Upon translation of its name, it becomes obvious that the herb Guduchi plays a significant role in the Ayurvedic medicine chest. In Sanskrit, Guduchi means “that which protects the body from diseases” and points to a Hindu myth that praises the Guduchi herb for offering the gift of life and keeping celestial beings eternally youthful.
In the epic myth of Ramayana, Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, kidnaps Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. In a great war, Rama and his army of monkeys and bears fight a bloody war, eventually slaying the evil Ravana on the battlefield. Upon surveying the carnage, Lord Rama says a special prayer, asking Indra to resurrect all of his mortally injured animals. Indra hears and grants his wish by sprinkling nectar from the heavens, which resurrects the animals. And wherever this nectar fell is where the Guduchi plant began to grow.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Guduchi is one of three Amrit plants, alongside Garlic and Haritaki. The Sanskrit term “Amrit” means “nectar” or “ambrosia.”
Achieving Balance Between the Doshas
As the story goes, the blessing of Lord Indra caused Guduchi to grow abundantly throughout tropical India. It resembles a large, climbing shrub with green, heart-shaped leaves, and is categorized as rasa, or bitter and astringent, and as virya, meaning hot; and it is known to have the karma (action) of kindling digestive fire. As such, Guduchi pacifies all three doshas — Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Dr. Sing wrote that The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, published by the Government of India, mentions Guduchi’s Kapha and Pitta pacifying properties by virtue of its bitter and astringent taste. The Guduchi plant’s sweet, post-digestive effect balances Vata and Pitta doshas and provides overall nourishment to the body.
Ayurvedic practitioners down through history have found Guduchi useful for inflammatory conditions, such as eye, urinary, skin, respiratory and digestive disorders caused by Pitta’s excessive systemic heat. Due to its anti inflammatory properties, the plant is also useful for Vata conditions that may affect joint health, cause chronic pain and discomfort, lead to skin and digestive issues, and cause spasms.
Guduchi in Ayurveda
Guduchi is known in Ayurvedic medicine for the power to detoxify, rejuvenate, boost the immune system, and more. This popular adaptogenic herb is thought to prolong life and was recognized by ancient rishis of the Vedic era in the classic healthcare text, the revered Charak Samhita,written by Maharishi Agnivesha.
Charaka, an ancient Ayurvedic sage, classified Guduchi under a group of herbs that are vaya, pertaining to age, and sthapana, pertaining to the restoration of life and health. Charaka categorized this group of four herbs as medhya rasayana — plants that restore intellect, cognitive function, and memory. The other three medhya rasayana herbs besides Guduchi are Gotu Kola, Yashtimadhu, and Shankhapushpi.
Dr. Jaydev Singh explained that in ancient times, medhya rasayana herbs were used to improve learning potential, intelligence, memory, and cognitive function. In modern times, these ayurvedic herbs may prove even more useful, and put to work for those overwhelmed by the stress of hectic lifestyles. These herbs are recommended for reducing stress, calming the mind, promoting rational thinking and reasoning, boosting memory, and improving retention span.
Modern science has identified many active herbal ingredients of Guduchi that are partly responsible for the plant’s multitude of health benefits. Among other important constituents, included are alkaloids, glycosides and lactones. These active compounds, say researchers, have the ability to regulate the immune system and physiological functions of different types, thereby demonstrating the amazing versatility of Guduchi.
Ayurvedic researcher Avnish Uphadyay noted that Guduchi features many medicinal properties known to scientific researchers, including the following:
Ability to balance blood sugar
Relieve fever and spasms
Carry out antioxidant functions
Promote joint health
Calm allergic reactions
Protect the kidneys
Support the immune system
Modern Guduchi Benefits
Researchers reporting in the National Institutes of Health have noted that the pharmacological actions attributed to Guduchi in Ayurvedic texts have been validated by a remarkable body of modern evidence, which suggests that this biochemical-rich plant has immense potential in modern healing modalities. The preponderance of stress-related health issues, nutrient- deficient diets, and insufficient rest that we experience today makes this ancient herb more than relevant in our era.