1. Centella Asiatica, or Mandukaparni
Centella asiatica, also known as “Asian pennywort,” or Mandukaparni in Sanskrit, is a perennial herb indigenous to the swampy wetlands of India, Southeast Asia and South Eastern areas in the US, such as Florida and Louisiana. It is a ground creeper which likes a temperate or sub-tropical climate, and it produces a rhizome which grows straight down from the horizontal stems. The creeper has small flowers and fruits, and the juice of the whole plant is used for Medhya medicinal purposes.

Medhya is the Sanskrit term for cognition or intellect, and Mandukaparni is often used therapeutically for cognitive enhancement, through dendritic arborisation or branching. This is believed to improve learning and memory, as it helps neural regeneration. Mandukaparni contains natural chemical compounds which help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It also functions as a neuroprotective agent, inhibiting the memory impairment induced by the drug scopolamine (hyoscine), which is given to prevent nausea.

Centella Asiatica also strengthens the central nervous system and adrenal glands, improves reflexes and helps prevent DNA damage. Most importantly, extracts of Mandukaparni containing polyphenols and flavinoids are responsible for some potent antioxidant properties, terminating the free radicals that can cause cell damage.

2. Safed Musli (Chlorophytum Borivilianum)
Safed musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum), also commonly called musli, is a leafy shrub of the Asparagaceae family. In its native habitat, Safed musli is found in the tropical wet forests of peninsular India, but it is now being extensively cultivated for its therapeutic properties. It is very popular in traditional Ayurveda medicine and is a member of the group of Rasayan herbs which help the body adapt to stress.

In some parts of India, Chlorophytum borivilianum is eaten as a pot-herb or leaf vegetable, but its roots are the most in demand as a health tonic. Dried roots of Safed musli have a 2–17% saponin content, which studies indicate is responsible for the plant’s medicinal properties. These roots have been proved to be an effective treatment for disorders of the male reproductive system, such as premature ejaculation and low sperm count.

Extracts of the plant have been found to enhance the power of the body’s immune system, due to the high number of polysaccharides in its phytochemical make-up. Safed musli contains vitamin C and potent antioxidants which can scavenge cell-damaging free radicals, as well as being an antidiabetic. Its analgesic properties can be beneficial in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

3. Kali Musli (Curculigo Orchioides)
Kali Musli (Curculigo orchioides), commonly also called black musli, weevil-wort and golden eye-grass, is a flowering plant of the Hypoxidaceae family. It is native to India and south east Asia, and increasingly studied by scientists for its medicinal properties. In Ayurveda, black musli is classed as a Rasayana herb, a general restorative and tonic to reduce stress.

Research has indicated that extracts of Curculigo orchioides rhizomes can enhance the immune system’s ability to counteract toxins, reduce constriction of the respiratory system in asthma, and have an anti-oxidative response to liver damage. It may also be useful in the treatment of diabetes.

Phytochemical analysis of Kali musli roots exhibits a high content of curculigosides. These natural phenols can inhibit the build-up of harmful amino acids which contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Due to these curculigosides, extracts of Curculigo orchioides have been discovered to enhance the immune system, as well as exhibiting anti-inflammatory and liver-protective activities. Kali musli also demonstrates anti-osteoporosis potential in reducing bone loss, and the root oil has been seen to be an antibacterial agent. Other important properties of black musli are an ability to increase oestrogen, and to treat male sexual disorders, such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and low sperm count.

4. Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, winter cherry or poison gooseberry, is a small perennial shrub belonging to the nightshade family. It is cultivated in the drier parts of India, as well as in China, Nepal and Yemen.

Somnifera in Latin means “sleep-inducing,” and the tuberous roots of this plant have been used in traditional Ayurveda medicine for centuries as an effective treatment for insomnia. It eases stress, calms the nervous system and aids restful sleep. Ashwagandha also has rejuvenating properties which have proved to be effective in treating male infertility.

Research studies indicate that Ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory capability is helpful for joints, and it can assist in reducing swellings. Root and leaf extracts have been found to have strong antibacterial properties, overcoming a range of harmful pathogens including salmonella. Its powerful immunomodulatory properties can increase white cell count and platelets in the blood, boosting the production of antibodies to counteract infection.

Vital chemical constituents of Withania somnifera include withanolides. These valuable phytosteroids have antioxidant properties which can help reduce the brain cell deterioration caused by free radicals. Ashwagandha also has a positive influence on the cardiopulmonary, endocrine, and central nervous systems, so it’s effective as a general tonic.

5. Kapikacchu (Mucuna Pruriens)
Mucuna pruriens, or Kapikacchu in Sanskrit, is a legume of the Fabaceae family. It is found indigenously in tropical Asia and Africa, but widely naturalised elsewhere for cultivation. Common names include velvet bean, lacuna bean and devil or mad bean. Mucuna pruriens is an annual flowering shrub, with climbing vines 15 metres long or more. It is similar to a broad bean, with purple, lavender, or white flowers, and 10cm long seed pods with shiny brown or black seeds.

Kapikacchu is notorious for producing severe itching on contact (pruriens is Latin for itching), particularly from the seed pods and young foliage, which are covered with fuzzy hairs. The beans are edible, but unless properly prepared, contain fairly high levels of L-DOPA, which can induce an adverse reaction in humans. L-DOPA (levodopa) is a chemical factor in the production of catecholamine neurotransmitters which govern brain activity, particularly dopamine. Research studies have confirmed that the strong antioxidant properties of Mucuna pruriens alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

In Ayurveda medicine, Kapikacchu, and extracts of it, have long been long used to treat bleeding disorders and neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s. It is also considered a safe and powerful aphrodisiac for both sexes.

6. Shilajatu (Asphaltum Punjabianum)
Shilajit (Asphaltum punjabianum), is also known as black bitumen, or Shilajatu in Sanskrit, which literally means mountain- or rock-tar. It is a thick exudate found most commonly in the Himalayas and other high mountain ranges in the region. The sticky, blackish-brown substance resembles and behaves much like tar, or bitumen, and is sometimes called mineral pitch or mineral wax. However, some researchers note that the substance is unlike usual mineral tar seepage, and is perhaps of vegetative origin.

The first written reference to Shilajatu dates from the 6th century BCE in an ancient Sanskrit medical treatise, which said it seeped from the mountainside and cured “all distempers of the body,” but particularly the liver and kidneys. In traditional Ayurveda medicine, the blacker the substance, the more potent is the effect.

Black bitumen reportedly contains at least 85 minerals, as well as vitamins, triterpenes and humic (from the soil) acids. Research has shown it effective in reducing the resistance of the HIV virus to Anti Retroviral Therapy, and in aiding the treatment of obesity. It can also diminish the incidence of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which causes female infertility, and has been instrumental in reducing the effects of diabetes and hypertension.

7. Shatavari (Asparagus Racemosus)
Asparagus racemosus, or Shatavari in Sanskrit, is a small flowering herb that grows 1–2 metres high, and is found in rocky soils around 1,300–1,400 metres in elevation. Shatavari grows indigenously in the Himalayas, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, but increased demand and habitat destruction have made it an endangered species.

As described in its Latin suffix, racemosus, this asparagus has an elongated, random root system, producing about 100 tuberous roots per plant. These roots are used in Ayurveda medicine to prevent and treat dyspepsia and gastric ulcers, and to increase milk flow in lactating mothers. Shatavari contains many useful phytochemical components, and particularly oestrogen precursors that ensure a healthy female reproductive system. In Ayurveda, Shatavari has always been an effective restorative for women’s reproductive health. It makes the uterus stronger, assists women to recover from childbirth, regulates menstruation and attenuates many menopausal symptoms. It can also promote fertility in both sexes, acting as a male aphrodisiac.

Research studies have confirmed the efficacy of Asparagus racemosus as an anti-ulcer agent, preventing dyspepsia, duodenal and gastric ulcers. It can also act as an antispasmodic to calm the uterus. Shatavari has a protective effect on the liver, and increases the immune system’s ability to eliminate toxins.

8. Brihad Gokshura (Pedalium Murex)
Pedalium murex, the single species in the Pedaliaceae family, is also called Brihad Gokshura or large caltrops. It is found in India and Sri Lanka, as well as parts of tropical Africa, and is often confused or substituted for Gokshura (Tribulus terrestris). Both are used in the treatment of genito-urinary disorders, with Pedalium murex particularly valuable in increasing sperm quality. The leafy shrub has small yellow flowers, and fruits that are dried and ground to a powder for medicinal purposes.

One of the principal uses of Gokshura is to get rid of stones in the kidneys and urinary tract, and tests have revealed that Pedalium murex does have this capacity. Other pharmacological activities of the plant extracts reported by researchers are reducing fats and fatty substances in the blood, protecting the liver, and treating coughs as well as respiratory and joint inflammation. Phytochemical analysis of Brihad Gokshura has revealed phenolic compounds and flavonoids which are responsible for its antimicrobial, anti-ulcerogenic, anti-inflammatory and vital antioxidant properties.

Pedalium murex is traditionally used in Ayurveda medicine to cure reproductive disorders, mainly nocturnal emissions and impotency in men. It can boost testosterone, increasing the sperm count and motility, and helps check erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.

9. Jatiphala (Nutmeg) (Myristica Fragrans)
Myristica fragrans, also called true or fragrant nutmeg (Jatiphala in Sanskrit) is a small, aromatic evergreen tree that grows around 5 to 13 metres high, and belongs to the Myristicaceae family. It has been cultivated for centuries for the two important spices derived from the fruit, mace and nutmeg. Mace is made from the seed covering, while nutmeg is the seed itself, often sold whole for culinary purposes, and prized as a food flavouring.

Jatiphala is a native of the Banda Islands, in Indonesia’s Spice Islands, but has been widely distributed for cultivation. It is notable in written records for its presence in Kerala, the hub of ancient spice trading in India (formerly known as Malabar), where it arrived with Indonesian traders.

Nutmeg produces an essential oil used widely in the perfumery, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. In Ayurveda medicine, this oil is considered most efficacious for boosting brain activity, increasing concentration and reducing stress. Nutmeg is also used as a liver tonic, to stimulate blood circulation in the heart, and as an anti-inflammatory for joint and muscle pain. Myristica fragrans has been reported by scientists to demonstrate strong antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, which can be attributed to its high phenolic content.

10. Saffron (Crocus Sativus)
Saffron is an ancient spice derived from the inner parts of the flower Crocus sativus, or saffron crocus. It is vastly expensive, since the dried threads used for seasoning and colouring are very fine, and it takes many thousands to make even a small quantity of saffron (110,000–170,000 flowers per kg). It is known as far back as Bronze Age Greece, where murals still exist showing the wild flower; cultivation spread outwards across the world. It has been in recorded use for more than 4,000 years, with the majority of modern production taking place in Iran.

Saffron contains more than 150 volatile compounds, most importantly the phytochemicals safranal and picrocrocin, which confer its distinctive taste and fragrance. Crocin, a carotenoid pigment, produces the rich golden colour used for food colouring and fabric dyes, such as the traditional Buddhist robes. In Ayurveda formulations it interacts with and enhances other ingredients, increasing the overall wellbeing of the body.

Saffron is nutritionally valuable for its high content of B vitamins and manganese – a trace mineral required to maintain regular metabolism, develop healthy bones, heal wounds and enhance the immune system with free radical-scavenging antioxidants. It also improves the symptoms of some major depressive disorders.

1. Centella Asiatica, or Mandukaparni
Centella asiatica, also known as “Asian pennywort,” or Mandukaparni in Sanskrit, is a perennial herb indigenous to the swampy wetlands of India, Southeast Asia and South Eastern areas in the US, such as Florida and Louisiana. It is a ground creeper which likes a temperate or sub-tropical climate, and it produces a rhizome which grows straight down from the horizontal stems. The creeper has small flowers and fruits, and the juice of the whole plant is used for Medhya medicinal purposes.

Medhya is the Sanskrit term for cognition or intellect, and Mandukaparni is often used therapeutically for cognitive enhancement, through dendritic arborisation or branching. This is believed to improve learning and memory, as it helps neural regeneration. Mandukaparni contains natural chemical compounds which help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It also functions as a neuroprotective agent, inhibiting the memory impairment induced by the drug scopolamine (hyoscine), which is given to prevent nausea.

Centella Asiatica also strengthens the central nervous system and adrenal glands, improves reflexes and helps prevent DNA damage. Most importantly, extracts of Mandukaparni containing polyphenols and flavinoids are responsible for some potent antioxidant properties, terminating the free radicals that can cause cell damage.

2. Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri) 
Aindri (Bacopa monnieri) has a multitude of names, including water hyssop, herb of grace and Indian pennywort. In Ayurveda, it is also called Brahmi, after the Hindu god Brahmā. Brahmi is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurveda traditional medicine, and is sometimes used interchangeably for Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica). The perennial non-aromatic herb is a creeper found indigenously throughout India, and in wetlands across the world. Its facility for growing in water means it is easily propagated, and it can be grown in brackish water and even hydroponically. The whole plant is juiced and used for therapeutic purposes.

Bacopa monnieri was described as a Medhya Rasayana herb in texts from the 6th century CE, for sharpening the intellect and attenuating mental deficiencies. Ancient scholars apparently used it to help them memorise long sacred scriptures and hymns. Brahmi has also been used as a traditional Ayurveda treatment for asthma and epilepsy, tumours, ulcers, inflammations, anaemia, leprosy and gastroenteritis.

Several studies suggest that extracts of Bacopa monnieri have powerful antioxidant and cell-protective effects, enhancing cognition and memory, as well as having sedative and tranquilising properties. Bacopa monnieri is rich in saponins, especially in bacopasides which can help to treat attention deficit and memory disorders.

3. Jyotishmati (Celastrus Paniculatus)
Celastrus paniculatus, or Jyotishmati in Sanskrit, is a woody climbing shrub indigenous to India. It grows at elevations of up to 1,800-2,000 metres, but is becoming endangered in the wild. Commonly known also as the intellect tree, climbing staff tree, and black oil plant, this deciduous vine has rough barked stems that can reach six metres long and 10 cm in diameter. The tri-lobed orange fruit produce ovoid seeds which are used in traditional Ayurveda medicine as Medhya, for neurological nourishment and improvement.

Scientific studies have confirmed that the intellect tree is aptly named, as it is a powerful stimulant of the neuromuscular system. Jyotishmati has been seen to activate the intellect, improve learning capacity and sharpen the memory. It can aid in reducing stress, anxiety, lethargy, and treating attention deficit disorder. It is also a valuable anti-inflammatory for joints, combatting rheumatism and gout, and is beneficial in treating respiratory, digestive and abdominal disorders, and various skin diseases.

Jyotishmati seed oil contains several valuable phytochemical components such as terpenoids, which demonstrate antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic activity. It was also found to reverse the effects of scopolamine (hyoscine), which can induce memory deficit in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

4. Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, winter cherry or poison gooseberry, is a small perennial shrub belonging to the nightshade family. It is cultivated in the drier parts of India, as well as in China, Nepal and Yemen.

Somnifera in Latin means “sleep-inducing,” and the tuberous roots of this plant have been used in traditional Ayurveda medicine for centuries as an effective treatment for insomnia. It eases stress, calms the nervous system and aids restful sleep. Ashwagandha also has rejuvenating properties which have proved to be effective in treating male infertility.

Research studies indicate that Ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory capability is helpful for joints, and it can assist in reducing swellings. Root and leaf extracts have been found to have strong antibacterial properties, overcoming a range of harmful pathogens including salmonella. Its powerful immunomodulatory properties can increase white cell count and platelets in the blood, boosting the production of antibodies to counteract infection.

Vital chemical constituents of Withania somnifera include withanolides. These valuable phytosteroids have antioxidant properties which can help reduce the brain cell deterioration caused by free radicals. Ashwagandha also has a positive influence on the cardiopulmonary, endocrine, and central nervous systems, so it’s effective as a general tonic.

5. Jatamansi (Nardostachys Jatamansi)
Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) is a perennial aromatic flowering herb of the Valerian family, which is now becoming endangered due to overgrazing. It is native to the eastern Himalayas, found at an altitude of 3000–5000 metres, and grows to approximately one metre in height. Its long root resembles a thick fibrous tail, covered in reddish-brown hairs.

The Jatamansi plant has traditionally been used to treat skin diseases and a wide range of disorders pertaining to the circulatory, digestive, respiratory, reproductive, urinary and central nervous systems. The rhizome is used in Ayurveda medicine for relief of psychiatric problems, neurological disorders and Medhya (intellect). It is a stimulant and antispasmodic agent which can treat epilepsy, convulsions and hysteria.

Jatamansi rhizomes contain some important phytochemical components, proven in trials to improve memory and learning, and to reduce oxidative stress which causes cell damage. The root has also been used medically to treat cardiovascular disorders and insomnia, promoting relaxation and peaceful sleep.

For many centuries the rhizomes have been crushed and distilled, producing a very thick and intensely aromatic essential oil called nard, or spikenard. Nard oil demonstrates various pharmacological properties, including antifungal, antimicrobial, anticonvulsant, anti-arrhythmic and hypotensive activity related to low blood pressure.

6. Haritaki (Terminalia Chebula) 
Terminalia chebula, or Haritaki in Sanskrit, is a species of the Terminalia family native to south-east Asia. A medium-large deciduous tree, Haritaki grows up to 30 metres tall, with a trunk up to one metre across. In India, it is found wild in forests and the lower regions of the Himalayas, at around 1,500 metres in altitude. Terminalia chebula yields smallish, nut-like fruits, which can be used as edible preserves or as an element in dyeing or tanning, since they are very high in tannin content.

In traditional Ayurveda medicine, Haritaki is the main ingredient in a compound formulation for liver and kidney dysfunctions. The dried fruit is also used as a diuretic, an antitussive gargle to stop sore throat and coughs, and for dental-related issues and ophthalmia. It corrects urinary and digestive disorders and acts as a laxative agent to alleviate constipation.

Research studies on Haritaki’s leaves, bark and fruit revealed a wealth of phytochemicals, including phenolic compounds with high antioxidant activity. The fruit paste with water is analgesic and anti-inflammatory, and it can purify and heal wounds. In powdered form it acts as a strong astringent for loose, bleeding and ulcerated gums, and can halt cases of chronic diarrhoea.

7. Guduchi (Tinospora Cordifolia)
Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is a herbaceous vine of the Menispermaceae family, and is indigenous to tropical areas in India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. This large, deciduous, climbing shrub has simple leaves and elongated branches which twine and spread extensively. Guduchi is also known as heart-leaved moonseed and giloy.

Several different synonyms exist in Sanskrit for this immensely useful plant, denoting its properties, appearance or characteristics. Guduchi is often called Amrita, meaning nectar, which protects and guards the body against diseases. Names beginning with Jwara indicate its usefulness against fever. The root is known to combat stress, leprosy and malaria, while the juice of the whole plant is extremely valuable as Medhya in treatment of cognitive disorders.

Tinospora cordifolia provides a rich source of the trace elements, zinc and copper, containing powerful antioxidants which protect cells from oxidative free radical damage. A range of phytochemical components help to enhance learning and memory, and remedy cognition deficits by immuno-stimulation.

Guduchi can increase the blood profile and help to scavenge lead from the body. It is also beneficial for disorders of the eyes and urinary tract, strengthening the reproductive, cardiovascular and central nervous systems and acting as a general tonic and rejuvenating agent.

8. Arjuna (Terminalia Arjuna) 
The arjuna, or Arjun tree, belongs to the botanical genus Terminalia. It grows to about 20–25 metres tall, and is usually found near the banks or dry beds of rivers in its native India and Bangladesh. Owing to its importance as a food source for moths producing wild tassar silk, the arjuna is now also cultivated in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, and other Asian countries. In some forms of Buddhism, it is claimed as the tree for achieving Bodhi, or enlightenment.

The arjuna’s traditional nickname is “Guardian of the heart,” and it got its name from the hero of the famous Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata, on account of these protective effects. Scientific studies have confirmed that the ground bark of this medicinal plant strengthens the heart muscles, improves the circulation of blood to the heart tissue and normalises the heartbeat. Applied topically as a powder, arjuna stops bleeding in haemorrhages, wounds and ulcers (particularly peptic ulcers).

It also offers a good supply of minerals, improving mineral density in bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis. Arjuna can be beneficial in urinary tract infections, reducing frequency of urination, and has an astringent action, which can help in managing feminine leucorrhoea.

9. Twak (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum)
Twak, or Cinnamomum verum (“true cinnamon”), is a 10-15 metre tall evergreen tree of the Lauraceae family, indigenous to Sri Lanka. Its previous botanical synonym, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, came from the country’s former name, Ceylon. 80–90% of the global supply of Cinnamomum verum is still produced in Sri Lanka, but it is also now cultivated commercially in Madagascar and the Seychelles. Along with other species of the Cinnamomum genus, the tree’s inner bark is sold as a culinary spice, or ground up to make cinnamon powder.

Twak has been used in Ayurveda as a traditional treatment for many disorders, and has since been validated by scientific research. Cinnamomum verum has demonstrated beneficial health effects including anti-parasitic and anti-microbial activity, antioxidant properties and free-radical scavenging, and the inhibition of chemical activity in the brain which contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, researchers have discovered that Twak works as an anti-inflammatory and healer of wounds, can inhibit stomach secretions that cause gastric ulcers, and inhibits the cells that break down bone structure. It helps to block pain from nerve stimulus and protects the liver. As an aid to treating diabetes, Cinnamomum zeylanicum can help reduce blood pressure, blood glucose and serum cholesterol.

10. Jatiphala (Nutmeg) (Myristica Fragrans)
Myristica fragrans, also called true or fragrant nutmeg (Jatiphala in Sanskrit) is a small, aromatic evergreen tree that grows around 5 to 13 metres high, and belongs to the Myristicaceae family. It has been cultivated for centuries for the two important spices derived from the fruit, mace and nutmeg. Mace is made from the seed covering, while nutmeg is the seed itself, often sold whole for culinary purposes, and prized as a food flavouring.

Jatiphala is a native of the Banda Islands, in Indonesia’s Spice Islands, but has been widely distributed for cultivation. It is notable in written records for its presence in Kerala, the hub of ancient spice trading in India (formerly known as Malabar), where it arrived with Indonesian traders.Nutmeg produces an essential oil used widely in the perfumery, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. In Ayurveda medicine, this oil is considered most efficacious for boosting brain activity, increasing concentration and reducing stress. Nutmeg is also used as a liver tonic, to stimulate blood circulation in the heart, and as an anti-inflammatory for joint and muscle pain. Myristica fragrans has been reported by scientists to demonstrate strong antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, which can be attributed to its high phenolic content.

1. Tagara (Valeriana Wallichii)
Tagara (Valeriana wallichii) is a perennial flowering herb of the prolific Valerian family, also known as Indian valerian, Tagara or Tagar-Ganthoda. Tagara is indigenous to forests in the north western Himalayas, where it grows at elevations of 1,500-4,300 metres, and is one of 16 sub-species of the valerian genus found in India. The plant produces rhizomes and has a short and frequently strong-smelling root, from which parts crude phytomedicines are derived for use in the pharmaceutical industry as mild sedatives. This sedative activity is largely attributed to the presence of valepotriates, a class of monoterpenoid molecules that are known for antioxidant properties.

In Ayurveda, Tagara has been used for centuries to combat skin disease, obesity, flatulence, epilepsy, insanity and snake poisoning. As a general restorative and for nervous and sleep disorders, Indian valerian offers an important alternative to the European Valeriana officinalis. Valerian also calms the mind by manipulating the chemicals that co-ordinate nerve cell activity in the brain, reducing anxiety and inducing relaxation and peaceful sleep.

Some research indicates that extracts of Valeriana wallichii, together with Brahmi (Bacopa monniera) are effective in reducing the effects of cerebral injuries, decreasing the amount of tissue damage and improving motor co-ordination and short-term memory.

2. Curry Leaves (Murraya Koenigii)
The Curry tree (Murraya koenigii) is a small, tropical to sub-tropical tree in the Rutaceae family, which is indigenous to India and Sri Lanka. It grows from 4–6 metres high, and produces small white flowers which are fragrant, and shiny black berries. The botanical name commemorates two 18th century botanists, Johann König and Johan Andreas Murray.

Curry leaves are used extensively in Indian cuisine of course, but they are also an important herb for Ayurveda medicine. Phytochemical compounds found in curry leaves include numerous carbazole alkaloids, which are beneficial in the treatment of many gastro-intestinal disorders such as diarrhoea, dysentery and nausea (including morning sickness). They help reduce fats and can be a potential aid to weight loss.

Various scientific studies have identified the properties of curry leaves, especially antioxidants, and recorded scavenging of free radicals, confirming the traditional use of Murraya koenigii as a natural antioxidant source. It has also been seen to reduce the concentration of glycogen in the liver, which could help in the treatment of diabetes. The protein antioxidant extract has been proved in tests to be a potent antibacterial agent – as powerful as commercial antibiotics to combat human pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella.

3. Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, winter cherry or poison gooseberry, is a small perennial shrub belonging to the nightshade family. It is cultivated in the drier parts of India, as well as in China, Nepal and Yemen.

Somnifera in Latin means “sleep-inducing,” and the tuberous roots of this plant have been used in traditional Ayurveda medicine for centuries as an effective treatment for insomnia. It eases stress, calms the nervous system and aids restful sleep. Ashwagandha also has rejuvenating properties which have proved to be effective in treating male infertility.

Research studies indicate that Ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory capability is helpful for joints, and it can assist in reducing swellings. Root and leaf extracts have been found to have strong antibacterial properties, overcoming a range of harmful pathogens including salmonella. Its powerful immunomodulatory properties can increase white cell count and platelets in the blood, boosting the production of antibodies to counteract infection.

Vital chemical constituents of Withania somnifera include withanolides. These valuable phytosteroids have antioxidant properties which can help reduce the brain cell deterioration caused by free radicals. Ashwagandha also has a positive influence on the cardiopulmonary, endocrine, and central nervous systems, so it’s effective as a general tonic.

4. Jatiphala (Myristica fragrans)
Myristica fragrans, also called true or fragrant nutmeg (Jatiphala in Sanskrit) is a small, aromatic evergreen tree that grows around 5 to 13 metres high, and belongs to the Myristicaceae family. It has been cultivated for centuries for the two important spices derived from the fruit, mace and nutmeg. Mace is made from the seed covering, while nutmeg is the seed itself, often sold whole for culinary purposes, and prized as a food flavouring.

Jatiphala is a native of the Banda Islands, in Indonesia’s Spice Islands, but has been widely distributed for cultivation. It is notable in written records for its presence in Kerala, the hub of ancient spice trading in India (formerly known as Malabar), where it arrived with Indonesian traders.Nutmeg produces an essential oil used widely in the perfumery, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. In Ayurveda medicine, this oil is considered most efficacious for boosting brain activity, increasing concentration and reducing stress. Nutmeg is also used as a liver tonic, to stimulate blood circulation in the heart, and as an anti-inflammatory for joint and muscle pain. Myristica fragrans has been reported by scientists to demonstrate strong antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, which can be attributed to its high phenolic content.

5. Vishnukranta (Clitoria Ternatia) / Vishnukranthi (Evolvulus Alsinoides)
Evolvulus alsinoides, commonly known as Vishnukranthi or dwarf morning glory, is a perennial flowering creeper from the Convolvulaceae family. It is found all over India in tropical and sub-tropical regions and inhabits a broad range of natural habitats, from wet forests and marshland to deserts. It has a number of recognised varieties, and in some areas is counted as a weed. Vishnukranthi is included in the Sanskrit Dasapushpam, which lists the ten sacred flowers used in Ayurveda medicine by the people of Kerala, and is often also counted as Shankapushpi.

Ayurveda proclaims the potent effects of Evolvulus alsinoides in relation to vertigo, asthma, insomnia and cumulative toxicity. It is used as a Rasayana, or adaptogenic, which reduces stress and is believed to have anti-ageing, rejuvenatory and memory enhancing qualities. Vishnukranthi is used as a brain tonic for the treatment of various neurodegenerative diseases, including epilepsy, mania and amnesia.

Pre-clinical research suggests that the ancient Ayurveda classification of this valuable plant will be validated in the treatment of dementia, as extracts of Evolvulus alsinoides revealed significant antioxidant activity. Tests have also confirmed its antistress, anti-amnesic and antimicrobial properties, immunomodulatory capabilities which help to reduce arthritic inflammations, and gastro-protective activity against ulcers.

6. Nagakesara (Mesua Ferrea)
Mesua ferrea is an attractive species of slow-growing, flowering tree, belonging to the the Calophyllaceae family. Also called Indian rose chestnut, Sri Lankan ironwood, or cobra’s saffron, in Sanskrit it is known as Nagakesara. It is a native south-east Asian tree that favours a wet, tropical climate, and grows in river valleys, evergreen forests, and the mountains of India up to 1,500 metres in altitude. It is the national tree of Sri Lanka, named ironwood after the nature of its timber. Nagakesara can grow to more than 30 metres tall, with a trunk reaching 2 metres in diameter.

Mesua ferrea’s leaves, flowers, roots and seeds feature in Ayurveda medicine as one of its most common remedies, traditionally used for their anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic, anti-allergic, antiparasitic and antiseptic properties. Other applications include blood purification, cardiotonic, purgative, diuretic, fever reduction and expectorant.

Scientific research confirms many of these properties, and suggests that it is also useful in protecting the liver, calming the central nervous system, stimulating the immune system and supplying antioxidants to combat cell damage. Studies additionally prove antimicrobial, antivenom, antispasmodic and analgesic activity. The phytochemical composition of Nagakesara reveals the presence of several active molecular compounds responsible for its all-round therapeutic efficacy.

7. Karpura (Purified Camphor)
Purified camphor, or Karpura in Sanskrit, is a transparent or white waxy substance, condensed into solid form from the vapour of roasting wood chips. Its main terpenoid component comes from various species of laurel wood, notably the kapur and camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) trees.

These tall evergreen trees are found most commonly in China, Japan and south-east Asia, and the crushed leaves give off the strong aroma which is recognisable in modern respiratory preparations such as Vicks. Several other plants can also render camphor, to a lesser extent, and since 1911 camphor has been synthesised from turpentine.

Karpura has been used in Ayurveda since at least the 7th century BCE as an effective treatment for fever, and in ancient Sumatra was used to treat inflammations. As a solid, it is easily absorbed directly through the skin, which is why it is often applied to the chest for respiratory infections. It stimulates the nerve endings which are sensitive to both heat and cold, depending on the degree of vigour with which it is applied. It is particularly effective as an inhalation for the lungs and respiratory passages, and can reduce swellings and joint pain, as it has a slight analgesic effect.

8. Kushta (Saussurea Lappa)
Saussurea lappa, alternatively known as Saussurea costus, Indian orris and Kushta in Sanskrit, is a perennial flowering herb belonging to the Aster family, of which 61 species are found in India. Kushta grows in the Himalayas at around 2,500-3,000 metres, and is a type of thistle native to Kashmir. Essential oils from its fragrant root have been used since ancient times as incense, perfume and traditional medicine, and it is now in such high demand that it has been placed on the endangered species list.

Saussurea lappa is one of the Ayurveda formulations commonly used to treat respiratory, cardiac and skin diseases, epilepsy, high blood pressure and gout. Kushta is a Rasayana herb which acts as a general tonic and restorative, cleansing toxic accumulations and reducing pain, fever and inflammation. It also helps to balance digestive processes and can enhance male fertility by increasing sperm count. Research studies reveal that extracts of Saussurea lappa possess antiarthritic and anti-inflammatory properties, which supports their traditional use for inflammatory conditions. It is also a powerful antioxidant which can significantly protect the heart and liver by free radical scavenging. Many reports also confirm that Kushta roots can act as a bronchodilator, anti-ulcer and antiviral agent.