(As Published in Common Ground Magazine)
If you have resolved to introduce well-being into your being through food, then perhaps it is time to also gift yourself with the wisdom of spices from the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda. Fortunately, Ayurveda has some simple tips that make it easy to incorporate these spices into your daily life without having to turn your pantry and your partner inside out. Ayurveda’s recommendations come from a place of ease and reassurance, and for centuries, countless people in India, and more recently, in every corner of the world, have attested to the efficacy of these spices and their medicinal, as well as miraculous benefits.
Ayurvedic Spices to Heal and Nourish
Add a dash of moon, a pinch of sun, shake it with vigor, and stir in love.
Ayurvedic spices are natural medicines. When used in moderation, on a regular basis, in our cooking, they keep us happy and healthy. Above all, they keep our digestive fire burning brightly, so that parasites, toxins, and our food excesses get the message to burn up and go away.
Spices are the key to digestion, tissue nourishment, and cleansing of the body. Food needs to be properly spiced for good digestion and metabolism.
Get whole seeds, leaves, and roots (if you can) rather than powders sealed in plastic bottles and boxes. Expose them to the sun before you store them (in glass), and grind them by hand each time you use them. Whole herbs hold onto their healing properties much longer.
Sauté seed spices in oil or clarified butter to bring out their flavor and biological activity. You can add a little bit of the spices you have sautéed directly to the liquid portion of your soup or curry to bring out the water-soluble properties of the spice. Buy only small amounts of spices at a time, as they have a shelf life of less than three months.
Adding Ayurvedic spices to your daily food is a great way to prevent disease and optimize health. Here are some popular Ayurvedic spices to get you started:
Ginger Powder (Shunthi)
Add powdered dry ginger to food while cooking, or drink as a warm tea.
Benefits: Prevents loose or multiple stools, nausea, flatulence, and stomachache; enhances the digestive fire; prevents toxin and mucus build-up, colds, allergies, and hemorrhoids; and acts as a general tonic during postpartum weakness.
Coriander (Dhaniya) Seeds
Can be used to make coriander tea. Freshly ground seeds can be added while cooking, and fresh leaves can be used for garnish.
Benefits: Stimulates digestion, without causing overheating. Its regular consumption ensures proper elimination and detoxification, alleviates excessive thirst, acts as a general body tonic, prevents any burning sensation during urination, and counteracts hyperacidity.
Use the whole seeds in cooking, boiling, or stir-frying, or dry roast lightly and then grind into powder. For indigestion, it can also be drunk as a warm tea.
Benefits: Cumin is added to almost every Ayurveda-inspired meal; it prevents indigestion and pain in abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea, loose stool, flatulence, and even vomiting. It is also useful for irritable bowels and scanty or irregular periods.
This legendary herb is used raw as well as cooked. For obesity, swallow a small amount (1⁄4 tsp.) with warm water. For coughs and colds, boil in cow’s milk along with black pepper. Mix with water and gargle for sore throats.
Benefits: Acts as an appetizer by imparting a pleasant color to Ayurvedic food. It is antitoxic, antiseptic, and a blood and skin purifier; makes the body inhospitable to parasites; enhances complexion; and boosts immunity.
Boil in milk for the common cold.
Benefits: Improves appetite and digestion, enhances the quality of blood tissue and complexion, and acts as an aphrodisiac.
And that’s not all. Ayurveda’s science of foods recommends discarding one-size-fits- all diet recommendations and adapting customized diet solutions that complement your unique Ayurveda mind-body type—which can be assessed by taking quizzes in Ayurveda books or paying a visit to an Ayurvedic consultant. Here are more tips:
Incorporate all six tastes in your meals—sweet, salty, sour, astringent, bitter, and pungent—that help keep the digestive process regulated. Of course, the proportion of the different tastes depends on your unique mind-body type.
As much as possible, eat cooked foods, especially if your digestive activity is lethargic and your lifestyle sedentary. Cooked foods are easier to digest and transform into Ojas, a life-giving, disease-preventing force, quicker than raw foods that are often hard to break down.
Meals should be eaten while still warm or even hot, as the heat in the food will ignite the digestive fire and indirectly promote digestion.
Lastly, long before the world of cuisine and temperaments got divided into fast and slow, Ayurveda recommended taking adequate and attentive time for food procurement, processing, and cooking, imbuing it with our love and wholesome attention.
Ayurveda reminds us that our body is not a battleground but a field of healing potential in which the rare and potent—but mostly latent—gem of disease prevention, self- healing, and self-regeneration lies buried.
It is gently unearthed by feeding ourselves love through intelligent, alive, prana-filled, seasonally attuned, organic, wholesome, adequately spiced, and well-cooked foods. It is no wonder that in Ayurveda, such life- promoting food is called God—Annam Brahma.
With Love and Blessings,
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind Vedika Global, an online not-for-profit wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and forthcoming second book with Sounds True to be released in 2020, Sovereign Self. Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she holds live Global Satsangs once per month. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.