A Case of Mistaken Identity
Does manjistha cause cancer?
Recently, I have been getting many emails telling me it does. This is a case of mistaken identity, as plenty of science suggests the real manjistha does nothing of the sort; rather, it may actually help support healthy cell proliferation.2-9
The confusion has to do with web searches for manjistha that pull up information for a completely different herb than the herb that has been revered for thousands in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine called manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) or common names like manjith or Indian madder.7
NOTE: I have been using this herb almost four decades now and can say without a doubt, it would be hard to be in a successful clinical practice without it. There is plenty of research on the REAL manjistha2-9 that I will share in this article. But first, let me separate fact from fiction!
When you search manjistha on Google a WebMD listing pops up that lists some pretty severe side-effects for an herb called madder, NOT Manjistha or Rubia cordifolia. First rule in herbology: never use common names, only use botanical names. Botanical names are required because the same common names are commonly used for many completely different herbs.
From a WebMD search for Manjistha1
MADDER, OTHER NAME(S):
Bengal Madder, Dyer’s Madder, Fäberröte, Garança, Garance, Garance des Teinturiers, Granza, Indian Madder, Krapp, Robbia, Rouge des Teinturiers, Rubia, Rubia de Tintas, Rubia tinctorum, Rubiae Tinctorum Radix.
NOTICE: Rubia cordifolia (the only true identifier for manjistha) is not listed here!
Madder is considered LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. The chemicals in madder may cause cancer. Madder can also cause urine, saliva, perspiration, tears, and breast milk to turn red in color.
Special Precautions & Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It’s UNSAFE to take madder by mouth if you are pregnant. It might start your menstrual period and that could cause a miscarriage. Madder might also cause birth defects.
It’s also UNSAFE to use madder if you are breast-feeding. It might harm the nursing baby, and it might turn breast milk red.
These warnings, however, have nothing to do with Rubia cordifolia, the beloved Ayurvedic herb also known as manjistha. This is why it is so important to corroborate and carefully read health information on the internet. So, what are the benefits of the real manjistha?
The Science of Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) on Beauty
Manjistha has been used for thousands of years as an Ayurvedic beauty herb. It is classified as a “varnya” herb. The word varṇa in Sanskrit means “outward appearance, exterior form, figure, shape, colour,” “colour of the face,” “good colour or complexion, lustre, beauty.”9 Varṇa is not just color, but includes all parameters of healthy and radiant skin.10
Manjistha is one of the classic varnya herbs that supports a radiant glow and clear complexion. As a blood and lymph cleanser that is known for being kind and gentle it supports the healthy circulation of nutrients to the inner and outer skin and the effective removal of waste.
It has been used historically as a skin lightening agent. Manjistha has been shown to block the excessive production of the skin pigment melanin by 14% by inhibiting an skin darkening enzyme called tyrosinase.10
The enzyme tyrosinase responsible for darkening the skin has been found in unhealthy samples of the lymph in breast, lymph nodes and other imbalanced lymphatic tissues. Manjistha was shown to inhibit this enzyme by 14 percent suggesting it’s cleansing effect on the lymphatic system.11
Radiant Skin Starts in Digestion
In Ayurveda, the complexion of the skin on the face is a direct reflection of the health of the inner skin (epithelium) of the digestive tract. Manjistha has been shown to be gastroprotective, having a balancing effect on the lining of the stomach, governing the coordinated and healthy balance of protective mucus and harsh stomach acids during stressful events.12
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Manjistha + Immunity
Studies have shown that manjistha is a natural detoxifier, blood purified which both support a healthy immune system. One study found that manjistha supported the body’s natural immune response against certain viruses by supporting natural cell death or apoptosis.19
Manjistha + Herbal Intelligence
Manjistha in Sanskrit also termed as jingi (vibrational energy) which helps to reestablish the intelligence of the tissues. Certain herbs in Ayurveda have what is called herbal intelligence which suggest the herbs are not limited to a set of biochemical properties—they support the body’s natural healing response as needed or where needed in the body.20
Manjistha has a rare balance of soma (cooling) pitta reducing and agni (heat) kapha reducing properties. Agni allows the herb to penetrate into the cellular level of tissues and Soma helps to soak up the toxins and neutralize them. These properties make manjistha one of the most effective ama (toxin) reducing herbs in Ayurveda.20
Manjistha + Lymph
The lymphatic system is considered one of the seven body tissues and the first to become compromised under stress. There is a stark contrast between how little attention is given to the lymph in the west and how highly it is revered in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda has emphasized the importance of the lymphatic system for thousands of years, and also discussed the importance of detoxifying it. There are many strategies to keep the lymph healthy, but in the West, as a result of processed foods, environmental toxins, comfort foods and a lack of movement, the lymph can easily become congested.
Common Symptoms of Lymphatic Congestion
- Rings get tight on fingers
- Soreness and/or stiffness in the morning
- Feeling tired
- Bloating/Holding on to water
- Mild rash or skin irritation
- Weight gain and extra belly fat
- Brain fog
- Breast swelling or soreness with each cycle
- Dry skin
- Mild headaches
- Elevated histamine reaction to environmental irritants
- Occasional constipation, diarrhea, and/or mucus in the stool
Keep Your Body’s Drains Clean
The lymphatic system is like the drains in your house and the blood is like the faucets. If the drains are clogged in your sink or toilet, do you only clean out the faucets? I hope not! You would clean the drains. The biggest drain we have in the body is the lymphatic system, which can stay clogged for many years. Manjistha supports healthy immune function in the lymph and blood while also protecting against lead toxicity.16 This forces us to adapt to an environment of toxins that stresses and weakens immunity and other important pathways of detoxification.
Manjistha has been shown to significantly support the body’s response to radiation and is a natural chelator of metals in the body. Numerous studies suggest it supports a healthy inflammatory response and antioxidant activity. Both are major functions of the lymphatic system.15
As we all age, it is the ability to detoxify well and eliminate waste efficiently that will determine longevity and optimal health. When the lymph system becomes congested and loses its ability to remove waste well, the body will start to speak to us and the signs of circulatory congestion ensue. The key is to learn to listen while the body is still whispering, and not wait until it starts screaming.
Manjistha the Antioxidant
In one study, Manjistha was found to provide powerful liver support when the liver was exposed to higher and higher levels of toxic chemicals. One mechanism by which Manjistha was shown to do this was by boosting the production of glutathione levels.13, 14 In one study, Manjistha significantly enhanced levels of antioxidant markers such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione S-transferase. The study concluded that manjistha offered significant cardiovascular support when the heart was challenged by stress.18
Glutathione is perhaps the body’s most powerful antioxidant.13 In two other studies, Manjistha was found to be a potent antioxidant and, in one study it out-performed known antioxidants such as EDTA and vitamin E.13, 14 Remember, antioxidants generally work their magic within the lymphatic system. Manjistha was also shown to protect the good fats in the liver and lymph from lipid peroxidation, which is when good fats become bad fats within the body.13
Digestive Support + Balanced Mood
In a recent study of the primary ingredient of Manjistha, Rubia cordifolia, on alloxan-treated animals, the results showed significant support for several digestive and emotional functions of the body including:
- Healthy blood sugar17
- Stomach and small intestine reactions to acid stress17
- Everyday memory and cognition17
- Balanced stress hormone production while under duress17
- Stable mood with increased brain gamma-amino-n-butyric (GABA) levels17
So don’t get mistaken and ignore the amazing possibilities of the real manjistha! Consider the detoxifying, balancing, and restorative aspects of the real manjistha and try it for yourself. Take 1-2 capsules 2 times per day after meals or as directed by your health care professional.