The terms Nutrition and Pharmaceuticals together denotes Neutraceuticals. These are biological therapies for well-being. The philosophy of this therapy focuses mainly on prevention. Greek physician Hippocrates (known as the father of medicine) said “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Ayurveda also recommends the use of food as a medicine.
The name Neutraceuticals was given in 1989 by Stephen DeFelice, Founder and Chairman of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, in Cranford, New Jersey. Neutraceuticals is a specially treated food, vitamin, mineral, herb, etc., that you eat or drink in order to improve your health. It can be classified under food supplements, functional food, medicinal food and farma food.
A dietary supplement represents a product that contains nutrients derived from food products, and are often concentrated in liquid, capsule, powder or pill form. Functional food is a category which includes whole foods and fortified food substances. These reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide health-benefit. Medicinal food is formulated to be consumed or administered internally, under the supervision of a qualified physician.
Farmaceuticals are valuable components obtained from agricultural crops and animals also. Neutraceuticals impose crucial roles in immune status and susceptibility to certain disease states.
Although the concept of Neutraceuticals is gaining more popularity, its origin can be traced from ancient system of medicine Ayurveda. Rasayana is one of the branches of Ayurveda, which is used for achieving longevity. This can be obtained by using herbs, herbo-mineral substances or by specific foods. Aajasrik rasayana is a specific type in which special foods can be used for increasing immunity, achieving health and longevity.
Concept of the health of a person is different in Ayurveda. Man is a miniature of the nature. Whatever present in the nature is also present in human being. Universe is made up of five great elements namely — earth, water, fire, air and ether. Therefore, these five principles are present in the human being and food also. Health of a person depends on equilibrium of these five elements. Along with that balance in three bioenergy namely Vata, Pitta, Kapha; seven tissues and proper function of digestion helps for maintenance of health.
Fresh organic food consumed according to agni (digestive power), constitution, at proper time maintain the health and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. According to Chhandogya Upanishad, a small part of digested food nourishes the mind also. Sattvic food has good impact on mind keeping the good health of mind and giving a person ability to think what is good for him and what is not.
Some examples of Ayurvedic Neutraceuticals are Chavanprash (Fruit jam of Amla or Indian gooseberry cooked with ghee, oil, sugar and various herbs). It is a general health and preventive tonic for respiratory diseases. Rason Ksheerpak (Garlic cooked in milk is useful in arthritis). Kushmand pak (Winter melon or special type of white gourd, cooked with ghee and sugar-for debility, as geriatric tonic)
Benefits of the food for health are mentioned long back. During the first Olympic Games, the ancient Greeks used garlic as a performance-enhancing drug in 16th century. Lemon was used to prevent scurvy.
There is tradition in ancient villages to offer glass of water with jaggery to recover from tiredness after walking a long distance.
The stand that food can be health promoting beyond its traditional nutritional value is gaining momentum amongst scientists, health professionals as well as consumers.
Functional foods and Neutraceuticals have obtained a middle ground between food and drug due to recognition of their role in health.
Ayurveda mentions special branch of treating simple diseases with the help of spices and other safe herbs that can be obtained anywhere. The branch is known as kitchen pharmacy or home remedies. There are many examples e.g.- Ginger + lemon juice in indigestion, Coffee with nutmeg in diarrhoea. Cold infusion of cumin + coriander seeds for burning urination. Onion and garlic to reduce the cholesterol. Asafetida to reduce the pain in abdomen and Nutmeg in insomnia.
Curcuma is most favoured spice. New research shows it is beneficial in preventing breast cancer. Also, it is used for gargling in sour throat, and it is fast source of healing wounds.
Some of the food substances like curry leaves, sesame seeds, cheese, curd, soya, and cabbage give lot of calcium. Vegetables like yam, soya, curcuma contains Phyto-hormones useful in menopause.
Butter milk and yogurt in diarrhoea works as probiotic. One can use Carom (Ajowan) or Shunthi (Dry ginger ) in Irritable bowel syndrome. There are ample examples how the natural food can be helpful for maintenance of health and treating diseases.
Role of healthy food in treatment of different diseases has already been published in different journals.
In a nutshell, Neutraceuticals and functional foods consist of dietary supplements, energy drinks and bars, sport drinks, smoothies etc. These natural bioactive components have health promoting and disease preventing effects. The typical Indian everyday vegetarian diet consists of many types of fruit and leafy vegetables, spices, herbs, legumes and seeds that are rich in calcium, phytohormones, probiotics, phytonutrients, carotenoids, phenols, polyphenols, alkaloids, flavinoids, which impart favourable health related outcome in natural way.
Molecular level interactions between nutrients and other bioactive dietary molecules with the genome and the functional sequences in gene expression denotes the Neutrigenomics. This individualised approach through nutrigenomics goes very well with the Ayurvedic concept of dietary specifications according to individual’s prakriti, season of the year and time of the day. One has to take into consideration fresh, organic food in panchabhautik universe
Without accepting wisdom of Ayurveda, one cannot turn back. Ayurveda and Neutraceuticals is a revolutionary step for health, fitness sector and prevention of diseases. Neutraceuticals with traditional medicines will be the long standing consumer’s acceptance. Neutraceuticals may suppress the good old traces of Ayurveda. One has to take care for that. This indulgence should be designed in significant way to bring out best of both the sides.
Value of the food also depends on the region where it is grown. It differs from sandy desert, coastal area, middle part of the India and high up in the mountains of Himalaya. Environmental changes and change in quality of soil also makes lot of influence on food. Food cooked in proper pans adds more yield to the food. Stay away from coated pans, microwave, junk food and processed food. According to Ayurveda, energetic principles of food depends on taste, potency, and its post digestive effect (Rasa, Veerya, Veepak).
Broadly, such advanced nutritional products based on Ayurvedic principles may be aimed at providing cellular health support, immune health support, bio-chemical / neuro endocrine support, nutritional support, through phytonutrients.
Study of traditional and modern health science, Ayurvedic and modern nutritional science together, is beneficial for understanding of various metabolic processes and causative factors for diseases. It is possible to develop new products. Yes, we have proper pathway to take it forward and justify science behind the two.
It will lead us to understand and formulate a conceptual basis for Ayurvedic Neutraceuticals of traditionally used products for better health outcomes that are aimed at providing basic nutrition for health and at the same time reducing disease risk.