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Nutraceuticals: Ayurveda’s

Yogita Rani, N. K. Sharma

Nutraceuticals, often referred to as phytochemicals or functional foods, are natural bioactive materials that provide demonstrated physiological benefits or reduce the risk of chronic diseases, above and beyond their basic nutritional function.

Nutraceuticals, often referred to as phytochemicals or functional foods, are natural bioactive materials that provide demonstrated physiological benefits or reduce the risk of chronic diseases, above and beyond their basic nutritional function. Consumer’s demand for quality of life has fueled the ‘nutraceutical revolution’ and they are seeking complementary or alternative beneficial products. The association of nutraceuticals with traditional medicine brings the long-standing consumer acceptance. Although the concept of nutraceuticals is gaining more popularity nowadays, its roots can be traced to Indian system of medicine, ‘Ayurveda’. In Ayurveda, the concept of food for health is very old. It is clearly stated that the food, which besides providing nutrition helps to maintain the healthy state and prevents the occurrence of diseases should only be consumed. For this reason, the classical texts of Ayurveda are full with the scattered references of implication of food products in various disease entities. The concept of ‘Aajasrik Rasayana’ (general rejuvenation) deals with food products that can be consumed daily for improving quality of life by offering protection from external and internal stressors. Commonly used nutraceuticals of Ayurveda are Chyavanprash (for general health and prevention of respiratory disorders); Brahma Rasayana (for protection from mental stress); Phala Ghrita (for reproductive health); Arjuna Ksheerpaka (for cardioprotection); Shatavari Ghrita (for general health of women during various physiological states); Rasona Ksheerpaka etc. Implication of certain nutraceuticals mentioned in various conditions and their merits shall be elaborately discussed in the paper.

Overview

"Let food be the medicine & medicine be the food."
Hippocrates 400 BC

Man has eternally endeavored to keep himself free from all types of miseries, efforts being for prevention as well as for cure of the diseases. For both the purposes, the foods and drugs have been employed ab ovo. Evidences of implication of foods for providing particular benefits are found since long back. The ancient Greeks considered garlic as a performance-enhancing drug and officially used it for this purpose during the first Olympic games. During 16th century, sailors were given lemon to prevent and treat scurvy.

More recent revelations about the side effects of synthetic drugs & chemotherapeutics employed due to the increase in occurrence of diseases as diabetes, cancer and heart problems have scared many people all over the world and there is an effort to find an alternative. The stand that food can be health promoting beyond its traditional nutritional value is gaining momentum amongst scientists, health professionals as well as consumers. The other factors, which have brought about this revolutionary approach towards food, are:
  • An overall increase in the geriatric population
  • Escalating costs of preventive & curative medicines
  • Practice of self medication & repeat purchases by the consumers themselves
  • Increased awareness among masses regarding health and search for safer & natural alternatives
  • Growing scientific evidence regarding beneficial effect of diet in limiting the propagation of disease
All these factors and economic growth in recent years have strengthened the interest in diet and nutraceuticals. Functional foods and nutraceuticals have obtained a middle ground between food and drug due to recognition of their role in health. Let us look at a few of the recent findings published in various journals:

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