There’s a rich tradition of healing practices throughout the world, with centuries worth of evidence showing that these “alternative” approaches are just as effective than western medicine—if not, more.
But big pharma is “dead-set” against any type of medicine that doesn’t rely on expensive, dangerous drugs—even when it means your death. So they continue doling out pills, while complementary recommendations based on natural principles—like eating right, exercising, and supplementing with herbs and other nutrients—get pushed into these “alternative” categories.
Unlike western medicine, these ancient “alternative” medicines view the patient as a whole, rather than just a bundle of symptoms to be treated with the drugs du jour. The goal is to ensure overall good health rather than just simply treating diseases.
One of the most comprehensive of these “alternative” medicines is Ayurveda, an ancient Indian healing tradition. The basic concepts behind Ayurveda are simple, and you can easily apply them to your daily life to stay healthy for years to come.
The cosmic connection
Ayurveda is the science of life and longevity. But as with other eastern healing modalities, selected aspects of this Indian medical system and its cures have been adopted by pop “gurus,” authors, and media celebrities in the west—who don’t truly understand, or appear to care, how it all really works.
Unlike these “natural-know-it alls,” or “Johnny-come-latelies,” I’ve studied Ayurveda for over 40 years.
In fact, for 25 years I’ve included it in my textbook Fundamentals of Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative Medicine, which has just been published in its sixth edition. You can also read about Ayurveda in my books Avicenna’s Medicine and Vital Healing, all of which are available at www.DrMicozzi.com.
The basic philosophy behind Ayurvedic medicine is that human beings are minute representations of the cosmos. In other words, our bodies and souls contain everything that makes up our surrounding world—including earth, air, fire, water, and space.
These five elements are combined differently into three doshas—Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Each dosha determines your physical and mental characteristics. You get your dosha makeup at conception, determined by your mother, father, and the time of year.
You’re born with perfectly balanced doshas, but poor diet and lifestyle choices (like lack of exercise or too much stress) can cause them to become imbalanced. And that can lead to disease.
Ayurvedic practitioners have a variety of ways to restore dosha balance. But you don’t have to visit a practitioner to apply basic Ayurvedic principles to your daily life. Because many traditional sources of Ayurvedic medicine can be found right in your kitchen.
Five key Ayurvedic herbs
Indian medical and culinary traditions have worked hand-in-hand for millennia. While many plants are used in Ayurvedic medicine, you can get the most disease-fighting bang for your buck with the following herbs:
Ashwaghanda, also known as winter cherry, is one of the ingredients in my ABCs (ashwaghanda, boswellia, and curcumin) for joint health, due to its powerful ability to reduce pain and inflammation.
Studies show this herb has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may also have a positive influence on the endocrine hormones and the central nervous system. And it’s known in Ayurvedic medicine for its “anti-aging” properties, with active ingredients shown by modern science to help stop cellular disease and decline.
Ashwaghanda is available as a root you can boil into tea. In fact, “ashwaghanda” literally means “mare sweat,” from the aroma of the whole root. But it’s easier to take this herb as a dietary supplement. I recommend 400 to 500 mg a day.
Boswellia, also known as frankincense, comes from a gum tree that grows in South and Middle Asia, and was probably carried to ancient Greece and Rome on the Silk Route. In Christian belief, it was one of the traditional gifts brought from the east by the Three Magi at Epiphany.
During the Crusades, Boswellia was brought back to Europe by the famous Germanic, or Frankish, crusader Frederick Barbarossa (who you may know as “Red Beard”). Thus, the herb acquired the common name “frank incense,” or frankincense.
Studies show boswellia’s pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects are similar to steroid drugs, but without the dangerous side effects. Boswellia has also been shown to help with digestion and improve respiratory health. And lab studies have found it can fight cancer cells of the bladder, breast, brain, cervix, colon, liver, lung, pancreas, prostate, skin, and stomach.
Boswellia is also most commonly taken as a dietary supplement. I recommend 400 to 500 mg a day.
Chili pepper, also known as paprika or cayenne pepper, is another traditional Ayurvedic pain reliever. This pungent, fiery spice can be used topically in creams and ointments, or included directly into your diet.
You can include chili peppers in your meals a few times a week by sprinkling them into salads, soups, and marinades. Or they make a great topping for chicken, burgers, or sausages hot off the grill.
Studies show this spicy herb depletes a chemical pain transmitter and desensitizes the nerve cells linked to pain. So chili peppers are commonly used to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis, diabetic neuropathy, and shingles.
Research also shows that chili peppers can boost your longevity, perhaps because of their antioxidant activity. And they can help manage your blood sugar, improve your digestion, boost your heart health, and reduce inflammation.
If that weren’t enough, research also links capsaicin—the principle component in chili peppers—with protection against atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, is a commonly used spice in Indian and South Asian curry dishes. In Ayurvedic medicine, curcumin is often incorporated into topical treatments for common eye infections and skin ailments, such as wounds, bites, burns, and acne.
Research shows curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. People with osteoarthritis and joint pain often take advantage of these strong benefits and, of course, it’s one of the ABCs I rely on for joint health.
But that’s not all that curcumin can do. In the August 2018 Insiders’ Cures issue (“Natural blood sugar remedies are outdoing mainstream diabetes drugs”) I reported on a study showing that curcumin is more effective for managing blood sugar than common diabetes drugs.
Research also shows it’s a potent anti-cancer agent, especially for colon cancer. And curcumin has been found to reduce the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with including curcumin in your diet, you can also take it as a supplement. I recommend at least 200 mg per day.
Ginger comes from the root of the flowering ginger plant, which originated in China. It has a long history as a folk remedy, and plays a prominent role in Asian cooking. Ginger is used frequently in Ayurvedic medicine due to its numerous health benefits.
Ginger has been used for more than 3,000 years in various healing traditions, including Ayurveda, as a treatment for upset stomachs, diarrhea, and nausea. And some studies have shown it’s effective for osteoarthritis pain.
Research shows that ginger root also helps control the chronic inflammation related to Type II diabetes. It even improves fasting blood sugar and A1C numbers. Ginger seems to work directly in your GI microbiome to prevent sugar from entering the bloodstream.
Ginger has also been shown to reduce the inflammation that can lead to Alzheimer’s. And like ashwaghanda, ginger may help promote longevity by preventing cellular decline.
I suggest keeping some fresh ginger root in your pantry and adding a few slices to hot water to make a tea. You can also add freshly grated ginger to salads, meat, fish, and vegetable dishes. Or you can supplement with 2,000 mg of ginger root a day.
Together, these five herbs embody the Ayurvedic principles of longevity. Whether you add them to a balanced diet or take them as dietary supplements, you’ll lower your risk of inflammatory diseases like arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer…and help stop aging deep down at the cellular level.