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Ayurveda: Ancient Ideas, Modern Implementations

By: Shilpi Jain
Posted: April 7, 2011, from the April 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The “magic” chemicals in turmeric root are curcumin and tehtrahydrocurcuminoids (THCs). Curcumin, which imparts the yellow color, has been found to have medicinal properties. In ayurveda, it is used both as an antiseptic for wounds, cuts and bruises—as well as an antibacterial. Only recently, science has found that the chemical responsible for the skin-brightening and skin-lightening properties of turmeric is due to THCs. These colorless compounds may have uses in treating skin inflammations, making these compounds useful in skin care.

Neem: One of the hottest and most potent ingredients. The neem tree is called the “miracle tree” due to its many uses. In ayurveda, the leaves are used. Neem twigs have been used in India to clean the teeth and treat gum diseases and cavities for more than 500 years. Neem toothpastes, it should be noted, are available at organic health stores. It is also used to treat eye diseases and intermittent fevers, and the oil has been used to treat skin diseases, ulcers and wounds. The leaves, in general, are used for antiseptic action and as an insect repellent. Terpenoids, diterpenes, azadirechtin, nimbolide, nimbidinic acid, azadirone and nimbin are the primary components of note in neem’s actions.

Ashwagandha: Commonly known as the winter cherry or Indian ginseng. In cosmetics, ashwagandha is used as a tonic and astringent. It is an adaptogen that can be used in antiwrinkle creams for its impact on oxidative stress.

Licorice: The root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a popular, somewhat sweet flavor can be extracted.

Licorice contains glabridin, which works to inhibit the production of melanin. Therefore, it is used for its skin-lightening properties, a very popular attribute for the Asian beauty market. It can also be used to combat unattractive age spots, treat blemishes left in the wake of acne and target discoloration caused by sun damage. According to an article published in Modern Science (June 25, 2009), licorice also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is effective in the treatment of ulcers. For many, it is also a common treatment for sore throats. Amla fruit: Also known as Indian gooseberry.