The Ayurvedic Powerhouse for the Blood and Lymph—Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia)
In the last Vine we talked about anantamul and how it works at both the skin and blood tissue layer in a very balanced and refined manner. Sometimes, however, the body needs a little extra help when there are natural toxins, extra heat, or stagnation causing an imbalance in the blood.
To this end, nature has provided another plant with that extra boost—manjistha. Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) has beautiful heart-shaped leaves, giving it the Latin suffix “cordifolia” and demonstrating its affinity to the heart and circulatory system. The leaves have a deep green color. The vine grows on the western side of the Himalayas and other mountainous regions.1
Manjistha translates to “bright red.” In fact, the herb was traditionally used as a coloring agent in medicated oils, and the powder of the root serves as a natural dying agent in many Asian countries, imparting shades of red, scarlet, brown, and mauve to cotton and other fabrics.2 Ancient insight teaches us to recognize that this quality means that it likely has a stronger affinity to the blood.
While anantamul is gracefully tridoshic, manjistha has stronger pitta and kapha pacifying actions, which can aggravate vata if not used wisely or with other more balancing herbs. Like anantamul, it also has sweet and astringent tastes (rasa), but the bitter taste is quite strong and predominant. It is this taste, along with its pungent post-digestive effect (vipaka), that gives manjistha the ability to break down blockages and stagnation within the entire circulation of blood and lymph, as well as break down and burn away natural toxins (ama).3
The herb is a vine, and like other vines, it has the ability to spread with ease throughout the circulation of the body and to the skin. Its vast reach makes it a fantastic remedy for stubborn and lingering issues in the plasma, blood, lymph, and the skin. Manjistha’s intensely bitter taste puts an end to many natural toxins that are found in all areas of the body. The result is a bright and clear complexion, relief to occasional itchiness, less heat in the body, support for the proper functioning of the liver and kidneys, and the natural elimination toxins.
Because manjistha is powerful, be mindful when you are using it in your practice. It has cold qualities, so be cautious of using the herb with vata imbalances or vata constitutions, particularly if the herb is not complemented with other balancing herbs, as it can further exacerbate such imbalances. Also, prepare yourself and your clients for the possibility of a reddish discoloration of the urine. This is because of the herb and is not harmful in and of itself.
With these qualities, manjistha has earned its place as the primary ingredient in Banyan's blood cleanser formula, Blood Cleanse. It is supplemented with organic turmeric, neem powder, giloy (guduchi), and burdock to make the ideal combination for supporting natural detoxification in the blood, removing excess heat, promoting circulation and proper functioning of the liver, and promoting healthy skin through deep systemic cleansing. On the other hand, it is the secondary ingredient in Healthy Skin, allowing anantamul to cleanse the blood and skin without drying out the skin, while still supporting cleansing and pitta pacification.
Experiment with these two herbs, both on yourself and in your practice, to fully appreciate the way they complement each other and how they are different. Apply them externally and take them internally with various vehicles like milk, aloe vera, or plain warm water. By doing so, you will discover the wonders of these herbs and allow further insight to unfold.
1 Gogaòte VM. Ayurvedic pharmacology and therapeutic uses of medicinal plants (Dravyagunavignyan). 1st Eng. ed. Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan; 2000.
2 Devi Priya. “Traditional and Modern Use of Indian Madder (Rubia cordifolia L.): An Overview.” Int. J. Pharm. Sci. Rev. Res. 25, no 1 (Mar-Apr 2014):154-164
3 Sebastian Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice (London: Churchill Livingston, 2006), pp.260