Q: What is the full story of Amrit Kalash? This blend of herbs is considered the
queen of all Ayurvedic rasayanas for promoting perfect health, total bliss, and
A: There is a beautiful narration in Indian mythology that serves as the perfect
analogy for how Amrit came into being. The story is called "Samudra Manthan" —
The Churning of the Ocean-and this is how it goes. Once, in ancient times, humanity
was steeped in suffering. The Devas and the Asuras, the gods and the demons, got
together and made a solemn resolve in the deepest level of their consciousness to
find a solution for the suffering. Together they churned the mighty ocean, from
where they had been told relief would appear. And when they churned the waters,
Amrit-the Nectar of Immortality-appeared. And with the precious gift of Amrit, all
of humanity recovered its health and happiness. Many millennia later, in the 1980s,
when the stresses of the modern lifestyle were beginning to seriously impact the
well-being of people everywhere — stress from the environment, stress from
time pressures, emotional stress, mental stress, physical exhaustion — Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation® program, gathered together
the most eminent Ayurvedic scholars and physicians of the time to see what could
be done to alleviate people's suffering. One of the first things to emerge from
these collective deliberations was a powerful rasayana to nourish mind, body and
spirit in a very holistic and balanced way. Appropriately, Maharishi decided to
name this Rasayana Amrit. Amrit represents the essence of the supreme knowledge
in the ancient Ayurvedic texts. That's why, for a traditional Ayurvedic vaidya like
me, the wide range of benefits Amrit Kalash offers is hardly surprising.
Q: Could you explain what exactly an Ayurvedic Rasayana is?
A: One of the primary goals of ayurveda is Swaasthasya rakshanam-preserving health,
and rasayanas are considered the primary method for maintaining health and vigour.
Literally translated, a Rasayana is "that which enters the essence" — in other
words, that which promotes health and longevity. The Sanskrit definition for a rasayana
is yat jara vyadhi nashanam tat rasayanam — "that which negates old age and
disease is called a rasayana. There are many individual fruits, herbs and spices
in ayurveda that are considered rasayanas — for example, the main two fruit
ingredients in Amrit, Indian Gooseberry and Indian Gallnut, are both deemed premier
rasayanas in the category of fruit. If you read Ayurvedic texts, it is clear that
these two fruits can help towards a long, happy, healthy and blissful life. They
promote bliss in body, mind, spirit and senses. Turmeric and Long Pepper (Pippali)
are rasayanas in the category of spices, well known for their healing properties.
We have another entire group of rasayana herbs called medhya rasayanas. Medhya refers
to the mind and intellect. The medhya group of herbs helps enhance the ability to
learn, retain and recall information. One such herb in Amrit is Indian Pennywort
or Gotu Kola, which we sometimes call Brahmi. Shankapushpi, or Aloeweed, which is
also an ingredient in Amrit, is another medhya rasayana. What is so great about
Amrit is that it is actually a rasayana of rasayanas-what you could call a "super"
rasayana. It incorporates all the best qualities of the best herbs in ayurveda,
in a synergy that is able to deliver all of the benefits that researchers are beginning
Q: Conventional medicine is often about the "one-cause-one-cure" or "magic bullet"
effect, whereas Ayurvedic rasayanas are considered holistic, integrated, and preventive,
causing a positive impact on the physiology with no side effects. Could you explain
A: The difference, is essentially in approach. Ayurveda is based on the principles
of wholeness and balance, and traditional rasayanas are formulated to account for
both aspects. There are many different kinds of herbs that go into a Rasayana, each
chosen and blended carefully in a precise proportion. Amrit, for example, contains
forty-four herbs and fruits in combination. This principle or science of herb combination
is called sanyog, and in my opinion is one of the most significant offerings of
Maharishi Ayurveda. Some herbs in a formulation are chosen only to balance the effects
of other herbs in the formulation. Others are put in because they help the main
herbs be better assimilated by the physiology. In Maharishi Ayurveda, we typically
do not recommend single herbs because even though an herb may have powerful qualities,
it may not be balanced or equally efficacious for everyone who takes it. The incorporation
of supporting and balancing herbs helps create a rasayana capable of wider application-across
people of different doshic combinations, for example. Balancing herbs perform the
saatmya function-loosely translated, that means they make the resulting formulation
acceptable or "friendly" to the physiology — no side effects, relatively easy
to digest and assimilate. Because the herbs are used whole, and used in combination,
the result is balance, and when there is balance, side effects are not an issue.
Modern pharmaceutical drugs, and even some nutritional supplements, are the result
of taking the so-called "active" ingredient from a natural substance and working
with it in a laboratory. Ayurvedic rasayanas, on the other hand, rely on the healing
process of nature's own intelligence. Amrit, for example, has both a nurturing effect
and a detoxifying effect on the physiology. But because it is a perfectly balanced
formulation, it nourishes so perfectly that it creates no ama or toxins in the shrotas
or channels of the body, and it cleanses so subtly that the body's ability to draw
sustenance from nourishment is left undisturbed. That is the beauty of a holistic,
balanced formulation like Amrit.
Q: This is especially important for aging baby boomers because we do not want to
age say like our parents did. Over a hundred million Americans — 40 percent
of the population — have a degenerative disease and we have few answers in
allopathic medicine for such problems. The magic bullet approach does not work well
there and that is precisely where systems like Maharishi Ayurveda have much to contribute.
A: I think that is because ayurveda seeks to address the root cause — imbalance
in the physiology-rather than the symptoms, which are like the tip of an iceberg.
If one goes through all the benefits a Rasayana such as Amrit offers, as they are
laid down in Ayurvedic texts, they include enhancing longevity, enhancing the intellect,
making one's complexion radiant and lustrous, and enhancing the understanding of
deeper, spiritual knowledge. A Rasayana such as Amrit helps make the senses, the
body and the mind more coordinated. As a physician, you probably realize that Amrit
is the ideal rasayana to offer baby boomers if they are seeking a holistic, natural
nutritional formulation to help keep them healthy as they age.
Q: It seems that when Nature perceives a need, Nature provides the answer.
A: According to ayurveda, optimum health is achieved when your heart, mind, body,
senses and spirit are all healthy. All these aspects should be 100% coordinated,
only then can one truly say that an individual enjoys perfect health or total health.
Q: You spoke about medhya herbs in Amrit Kalash. One of the research studies on Amrit
Ambrosia indicated that it enhances mental alertness and attention, so modern science
appears to be validating the old texts.
A: Yes. Amrit Kalash has a powerful positive influence on mental health because
of the synergistic action of so many powerful herbs. Gotu Kola and Shankapushpi
are both medhya rasayanas. According to ayurveda, mental ability is at its optimum
when the three aspects of dhi, dhriti and smriti-learning, retention and recall-are
working well individually and are perfectly coordinated with one another. Medhya
rasayanas are good for enhancing each individual aspect of mental ability and for
enhancing coordination among them also. They promote mental clarity because they
enhance coordination among cells, between mind and body and among senses. Plus,
Ashwagandha or Winter Cherry, which is also one of the ingredients in Amrit, is
a powerful adaptogenic-it helps balance and stabilize the mind so it performs optimally
even under situations involving day-to-day stress. As you know only too well, being
a psychiatrist yourself, life today can be extremely stressful, whether you are
a student, a professional, a parent-so the combination of energy enhancing herbs,
herbs that boost mental ability and herbs that help withstand day-to-day stress-it
is the well thought out combination in Amrit that is so powerful in its effect on
the mind and nervous system.
Q: One of the things that is remarkable about Amrit is that it influences many areas
of the physiology. For example, research studies have shown that Amrit also helps
maintain cardiovascular health.
A: In ayurveda, there is a specific term for rasayanas or herbs that help support
the heart and the cardiovascular system. Just as medhya herbs enhance mental and
intellectual ability, hridya herbs are those that offer holistic support to the
cardiovascular system by enhancing the ability to tolerate physical and emotional
stress on the heart. Ayurveda does not treat the heart only as a pump-ayurvedic
formulations seek to address both the physical and the emotional heart in a holistic
way, flushing out toxins that block the physical and mental channels. Amrit has
this hridya effect.
Q: The published scientific research on Amrit shows that it reduces the oxidation
of LDL, low density lipoproteins, that contributes to clogged arteries or atherosclerosis,
which is an underlying cause of heart disease.
A: That is one aspect of hridya-to keep clear those vital channels which carry prana
or life in the cardiovascular area. The other aspect is to pacify Sadhaka Pitta
and enhance emotional strength to withstand the effects of day-to-day emotional
Q: Can you explain this impact on Sadhaka Pitta in a little more detail?
A: Pitta, as you know, is the ayurvedic governing force responsible for all transformation,
even the metabolizing of knowledge or sensory perceptions. It applies to transformation
of thought also. Sadhaka Pitta is the sub-dosha of Pitta that relates to the emotions
and senses. When Sadhaka Pitta is in balance, one is positively motivated in thought
and emotion; when it is out of balance, emotions tend toward the negative-sadness,
anger, discontent, irritability. Hridya formulations like Amrit help keep Sadhaka
Pitta in balance, contributing to stable emotions.
Q: Amrit strengthens Sadhaka Pitta. People seem to be helped when they take Amrit
on a regular basis.
A: Yes, that is the role of Sadhaka Pitta. Metabolizing thought, both good and bad
thought. Also, when Sadhaka Pitta is balanced, there is excellent coordination between
the heart and the mind. The heart cannot be looked at individually and neither can
the mind. They must constantly check with each other and be coordinated. Amrit,
because it has both medhya and hridya properties, strengthens the mind and strengthens
the heart individually and also enhances the coordination between them. Interaction
between the heart and the mind therefore becomes smooth, seamless and cohesive.
Q: It is amazing how conventional medical science correlates with ayurvedic science.
As you know, the vagus nerve, which is one of the twelve cranial nerves coming out
of the brain and spinal cord, impacts the heart as well as the digestive system.
When the vagus nerve is over stimulated, which is Pitta aggravation, you can get
all kinds of digestive problems linked with the excess emotional fire going on in
the brain. There are studies in allopathic medicine of stimulating the vagus nerve
as a possible new treatment for depression. Again, it is an isolated effect, whereas
the more holistic, ayurvedic effect is what you are describing-that we can bring
not just the vagus nerve but everything related to the brain, the heart and digestion
into balance. Amrit has a positive influence on immunity as well. Could you also
explain the impact of Amrit on the immune system?
A: The immune system is very well described in ayurveda. Bala, the Ayurvedic term
for immunity, encompasses not just physical resistance but also mental, emotional
and psychological immunity. So again the concept is holistic. Three types of immunity
are discussed in ayurveda-the first is sahaj, which is genetic or hereditary-the
level of immunity you were born with. The second is kalaj, seasonal immunity, which
varies based on the seasons, the stage of life and planetary cycles.
Q: This would be the type of immunity, for example, one would seek to address in
cases of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), where people have their moods drop down
completely, affecting their health and physiology.
A: Yes. And the third is yuktikrit or established immunity — a balanced, permanent
level of immunity that is the objective of the Ayurvedic approach to well-being.
Ayurvedic rasayanas, diet and lifestyle are the three main aspects to yuktikrit
or planned immunity enhancement. Amrit definitely helps strengthen natural levels
of immunity at every stage of life and provides balance to offset the impact of
changing seasons on the physiology. Although it is the whole combination that provides
the effect, I would like to talk about one herb in Amrit that is particularly known
for boosting immunity-Tinospora cordifolia or Guduchi. Many Ayurvedic herbs have
interesting stories associated with them and the mythological description of the
origin of Guduchi is fascinating. My father told me this story when I was in the
seventh grade and he was introducing me to various Ayurvedic herbs. Rama, the hero
of the Indian epic Ramayana, lost many of his army of monkeys during his war with
Ravana, the demon-king. He prayed for help, and the heavens rained nectar on the
battlefield to bring the creatures back to life. Some of the drops fell to the earth,
and wherever the nectar touched the earth, the herb Guduchi sprang up. That is why
another name for this herb is Amrita-immortal. This plant is quite indestructible-if
you cut a vine off the main plant, it grows aerial roots and keeps growing, without
water or soil. Indian Gallnut, another major ingredient in Amrit, is also designated
Amrita. This fruit helps flush out toxins from the body, helping to prevent the
build-up of ama, and aiding in keeping the microcirculatory channels clear. So,
with at least two such powerful immunity enhancers, and with other supporting and
balancing herbs, the overall impact of Amrit is to enhance the immune system. Modern
research focuses on the immunity-enhancing effect of Tinospora cordifolia as a single
herb, but from the Ayurvedic perspective it is a part of the whole. Amrit provides
holistic balanced support to our immune system, not just isolated support to any
one aspect of the immune system.
Q: How does Amrit directly affect longevity? Obviously, if you take care of the heart
and the immune system, it will have an effect on longevity. Are there some other
aspects of the Amrit formulation that also apply directly to longevity?
A: Amrit is a whole formulation, and it is the combination of the herbs in Amrit
that produces all the benefits. I told you about Guduchi and Haritaki (Indian Gallnut)
earlier. Indian Gooseberry (Amalaki) is one of the main ingredients in Amrit. Amalaki
alone is considered a super Rasayana in ayurveda. It contains five out of the six
tastes-sweet, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent — all except salty, which
is a rare and valuable property even among herbs, and is equally beneficial for
all Dosha. It is considered such a powerful rejuvenator that it is one of the very
few herbs that is sometimes used by itself in Maharishi Ayurveda. It is the richest
source of vitamin C in the plant world, and the form of the vitamin C is such that
it is resistant to heat and light and able to be easily assimilated by the human
body. This herb has multiple positive effects — it is good for the eyes, the
digestion, the heart, muscles; it helps the body absorb iron and calcium from the
foods you eat — as you can see, there is good reason it is considered a leading
Ayurvedic Rasayana. Other ingredients like Tinospora cordifolia and Gotu Kola also
are individually known for their anti-aging properties. We are talking about a whole
group of anti-aging herbs. If you take Amrit regularly, you are detoxifying your
body on a day-to-day basis, so that ama does not accumulate, and nurturing your
brain cells and, indeed, your whole physiology, on a day-to-day basis. Is this not
going to keep you from aging prematurely? Remember our definition of a Rasayana-and
that Amrit is actually a Rasayana of Rasayanas.
Q: The research on Amrit shows that it is a powerful scavenger of free radicals,
and free radicals have been linked to aging as well as a significant percentage
of degenerative disease. Truly amazing. Can anyone take Amrit, from children to
the elderly, for example?
A: That is why we have different forms of Amrit. Maharishi Ayurveda has come out
with different delivery mechanisms to suit different constitutions. The new Nectar
tablet, for example, is very easy on the body, relatively easier for the body to
assimilate and digest without the traditional carriers-sugar and ghee. This tablet
does not put too heavy a load on your digestive system. The tablet is also convenient
for people who travel, or those who do not like the taste or the consistency of
the Nectar paste. Amrit is a good nutritional tonic for everyone, but I recommend
that if a person is under the care of a physician, it is good for him or her to
check with the physician. For children also it is a good overall nutritional supplement,
I recommend the paste, but if they do not like the taste, they can take the Nectar
tablet along with the Ambrosia tablet. For young children, the Ambrosia syrup is
a good way to start. Traditionally, Amrit Kalash is recommended for everyone.
Q: Can you talk about the functions of the different types of herbs in Amrit? You
have mentioned some already-Indian Gooseberry, Gotu Kola, Guduchi.
A: We've spoken about medhya and hridya herbs, herbs that balance the three Doshas
like Indian Gooseberry, now I would like to talk about nourishing herbs such as
Indian Asparagus, also an important ingredient in Amrit. Indian Asparagus is very
good for nourishing all the seven types of body tissue, particularly reproductive
tissue. It enhances the metabolic processes and thus improves the quality of the
body tissues, each of which, as you know, is formed as a result of a series of metabolic
processes in the body. The seven tissues are Rasa, Rakta, Mamsa, Medha, Asthi, Majja
and Shukra-nutritional fluid, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and reproductive
fluid. This herb is especially good for improving the quality and quantity of reproductive
fluid in men and women (Shukra Dhatu). Shatavari, as this herb is called in Sanskrit,
also helps increase the production of ojas.
Q: Ojas is an important Ayurvedic concept?
A: Ojas is the finest, the most refined by-product of digestion. It is the master
coordinator between self, or consciousness, and the functions of the mind and body.
It is the subtle substance that maintains life itself. When your physiology produces
the optimum quality and quantity of ojas, you are healthy, blissful and vital-your
mind and body are getting the sustenance they need to function at optimum levels.
Amrit supports the creation of more ojas in a shorter period of time. It helps the
body perform the metabolic processes without creating toxins or Ama.
Q: Is it true to say that the more ojas your body is producing the more rapid your
spiritual evolution is going to be?
A: Ojas is the link between self and mind and then mind and senses, mind and body,
mind and emotions. There are two kinds of ojas, supreme ojas that keeps self and
mind coordinated, and supporting Ojas, the link between mind and senses, mind and
emotions, mind and body. Supporting Ojas is what helps attain perfect transformation
of food into body tissues.
Q: Amrit is often called "herbs for enlightenment". You spoke earlier about Sanyog,
the science of herb combination. The meticulous combination of many different kinds
of herbs in very precise proportions to achieve synergy and balance-that is what
makes an Ayurvedic Rasayana like Amrit so powerful in the many diverse positive
benefits it imparts to the physiology. But what about the actual preparation of
the formula? It sounds as if the processing would be equally important. You have
spent many years personally supervising the production of formulations like Amrit.
Can you tell us about that?
A: Very good question. The processing is as important as the formulation itself,
for the full efficacy of Amrit to be felt. In some ways, I think the processing
is even more crucial, especially for complex formulations like Amrit, which have
so many different types of ingredients with different ways to process each. How
to mix what, when to mix what, how much to cook, how to compress, extract. The Sanskrit
term I use to describe proper processing is Sanskar. Loosely translated, Sanskar
means following the steps for proper preparation laid down in the texts, taking
care to ensure that the healing properties of the herbs are preserved intact in
the final product. Remember that the Ayurvedic approach relies on the healing intelligence
of the herbs. So the processing has to ensure that the innate intelligence, which
we call Chetana, is preserved very carefully in the ultimate formulation. As part
of the discussions that occurred when Amrit was introduced, in order to manufacture
and package Amrit for the present-day consumer, and to take into account aspects
like hygiene, quality control and consistency, the vaidyas consulted top food technologists
and manufacturing engineers to develop specialized machinery and the systems to
process and produce Amrit exactly in the way explained in the texts. Processing
is done at state-of-the-art facilities to make sure that world-class standards for
quality are not just met, but exceeded. We actually practice dual quality control-one
stream of checks to ensure that traditional integrity is maintained, and a second
stream of checks to ensure standards of manufacturing and hygiene.
Q: That is beautiful. The best of the ancient and the modern.
A: Yes, precisely. Amrit is produced in 250 meticulous steps. There are quality
checks at every stage of processing from selection of raw material to packaging.
The herbs have to be harvested at precise times to ensure maximum potency, the fruits
picked at exactly the right degree of maturity. Each ingredient is carefully identified,
sorted and prepared for processing. The fruits are cooked at specific temperatures
to eliminate degeneration of the essential intelligence of the herbs. The several
different parts of the formulation are prepared independently in a meticulous manner
as designed by the vaidyas and the different parts are blended in at specific stages,
maintaining the appropriate temperatures and mixing times necessary to preserve
the integrity of the formulation. At no time during the processing is Amrit exposed
to the outside atmosphere until it is packaged. Packaging occurs in hygienic conditions
free from atmospheric contamination. Each batch is carefully checked at multiple
stages in the process. The controls are stringent. The production process and the
formulation both are crucial to the ultimate value of the product.
Q: People sometimes compare Amrit with Chyavanprash.
A: They compare them because Chyavanprash looks somewhat like Amrit Nectar. They
are both dark-coloured pastes. But Chyavanprash and Amrit are completely different
formulations, and they have completely different purposes. They may have a few ingredients
in common, such as Amalaki, but that's about it. Chyavanprash is traditionally taken
in the winter months in India if you have colds or coughs — it's a formulation
targeted more towards the respiratory system. Amrit has a much more "global" or
holistic impact on the entire physiology, and many of its wide-ranging benefits
have been validated by independent research. Taking Chyavanprash as a substitute
for Amrit would mean that you do not really get the benefits Amrit provides to the
physiology as a whole. As Ayurvedic rasayanas, each of the two has its place and
its role — and the role of Amrit is far wider — to nourish every cell
in the body — it is not targeted towards any one system in the physiology.
So there is no comparison. In addition, what I said earlier about the processing
being so important to the results one gets from Amrit holds true for Chyavanprash
also. Unfortunately, many companies do not go to the trouble of meticulously following
the different steps required to produce Chyavanprash that has traditional integrity,
so even for its targeted area of effectiveness many of the brands of Chyavanprash
available may not be entirely effective.
Q: Both the ancient knowledge from where the formulation and the processes were developed,
and modern research seem to be saying the same thing-taking Amrit Kalash regularly
can have diverse, cumulative positive influence on all aspects of health —
physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. By providing balance and nourishment
from the cell up, Amrit Kalash can truly help you build better health.
A: That's exactly what an Ayurvedic Rasayana is supposed to do, and Maharishi Amrit
Kalash is a "super" Rasayana