The seers, through the yoga of perception, let plants speak to them. And the plants disclosed their secrets, many of which are far more subtle than a chemical analysis could uncover. Approaching plants in the same way today, not as objects for self-aggrandizement but as integral parts of our own unity, the true value of a plant will flourish for our unselfish use.
- Drs David Frawley and Vasant Lad, The Yoga of Herbs
The goal of Ayurveda is rejuvenation, so that, as with the yogic science, the human body, mind and spirit can be maintained in healthy harmony and optimal functioning, whatever the age. For only then can the human being aspire to the greatest of human goals consciousness of his connection with the principle of life or Brahman. Ayurveda is indeed an amazing science, and one of the most amazing medicinal plants it used was brahmi.
Among the original medicines of Ayurveda, the herb brahmi was well known and used by the great sages of Indian philosophy, who appropriately gave it its name which means knowledge. Charaka, Ayurvedas third legendary physician, who identifies the seasons and times of day when a particular plants medicinal powers achieve their maximum potency, states that the true value of brahmi lies in its outstanding performance against senile decay and loss of memory, and its capacity for enhancing verbal articulation.
One interesting piece of evidence for its effectiveness is given by Appa Rao in Medicinal Plants of India: A double blind clinical test was conducted on thirty mentally retarded children, who were free from epilepsy and other neurological conditions, to study the effect of the drug extracted from Indian pennywort (brahmi) on general mental ability. The results indicated a significant improvement in both general ability and behavioural patterns when the drug was administered for a short period of twelve weeks.
Brahmi, a plant from the Umbelliferae family, is the Sanskrit name for the Indian pennywort, also known as khulakudi in Hindi, karbrahmi in Gujarati and vallarai in Tamil. Another name is jalneem. In the dictionary of herbs it is known as somavati or saraswati. It is a so-called weed which is found growing wild in marshlands and reservoirs, and near the banks of rivers and lakes all over India and South Africa. This creeper trails along the ground, rooting at the nodes, and has small light green leaves fluted around the edges. In taste it resembles parsley, but unlike parsley it is slightly bitter. The entire plant, especially the leaves, is used for medicinal purposes. It is perhaps the most important nervine herb used in Ayurvedic medicine.
According to Drs. Frawley and Lad, Brahmi is an important food for yogis and improves meditation. A cup of brahmi tea taken with honey before meditation is a great aid in this practice. It helps to awaken the crown chakra at the top of the head (sahasrara), and balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Brahmi is one of the best herbs for balancing and rejuvenating pitta, while at the same time strongly reducing kapha. It can reduce vata if taken in the proper dose or with other anti-vata herbs like ashwagandha.
According to Swami Sivananda, brahmi is a most precious herb which is, An alterative tonic, aperient, diuretic, stimulant, emmenagogue (increases menstrual flow) and local stimulant. He further states, Brahmi in the form of powder is useful in diarrhoea, dysentery, fever, hoarseness of voice due to consumption, elephantiasis, orchitis, scrofula, leprosy, jaundice, chronic skin diseases, skin eruptions such as eczema, lupus psoriasis, syphilis, gonorrhoea, dropsy, leucorrhoea, nervous debility and seminal weakness. Brahmi is a nervine and brain tonic. It increases memory and bestows long life.
The following are some Ayurvedic prescriptions of brahmi given by Swami Sivananda in his book Home Remedies.
Brahmi drink: Soak a small quantity of Brahmi leaves in water overnight. Then make it into a paste with a few ground almonds, sugar-candy and milk. This is a first-rate tonic and cooling beverage, excellent for health and strength. It tones the liver and eliminates all kinds of worms in the bowels. This drink is especially useful for nervous debility, while invigorating and improving the brain.
Paste and juice: Make a paste of the leaves and apply it to a childs navel. Dysentery and diarrhoea will be cured. The application of a paste made from the leaves is highly useful in elephantiasis, swelling of the testicles, rheumatic swelling, boils and contusion. The juice of the leaves can also be applied. Mix one or two teaspoonfuls of the juice with cows milk. This is useful for skin diseases and impure blood in children, and syphilis, fever and stomach troubles in adults.
Brahmi pills: Make 5 parts of Brahmi whole plant powder, 4 parts koshtam (costus root) powder and 6 parts honey into pills the size of a large pea. One pill daily is advised for nervous debility caused by diseases of the lower abdomen.
Brahmi leaves powder: Five grains of powder in 1 seer (about 2 lb) milk twice daily increases memory power and tones and strengthens the brain. This powder is also useful in leprosy. Separate the good fresh leaves and spread them on a clean mat in the shade. Freely expose them to air, but not to sun. Do not use any heat as this destroys all its virtues. When the leaves are thoroughly dried, powder them finely and keep the powder in a well corked bottle. Take three to five grains three times daily.
Patients suffering from protein deficiencies and nervous disorders are administered drugs extracted from Brahmi. Modern clinical tests have studied the anabolic effect of these drugs, proving that they increase red blood corpuscles, vital capacity, and total protein, while the increase in the haemoglobin percentage is statistically significant. Brahmi cools the brain and calms the heart, thus helping to guard against heart attacks. Brahmi ghee is an important medicine for both the mind and heart that, according to Drs. Frawley and Lad, should be kept in every home. Brahmi allays excess sexual desire and is helpful for AIDS. It strengthens and sharpens the intellect, purifies the entire system and eliminates all sorts of poisons, especially from the kidneys and liver. Taken with basil and a little black pepper, Brahmi is good for all kinds of fevers.
Ayurveda prescribes a specific process of rejuvenation called kaya kalpa. It is believed to help one preserve youth. Apparently, Chyavana and other sages of yore, who had debilitated constitutions on account of old age, renewed their vigour and lived for countless years by undergoing the kaya kalpa treatment.
The Sanskrit word kaya means body and kalpa means transformation or rejuvenation. Kaya kalpa treatment restores the aged body to its youth and vigour and re-establishes the full potential of the senses. It is the elixir of life that restores the natural balance of the three doshas, normalizes the functioning of the sapta dhatus, and cures many incurable diseases. In his book, The Practice of Ayurveda Swami Sivananda describes the 45 day process of brahmi kalpa using fresh brahmi and fresh cows milk.
Taking all the above information into consideration we must agree that brahmi, although so common and unassuming, is indeed an amazing and powerful plant.