With so many time-tested treatment modalities out there, some which are thousands of years old, people are pretty curious as to whether some of the natural tips and recommendations penned in ancient literature are still effective today. Conventional medical wisdom assumes all that ancient medicine is just nonsense and superstition, that until a hundred years ago every health practitioner and patient lived under a massive collective delusion. If they got anything right it was through dumb luck, and today’s pharmaceutical companies have long since mined it for useful drugs and therapies. Could they all be useless? Whereas some older treatments have gone the way of the dodo in light of scientific scrutiny, many endure. In today’s post, I’ll subject the ancient world of Ayurvedic herbs to that same scientific scrutiny.
First transmitted through oral traditions and later through writings, Ayurveda dates back to at least 5000 BCE. That’s one long placebo effect. Let’s what the human studies have to say about some of these herbs.
Everyone and their vegan mother loves turmeric and knows how good it’s supposed to be for you. They may not be able to tell you what it actually does, but they know it’s good. Ayurveda knows, though. They’ve known for thousands of years that it’s anti-inflammatory enough to sometimes replace pain meds. It can reduce depression symptoms, even in patients with major clinical depression. It shows neuroprotective efficacy against animal models of Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and other major neurological disorders. And it’s delicious. Pair with black pepper to make it even more effective.
Make pesto from this and someone’s liable to get lucky, at least according to traditional Ayurvedic herbalists who used holy basil as a powerful aphrodisiac. In rabbits, holy basil is a potent testosterone booster (while decreasing sperm count). In humans, the sexual effects haven’t been tested or confirmed. What have been confirmed are the boosts to immune function and blood glucose control and reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms.
That said, a friend of mine swears by holy basil for testosterone and libido boosting. Here’s how he takes it:
Tablespoon of dried holy basil leaves (also commonly available at Indian grocery stores).
Bring all three ingredients to a simmer for five minutes, cover, and let sit for another 5. Strain out the leaves and drink.
Tribulus terrestris has gained notoriety among bodybuilders for its apparent ability to increase testosterone. Actually, though, the evidence for a T effect in humans is nonexistent. It does seem to boost erection rigidity and sexual well being, possibly by increasing androgen receptor density and thus androgen activity in the brain.
That’s just a small taste of the more notable Ayurvedic herbs. Covering the many dozens more (and the hundreds of permutations of each) is beyond the scope of this post. But these are some of the highlights.
What about you guys? Any experience (for better or worse) with Ayurvedic herbs? Let me know in the comments below.
Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.