Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is one of Ayurveda’s quintessential herbs for the heart. Along with strengthening and toning the physical muscle of the heart, this rose-colored tree bark is also known to nourish and uplift the energetic and emotional aspects of the heart, bolstering an inner sense of courage, resiliency, and love.
Ayurveda teaches us that vibrant heart health is not only a matter of physiology, but depends just as much on the cultivation of mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Herbal allies can offer powerful support in all of these realms, and arjuna may just be the heart’s herbal hero.
Characteristics of the Arjuna Tree
Arjuna, also known as arjun, is a majestic, deciduous tree that can reach heights up to 100 feet and has been valued for its wood and therapeutic properties for generations. It grows throughout the wet, marshy, sub-Himalayan regions of India and Sri Lanka, producing clusters of small white or yellow flowers amid its cone-shaped leaves.1
The most sought-after part of the tree is its red inner bark, which is respected as a tonic for the heart and is considered similar to hawthorn in European herbalism.2 The thick, white-to-pinkish-gray outer bark molts naturally once a year and is harvested when the trees are mature. Giving the tree time to recover and regrow its bark is a key component to sustainable harvesting.
Arjuna Uses and Benefits
Arjuna is best known as one of the foremost Ayurvedic herbs for supporting all areas of heart health. Here are a few of arjuna’s remarkable benefits when it comes to promoting cardiovascular wellness:
Strong heart function and healthy circulation. Arjuna strengthens and tones the circulatory system, rejuvenates the soft tissues, and promotes proper function of the heart muscle.6
Healthy flow of blood. Arjuna’s properties support the maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range, balanced blood pressure, and proper coagulation in the blood.
Emotional wellness. Arjuna has also been traditionally used to support the emotional heart, promoting balance for those experiencing grief and sadness. It is said to give courage, strengthen the will, and fortify the heart to accomplish our goals.7 Furthermore, arjuna has been said to act energetically on the heart chakra, increasing prema bhakti (love and devotion).8
Arjuna’s traditional uses and noted benefits extend beyond heart health alone, providing the following areas of support throughout the body:
Balanced lungs. With its affinity for the chest, arjuna can balance excess kapha and pitta in the lungs for clear, calm breathing.9
Healthy liver and skin. Arjuna helps reduce excess pitta in the liver and skin, supporting proper liver function and a healthy, clear complexion.10
Comfortable digestion. When taken as a tea, arjuna has been used to support healthy digestion.11
Healthy reproductive tissues. Arjuna’s astringency can support healthy and balanced reproductive tissue, known in Ayurveda as shukra dhatu.12
Arjuna in Ayurveda
Ayurveda’s understanding of arjuna’s qualities matches beautifully with the way in which arjuna supports the physiology.
Arjuna is said to have a cooling virya (action), an astringent, bitter, and slightly pungent rasa (taste), and a pungent vipaka (post-digestive effect).
Looking at its benefits, it may be no surprise to learn that Ayurveda considers arjuna to be tridoshic. It is especially balancing to both pitta and kapha, and it can provoke vata if used in excess.
Arjuna also works in a number of dhatus, or tissue layers, including rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), asthi (bone), and shukra (reproductive), as well as two srotas, or channels—the circulatory and reproductive channels.