Lessons to Be Learnt from Ayurveda: Nutraceuticals and Cosmeceuticals from Ayurveda Herbs


Natural products have always remained as the basis for treating various diseases (Patwardhan et al. 2005). Medicinal plants from nature are recognized as potential candidates due to their drug-like effective properties (Bernhoft 2010). Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine, forms one of the most ancient, yet living, traditions of healing (Patwardhan et al. 2005). Nature has granted enormous varieties of medicinal plants in India, due to which the country is regarded as the medicinal garden of the world (Kumar et al. 2015). The use of plants for their medicinal values has been well described in the Indian vidas to cure several diseases, and this gave rise to the widely accepted traditional medical system. With regard to this, India has several traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani (Kumar et al. 2015).

Ayurveda is one of the ancient healthcare systems, the existence of which can be traced back to about 5000 years. According to the ancient literature on Ayurveda, it was practiced during the vedic period in India. Besides India, this medicinal system thrived as complementary medicine in other parts of the world. All therapies in Ayurveda aim to provide complete health benefits in terms of the physical, mental and spiritual state so that people can attain the real goal of life, i.e. self-fulfillment. The precise meaning of Ayurveda is the “sacred knowledge of life and longevity” and this system makes use of about 900 plants. The use of herbal treatment is the most popular form of this traditional medicine system (Sarker and Nahar 2007). According to the report of World Health Organization, those reliant on herbal sources as the complementary system has been estimated to be about 70-80% of the world population (Wise 2013). The demand for herbal medicine, pharmaceuticals, health products, nutraceuticals, food supplements and herbal and natural cosmetics is growing worldwide. In the 21st century, natural products represent more than 50% of the drugs that are used clinically and they are derived from plants, animals, microbes and fungi (Shakya 2016).

The main reasons for public interest in relying on complementary medicinal systems are the side-effects associated with synthetic drugs, high cost, drug resistance, lack of treatment for various chronic diseases and other emerging diseases (Humber 2002). Undeniably, ayurvedic treatment is more effective in most chronic diseases as compared to allopathy, but, as the majority of the population depends on modern medicine due to its fast relief, this has made Ayurveda less popular. However, in recent years, the awareness of people related to the toxicity of allopathic drugs and the high cost of the health system have led to searching for alternatives (Chauhan et al. 2015). Though treatment with Ayurveda is highly efficient, the proper mechanism of action, pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of most of the important drugs are yet to be explored, and this has made Ayurveda lag behind due to deficiency of scientific evidence and poor research. In addition to this, there is a gap in the exchange of information globally (Chauhan et al. 2015; Jaiswal and Williams 2017).

According to the National Medicinal Plant Board (N.M.P.B.), the Indian herbal industry aims to increase the trend to 80-90 billion rupees by the year 2020. Nonetheless, India has focused on popularizing the traditional medicine system of A.Y.U.S.H., which stands for Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, in the health system media through its worldwide network that targets remedies to cure diseases and manage quality of life (Shakya 2016). Therefore, at present, there is once again a revival of interest in natural resources and there has been a great improvement in recent years in understanding Indian herbs (Sarvesh Kumar et al. 2013).

Most of the anti-cancer and anti-infection drugs that were approved from 1981 to 2002 have their origin in natural sources - 60% and 75%, respectively (Gupta et al. 2005). The promising compounds and molecules that originated from ayurvedic medicine include Rauwolfia alkaloids against hypertension, Holarrhena alkaloids against amoebiasis, guggulsterones used as hypolipidemic agents, Mucuna pruriens against Parkinson’s disease, curcumin for inflammation, withano- lides, steroidal lactones and glycosides as immunomodulators (Patwardhan 2000; Patwardhan and Mashelkar. 2009).

History of Medicine and Ayurveda

The origin of medicine dates back to the age of life itself, and the development of this system depends on various features and forms, contents that are decided by the civilization and the environment of origin. With the advancement of human civilization, there is a change in medical science due to the appearance of newer diseases. Ayurveda grew in India on the basis of a logical foundation and has survived as a separate discipline from ancient times to the present day, based on fundamental human factors and intrinsic causes (Narayanaswamy 1981). The history of medicine reveals most of the ancient discoveries to be a result of serendipity or folklore approaches that were involved with poisonous bases, and not actually from traditional medicines (Harvey 2008). The Greek physician Hippocrates who is known as the father of medicine stated, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Healing systems existed since the time of development of human civilization, and the present form of the modern medicine system steadily settled throughout the years through scientific observations. However, the basis of it is derived from tradition (Patwardhan 2000; Patwardhan et al. 2004). In traditional medical systems, plants formed the renewable source of food and medicine, and in this, India remained the pioneer (Chaudhary and Singh 2012). Ayurveda originated and was established between 2500 and 500 B.C. in India (Mishra et al. 2001a; Pandey et al. 2013).

Based on ayurvedic knowledge, turmeric paste wrap was employed to treat common eye infections, dress wounds and treat acne and several skin diseases, and roasted turmeric is an ingredient used as an anti-dysenteric for children (Hatcher et al. 2008). Ayurveda endured and thrived for ages to the present times with vast information on nature-based medicine, the relationship of the human body with nature and the universe and fundamentals that coordinate and affect all living beings. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda is slowly being explored, which is why this rich knowledge could give rise to new opportunities to discover herbal drugs (Jaiswal and Williams 2017). Ayurveda represents a complete system towards health and personalized medicine that consists of ethical, physical, philosophical, psychological and spiritual health (Semwal et al. 2015). The fundamentals of Ayurveda are known by its bases founded by the schools of Hindu philosophy - Nyaya, Vaisisika, Sdmkhya, Yoga, Mlmamsa and Vedanta (Ninivaggi 2008; Jaiswal and Williams 2017). The Vaisisika group addressed the interpretations and observations that were intended to understand the pathological condition of the patient, whereas the Nyaya school spread its wisdom on the concept of having complete knowledge of the condition of patient and disease before the initiation of treatment (Jaiswal and Williams 2017). Ayurveda is believed to have originated even before the establishment of these schools, from the Hindu deity, Brahma, the creator of the universe (Mukherjee and Houghton 2009). Brahma passed on this complete wisdom to the sages and from them, the medical knowledge was passed on to their disciples and then to the common people through their writings and oral tradition. The knowledge disseminated in the form of quatrains, called slokas, incorporating the wisdom of the four Vidas - Rgvida, Yajurvida, Sdmavida and Atharvavida (Jaiswal and Williams 2017).

When Indologists express their views about Ayurveda writings, they refer to the earliest collections of Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata, the Great Triad of Indian medicine (Glazier 2000). Of these, Susruta Samhita forms the landmark in Ayurveda. Though the text focused on surgery, it has also described 395 medicinal plants, 57 drugs from animal origin and 64 minerals or metals used as therapeutic agents. In ancient time, besides India, these ayurvedic writings were valued in other countries and were being translated into Greek (300 B.C.E.), Tibetan, Chinese (300 C.E.), Persian and Arabic (700 C.E.) (Pan et al. 2014).

Ayurveda basically consists of eight branches, one of which is rasayana tantra. The term rasayana is derived from the words rasa- (primordial tissue or plasma) and ayana- (path). Thus, the term rasayana means the path that rasa takes (Puri 2002). Rasayana tantra or rejuvenation therapy is one of the eight specialized and vital branches of the Astdnga Ayurveda healing system (Asta = eight, anga = limbs or parts) which emphasizes nutrition dynamics, rejuvenation of the body, mind

Classification of rasayana

FIGURE 9.1 Classification of rasayana.

and emotions and promotion of immunity and longevity (Vagbhata 2005). Rasayana is defined as a means to attain the optimal quality of body tissues which can enhance mental ability, memory, intellect, complexion, immunity, longevity and youthfulness. Rasayana therapy can promote a healthy state of an individual and also reverse and manage a disease condition, providing better immunity. This form of therapy is not restricted to the senile group and can be applied from pediatrics to geriatrics, and the ideal group age ranges between 16 years to 90 years. The therapies and various herbal combinations in Rasayana are tailored to specifications that are required for an individual, suitable for the age, body type, status of body and expected effect (Puri 2002) (Figure 9.1).

Rasayana tantra signifies the basic methodology of Ayurveda to prevent and cure diseases by following the procedures of Rasayana cikitsa. The treatment method for aging (Jaracikitsa) is synonymous with Rasayana cikitsa, which not only aims to specify a definite knowledge system but also acts as a procedure to enhance the efficiency of body tissues and their function (Venugopalan and Venkatasubramanian 2017). The ideal first phase to any effective rasayana therapy is purification of the body and channels through a series of body purification techniques known as pahca- kanna, which is a well-known rejuvenation and detoxification method that consists of three series of steps such as pre-treatment (Piirvakarma), the primary treatment (Pradhanakarma) and the posttreatment (Pascatkarma) (Puri 2002).

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