return to itm online


The naming of foreign herbs is always a problem, but it is particularly difficult in the case of India, which has several dozen language groups. As an example, Terminalia chebula, one of the most commonly used ingredients in Ayurvedic formulas, has the following names, amongst many others: pathya (Sanskrit), harara (Hindi), kadookai (Tamil) and chebulic myrobalans (English).

Ayurvedic specialist Robert Svoboda has proposed that the Sanskrit names be adopted for use in the West, since Sanskrit is the formal classical language of India. However, few books written for Western readers present this terminology. Universal Medicaments relies on the Indian common names that are prevalent in Bombay (Nagpur is nearby), one of India's largest cities and a center for publication of Ayurvedic literature. ITM has adopted a common naming system as follows:

  1. If a well-established common name already exists, this will be retained as the common name: examples are garlic, cumin, and ginger. Generally, this will apply only if the plant part used is the same as in general use. In two cases, the Ayurvedic name has become well known in the West and is adopted as the common name: ashwaganda and neem.
  2. If a common name does not already exist, the genus name will be used: e.g., pluchea, picrorrhiza, embelica. In most cases, the genus name is used.
  3. If an herb comes from a genus for which several species are commonly used (but are not considered the same herb), then either the Indian name (typically, the Hindi name) or the species name will be used. In the case of two myrobalans fruits from Terminalia species, the species names chebula and belerica have been selected. These correspond with the longer common names chebulic myrobalans and beleric myrobalans.

For the presentation of herbs in the following section, the subject of each monograph has been arranged alphabetically according to the name adopted by ITM. To aid in identification, the commonly accepted botanical name for the herb is also provided. In the list of formula ingredients, both the Indian name and the common name are given.