Are you interested in Ayurvedic herbs but don't know where to begin? With a few herbs, you can make formulas to address a myriad of symptoms and imbalances.
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How to Make a FormulaFormulas generally consist of 3-5 herbs. When designing a formula, begin with the most aggravated dosha (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) for acute disorders, or the main dosha in your constitution for a chronic condition. Then, choose an herb that supports digestion (agni) in a smaller amount. Next, decide which organ, channel, or tissue needs attention, and choose an herb that tonifies or addresses that area. This herb is used to guide the formula to the correct location. You may be finished at this point!
If your client is dealing with another symptom you'd like to address directly, like pain, use one of your last two 'slots' for an herb that addresses a specific symptom. Choose this herb by guna- detect which guna is out of balance in the client, and choose an herb to balance that guna. You may also use an herb to harmonize or balance the entire formula. For example, if your entire formula is made up of hot herbs, you may end up causing inflammation in the client. So, add a cool, soothing, demulcent herb like licorice so you don't overheat your client. Refer to the Joyful Belly Website for the gunas and dosha properties of each herb. Another way to think about this general approach is as follows - the top herb treats systemic root cause which looks a lot like prakruti. Succeeding herbs treat particular manifestations of it.
To record your new formula as a recipe, express the formula using 'parts,' or a ratio. In the example below you would use 5 parts of the 'dosha' herb for every 3 parts of the agni herb. If you were making a small batch, that would mean 5 teaspoons of the dosha herb for every 3 teaspoons of the agni herb. If you are familiar with herbal remedy recipes, they are usually expressed this way. Choose herbs and place them in the formula below in their correct places. If you were ever to ask Joyful Belly to create a custom formula for you or a client, this is the way you would describe its contents:
Base Formula (Note all parts are highly circumstantial according to the strength of the herb and client):
A harmonizer is an herb that generally more docile and balanced. It can even counteract some of the others qualities in the formula so that it isn't too harsh on the body. Licorice is a great example of a harmonizer for a harsh formula because of its inherent sweetness. Or, if a formula is very cold, cardamom may be used so that it is digestible.
Base Herbs to Balance Each DoshaYou will find that most formulas for Vata Dosha, regardless of the specific disease, have a grounding, strengthening herb as a base like Ashwagandha or Dashamula. Many Vata formulas even contain both. These two herbs are the most effective at balancing Vata Dosha overall. A formula that addresses high Pitta is built on a base that is cooling and soothing like Guduchi or Shatavari. Kapha conditions need a base that is hot, invigorating, and reduces excess like Punarnava or Guggulu. As an herbalist it is your job to see which dosha is out of balance.
The idea is that if you get it right, that dosha returns to normal and symptoms disappear. It is possible to treat this way entirely! However, it takes a very long time to address the root cause only. That's why it's helpful to add herbs that address other elements of the disorder.
Often, you get lucky and the herb for the disease is the same as the herb for dosha and agni, or some combination of the effects you want to achieve. If this is the case, increase the quantity of that herb in the formula. For Vata problems like being underweight and cold, Ashwagandha alone is the right choice. If your client is Kapha and she has edema, the only herb you may need is Punarnava. With Pitta inflammation, Guduchi or Shatavari alone may be sufficient.
There are many, many herbal actions to choose from. You may feel the client has toxicity that needs to be addressed. In that case, include a cleansing herb. If the client has heat in the skin causing a rash, choose an herb that cools the blood and liver. If the client has cold hands and feet, choose warming herbs that improve circulation. Get the idea? Read up on the herbs you're interested - there is much more depth to each than is included here. Herbs are a fascinating subject that could inspire you for a lifetime. Most importantly, be creative and see if you can compose formulas that will achieve the effect you want.
Adjusting the Formula to the Strength of the HerbsIf the formula contains an herb which is particularly strong, you made need to reduce the ratio in the formula. Or, for a bland herb, increase the ratio in the formula. Generally, for a strong herb like cardamom, I never put more than a ratio of 1:10. For a very powerful herb like cayenne, my ration is 1:20. For bland herb like vidari of Shatavari, I rarely use less than a 1:3 ratio. Here is a list of the relative strength of common herbs.
Main Herbs by DhatuThe following herbs have a particular affinity for the following tissues. This means they may increase blood flow to the tissue, or otherwise be absorbed by the tissue more than other tissues.
Example Formulas You Can MakeStress in a deplete, exhausted Vata constitution.
Famous Ayurvedic Herbs by ActionVata Dosha:
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About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda biocharacteristics. His approach to Ayurveda is clinical, yet exudes an ease which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda, offering professional clinical training in Ayurveda for over 15 years.
John's interest in Ayurveda and specialization in digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, as well as public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well. Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and 6 kids, and pursuing his love of theology, philosophy, and language.
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Very interesting. Generous information. Thank you!