, which was produced 100 years later. This text focuses on some of the basic approaches in surgery and is still used as a modern reference. To get an idea of some of the herbs used throughout the years in Ayurvedic medicine, consider the following:

Castor Oil Plant: The castor bean plant is cultivated for its seed oil, which is not only used in medicinal treatments, but has also found a place in the world of cosmetics. It is believed that the plant is most likely native to the eastern part of Africa, but the hot climate of India offers a decent home for the plant to thrive. Castor oil has a medicinal history that traces back 4,000 years. It was used as a childhood remedy to clean out their systems. After three to five hours of ingesting castor oil, a patient will experience a bowel movement, making the oil a respected laxative. In Indian herbalism, swollen and tender joints are treated with poultices made out of castor oil seeds. It is important to note that the seeds are not an internal remedy and should never be ingested.

Cloves: In India, cloves have earned a place in medicinal treatments for thousands of years. Dried in the open air, the flower buds are first picked in an unopened state. This particular herb possesses the power to put an end to a variety of infections, including scabies and cholera. Practitioners will create powders and infusions from the flower buds. The leaves and stems of the plant are usually set aside for oil extraction. Some of the uses for this kind of herbal treatments include infusions for colic, essential oils for toothaches, and tinctures for flatulence.