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Ashtang Health Care

Ayurveda

Medicinal Plants Used in Alternative/Traditional Medicines

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Alternative medicines are being used by about 60 percent of the world's population. These medicines are not only used by the rural masses for their primary health care in developing countries but are also used in developed countries where modern medicines dominate. The Indian subcontinent is a vast repository of medicinal plants that are used in traditional medical treatments. The alternative medicines in the traditional systems are derived from herbs, minerals, and organic matter, while for the preparation of herbal drugs only medicinal plants are used. Use of plants as a source of medicine has been an ancient practice and is an important component of the health care system in India. In India, about 70 percent of rural population depends on the traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine. Most healers/practitioners of the traditional systems of medicine prepare formulations by their own recipes and dispense to the patients. In the Western countries, approximately 40 per cent of people are using the herbal medicine for the treatment of various diseases.

India is the largest producer of medicinal plants. There are currently about 250,000 registered medical practitioners of the Ayurvedic system, as compared to about 700,000 of the modern medicine. In India, around 20,000 medicinal plants have been recorded; however, traditional practitioners use only 7,000–7,500 plants for curing different diseases. The proportion of use of plants in the different Indian systems of medicine is Ayurveda 2000, Siddha 1300, Unani 1000, Homeopathy 800, Tibetan 500, Modern 200, and folk 4500. In India, around 25,000 effective plant-based formulations are used in traditional and folk medicine. More than 1.5 million practitioners are using the traditional medicinal system for health care in India. It is estimated that more than 7800 manufacturing units are involved in the production of natural health products and traditional plant-based formulations in India, which requires more than 2000 tons of medicinal plant raw material annually. More than 1500 herbals are sold as dietary supplements or ethnic traditional medicines.

Ayurveda Traditional Products

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India is known for its traditional medicinal systems—Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani. Medical systems are found mentioned even in the ancient Vedas and other scriptures. The Ayurvedic concept appeared and developed between 2500 and 500 BC in India. The literal meaning of Ayurveda is “science of life,” because ancient Indian system of health care focused on views of man and his illness. It has been pointed out that the positive health means metabolically well-balanced human beings. Ayurveda is also called the “science of longevity” because it offers a complete system to live a long healthy life. It offers programs to rejuvenate the body through diet and nutrition. It offers treatment methods to cure many common diseases such as food allergies, which have few modern treatments. However, one should be aware that Ayurvedic nutrition is not a “magic bullet” system but requires the full participation of the patient to succeed. It is an interactive system that is user-friendly and educational. It teaches the patient to become responsible and self-empowered. Ayurveda is not a nutritional system for those seeking an escape or excuse to further abuse their body or mind. It is a system for empowerment, a system of freedom, and long life.

Food is the major source for serving the nutritional needs, but with growing modernization some traditional methods are being given up. Hence, the modern food habits are affecting the balanced nutrition . There is an ever widening gap in nutrient intake due to which normal life is no longer normal. However, affluence of working population with changing lifestyles and reducing affordability of sick care, in terms of time and money involved, are some of the forces that are presently driving people towards thinking about their wellness.

Herbal Medicines in Dietary Supplements

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Dietary supplements and herbal remedies are popular complementary or alternative products for people. These are the supplements that are intended to supplement the diet and contain one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and other substances) or their constituents. These are intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid and are labeled on the front panel as being a dietary supplement. Such products may range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements, and diets to genetically engineered “designer” foods, herbal products, and processed foods such as cereals, soups, and beverages. These botanicals are sold in many forms as fresh or dried products, liquid or solid extracts, tablets, capsules, powders, tea bags, and so forth. For example, fresh ginger root is often used in various food stores; dried ginger root is sold packaged in tea bags, capsules, or tablets, and liquid preparations made from ginger root are also sold in the market. A particular group of chemicals or a single chemical may be isolated from a botanical and sold as a dietary supplement, usually in tablet or capsule form. An example is phytoestrogens from soy products .