Known as a popular Indian medicinal plant, arjuna bark from the Terminalia tree is used in promoting the tone and function of the heart muscle, along with other potential health benefits. Keep reading to discover more benefits and uses of arjuna!
What is Arjuna?
There are three species of the Terminalia tree used in herbal formulations, including Terminalia arjuna, Terminalia bellerica, and Terminalia chebula. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on Terminalia arjuna. (1)
Terminalia arjuna – also called Arjuna, Indradru, Dhavala, Nadisarja, Kakubha, Veeravriksha, and Partha – is an evergreen, deciduous tree species in the Combretaceae family that has a smooth, pinkish gray bark and a wide canopy of broad, oval green leaves. It features fragrant, pale yellow flowers and large, woody fruit known as drupes with edible seeds. Its bark and fruit contain bioactive compounds and nutrients that are used in herbal medicine. However, the bark of the tree is the main medicinal part used for therapeutic purposes, such as supporting cardiovascular health and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels already in the normal range, among other uses. (2)
The Terminalia arjuna tree can grow 60 to 80 feet high in wet, marshy regions, especially along riverbanks, as it prefers humid, fertile soils. Arjuna is native to central India but also grows in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and other Asian countries. The lifespan of the tree is 50 years or older. (3)
Each spring, the arjuna bark molts off naturally. The bark is also repeatedly scrapped off during the winter from well-grown trees older than 10 years in spiral or vertical strips and then dried in well-ventilated shade and stored in boxes or polybags in dry and airy locations. Arjuna bark is commonly used as a decoction, extract, or powder for dietary supplements. (4, 5)
How Arjuna Works
Arjuna features bioactive compounds and important nutrients that are believed to have therapeutic benefits for heart health and other aspects of human health. Specifically, arjuna contains flavonoids and tannins (plant-based antioxidants), saponins, phytosterols, and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and copper. These compounds work together to help the body fight against inflammation, free radical damage, and bone loss, as well as support cardiovascular health and much more. (6, 7, 8) Of all the plant’s parts, arjuna stem bark seems to have the most pharmacological properties. It contains important active compound such as glycosides, flavonoids, and tannins, which help promote healthy heart function and heart muscle strength by protecting against DNA damage from toxins. (9)
A Brief History of Arjuna
Arjuna has been mentioned in ancient Indian medicinal texts, such as the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Astang Hridayam, for over 3,000 years, having been heavily used in the practice of Ayurveda – an ancient, East Indian, holistic approach to health care – as a cardiotonic (heart tonic) by promoting the tone and function of the heart muscle and its ability to pump blood throughout the body, among other uses. (10, 11)
According to renowned author Deepak Chopra, M.D., the co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, Ayurveda translates to the “science of life” (where “Ayur” means life and “Veda” means science or knowledge) in Sanskrit. As the world’s oldest healing tradition, with origins that can be traced back 5,000 years to the subcontinent of India, the guiding principles of Ayurveda are that the mind and the body are connected, and the mind has the power to heal and transform the body. (12, 13)
By focusing on the balance and harmony of an individual’s unique physical and emotional health (centering on the mind, body, and spirit), Ayurveda combines diet, meditation, physical activity, and herbal medicine to maintain optimal health. Ayurveda utilizes three mind-body archetypes known as doshas (energies) – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha – to create patient-specific treatment plans based on their individual physical and emotional characteristics. Each dosha has its own characteristics. When one of the three doshas is out of balance, health problems may arise in the body. (14, 15)
The 3 Doshas of Ayurveda
- Vata: Associated with bodily functions that control motion.
- Pitta: Associated with the body’s metabolic systems.
- Kapha: Associated with growth and development.
Ayurvedic principles teach that everyone has a bit of each of the three doshas within them, but one or two doshas are usually dominate and help to determine someone’s physiological and personality traits, as well as personal interests and preferences. (16) Chopra continues: As a “personalized approach to health, knowing your mind-body type allows you to make optimal choices about diet, exercise, supplements, and all other aspects of your lifestyle.” (17, 18)
Since the heart is the center of physiological and emotional processes in Ayurveda, it is central to good health. That’s where arjuna comes in. According to Ayurveda, arjuna has an astringent taste with cold energies as well as light, dry properties. It is believed to pacify the Kapha dosha (associated with obesity) and Pitta dosha, specifically. (19, 20) In Ayurvedic formulations, arjuna has been used to balance the three doshas and promote heart and blood vessel health. It has also been used to support respiratory and gastrointestinal health.
An Indian physician named Vagabhatta was one of the first advocates of arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) – specifically arjuna stem bark powder – to help treat heart conditions, during the 7th-century AD. In addition, an ancient physician known as Chakradatta also recommended an arjuna bark decoction with milk, ghee, or butter for patients. (21)
As for the other species of the Terminalia tree, Terminalia bellerica has been used in Ayurvedic formulations to support digestive function, respiratory health, liver function, to cleanse various infections, and to support healthy cholesterol levels already in the normal range. Terminalia chebula is also used to support cholesterol health, and it has also been used in Ayurveda to treat vaginal and mouth infections. (22)
Having been used for centuries in Ayurveda, arjuna is celebrated as an adaptogen, a plant that protects the body from the toxic effects of stress. It is sometimes used alongside ashwagandha, another adaptogen, to help to strengthen the heart. (23) Today, arjuna bark decoction is still used on the Indian subcontinent for hypertension, congestive heart failure, and other conditions. (24) Traditional healers throughout India have also used arjuna bark decoctions as an ulcer wash, to treat wounds, to help treat snake bites and scorpion stings, for headaches, and to treat blood in urine, while some tribes also chew the fresh bark and swallow the juice as an antacid. (25)
In Western medicine, scientists have been researching arjuna since the 1930s, but mixed results mean further studies are needed to confirm health claims. In the U.S., Ayurveda is considered a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). As such, arjuna is a medicinal herb used to help maintain balance and address certain disturbances in the body, such as heart conditions and blood pressure disorders as further outlined below. (26)
Potential Benefits of Arjuna
Top Arjuna Potential Health Benefits
- Supports Cardiovascular Health
- Helps Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure Already in the Normal Range
- Promotes Normal Urinary Function
- Acts as a Natural Skin Astringent
- Serves as a Salve for Wounds
Arjuna for Heart Health Support
Arjuna’s main potential health benefit is as a heart tonic for various cardiovascular conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, and heart failure – claims being tested within the fields of medicine and modern science due to arjuna’s natural flavonoids, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipid supportive effects. (27) According to the World Heart Federation, having high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood may lead to heart disease. (28) But arjuna is believed to have cardioprotective and cardio-strengthening properties that support a normal heartbeat and promote a strong heart muscle. (29)
In a study on patients with coronary heart disease, they showed an improvement in their lipid profiles after taking 1 g of arjuna bark powder twice daily with milk for 4 months. (30) In another study, patients with coronary artery disease took 500 mg of arjuna bark powder twice daily for 3 months and reported improvement in exercise tolerance and a reduction in the frequency of anginal attacks (tightness, pain, or discomfort in the chest attributed to heart disease). (31) A separate study indicated that Ayurvedic herbs (such as arjuna) had a favorable effect on arterial function and multiple risk factors in patients with established coronary heart disease. (32) In studies on rats, supplements of dried, powdered arjuna bark have been shown to provide antioxidants that help prevent oxidative stress to the heart. The bark extract also yielded protective effects against DNA damage and cardiotoxicity. (33)
Arjuna for Blood Pressure Support
In collaboration with overall heart health, arjuna is also believed to support healthy blood pressure levels already within the normal range. Blood pressure is the force that helps circulate blood, delivering oxygen and nutrients through arteries to tissues and organs throughout the body. (34) Small fluctuations of blood pressure are considered normal, but when this force changes dramatically and is too low or high, it is usually a sign of a health concern. Stress, anxiety, caffeine, alcohol, and smoking or tobacco use are just a few triggers that may cause blood pressure to spike. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, when it comes to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, as indicated below, it’s important to practice healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, adequate sleep and water intake, and taking nutritional supplements when needed to fill in any nutritional gaps. (35)
Blood Pressure Levels
- 119/79 mm Hg or lower is normal blood pressure
- 120 - 139 mm Hg for the top number, or between 80 - 89 for the bottom number is prehypertension (which may lead to high blood pressure if not controlled).
- 140/90 mm Hg or higher is high blood pressure (which can cause a stroke or heart attack, heart failure, or kidney failure.)
According to Ayurveda, Arjuna bark supplements may promote blood circulation to the heart tissue and support the strength of the heart so it can properly pump the blood. The phytochemicals in arjuna, such as tannins, saponins, and flavonoids, have antioxidant effects that help support blood pressure health. (36)
To keep blood pressure levels already within the normal range, studies show that taking 500 mg a day of an arjuna bark supplement may help provide everyday heart health support. According to one study, “Reductions in systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading) have been observed in humans with chronic heart disease who ingested 500 mg of Arjuna bark powder, aspirin, and nitrates orally three times daily. Oral doses as low as 90 mg/day have also been shown to be effective at reducing systolic blood pressure.” (37)
In another study on patients with hypertension, when they took 4 g of arjuna bark powder twice daily for 1 month, it helped improve their overall well-being and improved their systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number on a blood pressure reading). (38) According to results from similar studies, arjuna may improve cardiovascular endurance and lower systolic blood pressure. (39) Clinical experiments on animal test subjects have demonstrated that arjuna bark powder and extract reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, further clinical research is needed. (40)
Additional Potential Benefits of Arjuna
Arjuna is an astringent herb with natural antioxidant properties, which makes it potentially helpful with cleansing and supporting against infections of the urinary tract or the digestive tract. It also supports normal urination and provides healing support for the skin. (41) Some Ayurvedic research also indicates that arjuna may be helpful when used for bleeding disorders and bone fractures – all thanks to arjuna’s unique bioactive compounds. Arjuna is also used for its antioxidant properties to protect against stomach ulcers, to support liver and kidney health, and to promote anaerobic cardiovascular performance in healthy individuals. (42)
Final Thoughts on Arjuna
How to Buy Arjuna
When shopping for arjuna, it is important to look for organic arjuna bark powder or bark extract-derived dietary supplements from a trusted brand. When you shop for arjuna products with Natural Healthy Concepts, you’re ensured that the supplements have been vetted for high-quality ingredients and for safe manufacturing standards. Browse NHC’s selection of arjuna supplements today! (43)
Possible Arjuna Dosage & Possible Side Effects
Typically, arjuna is well tolerated by most people. However, as with other dietary supplements, there are possible side effects to using arjuna, such as interference with prescription medicines, as well as nausea, headaches, constipation, diarrhea, or a temporary temperature increase known as flushing. That’s why it’s important to consult with your health care provider before incorporating arjuna in your daily health routine. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take arjuna.
The most common internal supplement dosage recommendation is 500 mg, three times a day, separated by eight hours. However, always refer to the nutritional label on the supplement you are trying for the specific dose amount. Try arjuna and see if it makes a difference to your health!