Ayurveda is an ancient and traditional medicinal system of India. It’s known as “Mother of all healings”. It’s philosophy is to stop the sufferings of the people and promote healthy life. It uses natural ingredients to eliminate the root cause of the disease and at the same time, restore the body’s balance. Ayurveda has described over 45,000 plant species used to cure various diseases and improve lifestyle. In Ayurveda, the concept of poly-herbalism has a great therapeutic efficiency. This is because every individual has a different body type, and poly-herbalism allows to make changes in ratio of drug formulations, and hence, increase potency of the drug by reducing the toxicity.
According to Ayurveda, the body is composed of five elements known as Panchamahabhutas namely- Vayu (air), Teja (fire), Jala/Aap (water), Prithvi (earth), and Aakash (ether). Further, when these Panchamahabhutas combine, the human body is formed in Tridoshas (humours) namely- Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha. All these sum up and determine Prakriti of the individual, which determines physical and mental characteristics. The health of an individual is balanced when all these entities are well balanced.
Unlike Allopathic medicine which uses synthetic chemicals to cure a disease, Ayurveda uses natural herbs, spices, minerals, exercise, diet, meditations, yoga, sounds, mental hygiene, and mechano-procedures to eliminate the root cause of disease and restoring harmony of the body, and also prevents side effects and re-occurrence of disease.
The discovery of herbs was complemented with the knowledge of methods of isolation, characterization of active incidents, purification of the same, and also the type of preparation. Herbal medicines include various parts of plants like leaves, flowers, seeds, roots, barks, stems, etc. Every part of the herb is used in some or the other ways and made into different types of herbal formulations like Kwatha (Decoction), Hima (cold infusion), Phanta (Hot infusion), Arka (Liquid extract), Churna (powders) and Taila (oils).
Further advancement in Ayurveda lead to determination of one and more active pharmacological ingredients like saponins, tannins, alkenyl phenols, flavonoids, terpenoid, alkaloids, phorbol esters, and sesquiterpenes lactones in a single herb. There are various examples of such herbs like Arjuna. It contains saponin glycosides, which is it’s primal activity, and improves pumping of heart and cardiac muscle functions. It’s secondary action is with flavonoid, which helps in antioxidant functioning and vascular strengthening.
Ginger oil contains phenolic compounds and sesquiterpenes like bisapolene, zingiberene, and zingiberol. These produce analgesic effect, sedation, antipyretic and antibacterial activities.
Another example is lemongrass. It’s essential oils contain three major phyto-constituents namely: geranial, neral and myrcene. The first two show antibacterial action. The addition of myrcene in the formulation increases the activity of lemongrass.
These herbal formulations regulate bodily functions, cleanses and nourishes tissues. Each herb has five categories as follows:
1. Rasa – Taste of tongue while contact with drug:
There are six tastes- sweet, sour, salty, pungent, butter and astringent. It is made of two out of the five Panchamahabhutas, and has a specific effect on Doshas.
2. Veerya – Energy released by herb after ingestion:
It can have either heating or cooling effects. Cooling effect is present in sweet, astringent and bitter herbs; while heating effect is present in sour, salty and pungent herbs. Cooling effects herbs reduces irritation and inflammation; while heating effects herbs improves circulation and helps in the digestion process.
3. Vipaka- Post- digestive effect:
There are three types of Vipaka namely, Madhura, Amla and Katu. It has different effects on Doshas.
4. Prabhava – variable action of herb:
There is unique power in herbs that heal a specific tissue.
5. Karma – therapeutic action:
These are classified as Deepana (Stimulant), Pachana (Digestive), Shodhana (Purification), Anulomana (Carminative), and Virechana (Purgative).
The polyherbal formulations prove to be more effective than single drug moiety. We can consider an example of a combination of ginger with black pepper and long pepper, which enhances heating and mucous reduction.
Due to bloating and weak digestion, black pepper is consumed with cumin and asafoetida.
Combination of turmeric with guduchi is consumed to increase immunity.
Advantages of Polyherbal combinations:
Due to synergistic effects, polyherbal combinations have more benefits than single herb intake.
As polyherbal combinations were introduced, the number of doses decreased and also it’s side effects.
It improves the convenience of patients by reducing intake of many medications at a time.
It expresses high effectiveness in a vast number of diseases.
They have a wide therapeutic range, and are effective at low dose.
They are also safe at high doses and have a high risk to benefit ratio.
The side-effects like insomnia, confusion, fatigue, dry mouth, diarrhea, impotency, hair loss, etc. which are observed in allopathic medicine, are not observed in polyherbal formulations of Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic formulations are eco-friendly and readily available.
They are affordable and have greater accessibility.
Thus, taking into consideration all the above advantages and also their effectiveness in treating diseases, Ayurvedic polyherbal combinations prove to be excellent in therapeutics.