To an educated person growing up in the traffic filled tarmac streets of metropolitan India, the name Brahmi would have definitely been a part of the sights and sounds of growing up. It could be in the form of an advertisement in the theatre, during the movie interval or maybe written on a bottle of Ayurvedic medicine placed on GranDad's writing desk. The Brahmi amla oil would probably top the list of familiarity when talking about this ingredient.
Unfortunately due to a lack of consistent documentation, the facts about this amazing herb are not well known. The findings are so exhaustive that research is still ongoing to unearth more incredible truths about this plant.
Due to the diversity of languages spoken all over the world, the Latin name of an ingredient is accepted and understood universally. Bacopa monnieri is the botanical name of this ingredient although it is more commonly referred to as Brahmi. The name ,especially in this case, has great significance to how this plant was revered in ancient medical practises. Brahmi comes from the name Brahman - the enlightened one .It is also synonymous with creation, universal energy and the power of supreme consciousness. The herb therefore is held in such elevated esteem that the name had to be on par with the best of divine creation.
The science of Ayurveda delves into the core of a native ingredient to fully understand its medicinal benefits. With Brahmi, ayurvedic physicians believe that there is more to learn about the healing properties of this plant which is already termed as miraculous.
Ayurveda talks about the doshas which represent energy flow within the body which holds the key to mental , physical and psychological health. The effect of Brahmi on the three doshas ; Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the foundation on which the ayurvedic medical formulations, using this herb,are based.
The pitta dosha which is known to be hot and fiery is associated with being volatile, tenacious and highly impulsive. These characteristics are known to be found in exaggerated levels when the pitta dosha is prominent. Brahmi has been studied to have a calming effect on the pitta dosha. When a dosha is vitiated it means it is in a chronic state of imbalance and will ultimately lead to disease within the body. Brahmi is used to maintain a sense of equilibrium which translates into wellness for mind and body.
It also has a positive effect on the kapha and vata doshas. Brahmi centres the mind by providing qualities which have a cleansing and relaxing effect on the nerves and overall body function. It is also documented as being favoured by the sages who sit in penance for long periods of time .The awakening of the right hemisphere of the brain is said to be vital for aligning oneself with a spiritual path. Brahmi does exactly that by providing mental stability and a balance of both hemispheres of the brain to function at an optimum level. This is also said to help in opening the crown chakra.
When we think of food, it is often viewed from one perspective; taste. The ones who seek to know a little more educate themselves about nutrients ,next comes understanding seasonal availability and last the soil where it is grown. Most people don’t have the time to make the connection between what is eaten at meal times and how it affects our health and changes in the environment. In allopathy the benefits of food are mostly determined on a physical level.
In Ayurveda food is regarded with respect to what is called ‘dravya guna’ . It is a study of the substance as well as the inherent qualities. When understanding the dravya guna ,it helps the ayurvedic physician to make a more accurate diagnosis based on the patient’s symptoms. The diagnosis will be given with respect to the benefits provided by the food in connection with what the person requires. Dravya Guna comes under several classifications; Rasa, Virya, Vipaka and Prabhava. Each one of these allow the ayurvedic practitioner to have insightful information about the behaviour of a certain ingredient ,when consumed.
Rasa talks about the taste of the ingredient. Brahmi is documented as having a bitter taste with a slight astringency when eaten. This is the flavour that is ascertained by the taste buds in the mouth when met with digestive juices from the salivary glands.We hear of elders and traditional chefs talking about the importance of bitter tastes in foods. It kickstarts the elimination of toxins in the body and has a positive effect in quelling anxiety , nervous tension while promoting spiritual cleansing.
Virya talks about the effect it has on the body. Just like we talk about acidic and alkaline foods or foods which are cooling or add warmth, the same is studied in Ayurveda. Brahmi, like most medicinal herbs, has an alkaline effect on the body. It is cooling which is why it has a calming effect on the pitta dosha and also helps in treating a fever and inflammation.
Vipaka is the study of an ingredient at the tail end of the digestive process. It is at this stage where food is assimilated and absorbed into the gut. The Brahmi herb at this stage behaves in complete paradox to the rasa stage. At the Vipaka stage it takes on a sweet note and has a relaxing effect on the body. This is an example of how while we perceive foods according to taste ,it is also important to learn about its benefits.
The Prabhava of a food lies in its uniqueness. Super foods also have special characteristics which extend beyond the rasa, virya and vipaka. The prabhava of Brahmi extends to multiple functions. It has a detoxifying effect . It is beneficial for healthy red blood cells ,improves immunity and heightens brain function with regard to memory and intelligence.
When food is prescribed as medicine ,Ayurveda goes beyond physical health. Diagnosis and treatment also include factors like energy levels, active mind, cognitive functions and other subtle imbalances.
Once it was understood that this herb has the power to cure a multitude of diseases and imbalances, the next step was to concoct a different formulation based on the medical requirement.
A rasayana for example is a compilation of herbs meant to add physical and mental stability which will help raise one’s stamina and vigour. In the yogic world this sort of rejuvenation is referred to simply as “ojas”.
Other concoctions of herbs come under medhya (for cognitive function),nervine tonic, nervine sedative (for strengthening and calming the nervous system) , diuretic and purgative (for cleansing) as well as astringent and antihistamine formulations.
Brahmi is regarded as a vital ingredient in combination with other herbs and ingredients to prepare the above mentioned formulations.
A simpler way to imbibe the Brahmi goodness is to have it everyday in the form of medicinal ghee. Indian desi ghee is known for its incredible cures. Herbal ghees offer an easy route to sustaining a daily health care routine.
A herbal tea is also a solution as is a juice. Both will taste bitter in comparison to the ghee. From curing simple disorders of the gut to chronic body battles like epilepsy and leprosy, Brahmi has been known to be truly the medicinal herb from heaven!
Long term benefits
Today we are most concerned about ageism. Everyone wants to look and feel at least a decade younger than what they are . This kind of thought process is not a modern concept. Even in ancient times, rishis and sages were constantly seeking ingredients which would revitalise and rejuvenate mind and body while promising a return of youth.
This plant which grows in marshy soil with its succulent leaves and white blossoms was identified as being potent with curing sickness. That’s how Brahmi became a part of ancient medicine.
From brightening of the skin to avoiding wrinkles and reducing grey hairs, the effects of Brahmi have been of great use for cosmetic wellness too. A bottle of Brahmi goodness may just take precedence over fancy creams, lotions and masks !
Brahmi has indeed managed to capture the attention of Western medical experts. In today’s ‘blink and you miss’ era of information overload, the studies regarding this wild growing herb have penetrated through the right channels.
With wonders being experienced in the field of emotional and energy improvements , the research on Brahmi has gained momentum. While our native medicine experts believe that there is more Brahmi goodness to be unearthed,there is enough information available now to push us to get started on adding Brahmi to our vitamin and mineral needs.
Life is only going to reach a more accelerated pace.As much as we would like to slow down and stop to take in nature around us, many don’t have the luxury of down time. There is much to be done and little time to do it. The answer lies in taking firm hold of Ayurveda and herbal leaves out of God’s pharmacy.
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