I’ve been learning about lots of specific foods, including spices, lately in my Ayurvedic classes this semester. I’m amazed at how spices can be used like medicine- to help balance your body and mind, and help rectify a lot of bodily imbalances that can deplete beauty when used properly.
While herbs have to be sourced or prescribed so you know the right combinations to take, spices are easily found on the shelf at your local grocery! They are inexpensive (most of these go for a few bucks or so) and available to all of us (especially with the advent of the Internet, in case you have an issue finding some of these organic in your area).
A ginger and turmeric purveyor at a local market in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
In my Ayurvedic program I’m also learning Sanskrit, and am flipping flashcards all the time, high school style :). I like using the traditional Sanskrit terms when I talk about these spices and their benefits, to stay connected to the source. I hope you appreciate it also!
For instance, many of these spices have the ability to produce Deepana, which in Sanskrit means normalizing metabolic activity and promoting digestion. These qualities are key for helping you metabolize and use beauty nutrients and stay slim and toned-looking.
Krumighna is the Sanskrit term referring to a food’s ability to help eliminate parasites, which is also key as parasites can eat up precious beautify nutrients from within your system. (sneaky little guys!)
Shoolaghna means a food can help pacify pain, and Vataghna refers to the quality of helping to eliminate gas, which is also of course a sign of indigestion and is beauty-busting, especially when chronic.
With some ginger plants in a beautiful garden in Sri Lanka recently.
Let’s explore some of these top, easy to find and inexpensive spices, and what you can do with them!
Remember- you don’t need large quantities of these spices to gain the benefits. A few pinches or around ½ tsp. or so will suffice!
1. Jeeraka: Cumin
Deepana: Normalizes metabolic activity
Paachana:Digests aama or toxicity (which is a primary contributor to aging)
Graahi – helps absorb nutrition
*Cumin is also believed to be particularly great for women’s health, especially for breast and uterus health, healthy lactation and post-partum care.
How to use: You can source the cumin seeds whole as well as cumin powder. If you heat up a little coconut oil, you can sauté the cumin seeds for a few moments, before adding in some shredded cabbage or your other favorite veggie. You can add cumin powder to stir-fries, soups…and check out my Raw Gorilla Taco recipe, which calls for cumin!
2. Maricha : black pepper
Prana enters through the breath and food- and black pepper is believed in Ayurveda to help clear out both passages for prana to flow more efficiently.
Kaasahara: reduces cough (as well as congestion and colds)
Shwaasa: clear air passages
Black pepper has the quality of Krumighna, or the ability to help clear parasites, as well as diarrhea and constipation due to bowel obstruction. Backed up bowels flood your body with waste (that needs to be moved out constantly just like your kitchen garbage!) and are a huge contributor to accelerated aging and the depletion of beauty.
How to use: It’s kind of a pain I know, but it’s considered ideal to source the black pepper whole (in their little ball shapes!) and crush them fresh in a mortar and pestle right before using to preserve their health-giving qualities in their natural oils (which can oxidize when stored pre-ground). Add to raw salads, even fresh tea, baked or steamed veggies, salad dressings, just about anything, especially if you are feeling congested or backed up!
3. Shatapushpa: Fennel seeds
Jataragni, Deepana:rectifies digestion and metabolic activity
Normalizes Pitta: considered cooling, so great for indigestion and acid reflux
Increases agni (digestion) without being irritating
How to Use: Crush the fennel seeds in your mortar and pestle (if you are like huh? Then you might want to go down to your local Chinatown – where I got mine in London- or online and order a simple but strong mortar and pestle for under $30 or so. They are so great for using fresh spices and you’ll have it for years to come) and add to hot water for a cooling tea, along with lemon and ginger. You can also add fennel seeds to coconut oil and cook for a moment before adding onions and garlic when stir-frying, or into lentil or bean dishes.
4. Ardraka/Shunti: Ginger
Paachana: Clears aama or toxicity. Ayurveda also backs up what I wrote about in The Beauty Detox Solution as what I refer to as “intestinal sludge” as being a primary cause of aging and weight gain. Ginger is thankfully good for clearing sludge/aama out!
Calms digestive system, and is believed to be great for the respiratory and musculoskeletal systems, as well as post-partum care.
Deepana: Normalizes metabolic activity
Increases the 13 channels of agni, or the different types of digestion in the body.
How to use: Make Detox Tea of course, a Beauty Detox beloved recipe classic! Also add to soups and stews, and use in salad dressings. Keep it around and be creative with it!
5. Dhanyaka: Coriander
Dahaprashamana: reduces burning sensation
Jwaraghna: fever reducing
Reduces pitta or fire-like qualities in the body- especial in gastrointestinal tract
Helps reduce feelings of internal burning, skin irritation and acidity
How to use: Source whole coriander seeds, and crush fresh before using in curries, pureed soups, even fresh tea.
6. Ela: Cardamom
Graahi: Helps absorb nutrition
Hridya: beneficial for the heart
Tridoshic: balances all 3 doshas, or elemental body constitutions.
Calms pitta in the GI and moves pitta from the body fluids and urine.