Chyawanprash is a delicious nutritive jam that has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years, offering a wide range of health benefits. In Sanskrit, the word, "prash" refers to a specially prepared food. It is said that two ancient sages of Ayurveda concocted this particular formula to restore youth to the elderly sage, Chyawan—thus the name, "chyawanprash".1, 2 The transliteration from Sanskrit to English has resulted in a variety of spelling variations, including: chyavanprash, chyavanaprasam, and chyavanaprjasha.3, 1 Banyan Botanicals offers this preparation as chyavanprash.
Ayurvedic jams are often used as anupans (carriers) for other herbs, but they can also be used on their own and frequently are—especially as rejuvenatives and aphrodisiacs.1 The Ayurvedic jam known as chyawanprash is made with a base of amalaki fruits (Emblica officinalis) and typically contains a number of other herbs, ghee, sesame oil, sugar, and/or honey. The honey, ghee, and sesame oil serve as yogavahis (catalytic agents) to carry the herbs deep into the tissues, while the sugar is considered a samvahaka dravya (preservative substance) which helps to safeguard the clinical efficacy of the main ingredient, in this case amalaki.4, 5
Amalaki, also known as amla, is renowned for its rich antioxidant content and for its very high concentration of vitamin C—one of the highest known in the plant kingdom.2 More importantly, the vitamin C contained in the amalaki fruit is stabilized by the presence of tannins, which help to preserve the vitamin content, even through processing.2 This is particularly relevant in a preparation such as chyawanprash, which requires extensive cooking.
While the first known source of the "recipe" for chyawanprash is found in the Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, the jam is also described in several other respected Ayurvedic texts, often with some alteration to the "original" formula.2 In fact, there is an extensive history of variation in chyawanprash preparations and appropriate amendments are therefore considered acceptable.2 This being the case, modern concerns for sustainability and availability of herbs have resulted in a wealth of chyawanprash varieties, all essentially sharing the same core benefits.2
Benefits of Chyawanprash
- Rejuvenates all tissues in the body*
- Supports overall strength and energy*
- Promotes muscle mass*
- Builds ojas for supporting a healthy immune response and youthfulness*
- Supports healthy function of the heart and respiratory systems*
- Tonifies the reproductive system*
- Kindles agni (digestive fire)*
- Gently encourages elimination*
- Supports optimal urinary health*
Chyawanprash is a very nourishing, anabolic preparation that is heating, heavy and oily. Provided digestion is strong, it builds strength and mass without aggravating kapha.2 Actually, chyawanprash pacifies vata, pitta, and kapha and is considered a rasayana (rejuvenative) for all of the tissues in the body. Chyawanprash is said to support healthy aging and to promote beauty, intelligence, and memory.1 It is also a tonic for the heart and it has a general affinity for the digestive, excretory, urinary, respiratory, and reproductive systems.2
Chyawanprash for Supporting Overall Strength, Immunity, and Rejuvenation
The primary action of chyawanprash is to bolster the immune system and to support the body’s natural ability to produce hemoglobin and white blood cells.2 Amalaki (the main ingredient in chyawanprash) aids in the elimination of ama (toxins) and supports the blood, the liver, the spleen, and the respiratory system; it therefore nourishes and protects the body’s natural defense systems.2 Chyawanprash also builds ojas—the essence of immunity and youthfulness—and lends strength to vata, while supporting healthy muscle mass and tonifying the tissues.2 Chyawanprash is particularly good for the lungs because it nourishes the mucous membranes and helps to keep the respiratory passages clean and clear.2 In fact, chyawanprash is often used as a tonic in the winter months, as an added support for the immune system.2 Ultimately, chyawanprash improves natural resistance and lends strength, energy, and vitality to the entire being.2 As a result, it is a highly revered rasayana, offering deep nourishment to the tissues, preserving youth, and promoting systemic health and well-being.2 It is also considered one of the best family tonics—suitable for most ages, from young children to the elderly.4
Chyawanprash for Digestion
It is not surprising that chyawanprash is very supportive of strong digestion because, on a systemic level, strength and immunity both begin with healthy agni. In Ayurveda, digestion is thought to be initiated with the experience of taste, and chyawanprash contains five of the six tastes—lacking only the salty taste.2 Further, chyawanprash kindles agni without aggravating pitta.2 It is also an effective carminative (for the healthy movement of gases through the digestive system), it supports regular elimination, and it fosters healthy blood glucose and cholesterol levels when they are already in normal range.2, 6 Overall, the jam is both stimulating and tonifying to the GI tract, supporting proper metabolism as a whole.
Chyawanprash for the Reproductive System
According to legend, chyawanprash was originally formulated to restore virility to the elderly sage, Chyawan, so that he could satisfy his young bride.2 This being the case, chyawanprash was concocted with the intention of nourishing and revitalizing the reproductive tissues. It is used as a tonic to replenish the reproductive system and prevent loss of vital energies in times of sexual activity.2 In more general terms, chyawanprash supports fertility, healthy libido, and builds overall sexual strength in both men and women.2
How to Use Chyawanprash
Because taste plays such an important role in the digestive process and signals the body to initiate its own supportive mechanisms, Ayurveda traditionally recommends tasting herbs. As a delicious jam, chyawanprash offers those who use it the full experience of taste, further enhancing its efficacy.
Internal Use of Chyawanprash
Chyawanprash can be taken alone, it can be stirred into milk or water, or it can be spread on toast, bread, or crackers—like any other jam.3 Taking chyawanprash in warm milk (or almond milk, if dairy is not appropriate) helps to carry its tonifying and rejuvenating qualities deep into the tissues.2 The usual dose of chyawanprash is 1–2 teaspoons, once or twice daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.4, 2 Children can take ½ teaspoon daily.
When To Take Chyawanprash
As a rasayana, chyawanprash is typically taken in the morning, or sometimes in both the morning and the evening.4, 2 Chyawanprash can be taken on a long-term basis as part of a program designed to support overall strength and immunity, even supporting the natural systems of the body after a bout of stress or illness. For others, it is more appropriately used seasonally, as a tonic in the winter months.2
Modern Research on Chyawanprash and Amalaki
There has been significant scientific research evaluating the benefits of amalaki (again, the main ingredient in chyawanprash) and at least one study looking at various applications for chyawanprash, specifically.7 Among other things, research efforts have evaluated the roll of chyawanprash in supporting appropriate glucose and cholesterol levels, as well as amalaki’s function as an antioxidant, adaptogen, and immune and heart supportive agent. Below are a few links that summarize some of these findings:
- “Effect of Chyawanprash and Vitamin C on Glucose Tolerance and Lipoprotein Profile.” PubMed Abstract. Jan 2001.6
- “Adaptogenic Properties of Six Rasayana Herbs Used in Ayurvedic Medicine.” PubMed Abstract. Jun 1999.8
- “Emblica officinalis Causes Myocardial Adaptation and Protects Against Oxidative Stress in Ischemic-Reperfusion Injury in Rats.” PubMed Abstract. Jan 2004.9
While there is little information on side effects associated with chyawanprash, no toxic effects of amalaki (its main ingredient) have been observed in scientific studies.7
Avoid chyawanprash if there are known allergies to Emblica officinalis, other members of the Phyllanthus family, or to any other ingredients in chyawanprash.7 For pitta-types or those with pitta imbalances, chyawanprash may be heating during hot weather.2 It is likewise contraindicated in cases of indigestion or diarrhea.2, 4 Use caution in patients with hypoglycemia and in those taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications.7 If you are taking prescription medication of any kind, it is always best to check with your doctor before introducing an herbal regimen.
When purchasing chyawanprash, there are a number of questions to consider that will help you to evaluate the quality of the herbal ingredients, the values upheld by the company that produced the jam, and the price of the product in relation to its quality.
1 Svoboda, Robert. Ayurveda: Life, Health and Longevity. Penguin Books, 1992. 256.
2 Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Churchill Livingston Elsevier, 2006. 296-297.
3 “Chyawanprash.” Wikipedia. Online. Retrieved 24 Apr. 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chyawanprash
4 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume Three: General Principles of Management and Treatment. The Ayurvedic Press, 2012. 342, 418.
5 Apte, Deepa. “Chyawanprash: The Ultimate Natural Health Supplement.” Natural Health Web. Online. Retrieved 24 Apr. 2012. http://www.naturalhealthweb.com/articles/DeepaApte1.html
6 Manjunatha, S., et al. “Effect of Chyawanprash and Vitamin C on Glucose Tolerance and Lipoprotein Profile.” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 45.1 (2001): 71-79. Online. PubMed. Retrieved 24 Apr. 2012 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11211574?dopt=Abstract
7 “Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica).” Natural Standard: Professional Monograph. Online. Retrieved 24 Apr. 2012. http://naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/amalaki.asp
8 Rege, N.N., U.M. Thatte, and S.A. Dahanukar. “Adaptogenic Properties of Six Rasayana Herbs Used in Ayurvedic Medicine.” Phytotherapy Research. 13.4 (1999): 275-291. Online. PubMed. Retrieved 26 Apr. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10404532?dopt=Abstract
9 Rajak, S., et al. “Emblica officinalis Causes Myocardial Adaptation and Protects Against Oxidative Stress in Ischemic-Reperfusion Injury in Rats.” Phytotherapy Research. 18.1 (2004): 54-60. Online. PubMed. Retrieved 26 Apr. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14750202?dopt=Abstract