jars of jam
Chyawanprash has been around for thousands of years. It’s frequently taken as a dietary supplement and is one of the most popular medicines in Ayurvedic medicine. Read on to learn more about chyawanprash and how you can use it to boost your health.
What is Chyawanprash?
Chyawanprash is an herbal jam-like medicine used in Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine from India. It is traditionally used as the ultimate health supplement to fight everyday illnesses and to support the immune system. One of the most popular Ayurvedic medicines, chyawanprash falls under a category of drugs named “rasayana,” which are rejuvenating tonics that aim to maintain youth and delay the aging process [R, R].
Chyawanprash is most commonly used to boost the immune system, to treat any lung or breathing problems, and to improve memory and brain function [R].
Chyawanprash is typically composed of around 50 different herbs, though the composition may vary between 25 and 80 herbs, depending on the manufacturer. However, the main ingredient, amla or Indian gooseberry, remains consistent across different formulations. The amount of Indian gooseberry used according to official recipes is over 100 times the amount of each of the other herbs [R].
There are 44 standard herbs in chyawanprash according to the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India. For some, only the Sanskrit names are available, though the scientific name has been determined for others [R]:
- Indian gooseberry (amalaki, amla)
- Bengal quince (bilva) – root or stem bark
- Arni (agnimantha) – root or stem bark
- Indian trumpet (syonaka) – root or stem bark
- Patala (paral) – root or stem bark
- Bala – root
- Salaparni (sariva) – whole plant
- Prsnipami – whole plant
- Mudgaparni – root, whole plant
- Musaparni – root, whole plant
- Indian long pepper (pippali) – fruits
- Small caltrops (svadamstra, gokshura, gokhru) – whole plant
- Indian nightshade (brhati, vanavrintaki) – whole plant
- Yellow berried nightshade (kantakari, chhoti kateri, kashtakari) – whole plant
- Srni (karkatsinghi) – galls
- Tamalaki (bhumyamalaki) – whole plant
- Grapes (draksa) – fruits
- Jivanti – root
- Puskara (pushkarmool) – root
- Agaru (agarashta) – heartwood
- Chebulic myrobalan (haritaki, abhaya, harde) – fruits
- Heartleaf moonseed (guduchi) – stem
- Rddhi – root
- Jivaka – leaves
- Rsabhaka – leaves
- Sati (kachur) – rhizomes
- Nut grass (musta, nagarmotha) – root, trichomes
- Spreading hogweed (punarnava, rakta punarnava) – whole plant
- Meda – root, trichomes
- Cardamom (ela, elaichi) – seeds
- Sandalwood (chandana, svetacandana) – heartwood
- Utpala – flowers
- Wild yam (vidari, kanda) – root, trichomes
- Malabar nut tree (vrsamula, vasaka) – root
- Kakoli – root
- Kakanasa (kakanasika) – fruits
- Two types of cinnamon (tvak and tegapatra) – bark, leaves
- Iran wood tree (nagakesar) – stamen
Non-herbal ingredients of chyawanprash include [R]:
To distinguish their chyawanprash from competitors’, some companies add metals such as gold and silver to their formulations; this is potentially toxic in large amounts. Be sure to check the ingredients of the chyawanprash you have!
Mechanism of Action
Indian gooseberry is very high in vitamin C. Since Indian gooseberry is the main component of chyawanprash, it’s likely this high vitamin C content is responsible for some of chyawanprash’s antioxidant properties and its other effects [R].
Indian gooseberry and vitamin C have both been shown to enhance memory, which could be how chyawanprash exerts its improvement on brain function and memory [R].
Brain degeneration disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are thought to be caused by decreases in cholinergic neurons (a certain type of brain cell). Chyawanprash may improve brain function by enhancing the activity of cholinergic neurons [R].
Health Benefits of Chyawanprash
1) Chyawanprash Reduces Smoking Symptoms
Smoking can cause a variety of symptoms, including coughing in the morning, persistent phlegm, and breathlessness after exercise. Chyawanprash (12 g, 2x/day) improved symptoms and increased the quality of life in a clinical trial with 50 smokers [R].
Tobacco smoke can also damage DNA, increasing the risk of mutations which can lead to cancer and other diseases. A clinical study of 25 male smokers found that 20 g, 2x/day of chyawanprash reduced the DNA damage from smoking [R].
Chewing tobacco or betel quid is one of the leading causes of cancer in India, acting similarly to tobacco smoke. In a clinical study of 21 people, 20 g of chyawanprash, 2x/day, along with quitting betel quid chewing reduced the risk of cancer and the toxic effects of tobacco [R].
2) Chyawanprash Helps Treat Tuberculosis
In a clinical trial of 90 people, chyawanprash (10 g, 2x/day) given with anti-tuberculosis drugs eliminated symptoms such as coughing, weakness, and loss of appetite and weight. It also reduced recovery time [R].
Chyawanprash with anti-tuberculosis drugs reduced inflammation and other symptoms in a study of 99 people with tuberculosis. It also improved uptake of the anti-tuberculosis drugs [R].
3) Chyawanprash Can Treat Infection
An increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is a marker for inflammation, severe infection, and pregnancy. A large teaspoon of chyawanprash, 2x/day, decreased ESR in a study of 40 children with throat infections [R].
4) Chyawanprash Can Act as Antioxidant
Antioxidants are substances that can prevent cell damage from oxidative stress. Vitamin C is one of the most effective and frequently taken antioxidants. A clinical study of 12 men found that chyawanprash is a more powerful antioxidant than vitamin C [R].
5) Chyawanprash Boosts the Immune System
A clinical trial of over 600 children found that chyawanprash (6 g, 1x/day) reduced illness frequency (from infection or allergies) and improved energy levels, physical fitness, strength, and stamina [R].
6) Chyawanprash Reduces Symptoms of Aging
In a study with 9 people, 25 g, 2x/day of chyawanprash reduced the levels of molecules associated with aging, such as urine nitrogen content [R].
A mouse study found that chyawanprash can reduce skin damage from UV exposure [R].
7) Chyawanprash May Improve Brain Function
In a clinical trial with 128 college students, chyawanprash (15 g, 2x/day) improved alertness, attention, concentration, and academic performance [R].
Some mouse studies found that daily chyawanprash supplementation improved memory in aged mice, more so than in young mice. There was also generally improved brain function, possibly due to chyawanprash’s antioxidant properties. Chyawanprash may also improve brain function by enhancing the activity of a certain type of brain cell (cholinergic neurons) [R, R].
8) Chyawanprash Reduces Side Effects of Cancer Radiation Therapy
A clinical trial of 75 people with head and neck cancer showed that chyawanprash (10 g, 2x/day) given during radiation therapy reduced the side effects. People were given either chyawanprash, chyawanprash and vitamin supplements, or vitamin supplements alone. The groups given chyawanprash showed improved skin and mucosal reactions [R].
9) Chyawanprash May Treat Depression
10) Chyawanprash Reduces Blood Cholesterol
Animal and Cellular Studies
The following studies were conducted only on animal models or cell lines.
11) Chyawanprash May Prevent Allergies
Studies on rats and mice show that chyawanprash given before an allergic reaction can reduce the effect of the allergy, comparable to cetirizine (a common anti-allergy drug) [R].
For the most part, there are few side effects to taking chyawanprash. Most clinical studies have not reported any negative effects or toxicity [R].
Those with diabetes should take caution when taking chyawanprash due to its high sugar content, from the added unrefined cane sugar and honey.
Pregnant women should consult with a physician before taking chyawanprash as a supplement. Some sources online recommend reducing dosage by half for pregnant women, though no scientific studies have examined this in detail.
Some reviews mention sensations of heat after consuming chyawanprash, likely due to the strong combination of herbs in chyawanprash. Taking chyawanprash with hot milk may soothe this sensation. No scientific studies have described this in detail.
There are no reported interactions between chyawanprash and other drugs. However, it’s still recommended you consult with a physician and an Ayurvedic practitioner if you wish to take chyawanprash in combination with other medications due to the variety of herbs that are found in chyawanprash.
Forms of Supplementation
Chyawanprash is a dark brown jam-like paste. It is usually eaten directly, or with warm milk or water.
The typical dosage of is one teaspoon (~10-15 g) of chyawanprash, 2x/day. Doses should be reduced for younger children [R].
Different classical texts and current industrial practices have modified methods and ingredient proportions. For example, the amount of gooseberry used may vary, and the proportions and parts used of other herbs can differ. Additionally, the amount of sugar and ghee can be variable [R].
A majority of reviews recommend taking chyawanprash with milk, and some say it can be spread on bread or crackers as well. Many reviewers take it to boost immunity especially during the winter, to supplement their diet with more nutrients, and to improve energy and activity levels as they grow older.
Some reviewers complain of the taste, which is a mixture of sweet, sour or spicy, and bitter.
One review cautions users to take note of possible allergies since many herbs are used in chyawanprash.