‘Guduchi’ is a Sanskrit term which means, ‘that which protects the body from diseases’. It is a rejuvenating power that holds the key to joint health, immunity, longevity, rejuvenation, and other health issues. This remarkable herb is referred to as ‘the heavenly elixir’ according to Hindu mythology. According to the tale, guduchi saved celestial beings from old age and kept them eternally young.
The story is actually quite suggestive of its benefits. Join us as we explore the myriad ways guduchi bestows its powers on your health, both body and mind.
The origin of guduchi: Myth of Ravana1
There is quite an interesting myth narrated in the ancient text of ‘BhavaPrakash’ regarding the origin of guduchi.
The story goes that Ravana, the king of Lanka (thought to be present-day Sri Lanka) abducted Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. Mighty Rama assisted by an army of monkeys fought Ravana and killed him on the battlefield.
Indra the king of heaven greatly pleased at the defeat of Ravana, praised Rama and brought back to life all the monkeys in the army of Rama, who had been killed, by sprinkling nectar on them.
The drops of nectar also fell on the ground running down the bodies of monkeys. Wherever this nectar fell there grew a plant of guduchi.
Guduchi is full of life energy or life force, referred to in Ayurveda as prana. Thus it is rightly named in the Ayurvedic treatise ‘BhavaPrakash’ by BhavaMishra, as chinnaruha and chinnoudbhava or that which is able to grow on its own even if cut. It is full of life energy and is capable of growing without grosser means of sustenance.
The science in Ayurveda2
Ayurveda believes that human beings are a non-separate manifestation of the universe. So, what exists in the universe or 'the macrocosm', also exists in the human being or 'the microcosm'. The human is also made up of the five elements that the universe and all the matter in the universe are made up of. Thus living in harmony with the external universe and balancing the flow of the five elements in human physiology maintains health and wellbeing. Whatever we take in affects this cosmic dynamism, this microcosm.
Vasant Lad and Dr. David Frawley quoted the role of plants in Ayurvedic medicine:
“Plants bring us love, the nourishing power of the sun, which is the same energy of all the stars, of all light.”
These cosmic energies emanated by plants thus nourish, sustain and make grow our own astral body. In this way, the existence of plants is a great offering, a sacrifice. They offer us not only their own nutritive value but the very light and love from the stars, from the cosmos whose messengers they are. They bring us the universal light so that we can enter the universal life. They exist for psychological as well as physical nourishment”.
Guduchi is one such herb used in the Ayurvedic system of health. It is full of life energy and has a myriad of uses. It can help with prolonging life and was thus recognized by the ancient rishis of the Vedic era, long before the age of modern technology. That is why Ayurvedic seer Charaka classified it under the group of herbs that are vaya (meaning age) sthapana (restoring) by action1. He also kept it under the group of four herbs that have been called medhya rasayana1 which means that it rejuvenates the mind.
The Ayurvedic properties of guduchi3
Guduchi is a large, climbing shrub. Traditionally, if guduchi climbs up a neem tree, which is another bitter tree, it is considered to be more potent and highly sought after as it takes on the properties of the neem tree as well. One of the defining characteristics of the plant is its green heart-shaped leaves.
Guduchi is highly valued in Ayurveda for its detoxifying, rejuvenating, immune-supporting, and anti-ama4properties. Ama is the indigenous toxin produced out of faulty digestion.This herb has the following properties6,5,4as described in The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India.
Rasa (taste): Bitter, Astringent Guna (property): Light, Unctuous Virya (potency): Hot Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Sweet Karma (action): Balya (strengthening), deepana (kindles digestive fire), rasayana (rejuvenator), sangrahi (binder of stools), rakta shodhak (blood purifier), jvaraghna (febrifuge). Dosha karma (action on dosha): Pacifier of all three dosha.
Ayurveda classifies herbs according to taste or rasa, potency or virya, and post-digestive effect or vipaka. With guduchi, it has bitter and astringent taste (rasa), heating energy (virya) and a sweet post-digestive effect (vipaka).
The API (Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India) mentions its Kapha and Pitta pacifying properties by virtue of its bitter and astringent taste. By virtue of its sweet, post digestive effect, it pacifies Vata and Pitta dosha and provides a nourishing effect to the body. Thus, guduchi has a balancing effect on all the three doshas.
How guduchi helps with undigested toxins
According to Ayurvedic knowledge, when the Pitta dosha runs out of balance, your digestion may suffer and your body can even become susceptible to different types of toxins, including ama (undigested toxins), amavisha (a reactive form of ama, that leads to tissue disruption and chronic inflammation and disease), and garvisha (toxic combination of poisonous or non-poisonous substances).7
A balanced Pitta dosha can go a long way in preventing the accumulation of ama. With its proven Pitta-balancing property4, guduchi can be an herb of choice in the event of aggravated Pitta and accumulation of ama (toxins) in the body channels.
Guduchi is described as being pathyam, meaning that it keeps one on the path of health by agreeing with one’s physiology. As such it is documented to have good effects during convalescence.4
Among the various benefits attributed to the herb in the classical texts, guduchi primarily delivers the following.
It promotes digestion.
It is a rejuvenative.
It supports immunity.
It helps the body to fight endogenous toxins.
It supports the natural function of the liver.
It purifies the blood.
The roots, stems, leaves, and bark are used in various forms in Ayurvedic formulations. Giloy satva or guduchisatya, a bitter extract of guduchi, is found to be very effective. The stem is the main medicinal part. The leaves are useful in liver diseases.
Effect on doshas4
When taken with ghee, guduchi reduces Vata. When consumed with sugar, it reduces Pitta, and with honey it reduces Kapha.
Guduchi scientific research8
Modern research findings are now able to validate the insights of the ancient saints and seers on the effectiveness of herbs in various conditions. These are preliminary research that has opened the doors to further research.
In Ayurveda, guduchi’s stem is prominently used in the treatment of diabetes by regulating the blood glucose. Scientifically, this method mediates this anti-diabetic potential by mitigating oxidative stress or promoting insulin secretion. It also helps in inhibiting generation of new glucose molecules in the body and preventing the breakdown of already present glycogen molecules into glucose simultaneously, thereby regulating the level of blood glucose.
Ayurveda describes Guduchi as helpful in hepatitis and jaundice due to its detoxifying properties. The experiment suggests that treatment by guduchi may be a critical remedy for the adverse effect in liver malfunction as well as helps with immune functions9,1
Many studies have shown that guduchi gave significant relief to allergies like allergic rhinitis or symptoms like sneezing, mucus discharge, sinus congestion, and others3. Apart from this, compounds in T. cordifolia are known to show immunomodulatory activity and cytotoxic effects. It may also help in damage caused by oxidative stress like eating an unhealthy diet full of fat, sugar or processed foods, cigarette smoking, obesity, too much exposure to sunlight etc. Prevention from oxidative damage can contribute to delay in aging.
Radio protective effects
Guduchi has shown its potent radioprotective effects in animal experiments. In an animal study, it was found that radiation-induced testicular injury was significantly ameliorated in the experimental group who consumed guduchi, leading to a significant increase in the body weight as well as tissue weight in comparison to the control group which was deprived of herb.
Guduchi helps induce a significant increase in the thickness of joint cartilage and its ethanolic extract has shown a potential increase in the cell number of bone like matrix which indicated its potential in treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
Guduchi has immense potential in both preventive and clinical aspects of health which has now been validated and accepted by modern medical and scientific research. In almost all the classical texts of Ayurveda as well as modern treatises, the benefits of this sacred herb have been documented.