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Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) is a perennial climber that is perhaps best known as a lymph mover and blood purifier. According to Ayurveda, the lymph (rasa) and blood (rakta) are the first tissues to become congested when the body is not detoxifng properly, and subsequently have a domino effect through the other five tissues of the body unless addressed properly in these early stages.

This model of the body tissues in succession makes it clear why Ayurveda places such great importance on keeping the lymph flowing at a good clip. The lymph is the seat of the immune system, and has a profound influence on the healthful appearance and function of the skin as the body’s largest detoxifying organ.

This vine-like plant “spreads” throughout the systems of the body, acting most powerfully on the arterial system, the circulatory system, and the skin. Its name literally means “bright red” and is a nod to its red roots, which according to Ayurveda is the lymph-moving and cleansing property of the plant. While other plants possessing a red root, including beets and Ceanothus americanus (also known as redroot), are also highly acclaimed as lymph movers, Manjistha is generally accepted as the most potent of the bunch.

From the point of view of the dhatus, Manjistha calms aggravated pitta and breaks up congested kapha. Many pitta-aggravated imbalances in the body, especially those of the blood, may be supported by Manjistha’s affinity for balancing pitta.

Because many menstrual problems are a result of congested lymph, Manjistha is superb support for the female reproductive system, especially during the child-birthing years.

Because of its effect on for the lymph, Manjistha is considered one of the best herbs for skin – supporting the skin in balancing everything from itchiness to rashes and breakouts. It is a celebrated overall rejuvenative for the complexion.

Manjistha, or Rubia Cordifolia to give it its scientific name, is a branched climber with small, greenish white flowers that are arranged in a cluster of round, fleshy, purple fruits. Its roots have a brownish red bark from which a red dye is obtained. This plant grows well in hilly districts, and the root has medicinal values.

Manjistha is considered to be one of the most valuable herbs in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest health care system that originated in India. The ancient physician and sage, Charaka has categorized the herb as varnya or that which improves the complexion, jvarahara, or that which reduces fever, and visaghna or that which detoxifies. It is also a well known rasayana – a rejuvenative.

Another great sage, Sushruta has mentioned Manjistha as pittasamsamana or that which pacifies the pitta doshas. Acccording to Ayurveda, it is only when the three life energies or doshas, that make up every individual’s constitution, are perfectly balanced can a person enjoy good health. These doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and any imbalance results in ill health. It is imbalances of the Pitta dosha that can be effectively countered by Manjistha.