7 Ayurvedic Herbs, Foods & Ingredients with Surprising Beauty and Health Benefits
7 Ayurvedic Ingredients with Surprising Beauty and Health Benefits
Ayurvedic doctors carefully studied secret texts that very few had access to in India, so it comes as no surprise that for centuries they were the guardians of some of India’s most potent ingredients and formulas. Today, some of these beloved ingredients (turmeric, for one!) are quite popular even outside of India, but there are still a few ingredients that have not made it into the international spotlight yet. Whether you consider these incredibly precious and rare, or you’ve never heard of them, you’ll be surprised to hear of their incredible health and beauty effects.
- Triphala: Although not well known outside of India, this herbal mix was often used in Ayurvedic medicine because of its potency and its multitude of health benefits. Found in many Ayurvedic solutions, triphala means “three fruits,” which are: amalaki (Indian Gooseberry), bibhitaki and haritaki. These three fruits work to treat each of the three doshas. Amalaki cools the effects of the Pitta dosha, while Bibhitaki is recommended to treat the Kapha system and promote respiratory health. Haritaki can treat all three doshas as well as detoxify the body. This combination in triphala aids with digestion and bowel health. Triphala is also a potent antioxidant and is known to support healthy respiratory, cardiovascular, urinary and nervous system functions. Want these amazing benefits at home? Look for triphala tablets - available from many online retailers.
- Saffron: We don’t need to tell you twice about this coveted kitchen ingredient, an iconic symbol of Indian cuisine, and the substantial price tag it comes with. But this delicious spice has other uses many people have never considered, especially in the skincare department. It is incredibly effective at clearing up the skin, while at the same time healing the skin. This makes it one of the most desirable ingredients when it comes to face masks and creams. One Ayurvedic solution is the combination of a few strands of saffron with milk and smearing the mixture on the face for a glowing complexion.
- Neem: Neem leaves come from an evergreen tree indigenous to India. The leaves pack a powerful medicinal punch when applied to the skin. Known for its antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, neem is also used as a treatment for acne and eczema. Neem leaves are high in fatty acids and help to reduce pain and redness. This is particularly helpful in regards to sores, burns or lacerations. As an antibacterial and antiseptic agent, neem was used in Ayurveda to stop the spread of bacteria. Neem leaf extract can be found on numerous online retailers, but the most traditional application involves crushing washed leaves until they make a paste and applying it to the skin for about 20 minutes.
- Sandalwood: Known for its rich scent, sandalwood essential oil is also a much beloved Ayurvedic skincare ingredient. Its moisturizing properties give it incredible skin luminosity boosting powers. Sandalwood also leads to younger looking, more even skin due to its anti-inflammatory benefits and ability to counteract hyperpigmentation. Sandalwood essential oil is also prized for its aromatherapy benefits. It works in harmony with the body’s limbic system, which can promote harmony and calm. Although Indian sandalwood is quite rare, you can find sandalwood essential oil at certain local retailers and online retailers today.
- Lassi: This is a traditional drink made from yogurt, water and spices. While it is sweet and refreshing, the tradition of drinking it at the end of the meal is due to its digestive benefits. In fact, it is a recommended Ayurvedic treatment to prevent indigestion. There are many variations including lassi with fruit (like mango), but a simple recipe is to blend 1 ¾ cup of plain yogurt, 1 ½ cups cold water, 2 teaspoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. The mixture is then poured over glasses with ice. Cumin and ginger are recommended spices to add and cardamom, mint or dried fruit are common garnishes.
- Ghee: Ghee is clarified butter with the milk fat removed. A staple in both Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cooking, ghee is known to help digestion by aiding the agni or “gut fire.” Ghee is also known to calm the mind and boost the immune system, as well as balancing Vata and Pitta doshas. Because of its oily composition, it is also excellent for increasing retention of hydration. Rich in vitamins A, E, D, and K it is incredibly beneficial for your health. Ghee can be homemade, but you can also find it frequently at local retailers. While it is an excellent ingredient to cook with, its use extends beyond the kitchen. A common Ayurvedic use thought to help with detoxing and immune health was to massage medicated ghee all over the body.
- Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) flour: Also known as gram flour, this flour is often used in Ayurveda as a cleanser and exfoliator. This ingredient is a popular natural face mask ingredient. Combined with herbs it can have a powerful clarifying effect on the skin. A basic mask or paste using the flour is easy to make from home. Combine one teaspoon of chickpea flour with water to make a paste and wash your face with this mixture. You can often follow this with another natural face mask or paste to get the full effects!