• Erin Easterly

The 5 Ayurvedic Supplements You Need for Healthy Aging

Valentine’s Day is a day of love and I am going to share five ways that you can love your cells through Ayurvedic herbal supplementation. Why do you need to love your cells? Well, they are the workers that keep your physical body inhabitable. Cells take in nutrients, clean out waste products, and perform the specialized functions of every organ, tissue, and system in the body. If the cells are functioning properly you experience health, vitality, and energy. On the other hand, if the cells become overloaded and cannot perform their jobs, health begins to decline.

While whole foods should be your primary source of cellular nourishment, there are some incredibly beneficial Ayurvedic herbs that are beginning to turn the heads of scientific researchers. Rather than miss out on these cell protecting, life extending, disease busting powerhouses, it would be wise to integrate them via supplementation.

1. Ashwagandha

I could (and probably should) write an entire article on Ashwagandha. If you only take one herb, this should be the one! Ashwagandha is Ayurveda’s premier adaptogenic herb for longevity. It is one of the few substances capable of boosting the natural production of brain-derived neurotropic factors (BDNFs) which support brain cell production and promote the healthy formation of dendrites (nerve cell projections). Researchers at Newcastle University have found ashwagandha inhibits the formation of beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques, considered toxic to brain cells, accumulate in the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

Recently, an artificial intelligence (AI) process was developed that is capable of assessing tens of thousands of nervous system-signaling pathways that degenerate with age. These cellular-signaling pathways are associated with protecting the cells from chemical and environmental stress, adverse gene expression, protein damage, inflammation, DNA damage and repair and the list goes on. The AI scanned over 800 natural compounds to evaluate their ability to maintain these anti-aging signaling pathways as we age. Ashwagandha was at the top of the list of protective compounds!!

As if the brain and longevity benefits were not enough, Ashwagandha has been shown to stabilize mood, improve energy, and the normalize the functioning of energy-producing mitochondria. As an adaptogen, it also balances stress-fighting hormones and protects the stomach from excess acid during times of high stress.

I could go on because there are so many benefits to taking Ashwagandha…but just pause your reading and go order some right now!

2. Turmeric (curcumin C3)

The compound in turmeric known as curcumin has been shown to have such a powerful anti-inflammatory effect that it matches the effectiveness of some prescription anti-inflammatory drugs! It blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of your cells and turns on genes related to inflammation. NF-kB is believed to play a major role in many chronic diseases. Without getting into the details (chronic inflammation is extremely complicated), the key takeaway is that curcumin is a bioactive substance that fights inflammation at the molecular level. Since inflammation has been linked to nearly every major disease, this is clearly good preventive medicine.

In addition to being a strong weapon in mitigating inflammation, curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals.It also boosts the activity of your body's own antioxidant enzymes. In that way, curcumin delivers a one-two punch against free radicals. It blocks them directly, then stimulates your body's own antioxidant defenses.

Curcumin has been shown to prevent and even treat cancer. Multiple studies indicate that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells and reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors) and metastasis (spread of cancer).

Curcumin’s list of benefits goes on and on. It has been show to cross the blood-brain barrier and actually clear away amyloid plaques that contribute to dementia. It improves arthritis and in at least one study was shown to be more effective than a prescription drug in treating rheumatoid arthritis. It is even an effective anti-depressant (found in one study to alleviate symptoms as well as Prozac.)

To increase absorption by 2000% (that is not a typo) take with black pepper extract (piperine). It is also fat soluble so take it with a meal containing fats.

3. Boswellia Sacra Oil

Boswellia sacra oil, also known as Frankincense, exhibits strong immunostimulant activity. Researchers in China investigated the anticancer effects of frankincense and myrrh oils on five tumor cells lines in a lab study. The results showed that human breast and skin cancer cell lines showed increased sensitivity to the combination of myrrh and frankincense essential oils. A 2012 study even found that a chemical compound found in frankincense called Acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) is successful at killing cancer cells that have become resistant to chemotherapy. Well, that right there is enough for me. Yet, as with all whole herbs and oils, they work on multiple pathways and have numerous benefits. The following have been reported in conjunction with Boswellia Sacra use:

-Produces a more even skin tone. Studies suggest that the steroid-like structure of frankincense oil that contributes to its soothing effect on irritated skin.

-Improves memory

-Balances hormones: some studies show that it reduces symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause

-Prevents the breakdown of cartilage and has been shown to significantly reduce levels of dangerous and painful inflammation

4. Amalaki (also known as Amla or Indian Gooseberry)

Amalaki is THE most potent natural source of Vitamin C on the planet. As such this herb is a strong antioxidant with a broad range of phytonutrients (flavonols that fight cancer and viruses, anthocyanins that improve eyesight, organic acids that reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and ellagic acids that stave off cancer growth).

In Ayurveda, Amalaki is known as a cooling herb. It decreases inflammation, cools excess heat, and balances digestive fire. It is used to promote healthy eyes, bones, blood, teeth, hair, and nails while supporting the proper function of the liver, spleen, pancreas, heart, and lungs. Pitta constitutions can take this herb straight. Vatas and Kaphas would do better taking it in combination with Bibhitaki, and Haritaki in a formulation known as Triphala.

5. Gotu-Kola

Gotu Kola contains complex organic molecules known as ursane triterpenes. These molecules have strong anti-cancer and collagen synthesis effects. A review of 80 clinical studies on this herb confirmed the following benefits:

-Increases memory and cognition

-Protects brain cells from toxicity

-Speeds wound healing

-Decreases appearance of aging skin

-Relieves anxiety

-Activates sirtuin pathways (sirtuins have been dubbed the “longevity gene”)

-Eases insomnia

-Reduces depression

(Just a side note, if you live in California, you will notice that nearly every bottle of Gotu-kola has a Prop 65 warning label on it. This is due to trace amounts of naturally occurring metals that fall FAR below the national and international safety standards. It's a bit more of big pharma label rather than a health warning if you ask me. You can read more about that here.)

Well, there you have it: five ways to love your body! Now, go buy yourself a Valentine’s herb.