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.

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.

 

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

CINNAMON

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

Benefits & Use: Cinnamon is a powerful spice that has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years. It is still widely used today both because of its benefits and its distinctly sweet, warming taste and ease of use in recipes. Packed with a variety of protective antioxidants that reduce free radical damage, cinnamon has an anti-inflammatory effects which helps lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, brain function decline, and more. Cinnamon also improves digestion and absorption, and promotes elimination.  It removes toxins from the body, and improves circulation by strengthening the heart and warming the kidneys. Additionally, as both an expectorant and a decongestant, cinnamon may be used in the treatment of respiratory and sinus congestion, bronchitis, colds, and the flu. Another health benefit of cinnamon is that it reduces several of the most common risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure. It helps lower blood sugar levels and also can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which is the vital hormone needed for keeping blood sugar levels balanced.

Additional Uses: Stimulates central nervous system; tooth decay; bone health; weight loss

In the Kitchen: Because of its naturally sweet taste, adding cinnamon to foods and recipes can help you cut down on the amount of sugar you normally use. A little bit o goes a long way; as little as 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon daily can have positive effects on blood sugar levels, digestion, and immunity. Note: Not all cinnamons were created equal. Only cinnamomum verum provides the health benefits described here. Others, like cinnamomum cassia, or Chinese cinnamon don’t have enough active ingredient to reap the benefits of use.

CORIANDER (Cilantro)

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Taste (Rasa): Bitter, Astringent
Energetics (Virya): Heating
Doshic Effects: Balancing for all three doshas

Benefits & Use: Coriander has been used for thousands of years to treat digestive upset, gas, fungal and bacterial infections, and to prevent food poisoning. Also called cilantro, this herb still is used throughout the world to settle nauseous tummies, relieve indigestion and heartburn, and ease stomach cramps. It aids in efficient digestion by helping to produce digestive enzymes that aid in the breakdown of foods. Additionally, coriander’s antibacterial compounds help to keep the urinary tract healthy, and free from unhealthy bacteria in an alkaline environment. It’s also been shown to can help to lower blood sugar, and even kill parasites in the digestive tract.

Additional Uses: Soothes skin irritation, mouth ulcers, and conjunctivitis; regulates menstrual function; detoxifies heavy metals and food poisoning; natural deodorant

 

In the Kitchen: The best thing about cilantro may just be how easy it is to add to your diet. If you are looking for a detoxing effect from heavy metals or way to cool your digestive system, it is best to use a more concentrated form of cilantro such as a concentrated juice or tincture.

 

 

Recipe: Coriander-Mint Lemonade

 

Instructions:

  • Thoroughly wash coriander leaves and mint leaves.
  • Add coriander leaves, mint leaves, ginger and 2 cups of water into a blender and blend well.
  • Squeeze lemon juice into the drink and strain.
  • Add amchoor powder and optional sweetener. Stir well.

Ingredients:

  • ½ bunch coriander leaves
  • ½ bunch mint leaves
  • ½ tsp amchoor powder
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1 inch ginger root
  • natural sweetener to taste

FENNEL SEED

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Taste (Rasa): Sweet, Bitter
Energetics (Virya): Cooling
Doshic Effects: Balancing for Vata and Pitta

Benefits & Use: Fennel seed is used for various digestive problems including heartburn, intestinal gas, bloating, loss of appetite, and colic. It is also used for upper respiratory tract infections, coughs and bronchitis as it contains creosol and alpha-pinene, chemicals that help to loosen congestion and make coughs more productive. For women, fennel increases the flow of breast milk, promotes menstruation, eases the birthing process, and increases sex drive. Additionally, fennel water alleviates colic pain and indigestion in newborns.

Additional Uses: Aperitif; mental focus; acidity; water retention

In the Kitchen: Fennel seed can be used whole or ground up, and are used in both sweet and savory recipes. When choosing to use them whole, be sure to crack the seeds slightly using the heel of a chef's knife or bottom of a frying pan to release the fragrant oils. Fennel seed is also a common ingredient in loose tea blends (like this calming tea) and can also be steeped in hot water and enjoyed on its own.

 

Recipe: After-Dinner Belly Soothing Tea

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp dried chamomile flowers
  • 1 tsp dried peppermint leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried cut ginger pieces (not ground)
  • 8 oz. boiling water
  • honey to taste (optional)

Instructions:

Combine the chamomile, fennel, ginger, and peppermint in a tea pot or mug. Pour boiling water over. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain tea, then sweeten with honey, if desired.

 

GARLIC

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

 

Benefits & Use: Intensely aromatic and flavorful, garlic is used in virtually every cuisine in the world. When eaten raw, it has a powerful, pungent flavor to match its mighty benefits. It is particularly high in a certain sulfur compound, alliin, that is believed to be responsible for its scent and taste, as well as its positive effects on health. (Garlic benefits rank only second to turmeric benefits in the amount of research backing this superfood.) Eating garlic regularly has been linked to reducing or even helping to prevent four of the major causes of death worldwide, including heart disease, stroke, cancer and infections. It is also a known blood cleanser, aiding in detoxification and immunity.

Additional Uses: A an external application, garlic paste improves blood circulation and relieves pain, which is excellent for  joint inflammation and stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and sciatica.

In the Kitchen: Garlic is consumed in both raw and cooked forms. When enjoying it raw, be sure to thoroughly chew the garlic to crush the plants cells and release the alliinase enzymes. If going with the cooked route, I recommend finely chopping or mincing the garlic, crushing far more plant cells and again, releasing the beneficial alliinase enzymes. High heat for long period of time will risk damaging these nutrients as well as make the garlic bitter so expose garlic to heat for as little time as possible (5-15 minutes).

 

Recipe: Tuscan White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb dry Cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 2 heads of garlic, peeled
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 sage leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tb chicken bouillon or cube (or substitute vegetable bouillon)
  • sea salt and white pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Place beans, 6 cloves of the garlic, water and a few sage leaves in the crock pot; cover and set to HIGH for 4 hours, or until beans are soft. Don’t add salt.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°. Place remaining garlic cloves in the center of a 7×7 inch square of aluminum foil. Cover garlic with olive oil and a little salt. Seal aluminum tightly and place in the oven 25-30 minutes, until garlic is soft and golden. Remove from oven and set aside until the beans are done.
  • When the beans are soft, add the bouillon and mix well until dissolved.
  • Carefully transfer some of the beans and liquid along with the roasted garlic to the blender.
  • Blend until smooth and pour it back into the crock pot. Repeat with the remaining beans until you get the texture you desire. You can also use an immersion blender if you have one.
  • Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
  • Serve with fresh sage and white pepper. Add some whole roasted garlic cloves on top (optional).