ALOE VERA

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Taste (Rasa): Bitter
Energetics (Virya): Cooling
Doshic Effect: Balancing for Vata and Pitta

 

Benefits & Use: Applied locally, aloe vera gel calms common inflammatory skin conditions — minor burns, sunburn, cuts, scrapes — by reducing heat and moisturizes the skin. The gel also has antibacterial and antifungal qualities and increases blood flow to wounded areas. Ingested, aloe vera juice acts as a laxative stimulating the intestines and lining the gut wall. It is used for anemia, fever, gynecological conditions, loss of appetite, abdominal colic, among other diseases.

Additional Uses: Eye makeup remover; shaving cream; treatment for puffy eyes; moisturizer for dry cracked heels; organic hand sanitizer

In the Kitchen: Aloe vera extract (juice) has a long history of being used as a health tonic and digestive aid in many indigenous cultures. Though it has a somewhat bitter flavour, it easily blends into smoothies, juicing recipes and salad dressings, just to name a few.

 

AMLA (AMALAKI)

Taste (Rasa): Sour
Energetics (Virya): Cooling
Doshic Effects: Balancing for all three doshas

Benefits & Use: Nutritive to all bodily tissues, amla (Indian gooseberry) is both rejuvenating and nourishing. It is soothing for the the digestive system reducing hyperacidity as well as acid reflux, ulcers and liver diseases. High in Vitamin-C, it regulates free radicals, promotes healthy hair, strengthens eyes, and acts an as antioxidant. As one of the key ingredients in Triphala, amla also nourishes the nervous system, regulates elimination, strengthens immunity, and enhance food absorption.

Additional Uses: Menstrual cramps; oral health; acne; hyperpigmentation; scalp cleanser

In the Kitchen: In addition to Amla juice (recipe below), Amla chutney is a flavorful way to get the health benefits of amla. The chutney can add a spicy kick to steamed vegetables and rice and is available at most Indian stores. Note: avoid brands with excessive sugar, salt, preservatives or flavor enhancers.

Recipe: Amla-Ginger juice

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh Amla (Indian Gooseberry)
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger
  • 2 tb honey or alternative sweetener
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • pinch of cardamom powder (optional)

Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients in a blender adding a ½ cup water to get smooth consistency. Once the ingredients are blended together, add some more water to thin out the puree.
  • Strain the smoothie using a fine mesh strainer into a jug and discard the remaining pulp.
  • Adjust the salt and honey to suit your taste.

ANISE

Taste (Rasa): Bitter, Pungent
Energetics (Virya): Heating
Doshic Effects: Pacifying for Vata and Kapha

Benefits & Use: Anise seed, taken as a tea, is an excellent remedy for asthma and bronchial cough. It is also healing for the digestive system, which is why several cultures make anise flavored liqueurs to ingest with meals; the essential oil within the seed acts as an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic agent, removing gas and uncomfortable digestive pains like flatulence, bloating, colicky stomach pain, nausea, and indigestion. In fact, in India and Pakistan dried anise seeds are chewed after meals to refresh the breath post-meal and aid in digestion.

Additional Uses: Enhance lactation; relieve insomnia; sooth constipation; remove head lice; natural pain relief

In the Kitchen: Anise can be used whole or ground. When whole it is usually is added to liquids for a slow simmer or braise and removed from the dish before serving. Ground anise is more versatile. It’s also more potent and should be added with care. And like all whole spices, it’s best when ground just before using.

ASAFOETIDA (Hing)


Taste (Rasa): Pungent
Energetics (Virya): Heating
Doshic Effects: Balancing Vata and Kapha

Benefits & Use: This potent-smelling spice is commonly used in Persian and Indian cooking for flavoring, food preservation and fragrance. From a nutritional perspective, asafetida provides calcium, phosphorous, iron, niacin, carotene and riboflavin to our diets. It has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-flatulent properties that help alleviate problems like indigestion, upset stomach, intestinal gas, intestinal worms, flatulence and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It also acts as a respiratory stimulant, which is very useful in relieving chest congestion and releasing phlegm (see recipe below). Asafetida boosts progesterone secretion and promotes smooth blood flow, and thus provides relief from irregular menstruation and cramping.

Additional Uses: Antiseptic; relief for toothache and headache; worm repellent; reduces fine lines, wrinkles, age spots

In the Kitchen: Asafoetida is commonly used in Indian savory dishes, often to add a more full flavor by mimicking the taste of onions, garlic and egg. While on its own it’s smell can be overpowering and somewhat unpleasant, this dissipates when introduced to hot oil or butter.  Asafoetida compliments most commonly-used Indian vegetables: potatoes, onions, cauliflower, peas, and quick-cooking greens and is best used as a background note for other complimentary spices, like cumin, mustard seeds, dried chiles, curry leaves, ginger, and garlic. It is available at any Indian grocery and is generally sold pre-ground. A pinch or two per dish is sufficient so the smallest container goes a long way. Note: Keep it very well sealed jar lest your whole cabinet smell!

Recipe: Asafoetida-Ginger Tea (Respiratory Relief)

  • In a glass of warm water, mix together one-half teaspoon of both asafetida powder and dry ginger powder with two tablespoons of honey.
  • Have this mixture at least three times a day for relief from a dry cough, whooping cough, bronchitis and asthma.

ASHWAGANDHA

Taste (Rasa): Sweet, Bitter, Astringent
Energetics (Virya): Heating
Doshic Effects: Decreases Vata and Kapha

Benefits & Use: Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda and has been used for over 3,000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels and improve concentration. In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” indicating that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion, and has traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness. It has been revered over time for its dual capacity to simultaneously energize and calm. Stress can cause fatigue, often manifesting as “hyper” signs like agitation and difficulty sleeping. By providing a nourishing, energizing effect, Ashwagandha supports a healthy nervous system reducing cortisol levels and allowing for a calming effect.

Additional Uses: Aphrodisiac; joint health; blood sugar; increased libido; memory

In the Kitchen: Ashwagandha is typically ingested in capsule or powder form. The typical recommended dose for capsules is 600 to 1,000 mg. twice daily. For people who suffer from insomnia and anxiety, having a cup of hot milk that contains a teaspoon of powdered Ashwagandha before bedtime is beneficial (see recipe below).

Recipe: Botanical Bedtime Milk

Ingredients:

  • 2 tb chamomile flowers
  • 2 tb skullcap
  • 2 ts lemon balm
  • 1 tsp rose petals
  • ½ cup almonds
  • 1 quart herbal tea
  • 1 tb ashwagandha powder
  • ⅛ tsp cardamom powder
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • - ⅛ tsp ginger powder
  • 1-2 tsp raw honey
  • ½ tb ghee (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Soak ¼ cup of almonds in water overnight or for several hours.

  2. Infuse the chamomile, skullcap, lemon balm and rose petals into a quart of hot water, allowing it to steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain and let cool.

  3. Strain and rinse the almonds and blend them, with skins on, in a high speed blender with the quart of herbal tea.

  4. Blend until smooth and strain milk using a sieve or nut milk bag.

  5. Blend the milk with ashwagandha, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and raw honey

  6. Warm the milk to desired temperature on a low flame.

  7. Add in ghee (optional).

  8. Serve in your favorite mug and enjoy 2-3 hours before bed.

 

BASIL

Taste (Rasa): Sweet, Pungent, Bitter
Energetics (Virya): Heating
Doshic Effects: Balances Vata and Kapha

 

Benefits & Use: In addition to being a rich source of vitamin K, beta carotene, and iron, this plant is known to harness anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. The majority of the great benefits of basil can be attributed to its volatile oils and flavonoids – powerful, plant-based antioxidants that reduce inflammation, help fight aging, and promote healthy arteries. It also increases immune function, detoxifies the blood, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Additional Uses: Stomach cramps; nausea; fever; headaches; uterine cramping; cough

In the Kitchen: The easiest way to use basil is to eat it. It’s delicious and has a sort of spicy-sweet licorice flavor. While sweet basil is most often included in cooked meals, it’s more beneficial to health when eaten  raw, though combining it with other foods won’t lessen its impact.

BLACK PEPPER

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Taste (Rasa): Pungent
Energetics (Virya): Heating
Doshic Effects: Pacifying for Vata and Kapha

Benefits & Use:  Black pepper stimulates the taste buds altering the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion. (Hydrochloric acid is necessary for the digestion of proteins and other food components in the stomach. When the body's production of hydrochloric acid is insufficient, food may sit in the stomach for an extended period of time, leading to heartburn or indigestion, or it may pass into the intestines, where it can be used as a food source for unfriendly gut bacteria.) Because black pepper is a carminative (a substance that helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas) it helps prevent constipation, colic, and distension. When added to a person’s diet, black pepper promotes sweating and urination further removing toxins from the body. In Ayurvedic practices, pepper is added to tonics for colds and coughs. Pepper also provides relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion. It has an expectorant property that helps to break up the mucus and phlegm depositions in the respiratory tract, and its natural irritant quality helps you to expel these loosened material through the act of sneezing or coughing, which eliminates the material from the body and helps you to heal from whatever infection or illness caused the deposition in the first place.

Additional Uses: Earaches; insomnia; joint pain; tooth decay

In the Kitchen: In ancient times, black pepper held such high prestige that it was not only used as a seasoning but as a currency and a sacred offering. Nowadays it's readily available whole, crushed, and ground into powder and used in nearly every cuisine around the world.  To ensure the best flavor and healing benefits, buy whole peppercorns and grind them in a mill just before adding to food. As this spice loses its flavor and aroma if cooked for too long, adding at the end of food preparation helps  preserve the flavor.

CARDAMOM

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Taste (Rasa): Sweet; Pungent
Energetics (Virya): Heating
Doshic Effects: Balancing for all three doshas

Benefits & Use: Cardamom is related to ginger and can be used in much the same way to counteract digestive problems. Part of the reason cardamom is such a good digestive aid and detoxifier is thanks to the diuretic properties. It helps clean out the urinary tract, bladder, and kidneys, removing waste, salt, excess water, toxins, and combating infections too. As a diuretic and fiber rich spice, cardamom also prevents blood clots and significantly lowers blood pressure.

Additional Uses: Reduce kidney & gall stones; mouth ulcers; hiccups; gum infections; antidote for poison and venom; breath freshener

In the Kitchen: Whole cardamom pods are more fragrant and medicinal than ground ones. Look for small football shaped pods that have a green tint and smell like a combination of pine and flowers. If ground cardamom is needed, remove and grind the seeds from a whole pod with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Note: ground cardamom loses its flavor rapidly while the whole pod stays potent for a year or longer.

Recipe: Cardamom Oatmeal Cookies