What is Arjuna?
We have recently published a number of articles about several herbs that may not be very well-known in the West but have a long history of use in Asian medicine and Ayurveda in particular. Today, I am going to tell you about another herbal remedy that has been widely used in India called arjuna.
Arjuna known scientifically as Terminalia arjuna is a fairly tall plant with cone-shaped leaves and yellow flowers. The bark of this evergreen has traditionally been used in Ayurveda for a wide variety of ailments and is especially well-known for its heart health benefits.
A number of human studies have been conducted to examine the potential benefits of arjuna bark especially with regard to cardiovascular health. These studies have found that can benefit the heart and improve cardiac function with no risk of toxicity when taken at the appropriate dose.
Medicinal Properties of Arjuna Bark
Arjuna bark contains various phenolic compounds including terminic acid and arjunolic acid. It also contains various tannins, glycosides, and flavones which have exhibited various health properties.
Arjuna bark has a number of therapeutic properties including antioxidant, cardio-protective, antihypertensive and antibacterial properties. These properties give arjuna bark a wide range of potential applications when it comes to your health.
1) Heart Health
Arjuna has been used in the Indian system of Aurveda to treat various heart issues for a very long time and there is evidence from modern research that these traditional uses are valid. The vast majority of studies done into the benefits of arjuna bark have been related to cardiovascular health. Many of the clinical trials done to date have involved small sample sizes but the results are nonetheless very promising.
Studies indicate that taking 500 mg of the herb at eight-hour intervals can reduce chest pain and angina as well as increasing the exercise capacity of people with preexisting heart disease. Studies have even demonstrated that arjuna herb has effects that compare favorably with a commonly prescribed drug for angina.
In vitro studies show that arjuna extract had cardiotonic effects on a par with certain heart medications. (1) Animal studies have also revealed that arjuna bark can could improve heart rate and blood pressure in diabetic rats. (2)
Another animal study found that arjuna herb extract had a significant positive effect on cholesterol levels. Researchers found that it works by excreting bile acids more rapidly leading to the liver absorbing cholesterol more efficiently. (3)
A number of clinical trials have also found that arjuna bark extract had a positive effect on heart health. Most of the studies to date have focused on arjuna’s effects for people with myorcardial infarction. The studies done to date show that arjuna can have a positive effect on patients with angina or ischaemic cardiomyopathy following a heart attack. (4)
2) Improved Physical Performance
Arjuna may also help boost physical performance both in people with heart problems and healthy adults.
One study published in 2010 was conducted to analyze the effects of arjuna and ashwagandah in healthy young adults. The participants were separated into groups and either treated with a 500 mg dose of arjuna extract or a placebo. After 8 weeks, the researchers noted that the maximum oxygen consumption level was increased as well as maximum power output.
The same study also found that arjuna supplementation led to a decrease in blood pressure. Combining the arjuna extract with ashwagandha also led to significant improvements in oxygen capacity and output.
According to in vitro studies, arjuna bark extract may be effective against cancer. Laboratory studies have found that the herb could cause the programmed death of cancer cells by apoptosis. (6)
It is possible that arjuna could play a role in a future treatment for cancer but studies are at a very early stage and more are needed before its ability to treat cancer is confirmed.
4) Antioxidant Properties
Studies have demonstrated that arjuna bark extract has powerful antioxidant activities. Antioxidants help to protect the cells and the body from the harmful damage caused by free radicals. Given that we are surrounded by free radicals in the environment and our diets, it is essential that we get as many antioxidants into our system as possible.
Not only do antioxidants help protect the body from disease but they can also have a revitalizing effect on your appearance. Getting plenty of antioxidants into your body from dietary or supplemental sources can reverse or at least delay many of the signs of aging including wrinkles and other skin blemishes.
5) Antibacterial Activities
There is at least some evidence that arjuna bark may be effective against certain bacterial infections but it must be noted that not a great deal of research has been conducted so far.
One study published back in 2008 found that arjunetin, which is a compound found in arjuna bark, possessed significant antibacterial properties making it useful against a range of bacterial infections. The study found that it was effective against Staphylococcus epidermidis at least in the laboratory.
More research is definitely needed before we can say for sure whether arjuna bark can be used as an antibacterial agent but the early signs appear promising.
6) Skin Health
Studies show that arjuna bark extract has multiple uses in terms of skin care and health. We have already mentioned that arjuna possesses excellent antioxidant properties which can help reverse the signs of aging like tired, sagging skin and wrinkles. According to recent research, arjuna is especially helpful for people with dry and aged skin.
One study published in 2014 found that Pentacyclic triterpenoids found in arjuna bark were effective in improving the skin’s health and elasticity. They also found that applying arjuna bark extract topically helped hydrate dry skin. The researches concluded that arjuna bark extract helped boost elasticity, improve moisture and reduce scaling. (7)
How to Take Arjuna
- Arjuna bark extract is most commonly taken in capsule form and the following dosages have been used in clinical studies.
- To treat chest pain following a heart attack 500 mg of arjuna bark can be used every 8 hours each day.
- The same amount has been used in scientific studies for congestive heart disease.
Side Effects and Precautions
- According to the data we have from scientific studies, arjuna bark supplements are likely safe if they are taken orally for up to 3 months.
- You should however always use them under medical supervision especially if you are recovering from a heart attack or have a preexisting heart condition.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should stay on the side of caution and avoid using arjuna. Not enough is known about the herb’s potential effects on the pregnancy and the unborn child.
- Arjuna may reduce blood glucose levels so people with diabetes may need to adjust their prescription medication. Please consult your doctor if you are taking diabetic medication and considering taking arjuna extract.
- Arjuna may also interfere with blood sugar levels during surgery. You are advised to stop taking the supplement in the two weeks prior to any scheduled surgeries.
Have you ever used arjuna bark extract for any health condition? What was your experience with it and would you recommend it to others.? Please let us know in the comments section below. We would be delighted to hear from you.