Nutraceuticals and Ayurveda
What is Nutraceuticals –
Nutraceuticals, often referred to as functional foods, are natural bioactive materials that provide demonstrated physiological benefits or reduce the risk of chronic diseases, above and beyond their basic nutritional function. The term functional in the functional food implies that the food has some identified value leading to health benefits including reduced risk for diseases. This branch has evolved as a result of the advancement of nutritional science from the treatment of deficiency syndromes to reduction of disease risk. It has been seen that the association of traditional medicine to the nutraceuticals brings the consumer acceptance easily. Hence we are making a concerted effort to dive in the vast sea of Ayurveda, to reveal the concept and explain a few major nutraceuticals applied in practice for ages.
In Ayurveda, the importance of particular diet in prevention and treatment of diseases was well known even in 1000 BC. For ages, people in India, because of their cultural beliefs & experiences have taken herbs and herbal formulations as part of their daily food supplements. The faith in the power of botanicals along with the availability of a vast majority of different kinds of herbs in India has always been a thrust behind the survival of this scientific art of healing. Ayurveda clearly advocates the use of diet which besides providing the basic nutrition to the body, helps to maintain the healthy state of the body & prevents the occurrence of diseases, as is seen in the verse:
“Tat cha nityam prayunjeet svasthyam yen anuvartate.
Ajaatanam vikaranam anuttpattikaram cha yat.”
(Charaka Samhita: Sutra Sthana: 5)
According to this traditional science, diet alone is the cause of growth in human and occurrence of diseases. An interesting verse regarding the importance of wholesome diet goes as:
“Pathye sati gadaartasya kim aushadh nishevane.
Pathye asati gadaartasya kim aushadh nishevane.”
(Vaidhya Jeevana: 1/10)
i.e. if wholesome diet is given in a planned way then there is no need to administer medicines. And if wholesome diet is not being given then too there is no need to give medicine, as it is not going to cure the disease in the absence of wholesome diet. For this reason the classical texts of Ayurveda are replete with the scattered references of implication of various food products in various disease entities e.g. use of butter milk in treatment of dysentery, use of goats milk in tuberculosis, Ginger in generalized edema and so forth.
Another classification is based on the consistency of food products. These are: Peeta (liquid in consistency, advisable for the new born, children & diseased people & advocated in summer), Leeda (Paste form that can be licked, advisable for children, convalescing & old people), Ashita (Semi solids, advised for aged people) & Khadita (solid food, advisable for young people with good digestion).
It is interesting to learn that Ayurveda lays a great emphasis on the quality of nutritious food for i) averting the degenerative changes caused by ageing (Rasayana), ii) convalescence after an illness (Balya), iii) enhancing the defense system (Roga Pratibandhaka Rasayana), iv) maintaining the vigor & vitality (Vajikarana), and v) for maintaining the joie-de-vivre (Jeevaniya). These food products are said to improve the quality of life by offering protection from internal and external stressors. The usage of nutraceuticals as advocated by Ayurveda can be again classified depending upon the age of the individual, season of consumption, time of consumption, physiological conditions & according to the target organ.
It would be worthwhile to mention here that according to Ayurveda, sound health depends on three biological forces named as Vata, Pitta & Kapha, which are all pervading & in their state of equilibrium, are responsible for healthy structuro-functional setup. Although different levels of their predominance are said to determine different types of physical disposition (called Prakruti), age wise also, their levels tend to vary. In brief, while the predominant Kapha in childhood promotes growth & development by supporting the anabolic activities, Pitta in adults maintains a higher metabolic rate & ensures increased productivity/performance, whereas the increased Vata in old age leads to elevated catabolism, wear & tear and ushers us to degenerative changes. For this precise reason, it is important to take these factors in consideration while advocating any nutraceuticals.
Another approach adopted by Ayurveda is organ or body system oriented wherein use is aimed at delivering benefits to a particular organ. Chyawanprash is aimed to give strength to the respiratory system. Pippali Rasayana (use of fruit of P. longum with honey) is also advocated to confer immunity to the respiratory system. Use of Triphala powder (powder of fruits of T. chebula, T. bellerica & E. officinalis) along with honey & clarified butter is advocated for maintaining/improving the eyesight.
It has been observed that the association of nutraceuticals with traditional medicine brings the long lasting consumer acceptance. Along with this if it is well supported by the current modern medical research, the acceptance is whole hearted. Need of the hour is to believe that the western and traditional knowledge can go forward in unison for the benefit of all and work in that direction. The examples quoted above are of the few nutraceuticals preparations picked in their original form from the classical texts of Ayurveda in which fortification in terms of desired effects has been done in a natural way. It is not always possible to find out the active phyto-constituent and the rationality of a particular combination of herbs in terms of modern scientific methods.
The formulations and Herbs cited in our website are in use for centuries and have survived due to the benefits that they offer. As we all are working towards achieving the same common goal of ‘Health for all’, I feel that the traditional medical knowledge should be reviewed and revived to find out where these systems have an edge over contemporary medical fraternities. We hope that the concepts & products referred above will represent rather large segment of nutraceuticals mentioned in Ayurveda that can be employed for the benefit of mankind.
This product and statements have not been evaluated by any FDA (Food and Drug Administration) agency and are not intended to be used to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. All of the information above is intended for educational purposes only and may not be used to replace or compliment medical advice.