A deciduous tree which grows throughout India, arjuna or Terminalia arjuna has healing properties that go straight to the heart of the matter. Its medicinal use dates back to many centuries, with mentions in many ancient texts. While its leaves and flowers have some benefits, the white or pinkish gray bark of the tree is predominantly used in traditional remedies and tested in studies.
Arjuna contains many bioactive constituents such as cardenolide, tannins, flavonoids (arjunolone, arjunone, luteolin), triterpenoid saponins (arjunolic acid, arjunic acid, arjunglycosides, arjungenin), ellagic acid, and gallic acid which give it a range of beneficial properties. Here’s what that could mean for your health and wellness:
1. Fights Damage From Free Radicals And Inflammation
Bioactive constituents such as flavonoids in arjuna give it antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Arjuna’s potent antioxidant properties can help you fight the damaging effects of free radicals. While free radicals are essentially generated by your body as it produces energy from food, they are also a byproduct when we expose our bodies to external agents such as cigarette smoke, environmental pollution, toxins, alcohol, processed foods etc. Free radicals can damage your DNA and cells and are implicated in the aging process as well as a wide range of diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Arjuna can bolster your body’s defenses and help counter these thanks to its antioxidant capacity. In fact, its antioxidant activity has been found to be comparable to that of vitamin E, another potent antioxidant.To top it off, arjuna also fights chronic inflammation, whether it results from lifestyle factors, diet, or diseases like diabetes. This dual action makes arjuna a powerful ally that can boost your general health and well-being.
2. Protects The Heart
Arjuna has a sterling reputation as a cardiotonic that can boost heart function and heal cardiac injury or trauma. And scientific research shows that this praise is well deserved, with studies confirming its positive impact on a range of heart problems from coronary artery disease to rheumatic heart disease. It has also been found to help with recuperation of people who’ve had heart attacks or angina.
Arjuna has a beneficial effect on factors such as cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels which affect the health of your heart.
As one study found, arjuna was able to improve the symptoms of congestive heart failure, a condition where your heart is not able to pump sufficient blood to meet your body’s requirement for oxygen. Typical symptoms of the condition include shortness of breath, tiredness, coughing or wheezing, and swelling in the feet, which arjuna may help tackle. The researchers also reported an improvement in the subjects’ effort tolerance and quality of life after taking arjuna extracts for 2 weeks. This beneficial effect could be due to glycosides present in arjuna which have a cardiotonic effect. Tannins and flavones which give it antioxidant properties may also have a role to play here.
3. Fights Lipid Disorders
Hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol and triglyceride levels can up your risk of atherosclerosis and heart problems. If you’re fighting lipid problems, arjuna can help. In one study, patients with coronary heart disease who took arjuna extracts for 30 days saw a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Lipid peroxidation, the degradation of lipids that results in cell damage, also reduced in this group.
Animal studies also confirm arjuna’s ability to control cholesterol ratios and reduce triglyceride levels in subjects who were on a high-cholesterol diet. Atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta reduced when arjuna extracts were administered. The effect was attributed to arjuna’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and ability to boost cholesterol metabolism.
4. Tackles High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is another factor which can harm your heart and up your risk of heart failure, stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. Animal studies have found that arjuna extracts, with its tannin-related components, can have a blood pressure-lowering effect.Although the mechanism through which arjuna works is not fully clear, researchers have suggested that its components may show adrenergic ß2-receptor agonist activity, helping activate it. Adrenergic ß2-receptor is a protein that can lower blood pressure when stimulated.
5. Boosts Energy And Exercise Performance
Arjuna can enhance your endurance when you exercise. One study found that when arjuna extracts were given to subjects for 2 weeks, it increased maximum oxygen consumption capacity (VO2 max) by 4.9%. VO2 max is the maximum oxygen a person can use during intense exercise. It is an indicator of aerobic endurance and cardiovascular fitness – your muscles require oxygen for exercise and your heart, in turn, needs to pump sufficient blood to meet the requirements of aerobic exercise. In fact, the more oxygen you are able to use during exercise, the more energy you’ll be able to produce. The researchers also suggested that pairing arjuna with ashwagandha, another potent herb that can boost speed and muscular strength, was even more beneficial.
6. Counters Damage Caused By Smoking
Smoking can cause serious damage to your health and is especially bad for your heart and lungs. Cells that line the inside of the blood vessels or endothelium don’t function normally in smokers, mostly due to oxidative stress. This dysfunction is an early sign of atherosclerosis, a condition where your arteries become narrow, causing problems with blood flow which can eventually cause heart problems.
While quitting smoking is the first and most critical step in countering the damage of smoking, arjuna with its potent antioxidant properties may have a protective effect as well. One study found that when smokers took this herb for 2 weeks, it significantly reversed endothelial abnormality. Do keep in mind though that arjuna cannot protect you from all the harmful effects of smoking. Smoking can increase your risk of more than 50 serious diseases, including cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). So it’s important to take measures to quit.
7. Helps Manage Diabetes
Struggling to control your blood sugar levels? Arjuna to the rescue once again! Animal studies have found that this herb can significantly lower blood sugar by helping correct the impaired breakdown of glucose by the liver and kidneys. Researchers have also suggested that compounds such as tannins, flavonoids, and saponins present in the bark exert an antidiabetic effect by helping modulate enzymes involved in glucose metabolism.
8. Protects Your Liver And Kidneys
Thanks to its antioxidant properties, components in arjuna may have some potential to fight cancer. But this is not yet well-established and needs further research.
Exposure to toxic chemicals can have a damaging effect on your kidneys and liver. But arjuna may be able to mitigate this damage. One animal study found that it had a protective effect against the harmful chemical carbon tetrachloride which induces oxidative stress and causes injury to your liver and kidneys. Arjuna is thought to help combat oxidative stress by improving the antioxidative defense of the body, thus thwarting kidney and liver damage and dysfunction.
9. Fights Fungal Infections
Arjuna is described in ayurveda as an antifungal herb that can treat skin infections such as ringworm. Lab studies show it does act against dermatophytic fungi like Trichophyton mentagrophytes and Trichophyton rubrum which cause skin infections. This effect of arjuna is attributed to the alkaloids, tannins, and saponins present in it.
10. Helps Heal Wounds Faster
Arjuna is widely known for its wound-healing properties. One study found that tannins from arjuna bark were able to reduce the wound size and improve tensile strength of tissue significantly. It is thought that this herb quickens wound healing by speeding up the turnover of collagen. Collagen is a protein that strengthens our ligaments, bones, and tendons and works as scaffolding during the repair of skin wounds.Traditionally, the bark is ground into a paste and applied to the wound to enhance healing.
11. Tackles Stomach Problems Like Diarrhea And Ulcers
Arjuna is traditionally used in ayurveda for treating diarrhea and dysentery. And scientific research backs this up. Studies have found that this herb has potent antimicrobial properties and can act against bacteria such as Escherichia coli which can cause diarrhea.
Arjuna can also help fight gastric ulcers. Animal studies confirm its ability to both protect against ulcers and heal existing ulcers. The researchers attributed its gastroprotective effect to its ability to maintain the integrity of the gastric mucosa or lining and fights any oxidative damage. It was able to strengthen the gastric mucosal barrier that defends against acid attacks and thwart the formation of ulcers.Animal studies also show that arjuna can fight Heliobactor Pylori, bacteria that can cause ulcers and gastritis.
Many traditional communities use arjuna bark as an antacid, chewing the fresh bark and swallowing the juice to fight indigestion, acidity, and heartburn.
Tradition remedies use a decoction of arjuna bark, combining it with milk or ghee depending on the ailment. It is typically used in doses of 1 to 2 gm a day in studies, usually split across the day. An ayurvedic practitioner will be able to calibrate the dosage depending on your medical condition. Arjuna may cause mild side effects like constipation, mild gastritis, and headache in some people. Very high dosages should be avoided as it may cause thyroids levels to fall or harm your liver.
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