Of the herbs in Ayurveda, one that is treated with the utmost reverence is Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), also known as Giloy or Amruth (meaning heavenly elixir, nectar or ambrosia, which indicates its importance and alludes to its use). It is a common anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, anti-rheumatic, adaptogenic herb in Ayurveda. Its name means “one who protects” because it is a rejuvenator or Rasayana which is Tridosha pacifying (pacifies Vata, Pitta and Kapha, all three energy principals) and therefore has a wide and holistic application. It enhances Ojas (vitality) which is linked with Vyadhishamatwam (enhanced immunity and immune support) and Bala (system strength); restoring natural health, vigor and balance.
The legend of Guduchi
Legend goes that in the epic Ramayana, Lord Rama rescued his wife from the demon Ravana with the aid of monkeys, many of whom were slain in battle. Lord Indra, King of the Gods poured nectar on them to bring them back to life and wherever the nectar fell on the ground, the revered Guduchi plants sprung up.
According to the Ayurvedic root text Charaka Samhita it is Vaya Sthapana in action (antiaging) and also one of the chief Medhya Rasayanas (herb that regenerates memory and intellect). Sushruta, the father of Ayurvedic surgery used its roots back in around 600 BC for suturing wounds because they are thin yet incredibly strong and also have wound healing properties! Guduchi is also full of Prana or vital life force and in Bhava Prakasha, another Ayurvedic text it is referred to as chinnaruha; even if it is cut, it is able to grow on its own, hanging in air without gross means of sustenance just by tapping into the five elements from the environment.
Benefits of Guduchi
Enhancing Digestion: Guduchi is used in Ama Pachana (getting rid of endogenous and environmental toxins both), and in Agni Deepana or enhancing the digestive and metabolic fire, Agni. It helps in preventing constipation, malabsorption and diarrhea at the same time. It also eases dyspepsia, vomiting, intestinal worms, hemorrhoids and piles, It is Pitta pacifying and helps manage hyperacidity.
Regulation of Hormones: Guduchi regulates hormones and enzymes and is used for management of low testosterone conditions like erectile dysfunction and low sperm count. It is also used in formulations for PCOS and diabetes and as an aphrodisiac for enhancing libido.
Anti-pyretic: Thought it is hot in potency Guduchi has an anti-pyretic effect; in fact most of the Ayurvedic herbs used to manage fever contain Guduchi (like Patolakaturohinyadi Kashayam). It helps relieve daha (burning sensation) and pain.
Joint disorders: Guduchi is widely used in gouty arthritis (vata rakta), osteoarthritis, rheumatic disorders, has an osteoprotective action and helps with various joint disorders.
Respiratory support: It is used to alleviate symptoms of respiratory infections like cold, cough, asthma, allergic rhinitis, dyspnea and Bronchitis.
Hepatoprotective: Guduchi is a blood purifier, mild cleanser, used for liver detoxification and in liver disorders like hepatitis and chronic jaundice.
Cardioprotective Properties: Guduchi is useful in heart disorders with symptoms of pain. It helps heal and open up the heart chakra making people more receptive to love, compassion and nurturing. A special action of Guduchi is that of “vakshagni deepani”, strengthening the flame (agni) of the heart and making one emotionally resilient. Through strengthening the heart chakra it aids in rejuvenating the mind as well.
Medhya Rasayana (Brain Tonic): Guduchi aids stress relief of the body-mind-spirit complex, helps in alleviating depression and anxiety and is used for enhancing cognition. It is considered useful in the management of vertigo.
Other Uses: It is used in chronic skin disorders (like eczema and psoriasis), bleeding disorders, anemia and eye disorders as a chakshushyam (good for the eyes). It has properties of an antispasmodic, antiviral and is considered antimalarial. Guduchi is a diuretic and used in management of urinary tract infections. It has a hypoglycemic effect and helps in managing diabetes. Its efficacy in mitigating the negative effects of chemotherapy is being studied. According to Dr. Frawley, Guduchi not only reduces fevers but can help with viral infections such as Eptstein-Barre virus and AIDS.
How Guduchi supports the inner glow of immunity
Why do some people fall sick easily and others stay disease free or recover from diseases easily? The answer lies in their vitality or what we call Ojas; linked with endurance and sustainable immunity.
Ojas is the essence of all dhatus or bodily tissues just as ghee is the pure essence of milk. Ojas is formed as the net result of digestion and metabolism of tissues and forms the prime energy reserve of the body. It is of two types, Para Ojas located in the heart is responsible for sustenance of life itself while Apara Ojas circulates to all parts of the body lending strength at a cellular. Ojas regulates sense organs, maintains balance and if depleted, causes fatigue and makes us prone to diseases.
Ojas is replenished through wholesome food like dates, raisins, almonds, milk and ghee and herbs like Guduchi, Ashwagandha, Yashtimadhu and Ginger. It is enhanced through high Sattva practices like Yoga, Pranayama (breathwork), Pratyahara (withdrawing the senses), Abhyanga (massage), exercise, meditation and devotion.
Since Guduchi helps with digestion and nourishes and builds all dhatus (dhatukrit) it generates a good quantity and quality of Ojas and work as a powerful immune support and nutritive tonic. This also helps nourish the heart and lends efficacy in autoimmune conditions and degenerative disorders. Guduchi replenishes as a Nitya Rasayana (daily renewal tonic), strengthens, heals and helps maintain youthfulness and longevity. It has application in conditions of debility like chronic fatigue syndrome and in nourishment in post-Panchakarma protocols.
How Guduchi is used
Part and Method of use: Guduchi is a herbaceous vine that grows wild particularly on neem and mango trees, indigenous to India, Bangladesh, Srilanka and Myanmar. Guduchi’s stem, leaves and sometimes, roots are used in herbal preparations. The leaves of Guduchi are heart shaped. Guduchi can be given as a powder, paste or decoction and is easily ingested as a capsule (link to KAA product). It’s Anupana or method through which it is administered is ghee in Vata conditions, sugar in Pitta conditions and honey in Kapha ailments.
Guduchi Sattva is the bitter starch of the plant (or “Giloy Sattva”) that can be extracted and helps in cardiac debility. Guduchi is used in combinations in many herbal Ayurvedic formulations like Amritarishta, Guduchyadi Ghritam, Amrita taila, Siva Gulika, Mushalyadi Churna etc.
Ayurvedic Properties: Herbs are studied in terms of their various qualities and properties. Guduchi’s Rasa (taste) is astringent and bitter but Vipaka (post digestive effect) is sweet! Its Gunas (properties) are light, soft and unctuous and it is heating in Veerya (potency). According to ‘Bhava Prakash’, an Ayurvedic text, its light property and heating potency allow it to penetrate dhatus (tissues) while its astringent taste aids absorption.
The Karma (action) of Guduchi is Balya (lending strength), Sangrahi (binding stools), Rakta shodhak (blood purifier), Javarghna (anti-pyretic) and all the actions we discussed. It is Kapha and Pitta pacifying because of its astringent and bitter taste and Vata and Pitta pacifying, nourishing and rejuvenating because of its sweet post digestive effect. That is one way to explain Guduchi’s but it pacifies all three doshas as a result of its comprehensive effect.
Although Guduchi has a heating potency, it pacifies Pitta. This unique effect of Guduchi is its Prabhava or specific action, irrespective of its properties (for instance a heating herb like ginger has the Prabhava of being anti-inflammatory). Guduchi’s unique action can also be considered Vishagna or anti-toxic. Guduchi strengthens all tissues but particularly, rakta (blood), medas (fat) and shukra (reproductive) tissues.
Guduchi is regarded as pathyam, meaning that it keeps one on the path of health and agrees to all physiologies. It protects, heals and nourishes! This herb can detoxify the body while rejuvenating it; it is a deeply effective herb for all constitution types. It is being studied in modern medicine as well and with Guduchi’s wide application and efficacy it is accorded the status of Amrit or nectar in Ayurveda.