Book Review: Rasayana: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation

Rasayana: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation
(Traditional Herbal Medicines for Modern Times series)
By Harshranjit S. Puri (CRC Press, 2002)

The word rasayana literally means “the parh that rasa takes” (rasa - referring to the primordial tissue - plasma, and ayana - path). It is considered as the science of the restoration of youth and relief of the suffering and degradation that accompanies aging and bestows longevity. It is believed in Ayurveda that the qualities of rasa dhatu influence the health of all the other dhatus of the body; hence, any medicine that enhances the quality of rasa is a rasayana. Rasayana tantra, the study and teaching of rejuvenation medicine, has long been a traditionally independent clinical discipline within Ayurveda.
Rasayana (rejuvenation or revitalization therapy) one of the historic eight specializations within traditional Ayurvedic practice, although this least understood branch of this science, is becoming of ever growing interest.

Until relatively recently, much of the information on India's research into their medicinal plants has remained within India, mainly published within Indian journals. Over the past few decades, however, as interest in the field of Ayurveda has expanded globally, and with the integration of herbal herbomineral and metallic medicines discovered and long used abroad into convention treatments, and along with the strengthening of academic networks internationally, the results of Indian herbal drug research is both becoming available to Western audiences as well as stirring Western inquiries into the properties of these medicines.

Looking at it from Western perspective, a rasayana medicine is one that may be said to have five properties: viz., its actions as an adaptogen, an immunostimulant, an immunomodulator, a pro-host probiotic and an anti-mutagenic. To which we might add a sixth quality, that of tropism: an attraction toward a particular tissue, organ or organ system.

This volume (one of a series dedicated to and entitled Traditional Herbal Medicines for Modern Times) provides detailed information on fifty-three specific plants (from Aak - Calotropis to Vidhara - Argyreia speciosa) used in various rasayana preparations and describes their therapeutic benefits for numerous disorders. It also contains rasayana formulations. It is a comprehensive reference suitable for anyone involved in medicinal and aromatic plant research.

In light of the extreme importance of rasayana in Ayurvedic therapy it is fitting that Dr. Harsharnjit Puri has authored this excellent reference work with detailed and very clear explanations on the plants, their uses in folklore and tradition as well as in Ayurveda, their means of preparation, their therapeutic indications and references to pharmacological studies and references. Altogether this is a very good book on Ayurvedic herbal medicine and required reading on the subject of herbs and the promotion of longevity.

Review provided by William Courson, BVSA, D. Ayur., an Ayurvedic Practitioner, faculty member and the College Dean of Institutional Development at Sai Ayurvedic College & Ayurvedic Wellness Center.

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