The Benefits of Arjuna
Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is one of Ayurveda's quintessential herbs for the heart. Along with strengthening and toning the physical muscle of the heart, this rose-colored tree bark is also known to nourish and uplift the energetic and emotional aspects of the heart, bolstering an inner sense of courage, resiliency, and love.
Ayurveda teaches us that vibrant heart health is not only a matter of physiology, but depends just as much on the cultivation of mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Herbal allies can offer powerful support in all of these realms, and arjuna may just be the heart’s herbal hero.
In this Article:
- Characteristics of the Arjuna Tree
- Arjuna Uses and Benefits
- How to Take Arjuna
- Modern Research
- Is Arjuna Safe?
- Growing and Harvesting Arjuna
Arjuna, also known as arjun, is a majestic, deciduous tree that can reach heights up to 100 feet and has been valued for its wood and therapeutic properties for generations. It grows throughout the wet, marshy, sub-Himalayan regions of India and Sri Lanka, producing clusters of small white or yellow flowers amid its cone-shaped leaves.1
The most sought-after part of the tree is its red inner bark, which is respected as a tonic for the heart and is considered similar to hawthorn in European herbalism.2 The thick, white-to-pinkish-gray outer bark molts naturally once a year and is harvested when the trees are mature. Giving the tree time to recover and regrow its bark is a key component to sustainable harvesting.
The name “arjuna” is well-known and is most associated with the central character of Mahabharata from Hindu lore.3 Centuries ago, the arjuna tree was given a name befitting its traditional role of protecting the heart, much like its mythological namesake brought fortitude, strength, and protection to his family in battle.4
In a more literal sense, the term “arjuna” means “bright,” “white,” or “shining” in Sanskrit, much like the light-reflective bark of the arjuna tree.5
Arjuna is best known as one of the foremost Ayurvedic herbs for supporting all areas of heart health. Here are a few of arjuna's remarkable benefits when it comes to promoting cardiovascular wellness:
- Strong heart function and healthy circulation. Arjuna strengthens and tones the circulatory system, rejuvenates the soft tissues, and promotes proper function of the heart muscle.6
- Healthy flow of blood. Arjuna's properties support the maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range, balanced blood pressure, and proper coagulation in the blood.
- Emotional wellness. Arjuna has also been traditionally used to support the emotional heart, promoting balance for those experiencing grief and sadness. It is said to give courage, strengthen the will, and fortify the heart to accomplish our goals.7 Furthermore, arjuna has been said to act energetically on the heart chakra, increasing prema bhakti (love and devotion).8
Arjuna’s traditional uses and noted benefits extend beyond heart health alone, providing the following areas of support throughout the body:
- Balanced lungs. With its affinity for the chest, arjuna can balance excess kapha and pitta in the lungs for clear, calm breathing.9
- Healthy liver and skin. Arjuna helps reduce excess pitta in the liver and skin, supporting proper liver function and a healthy, clear complexion.10
- Comfortable digestion. When taken as a tea, arjuna has been used to support healthy digestion.11
- Healthy reproductive tissues. Arjuna’s astringency can support healthy and balanced reproductive tissue, known in Ayurveda as shukra dhatu.12
Arjuna in Ayurveda
Ayurveda’s understanding of arjuna’s qualities matches beautifully with the way in which arjuna supports the physiology.
Looking at its benefits, it may be no surprise to learn that Ayurveda considers arjuna to be tridoshic. It is especially balancing to both pitta and kapha, and it can provoke vata if used in excess.
Arjuna also works in a number of dhatus, or tissue layers, including rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), asthi (bone), and shukra (reproductive), as well as two srotas, or channels—the circulatory and reproductive channels.
Arjuna’s traditional use has inspired quite a lot of scientific research over the years. Below are a few studies that have researched arjuna's effects:
- “Revisiting Terminalia Arjuna—an Ancient Cardiovascular Drug.” PubMed Extract. Oct 2014.13
- “Characterization of Polyphenols in Terminalia Arjuna Bark Extract.” PubMed Extract. Jul 2012.14
- “Effects of Ashwagandha and Arjuna on Physical Performance and Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Healthy Young Adults.” PubMed Extract. Jul 2010. 15
- “Medicinal Properties of Terminalia Arjuna.” PubMed Extract. Jan 2017.16
- “Terminalia Arjuna—a Possible Alternative to Commercial Mouthwashes… An in Vitro Study.” Journal of Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences. Jul 2020.17
- “Efficacy and Advancement of Terminalia Arjuna in Indian Herbal Drug Research: A Review.” ResearchGate. Apr 2019.18
If arjuna’s heart-nourishing powers and plethora of other benefits are calling your name, there are several ways to incorporate this herb into your routine. To determine the way that is best way for you, simply tune into any specific intentions and trust where your heart is called.
And of course, if you are working with a more complex health condition, we recommend working with an Ayurvedic practitioner for specific and individualized guidance.
On its own. Arjuna can be used on its own for those who prefer working with a single herb. The most traditional method for taking arjuna is the powder; try drinking it in warm water as a tea. Or try the liquid extract for a fast, convenient option.
Arjuna is generally considered safe in most situations, making it a ready ally for many. That said, it’s always important to approach the use of herbs with care.
Arjuna is not recommended during pregnancy. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, it’s important to first consult with your health care practitioner before you incorporate arjuna into your daily routine.
Because of its drying nature, arjuna can exacerbate constipation.
Arjuna grows abundantly in the forests of central India, close to the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which is where we source our arjuna bark. These trees are protected by the government, as well as by local tribes, who understand the importance of this tree.
Despite arjuna’s innate tendency to seasonally discard its bark, harvesting is a process that requires care—if the bark isn’t harvested properly, too much is taken, or if the tree hasn’t had enough time to recover between harvests, the tree can be damaged and die.
Our partners need official permission to harvest the bark, and they work with local tribes, who help with the harvests. They are trained to harvest the bark in such a way that the trees can regenerate, the lives and health of these magnificent trees are preserved, and the benefits of arjuna can be enjoyed for generations to come.
Before they can cut the bark, our partners first factor in the age of the tree, when it was harvested last, which side of the tree was harvested, and if it’s ready for another harvest. Each side needs at least two years between harvests to fully regenerate.
When it’s time to harvest, they cut a strip of bark, taking newly generated bark from well above the roots and below the stems and branches. The bark is broken into smaller chips, then sun-dried, taking care that it is fully dry but not sunburnt. The drying typically takes a few days. Once dry, it is powdered.
Sustainability of Arjuna
Arjuna’s story is special—unlike many other wildcrafted herbs and botanicals, which are at risk or endangered, there are no current concerns around arjuna’s sustainability within the forests of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
This is in thanks to its established presence in the forests, the respect and care it receives during harvests, and its protection by the government—in fact, their Horticultural Department has recently stepped up efforts to plant saplings throughout the forests.19 With continued care, the future of this remarkable tree in these forests looks rosy.
As a part of a larger conversation on the sustainability of Ayurvedic herbs, it’s important to know the journey of your herbs from seed to product. How are they grown and harvested? How is the landscape tended? How are the farmers treated? Knowing the full story can make all the difference in the quality of the product and the sustainability of those ingredients for generations to come.