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ALOE VERA (GHRITKUMARI)

Continuing the discussion on Rasayana, in this article I will share with you some interesting information regarding another wonderful plant called Ghritkumari in Sanskrit, known as Aloe Vera in English, which is used as a Rasayana in Ayurveda.

Ghritkumari is a combination of 2 Sanskrit words, namely: “Ghrit”, which means “ghee (clarified butter)”, and “Kumari”, which means “virgin”. So, in this context, Ghritkumari refers to the young leaf of a fresh plant which has a very greasy & slimy pulp, with a consistency like clarified butter. Since the leaf of a fresh aloe vera plant has a very sticky, greasy, slimy pulp, it is called Ghritkumari in Sanskrit.

As we know, according to Ayurveda, a rasayana should have at least three properties, i.e. it should have a curative & a preventive effect, while also providing an anti-aging and rejuvenating effect, and thus enhance longevity.

Aloe Vera has all these qualities. Why it has these qualities and certain beneficial effects on our health is very nicely explained in Ayurveda.

Ayurveda says that the beneficial effects, medicinal properties, efficacy, etc. of a particular food item or any substance, depends mainly on its taste, qualities, strength and the post digestive effects.

From the perspective of taste, the pulp of aloe vera is very bitter, quality wise it is “guru”, which means heavy to digest, “snigdha”, meaning oily, greasy, moist; and “pichhila”, which means “has foam”. Potency wise, aloe vera is “sheit virya”, meaning that it is very cooling & soothing; and its post digestive taste is pungent (heaty).

If we analyse its medicinal properties according to its features as above, we can understand better how and why aloe vera has certain specific beneficial effects on our health.

  1. Bitter taste: Bitter taste ignites Vata (air), which is a transporting element. Due to its bitter taste, when aloe vera pulp is consumed, it immediately activates Udana Vayu (air element which circulates around and above the throat region). This Udana Vayu (air) carries a message to the brain informing what kind of food is being eaten and it again carries a message from the brain to the stomach/ digestive system, instructing the type of digestive juices/enzymes that should be produced and kept ready to digest that particular food.
    Hence it prepares the digestive system beforehand so that the food is digested properly in a timely manner, without any delay. The activated Vata (air element) also moves and pushes the food down smoothly from the mouth to the digestive system through the esophagus, thus preventing any congestion in the pharynx and choking; and also preventing any congestion in the chest, minimising the chances of developing hiccups.
  2. Heavy to digest: Though aloe vera pulp is a bit heavy to digest, it is still beneficial for digestion and absorption. When food arrives in the digestive system (stomach), it has to remain there for a specific duration of time in order to be processed/digested. That stability is ensured by the heaviness of aloe vera.
  3. Greasy: Since aloe vera is oily and moist, it creates a lubricating effect on most (if not all) of the channels in the body, thereby facilitating regular blood circulation and consistent energy flow throughout the body. And the natural foam present in the aloe vera pulp helps with proper absorption of nutrients. If the foam/bubbles were not there in the pulp, then the pulp would really become difficult to digest and be absorbed. The natural bubbles in the pulp contain the air element which activates the intestines and makes absorption of the nutrients easier.
  4. Potency: Because of its cooling energy, aloe vera pulp has a soothing effect, whether it is applied externally or consumed orally.
  5. Heaty: Due to its post digestive pungent taste, aloe vera pulp, in spite of its initial cooling effect, can generate warmth and energy in the body, which, generally has a motivating effect at the physical and subtle levels.

From the perspective of modern science, aloe vera has several beneficial effects on our health because it contains various active phytochemicals, e.g. 20 amino acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, hormones, enzymes, etc.

Ayurveda says, aloe vera is useful to improve digestion and correct constipation. Due to its bitter taste, it can shrink unnatural growths (tumor), particularly abdominal tumors & fibroids, and due to its heaty effect and Vata activating effect in the digestive system, aloe vera improves the functioning of liver and spleen, thus helping to remove toxins and purify the blood, and correcting skin disorders in the process.

Aloe vera is also called balya and vrishya. Balya means “that which enhances strength”, while vrishya means “that which increases the quantity of the reproductive tissue (semen in men and ovam in women) and also improves the quality of it”.

One of the most significant beneficial effects of aloe vera is on the reproductive system of women, especially young girls, who experience complications relating to their menstrual cycle at puberty – aloe vera can help to regulate menstruation cycle and normalise the menstrual flow in women.

Though there are many beneficial effects of aloe vera, it can be harmful for those who have diarrhea, bleeding piles and women who bleed excessively during their menstrual cycle. Pregnant women should avoid taking it as it can cause miscarriage or premature delivery.

DISCLAIMER : This information is intended for educational purposes only & does not constitute expert medical advice, nor is it meant to replace medical recommendations by a medical practitioner. Always consult a qualified Ayurveda Doctor/Health Professional/Yoga Guru for your specific medical needs before taking any herbal health supplements, and/or practicing Ayurveda & Yoga.

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