Balance is The Principle
According to ayurveda, everything in this world can be used as medicine. It can be your food, herbs and other natural ingredients. As a coin has two sides, everything has some good and bad effects.
A wise person can make medicine out of poison. An unwise person makes poison even out of nectar.
Ayurveda works on conditional use of foods and herbs based on its Tridosha theory. It works on one principle i.e. Balance. Balancing three doshas in the body is the main goal in ayurveda.
Some foods and medicines increase one dosha and decrease the other. Therefore, you require to use everything wisely.
If you take wrong herb even it is indicated in your disease, but increases the dosha, which is already aggravated in your body, it will lead to some side effects. It also applies to food intake. Taking foods in excess, in wrong combination or less than requirement will also lead to side effects. Taking similar foods on regular basis, which increases one dosha, will also result in side effects. For example, if you eat Rajma (Kidney Beans) 2-3 times a week, it will cause excessive formation of gas and stool in your body. So, it increases Vata Dosha and lead to vata diseases.
The same principle applies to ayurvedic medicines. If food can cause side effects, herbs and ayurvedic medicines can also cause side effects. The accurate answer to this question is –
Unwise use of ayurvedic medicine and herbs can cause side effects. If you don’t take ayurvedic medicine and herbs according to dosha (considering an increase, decrease or aggravation and their blockage), they might cause several side effects.
Now, we take an example of an herb, which is considered LIKELY SAFE – Jal Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri).
Bacopa Monnieri pacifies Vata Dosha and reduces Kapha Dosha. But it can increase Pitta Dosha because of its warming nature. However, its pitta aggravation effects are seen if patient takes it in unnatural form i.e. extract more than 500 mg and in a natural form more than 2 grams per day. It increases Pitta Dosha in the body and causes pitta type headache. Headache is its most common side effect. This side effect appears in people with pitta body type or disease with aggravated or increased pitta dosha even in low dosage.
So, you need to be wise for selecting herbs according to dosha increase, decrease, blockage and aggravation.
Effects are Dose-Dependent
The second point is all positive and negative effects are dose-dependent. Some herbs are safest in the reduced dosage.
For example, Yashtimadhu (licorice root powder) is safe if you use it in its natural form and take it in less than 9 grams per day. 9 grams is its highest possible dosage for short-term use. However, we use it less than 3 grams per day and in divided doses. If we need to use it on a long-term basis, we use it 1000 mg per day in two divided doses each of 500 mg.
So, if you use it more than 9 grams per day, it will cause water retention in your body.
Natural and Unnatural Form
- Natural forms of herbs are safer. Natural forms are fresh juice, fresh paste, fresh herbs, dried herbs powder and fresh decoction (using water or milk).
- Unnatural form of herbs might lead to side effects in a similar way as allopathic medicine.
We take the same example here:
If you use Yashtimadhu in its unnatural form i.e. extract form or its derivative, it will cause side effects. Its extract can cause the following side effects even in low dosage:
- The missed period in women.
- Water retention.
- Natural ingredients like metals and minerals detoxified with herbs are less poisonous.
- Poisonous herbs require detoxification to remove toxic compounds from them.
- Without detoxification or purification (Shodhana), they cause severe side effects.
You must also examine if herbs require detoxification or not before using it.
For example, Kuchla (Strychnos nux-vomica) without Shodhana cause several side effects.
The second example, Babchi seeds without Shodhana cause restlessness, vertigo and uneasiness in the abdomen if you swallow it more than 250 mg per day. But you can eat it safely without any side effects after Shodhana in about dosage of 1000 mg per day.
So, some herbs require detoxification to remove harmful compounds from them before using as medicine.
Unwise use of ayurvedic medicine and herbs can cause side effects. If you don’t take ayurvedic medicine and herbs according to dosha (considering an increase, decrease or aggravation and their blockage), they might cause several side effects by affecting in opposite way.
So, you must not eat ayurvedic medicines and herbs without a valid prescription from an experienced ayurvedic physician or herbalist.