Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2014 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Uses based on scientific evidence
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.
There is some evidence that a traditional Ayurvedic treatment using specially prepared alkaline threads (ksharasutra or Ayurvedic setons) to achieve gradual cauterization may provide an effective alternative to surgery in patients being treated for anal fistulas. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Angina (chest pain)
Abana is a combination herbal and mineral formulation traditionally used in Ayurveda for heart health. Its main ingredients are Terminalia arjuna, Withania somnifera, Terminalia chebula, Phyllanthus emblica, Nardostachys jatamansi, Tinosporia cordifolia, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Zingiber officinale, and Nepeta hindostana. Early studies report that abana may reduce the frequency and severity of chest pain (called angina). Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is a type of bark powder traditionally used as an anti-ischemic and cardioprotective agent in high blood pressure and ischemic heart diseases. It may be a safe and effective anti-angina agent comparable to isosorbine mononitrate (ISMN) and better tolerated. However, further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
There is early evidence that daily supplementation with gum resin of Boswellia serrata, known in Ayurveda as Salai guggal, may improve shortness of breath, coarse rattling sounds in the chest (called rhonchi), and the number of asthma attacks. Another herb, Devadaru (Cedrus deodara), may help prevent spasms in the airways, thereby reducing symptoms of bronchial asthma, particularly for patients with shorter histories of asthma and lower frequencies of attacks. Further research is needed in this area before a recommendation can be made.
Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)
Evidence suggests that carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), a measure of atherosclerosis, may be reduced with a comprehensive program including diet, exercise, stress reduction and a combination herbal formula (Maharishi Vedic Medicine), particularly in patients with a marked congenital heart disease (CHD) risk. Studies also suggest that Maharishi Amrit Kalash (MAK) -4 and MAK-5, two modern formulations of traditional Ayurvedic herbal remedies, may also be useful in the prevention and treatment of artherosclerosis. However further research is needed to confirm these results.
Abana is a combination herbal and mineral formulation that has been traditionally used in Ayurveda for improved heart health. There is evidence from early studies that abana may improve heart function. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
The herb Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is used in many Ayurvedic preparations for a variety of ailments. There is evidence from well-designed studies that it may improve memory and cognitive functioning in adults. Another study suggests that the herbal preparation Maharishi Amrit Kalash (MAK) -4 may enhance attention capacity or alertness, and thus reverse some of the detrimental cognitive effects of aging. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Preliminary evidence suggests that the gum resin of Boswellia serrata may improve or alleviate symptoms in patients with chronic colitis with minimal side effects. More studies are needed to confirm this finding.
Congestive heart failure
Preliminary evidence suggests that sodium nimbidinate, made from the traditional Ayurvedic herb Nimba/Neem/Arishta (Azadirachta indica), may be an effective diuretic in patients with congestive heart failure. More studies are needed to confirm this effect.
Constipation (in advanced cancer treatment)
Early evidence suggests that a liquid Ayurvedic herbal preparation called Misrakasneham, containing 21 different herbs, as well as castor oil, ghee, and milk, may benefit cancer-patients in the management of opioid-induced constipation. Further studies are needed to evaluate this treatment in palliative care.
Coronary heart disease
Evidence indicates that Ayurveda's comprehensive purification and detoxification regime known as panchakarma in heart disease patients may lead to increased vasoactive intestinal peptide (a vasodilator), acute reduction in total cholesterol, reduction in lipid peroxide (a measure of free radical damage), and a significant reduction in anxiety. A study of Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna), a type of bark powder that is traditionally used as an anti-ischemic and cardio protective agent in high blood pressure and ischemic heart diseases, found evidence that it may reduce cholesterol and lipid peroxide levels as well as have significant antioxidant action that is comparable to vitamin E in coronary heart disease patients. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Depression (mild to moderate)
Early evidence suggests that a traditional Ayurvedic formula containing extracts of four Indian herbs, Ashvatha, Kapikachu, Dhanvayasa, and Bhuriphali (the GS-02 formulation), may have benefits similar to conventional anti-depressant medication. Other research has reported no benefits. More studies are needed.
Several studies have been conducted with various Ayurvedic treatments, with mixed or modest results: The traditional antidiabetic remedy Coccinia indica may help improve glucose tolerance in adult-onset diabetes. An herbal tea containing Salacia reticulata (Kothala Himbutu tea) may improve glycemic control and reduce the need for Glibenclamide treatment in patients with type II diabetes mellitus. Drinking an aqueous suspension of the vegetable pulp from the herb Momordica charantia, a bitter vegetable popularly known as Karolla, may reduce serum glucose levels in people with moderate non-insulin dependent diabetes. A traditional Ayurvedic formula called Pancreas Tonic, taken in a powder capsule form, may bring intermediate term glucose control in type II diabetic patients with elevated HbA(1c) levels. The Ayurvedic herb Vijayasar (Pterocarpus marsupium), also called Bijaka, Pitasara, or Pitashalaka, may help modulate blood glucose levels in newly diagnosed or untreated non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. In all the above remedies, better-designed trials are needed to determine the true effectiveness.
Early evidence suggests that the aqueous extract of O. sanctum leaves may benefit patients with viral encephalitis. However, human studies are needed to evaluate this approach.
Evidence from a well-designed study suggests that the Ayurvedic formula Pippali Rasayana, prepared from Palash (Butea monosperma [Lamk] Kuntze; Leguminaceae) and Pippali (Piper longum L.; Piperaceae), may be an effective treatment for intestinal giardiasis infection. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Evidence from one well-designed study suggests that the traditional herbal preparation Kamalahar may reduce clinical signs as well as indicators of liver damage in acute viral hepatitis. Kamalahar contains Tecoma undulate, Phyllanthus urinaria, Embelia ribes, Taraxacum officinale, Nyctanthes arbortistis, and Terminalia arjuna.Another well-designed trial suggests that root powder from the herb Picrorhiza kurroamay may improve levels of bilirubin, SGOT (serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase) and SGPT in viral hepatitis. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
High blood pressure
Abana is a combination herbal and mineral formulation that has been traditionally used in Ayurveda for heart health. Early studies show that abana may reduce blood pressure. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
There is preliminary evidence that the herb guggul (Commiphora) may reduce serum cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels, increase HDL and decrease LDL levels. More studies are needed to validate this use.
There is evidence from one well-designed study that a traditional Ayurvedic formula (Blissful Sleep, Maharishi Ayurvedic Products International) containing valerian (Valeriana wallichi), rose petals (Rosa centifolia), muskroot (Nardostachys jatamansi), heart-leaved moonseed (Tinospora cordifolia), winter cherry (Withania somnifera), pepper (Piper negrum), ginger (Zingibar officinalis), aloeweed (Convolvulus pluricalis), and licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may decrease sleep latency (time needed to get to sleep) in people with sleep-onset insomnia, with no side effects. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
A compound Ayurvedic preparation with Aegle marmelos correa and Bacopa monnieri Linn is a traditional herbal preparation used for digestive disturbances and diarrhea. There is evidence from one study suggesting that this combination may have short-term benefits for patients with IBS in general, and in particular those with diarrhea. However, benefits may not be maintained in the long term. More studies are needed to evaluate this treatment.
Lichen planus (of the mouth)
Turmeric, an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, has been studied as a possible treatment for an inflammatory disorder of the mouth, called oral lichen planus. However, because the study was ended early, conclusions cannot be made. More research is needed.
There is evidence from one well-designed study that an Ayurvedic formula containing roots of Withania somnifera, the stem of Boswellia serrata, rhizomes of Curcuma longa, and a zinc complex (Articulin-F®) may significantly improve symptoms of osteoarthritis. Another study suggests that taking guggul (Commiphora mukul) daily as a powder capsule supplement may reduce pain and improve functioning in OA. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
There is evidence that the traditional herbal remedy Mucuna pruriens may improve symptoms in Parkinson's disease, and that it may offer advantages over conventional L-dopa preparations in the long-term management of the disorder. One study has suggested that symptoms of Parkinson's disease may be reduced with use of an Ayurvedic formula called HP-200, which is derived from Mucuna pruriens. More studies are needed to verify what can be expected from these treatments.
Evidence from one well-designed study suggests that the Ayurvedic herb Saptamrita Lauha may aid in the rapid absorption of hemorrhages and prevention of their recurrence in retinopathic eyes of diabetic and hypertensive patients. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
There is some evidence that a traditional Ayurvedic herbal formula RA-1 may reduce joint swelling but not other symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis. RA-1 contains Withania somnifera (ashwagandha), Boswellia serrata (gugulla), Zingiberis officinale (ginger) and Curcuma longa (turmeric).A resin that is extracted from Boswellia serrata (H15, indish incense) is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects. However, evidence from one study showed no benefit in patients with RA. More studies are needed to determine the efficacy of these treatments in RA.
Stomach disorders (gastritis and dyspepsia)
There is preliminary evidence that the herb amalaki (Emblica officinalis / Phyllanthus emblica), a fruit used in a variety of Ayurvedic remedies including the popular general tonic Chyavanaprash, may reduce symptoms of gastritis and dyspepsia. There is also evidence that the Ayurvedic herb Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari) may reduce gastric emptying time at a rate comparable to that of the drug metoclopramide, which is commonly used for dyspepsia. Some of this research has been with healthy subjects however, and further clinical trials are needed using the above remedies to evaluate their efficacy.
Evidence is inconclusive on whether the traditional herb guggul (Medohar) may contribute to weight loss in obese patients. More studies are needed to examine this treatment.
One study compared the three Ayurvedic preparations bel (Aegle marmelos), thankuni (Hydrocotyle asiatica), and gandhavadulia (Paederia foetida) with ampicillin in shigellosis, and found them to have no effect.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
For full grading rationale, click here.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional
Acne, anti-aging, arthritis (gouty), cancer, cervical spondylosis, constipation (general), diabetic foot ulcers, facial palsy, gynecological disorders, heartburn, hepatoprotection, impotence, infections, inflammation, jaundice, liver diseases, lumbar disc herniation (intervertebral disc protrusion), lumbar spondylosis, memory, menopausal symptoms, memory enhancement, mental disorders, migraine, ocular disorders, paralysis, sciatica, sleeplessness, skin diseases, stress, systemic lupus erythematosus, trigeminal neuralgia, urinary disorders.
Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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