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What is Vasaka?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Vasaka, made from leaves of the malabar nut tree, is an Indian herb used to improve lung function and cure respiratory problems such as bronchitis, tuberculosis, congestion, and asthma. The herb breaks up phlegm in the chest and thins out mucus, expelling both from the body. Bronchioles and bronchi are dilated by the botanical so that deep breathing is possible and wheezing is stopped. Constant coughing can also be subdued by using vasaka, according to herbalists.

The respiratory benefits of vasaka are linked to the abundance of quinazoline alkaloids in the plant’s leaves and juice from the leaves. Studies show these alkaloids, particularly vasicinone and vasicine, are the primary phytochemicals responsible for widening air pathways and expanding the lungs in vasaka users. They are also the source of the expectorant qualities of the plant.

While treating pulmonary conditions is the most popular use of vasaka, the herb can also be used to improve gum health and cure some skin diseases, such as scabies; centuries ago, poultices containing this herb were reportedly used to treat leprosy. Hemorrhoids, fever, and hemorrhages can usually be tempered by vasaka intake. Some herbalists recommend it for healing and closing ulcers. The plant, which is high in vitamin C, also has a reputation for fighting cancer and killing harmful microorganisms that can cause infection and disease. Some holistic medicine practitioners use the anti-inflammatory herb to treat arthritis.

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Even mainstream medical doctors have experimented with using vasaka juice for diabetic patients. Studies show the juice can balance glucose levels in the blood. The juice, which is somewhat bitter, can generally be taken on an empty stomach three times a day for this purpose and typically is taken without any added sugar.

Roots, flowers, and leaves are ground and dried to process the Indian herb for medicinal use; in most preparations, leaves are the sole ingredient, however. Occasionally, bark is used. Vasaka is most often sold in loose powder form or capsules.

Since vasaka leaf juice has the highest concentration of alkaloids, however, some users in India and the Himalayas crush fresh leaves at home with a mortar and pestle, heat them, and then squeeze out the juice for consumption. It is rare to find the plant’s juice in drug stores and health food stores; some ayurvedic manufacturers use a leaf-steaming process to mass produce vasaka juice. Doctors suggest that pregnant women avoid all forms of the herb because it can stimulate uterine contractions.

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