Plants and Ayurveda

In the Ayurvedic philosophy, plants are the soul of the Earth. According to the Ayurveda, we are all made of the same elements as our environment. Our body functions according to the same principles as the rest of the universe.

A state of well-being and a satisfying health depend on the harmonious balance of the 3 doshas in our whole body.

Traditionally in the Ayurvedic philosophy, hundreds of different herbs are used to rebalance the Doshas when needed.
All of them have an impact on the doshas, and they also have an effective action on the digestion, weight management, intellectual faculties, degenerative diseases prevention, joints pain, or free radicals responsible for the cells ageing.

Influence of plants on doshas:

Ayurveda calls Aloe Vera « Youthful vitality »; it is known to support digestion. The richness of its juice gives to the body the resources to fight external aggressions, particularly due to the digestive enzymes, which helps assimilation and digestion of the nutrients of the foods. Aloe vera balances the three doshas.

A powerful antioxidant, Amalaki provides a great quantity of polyphenols, which prevent the cells from ageing. A legend says that Amalaki, called « youth fruit » in India, could even reverse the impact of time! Amalaki will be particularly helpful for smokers and alcohol consumers, who, among other people, need the polyphenols and Vitamin C contained in this small fruit. Amalaki suits the three doshas and especially when Pitta is unbalanced.

ANDRAKA (ginger)
Andraka is used in the ayurvedic medicine as an aphrodisiac, heart-toning, digestion activator and blood circulation stimulant. Those qualities are beneficial when Vata and Kapha are troubled.

A real natural shield, Andrographis is known to boost natural defences, to strengthen the immune system, and to contribute to a better respiratory comfort. According to the Ayurveda, Andrographis helps protect the body prior to the cold seasons. It has a drying and anti-mucus (mucolytic) effect, which soothes blocked or runny noses. Its antibacterial and anti inflammatory actions fight sore throats. Andrographis soothes Pitta and Kapha but can increase Vata.

Known to act on the joints, Boswllia significantly soothes Pitta and can also reduce Kapha. By blocking Pitta’s fire, it acts as an inflammation regulator, thus reducing the joints pains intensity. In high doses, it lightly increases Vata.

BRAHMI (Bacopa Monnieri):
Brahmi increases memorisation capacity. A long time ago, when Ayurveda was passed on orally, this herb help memorize an impressive amount of written texts. Indians call it “the plant of wisdom” and consider it as an important ally to practice Yoga and meditation. Brahmi balances the three doshas but is also particularly efficient to appease the nervous system excitation of the Pitta type.

Centella Asiatica stimulates intellectual promptness and helps focusing. This herb is particularly helpful in stressful or hard-thinking periods (significant amount of extra work, important decision to make…). Its soothing effect helps dealing with complicated situations, even increasing focusing abilities when necessary. Centella Asiatica balances the three doshas and is particularly efficient to appease the nervous system excitation of the Pitta type.

Guggul helps with slimming issues, purifies the body and targets cholesterol. It has been used for thousands of years by the Indians to “remove excess fat from the blood”, as they used to say. Guggul is nowadays used to significantly lower the cholesterol and triglycerides levels. Guggul efficiently stabilizes imbalances for Vata and Kapha, without irritating Pitta.

Gymnema Sylvestris activates glucose metabolism and reduces sugar cravings. "The signatures" is a fascinating ayurvedic theory. Very ancient, it suggests that nature gives clues to better know the therapeutic values of the plants. Thus, chewing Gymnema Sylvestre leaves prevents the tongue from feeling the sweet taste for about an hour. Gymnema Sylvestris soothes Kapha and is neutral for Pitta and Vata.

Haridra, known in Europe as Curcuma Longa or Indian Saffron, is tremendously rich in curcumin, its active principle. This powerful antioxidant naturally protects the body cells from ageing. Warming for the three doshas, Haridra rebalances Kapha.

Mucuna Pruriens is a natural source of the dopamine precursor, L-dopa, a neurotransmitter essential to everyone's balance. Thanks to this active substance, Mucuna peps up the zest for life, lowers the effects of stress and releases positive energies. Mucuna sends well-being messages to the brain and thus stimulates the body, appeases joint stiffness and relaxes muscles. Mucuna balances the three doshas. In too-high doses, it reinforces Kapha and Pitta. It is a precious tonic which balances Vata.

Neem leaf is traditionally used for its powerful hypoglycaemic effect. It is also used as an antifungal, antibacterial, anti-stress, a detoxifying, and slimming leaf. Neem rebalances Kapha and Pitta but can increase problems for people of the Vata type.

Rasonam is the Sanskrit name (the ancient Indian language) given by Indians to the garlic. Known to dilate arteries, Rasonam is also said to remove excess fat from the blood. Thanks to its actions on blood circulation, the heart is better irrigated the body modulates its blood pressure. Rasonam balances Vata and Kapha but can increase Pitta.

Shatavari is an aphrodisiac and is particularly efficient for women’s reproductive system. This herb nourishes and tones the skin and mucous membrane, thus favouring their lubrication and softness. Combined with its aphrodisiac effect, this herb will help women having a fulfilling sexual life. For the anecdote, Shatavari means "she who possesses a hundred husbands" in Sanskrit (the ancient Indian language). Shatavari balances Pitta and Vata. But if taken in excess, it can slightly increase Kapha.

The three spices composing the Trikatu (Ginger rhizome, Piper nigrum fruit and Piper longum fruit) activate the digestion, according to the Ayurveda. This complex activates Agni, the digestive fire, so the food produces enough energy. Trikatu is particularly recommended for the Kapha type.

Trimada favours the regulation of metabolism and thus slimming. This complex helps getting the best out of ingested foods; it favours their absorption and their transformation into energy and nutrients, which are essential to the body. Trimada has a positive effect on each Dosha.

Triphala activates and improves the intestinal transit. This complex made of three fruits (Amalaki, Bibhitaki and Haritaki) gently cleanses the intestine without aggressing it. It better eliminates toxins, improves energy, and thus helps weight management. Each of the fruits in this complex controls the energy of one of the three doshas: Amalaki for Pitta, Haritaki for Vata, Bibhitaki for Kapha.

According to the ayurvedic tradition, Tulsi is a valuable shrub (hence its other name, Sacred basil), used to clean up the body and mind. Rich in camphor, it supports natural defences and releases respiratory tracts (particularly the bronchi), influences the health of our organs (kidneys, heart, liver, gall-bladder, stomach, intestines) and of our nervous system. Tulsi soothes the three doshas.


According to the Ayurveda, food is our best remedy and spices have three key assets: they enhance the taste of the meals, help balancing the three doshas, and are excellent for our health. Some spices are the basis of famous blends, like Kari, Tandoori or Garam Masala.

Cardamom has an enchanting fragrance, both sweet and spicy. Known to stimulate digestion, it avoids bloating and can even stimulate intestinal transit.

Its strong taste is particularly appreciated in infusions, gingerbread or with vegetables. Its beneficial effects make it essential to a spices blend. Clove is antibacterial, anti inflammatory and very effective to soothe stomach pains.

A basic ingredient for the Kari (curry) blend, coriander has a cooling taste. It is well appreciated for its action on digestion and is said to have aphrodisiac virtues.

Cumin has quite a strong taste and is used to season the meals and to whet the appetite.

CURCUMA (Turmeric, Haridra) :
Curcuma is easily recognisable with its yellow-orange colour and its taste, close to the ginger’s taste. In addition to its antioxidants virtues, curcuma has a calming effect on the digestive system and protects the stomach.

GINGER (Andraka) :
The king of spices, ginger is not only known for its spicy taste but also for its warming effect on the body. An ally for digestion, it also helps to relax the muscles and to ease breathing.

Text from the book « Initiation à l’Ayurvéda », Jean-Marc REA