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Aphrodisiac Plants Used in Ayurveda: Complex Formulas, Ancient and Modern

Written by Matthew Clark

Introduction

In this article we take a historical glimpse at plants and formulations used in Ayurveda as aphrodisiacs. We also compare traditional use with modern formulations.  

The author is not recommending the use of any of the plants mentioned in this article, which is merely a report on research findings. The nature of any reproductive issues and many plants used as aphrodisiacs means that they are best used in consultation with a qualified herbalist.

The South Asian medical tradition of Āyurveda (‘knowledge of life-span’) acknowledges three primary, historical authorities, namely Caraka, Suśruta and Vāgbhaṭa, the ‘great three’ (bṛhat  trayī). The earliest formulations of the compendia (saṃhitās) of both Caraka and Suśruta date to the early centuries BCE; these medical texts attained, after additions, their current form in the early centuries CE. Vāgbaṭa’s Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdaya (‘heart of medicine’) largely synthesises the treatments detailed by Caraka and Suśruta and was probably composed around 600 CE. It became one of the most widely referred to medical texts in Asia. Later Āyurvedic authorities built generally on the treatments contained in these texts, which included oleation, fomentation, emesis, purgation and other treatments.

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