Ayurveda is one of the most ancient and comprehensive systems of health care known to humanity. It is truly a science of life that tells us how to improve the quality and quantity of human life.
There is a special branch of treatment called rasayana, or rejuvenation, which promotes longevity. When we use the word longevity in the West, we generally mean extending life, growing old gracefully, and staying healthy. We often measure longevity in terms of years lived—eighty, ninety, or one hundred years. To reach this goal, there may be rigid diets to follow and many herbs and supplements to swallow. Stress management techniques, exercise, and yoga are surely a part of the current longevity mix, however, while most people feel better following this path, few are able to stick with it for long because of its restrictive and time intensive nature.
When we use the word longevity in Ayurveda, we mean something different—life extension is considered a side benefit of a very comprehensive approach to enjoying life. The Ayurvedic way of life ensures full human potential rather than simply adding a few good years.
Ayurveda teaches that if life is lived in accordance with prakriti, your individual body-mind constitution, then a natural youthfulness is maintained throughout your life. Rejuvenation is essential to your vitality, creativity, happiness, and inner growth.
So when we look at anti-aging and longevity in Ayurveda, we are considering techniques that will restore the memory of consciousness into every cell of the body, which requires purification and rejuvenation.
The resulting experience, much like an atom, a hurricane, or a solar system, is silent on the inside and incredibly powerful on the outside. Stress, which triggers the production of degenerative fight or flight hormones and free radicals, literally strips the vital essence out of our cells.
It also recommends using various foods, herbs, and herbal formulations that contain the powerful energy of Mother Nature.
How Rasayanas Work
Rasayanas are employed in Ayurveda to enhance the quality of life, not necessarily the quantity of life—though these often go hand-in-hand. And interestingly, they are only effective when our behavior is equally uplifting, our lifestyle is in harmony with nature, and the food and air we take in is full of prana.
Rasayana therapy can be given to healthy individuals for the promotion of health, by improving tissues; as well as to the sick, by supporting better immune resistance. The first component to any effective rasayana therapy is purification of the body and channels through a series of body purification techniques. Afterwards, herbal formulations are administered.
There are many types of rasayana therapies and innumerable herbal combinations according to the specific need of the individual. It can be administered to a person of any age and gender under the supervision of an Ayurvedic physician.
Modern advancement in understanding the cell biology has enabled us to assess the effects of rasayana therapy at a cellular level. It has been observed that popularly used rasayana herbs like shatavari and ashwagandha support cellular integrity and protection. Ashwagandha, brahmi, tulsi, and schisandra have shown adaptogenic activity—meaning they intelligently adapt to the individual’s needs. Rasayana therapy may revolutionize the approach towards management of lifestyle and age-related diseases.
Effects of Rasayana Therapy
Ayurveda has described the effects of rasayana therapy as follows:
- Provides optimum nourishment to all tissues
- Results in longevity
- Improves the intellect as well as memory
- Promotes general health and immunity
- Improves skin radiance
- Strengthens the sense organs
- Improves virility and vitality
Herbs for Rejuvenation
Now that you have a good understanding of the meaning, purpose, and aspects of rasayana, we will look at some of the best herbs used in rejuvenation. Herbs are revered in Ayurveda as well as many indigenous cultures. They have tremendous healing capacity—providing phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are so intelligent that they know exactly where to go and how to work on your mind-body system.
These are the top seven rasayana herbs for all seven dhatus, or tissues, according to Ayurveda:
Haritaki (Terminalia chebula): Rasa dhatu
Haritaki works on all three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha, and particularly on vata. It has five of the six tastes (all except salty). This is the fruit that the Medicine Buddha holds in his hands while meditating.
- “Har” means to purify. It clears the malas (wastes) and helps to cleanse intestines, thereby acting as a rejuvenator.
- Useful in neuro-muscular weakness and diminished vision.
- Haritaki is often found in formulations given to promote abdominal comfort, a healthy digestive environment, and healthy elimination, and to support the liver and kidneys.
- It bolsters heart health and protects against blood disorders.
Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia): Rakta dhatu
Guduchi means protector of the body. Amrita is the synonym, meaning the herb for immortality. Good for all three doshas. It has a bitter taste, hence it is called tikta rasayani.
- One of the best restorative herbs.
- Reduces ama (toxins) and removes impurities from the body.
- Helps to support a normal body temperature and reduce excess pitta in the system.
- Promotes a healthy inflammatory response and comfortable joints.
- Effective in supporting liver purification by cleansing the blood and thus promotes healthy, problem-free skin.
- It restores and kindles the dhatu agni.
Amalaki (Embelica officinalis): Mamsa dhatu
“A” means no and “mala” means impurities. Amalaki contains five of the six tastes (all except salty).
- Destroys ama or toxins in the body and keeps you healthy and young.
- Strengthens nervous system, bone marrow, and sense organs.
- As a brain tonic, improves memory and pacifies vitiated sadhaka pitta.
- Helpful for balanced elimination, liver health, comfortable digestion, and supports the eyes and uterus.
- Rasayana for all dhatus, especially good for mamsa (muscles) by improving neuro muscular strength and flexibility.
Kumari/Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis): Meda dhatu
Kumari means teenage girl (it’s called this because the plant looks young even when it grows old). Pacifies pitta.
- Supports balance during girls teenage years—like menstruation, occasional menstrual cramps, and PMS.
- Supports menstruating as well as menopausal women.
- Promotes the flow of blood to the uterus for supporting smooth menstruation.
- A bitter tonic which acts on the digestive system by increasing secretions for a mild laxative effect.
- Helps to purify the blood.
- Useful in many common skin conditions and hair problems.
- Boosts metabolism and reduces excess fat tissue with its scraping action.
- Relieves non-cystic acne, and burning and blood shot eyes.
- Vata dosha contributes mainly to asthi (bone) related issues because of the unique relationship between vata and asthi.
- Useful in promoting joint comfort and reducing cracking in the joints. Helps to maintain bone porosity in old age.
- Useful in detoxification as well as rejuvenation. Kindles agni and reduces excess secretions, scrapes excess fat, and supports weight loss.
- Excellent for blood purification, supports healthy lipids and cholesterol.
Brahma-Brahmana-Brahmi—These Sanskrit words come from the same root—Brahma, creator of the universe. Brahmi means that which gives us knowledge and makes us intelligent.
- An incredibly valuable plant for the brain and entire nervous system. As a brain tonic, it enhances intelligence, cognition, and memory.
- Helps to build focus and concentration, and relax the mind and nervous system. It supports a good night sleep, especially for pitta people with racing minds.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Shukra dhatu
Reputed for having the “strength of ten horses,” ashwagandha is referred to as “Indian ginseng” because of its rejuvenating properties. Good for supporting sleep and relaxation.
- An adaptogenic herb, which helps the body cope with external changes in environment and internal moods.
- Supports healthy adrenal function and helps to reduce stress and fatigue. Improves energy and general sense of well-being.
- Enhances sexual potency for both women and men.
- Promotes sleep and a calm nervous system, strengthens meda (fat) dhatu, and supports joint mobility, especially vata related.
- Supports healthy tissues as the body ages.
- Maintains a healthy immune system and strengthens the muscular system.
All of the rasayana herbs mentioned above are very potent and effective. It’s always recommended that you consult with your doctor or an Ayurvedic physician before beginning any herbal program regarding usage and dosage.