Medicinal plants of India / Ayurveda

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In India, many forms of alternative medicines are available for those who do not want conventional medicine or who cannot be helped by conventional medicine. Ayurveda and Kabiraji (herbal medicine) are two important forms of alternative medicine that is widely available in India.

Ayurvedic form of medicine is believed to be existent in India for thousands of years. It employs various techniques and things to provide healing or relief to the ailing patients. One of the things that ayurveda uses is medications of plant origin.

Many herbs and spices used in Indian cooking, such as onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, fennel, ajowan (ajwain), anise, amchur, bay leaf, hing (asafoetida) etc., are known to have medicinal properties. Ayurvedic medicine uses all of these either in diet or as medicine. Besides, the many medicinal plants that are found in India (and elsewhere) are routinely used by the practitioners of Ayurveda. In India over 7,000 medicinal plant species are known to exist. Some of these medicinal plants have been featured on Indian postage stamps.

The first set of stamps showing medicinal plants came out in 1997. The set had four stamps showing four different medicinal plants - Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Haridra (Curcuma longa), Sarpagandha (Rauvolfia serpentina), and Ghritkumari (Aloe barbadensis).

Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
Haridra (Curcuma longa)
Haridra (Curcuma longa)
Sarpagandha (Rauvolfia serpentina)
Sarpagandha (Rauvolfia serpentina)
Ghritkumari (Aloe barbadensis)
Ghritkumari (Aloe barbadensis)
Clicking on any of the above stamp images will take you to a page where you can find details about each of the above medicinal plants.

Then in the year 2003, The Indian Posts and Telegraph Department issued another set of stamps showing four more medicinal plants. They are Amla (Emblica officinallis), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), and Guggulu (Commiphora wightii).

Amla (Emblica officinallis)
Amla (Emblica officinallis)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)
Guggulu (Commiphora wightii)
Guggulu (Commiphora wightii)
Clicking on any of the above stamp images will take you to a page where you can find details about each of the above medicinal plants.

A very common and well known medicinal plant of India is Neem or Margosa (Azadirachta indica). Neem is being used by Ayurvedic practioners in India for thousands of years for such a wide range of ailments that in Sanskrit it is often called sarva roga nibarak ("healer of all ailments"). In many tropical countries, Neem is often referred to as "the village pharmacy." Practically, every part of the Neem tree (seeds, leaves, flowers and bark) are used in Ayurvedic medicine. In Indian sub-continent, poor villagers use the chewed Neem twig to brush their teeth. The Neem oil is used to prepare cosmetics like soaps, shampoos, balms, creams, toothpastes etc. Ayurveda uses Neem in various forms to treat skin ailments to diabetes to cancer and everything in between. In fact, the medicinal properties of Neem is so powerful and so diversified that it is being researched by modern scientists not only in India but all over the world including USA. A more detailed description of Neem as a medicinal plant of India is beyond the scope of this page. Interested people will find hundreds of references about Neem in the Internet. Neem is shown in the following Indian stamp issued in 1998.

Neem (Azadirachta indica)
Neem (Azadirachta indica)

Clicking on the above stamp image will take you to a page where you can find detailed information about Neem as a medicinal plant.

Tourists and patients seeking ayurvedic treatment in India will find Ayurvedic Centers in various parts of the country. Ayurvedic massages and ayurvedic relaxation and rejuvenation techniques can be enjoyed by toursits, even if they are on a short visit only, in many of these centers and also in some local hotels. Here are some links to help you find one of these ayurvedic treatment centers.

If you really want to know more about Indian medicinal plants, here are some good references:

If you want to know more about ayurveda or ayurvedic treatment, the following reference will give you authentic information and answer all your questions about ayurveda:

A detailed description of Indian and other exotic herbs and spices, including their medicinal properties, can be found in The Epicentre.

Health benefits of common Indian herbs and spices can be found here. It is written in layman's language. No complicated medical terms!


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