Browsing articles in "Healthy Body"

Pitta Reducing Breathwork

Dec 15, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

Why this is great

Breathing exercises, or pranayama practices, are  are an instantaneous way to reduce doshic imbalance in the mind and nervous system. In addition to the short term effect of pranayama, there is also a longer term accumulative healing benefit.

Of course, you also increase prana (our animating life force) with all pranayama.

How to do it

With pranayama to reduce pitta, we want to:

1. decrease heat or intense energy
2. increase cooling or soft energy
3. increase grounding and calming energy

The left nostril is a cooling energetic channel, while the right nostril is a heating one.

Inhaling is to take in a certain type of energy, and exhaling is to release it.

Putting this information together, it’s easy to see that a practice of inhaling through the left nostril would increase cooling energy. Combining that with exhaling through the right nostril would also decrease heating energy. For all of you out there that have tried alternate nostril breath (anulom-vilom), this is a specialized form of that which reduces pitta. This is a pranayama where you are breathing in and out through your nose.

When using the mouth to breathe, breathing in through a rolled tongue (“sheetali” imagine making your tongue into a straw shape) is a cooling input. Exhaling with your tongue stretched towards your chin (“Lion’s breath”)is a release of heat.

If you want to have fun and use both the nose and mouth, you could inhale through the left nostril and use Lion’s breath to exhale and still achieve the same effect. (It’s a bit awkward and distracting I find)

Seventeen rounds (inhales and exhales) of the breath will attend to the main energetic channels (nadis) that help to soothe the mind.

Here’s a cute video of a teenager demonstrating sheetali. She’s not doing the exhale I described above, so it’s only an input of cooling energy in this video. Understandable, combining a cooling inhalation with a cooling exhalation is more powerful than one alone.

The best time to do this is:

1. on a regular basis in your morning routine (if you are pitta predominant, during pitta season, or if you have pitta imbalance)

2. whenever you feel the pitta emotions in the mind.

Ghee Recipe

Dec 15, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

This is a very simple process. Most people make ghee on the stovetop and this is likely how you will find it presented in most cookbooks. However, I much prefer the oven method. It requires less attention, and allows you to see the layers separating out.

Ingredients: 1 lb. Organic Unsalted Butter

STOVETOP METHOD

  1. Place butter in heavy, medium-sized pan and turn heat on to medium.
  2. You will start to hear a crackling sound coming from the pot as the water begins to evaporate, and the dairy solids start creating frothy white foam on top.
  3. After about 10-15 minutes, the foam will begin to separate into clusters and fall to the bottom of the pan as the liquid turns a golden yellow color. Be sure to keep an eye on the ghee as it can burn quite easily. DONT WALK AWAY!
  4. Once you can see through clearly through the liquid to the bottom of the pan (you may have to use a spoon to skim off excess foam), turn the heat off and allow to cool.
  5. Double strain (2 stacked strainers or a cheesecloth in strainer) as you pour the middle layer into your designated ghee container. Stop when you reach the bottom gunky layer. Discard that in whatever way you feel is best.
  6. Allow to cool.

OVEN METHOD

  1. Place sticks of butter in Large Glass Pyrex Measuring Dish
  2. Place in oven at 350° F. Put a tray or cookie sheet underneath in case there is overflow, bubbling or spillage.
  3. Watch as butter begins to melt and eventually separate into 3 distinct layers (set timer for 20 min)
  4. Once the top layer (very thin) starts to brown, check for streaking along the side. Ideally, there is minimal streaking and the middle layer is quite clear–this is how you know it’s done. If the top layer is starting to burn, remove!
  5. Remove the dish from oven and skim off the top thin layer with a spoon. BE CAREFUL, HOT GHEE CAN BURN.
  6. Double strain (2 stacked strainers or a cheesecloth in strainer) as you pour the middle layer into your designated ghee container. Stop when you reach the bottom gunky layer. Discard that in whatever way you feel is best.
  7. Allow to cool.

STORING GHEE

  • Keep ghee in a clean glass/ceramic container
  • Store at room temperature and always use a clean utensil when taking ghee from the jar
  • Don’t allow water in the ghee container (like a fresh rinsed spoon you dip in while still wet!)

Make your ghee as often as needed but remember they say ghee is like fine wine. It just gets better with age. In India, there are ghee’s 100-150 years old that are said to cure any ailment, but you will have to pay a high price for it!

Ghee

Dec 15, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

WHAT IS GHEE?

Ghee, or clarified butter, is a medicinal, and rejuvenating saturated fat that has been used in Indian and Ayurvedic cooking for centuries! Dairy and water solids are cooked out of butter, leaving just the pure essence. All of the gunk that would clog your arteries in butter is clarified out.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Western perspective: Ghee contains a balance of easy to digest essential fatty acids, vital for healthy skin, nerves and cells. We know that fats are essential to life, thus it is necessary to provide our body with the most natural, unprocessed, high quality fats available. Ghee is all of these and more! Ghee contains both saturated (majority) and unsaturated fats made from easy to digest short-chain fatty acids and contains linoleic acid, which has anti-oxidant properties.

It also contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Because ghee has such a high “smoke point”(485° F), it is very useful to cook with. The smoke point is based upon when an oil begins to burn and oxidize, increasing the potential for free radicals. Ghee is also beneficial to those that are lactose intolerant because, during cooking, the sugar solid lactose is removed. It has been shown that ghee can lower cholesterol as part of a balanced diet.

Ayurvedic perspective: Ghee is the best form of fat for absorption in the body by allowing the foods and herbs used with it be fully integrated into the tissues, thus increasing ojas, or vital energy, in both body and mind. It is revered as a rasayana, or rejuvenative, which promotes overall health. It is considered sattvic, or that which has a pure effect on body, mind and spirit.

Because ghee comes from breastmilk of a mammal, part of it’s purpose of being is to nourish mammalian tissues. This is nature of existence, and why we regard it as a more rejuvenative healthy fat than say, coconut oil.

Ghee, unlike most “healthy” vegetable based oils, is Tri-Doshic, or good for all body types (for example, coconut oil is cooling and may imbalance kapha).

Ayurveda regards ghee as a vital food for healthy skin, mental clarity, good digestion and for balancing all body types. Ghee lubricates the body, and used with proper diet and herbs, helps carry nutrients to all seven layers of tissues in the body. It lubricates the body and creates suppleness in the organs, and thus helps to rejuvenate every tissue system.

Ghee kindles the digestive fire, agni, without increasing Pitta.  Ghee helps balance stomach acid and repairs the mucus lining of the stomach, priming it for proper digestion. It also aids in constipation.

Ghee is said to increase intelligence, improve memory and slow down the aging process as it helps to build myelin sheath and neuronal connectivity.

HOW CAN I INCORPORATE GHEE IN MY LIFE?

  • The best way to bring in ghee is to cook with it. Yes, I mean instead of olive oil (with a lower smoke point).
  • For constipation or heartburn, put a spoon of ghee in hot water or in your tea as often as needed.
  • To help with insomnia,  2 teaspoons at night in warm milk, with optional spices, creates a calming effect on the mind to prepare for a restful sleep.
  • For dry eyes, place 2 drops warm (liquid) ghee in eyes at bedtime and let it soak in. The best way is with a dropper bottle (which we carry in our online store).
  • You can apply ghee to entire body for body massage – abhyanga. Our skin is a digestive organ and absorbs the environment around us, and what we put on it. Therefore, massage with ghee allows the ghee to penetrate directly into the deeper tissues. Especially helpful on bedsores for the elderly or debilitated, and burns or cuts. But to be honest, this doesn’t feel that great and smells a bit. I prefer daily oiling. For the skin lesions, burns, cuts,acne etc., I’d recommend this type of ghee made especially for skin rejuvenation.
  • There are many, many other ways to use ghee and the above are my favorite. So get creative! I’ve had clients use ghee in nostrils to heal bloody noses, and gargle with ghee water to soothe sore throats. Ghee is safe for anywhere in your body.
  • The only time you should lay off ghee is if you have kapha imbalance.
  • Those with high cholesterol should limit ghee to 2 tspns/day.

WHERE DO I GET GHEE?

You can find ghee at most natural health food groceries. I know Whole Foods, Lazy Acres, Bristol Farms carry organic ghee and even Trader Joes has their own ghee (not organic) now!

We also carry ghee in our online market.

Chai

Dec 15, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

Chai began as an ayurvedic remedy. In the areas of Assam and Darjeeling, locals used the teas for their warming, circulatory stimulating, and astringent benefits. Combining the tea with herbs, and delivering to the body in the vehicle of milk, produced a healing and nutritive tonic, especially effective for the cold and damp seasons near the Himalayas.

These days, commercial chai is often highly sugared or caffeinated, and traditional recipes are overheating for those with excess pitta.

This is why I created a blend that is more tridoshic, and has organic medicinal grade herbs supporting digestion and immunity.

Here is a video showing how I make chai with this signature blend. Also, here is traditional chai recipe.

Enjoy! (and here is where you can PURCHASE IN OUR ONLINE STORE.)

 

 

Causes of Disease

Dec 15, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

In ayurveda, there are three primary causes of disease. Before we get into these, it may be helpful to define disease:

Disease: a disharmony (or imbalance of energy flow) among mind, body, and spirit.

  1. Taking in too much or too little of the appropriate energies for our constitution (prakruti). This one is pretty self explanatory. We are constantly taking in energy (as the three doshas) from our environment–through our 5 senses, our interactions with others and our environment, our food, etc. If someone is a spicy food lover, has a hot-tempered spouse, a bright colored house, and lives in the desert–you can see how they may be predisposed to pitta imbalance. In short, our environment is a very important determinant of our health.
  2. Not listening to our ‘inner voice’. One thing that holds true for every patient (both formal and friends/family) that I have treated is that they know what they should be doing. They will come in and tell me that they need more sleep, to eat less, to work less, not be around certain people, or whatever the case may be. We know when we are doing things that are harmful to our body because our ‘inner voice’ kicks in. When we don’t listen to it, we are essentially ignoring our spirit. Our spirit is saying one thing, but our mind is rationalizing and justifying something else and our body is acting with the decision of the mind. Thus, the spirit is in disharmony with the mind and body. Think about eating that third piece of cheesecake–it’s tasty but then we start to feel guilty because we ignored that little voice that said to stop (mental distress) and get a stomachache (physical distress). This is a microexample of a pervasive concept. Staying in a relationship or job that you don’t like are other examples.
  3. Time/Motion. We all have a biological clock, so to speak. There was a point when the opposite sex became  “ooooh” instead of ‘eeewww’, and even when our maternal/paternal instincts kick in. Even on a daily basis, our cortisol levels rise and fall according to our internal clock. According to ayurveda, this clock is sensitive to motion. Think of the international businessperson that is traveling all the time, and compare that to a farmer. The businessperson will look older than a farmer of the same age because their biological clock has been sped up by all the motion they are experiencing, and they are aging faster. The real ‘kicker’ here is that our internal clocks are not only sensitive to our physical experience of movement; our clocks actually pace themselves to our mental sense of time/motion! So if your mind is running in 100 directions at 100 mph (as most of us multitaskers), your clock is going to sense that and you will age (decay) faster. This underscores the importance of slowing down and single-mindedness in maintaining our health.  Basically, in Western medicine, this concept is termed ‘ stress’ (which research attributes 80% of all illness to)!

All three of these causes can be distilled down to one: forgetting our true nature as spirit. If we were to be in tune with our nature as spirit, we wouldn’t overindulge in unhealthy energy (cause 1), ignore our spirit (cause 2), or get caught up in the grind and get stressed (cause 3).

Daily Oiling

Dec 15, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

So a lot of people have heard of abhyanga (daily oiling) through the growing popularity of yoga culture. When people read that you have to oil your body, sit with oil on yourself for at least 20 min, and then shower it off, the one hour time investment becomes an intimidating daily practice.

I’ve questioned why the traditional practice was as such and whether that rationale still applies to modern times (as I do with all of the ayurvedic practices).

Abhyanga, as described above, was how people cleansed themselves. The skin’s surface is an oil mantle. To most effectively clean an oil based substance, you use oil. So folks would sit on the hill on their farm and oil their bodies with the abundant oil from their land (olive, sesame, coconut, etc). Once they had cleansed their skin with the oil, they allowed the fresh oil to soak into the clean skin, feeding the epidermis, and allowing the medicinal benefits of the oil to be absorbed in the body. Then, they would take a nice dip in the river, which took care of the excess oil and the feeling of walking around dripping oil.

This was before modern plumbing….and emulsified oils (a.k.a. soap) for cleansing.

Today, the emulsifiers in our soap strip the skin of oils, as does the treated water in our plumbing. If you wash your hands with just water, you can feel the drying effect. If you add soap, you can feel the additional dryness that ensues.

Since we use soap to clean, we don’t need the cleansing function of the traditional abhyanga practice; and since we are stripping our skin of oils with our soap and water, I also believe we could use some extra oil absorption.

For this reason, I recommend daily oiling as a practice of oiling the body after showering, when the pores are nice and open and ready to eat. This means the oil takes the place of what would be the 5 minutes you may spend putting on a lotion post-shower.

Plus, this way, you don’t have to deal with cleaning all that oil out of your bathtub because you rinsed in there after a traditional style application. :)

 

What’s in this oil? 

We carry a range of oils that are tailored to balance the various doshas (V oil, PV oil, VK oil, Poil; the name indicates what it balances, so Voil helps to soothe vata imbalance). Our oils, as any you use are organic and edible. They may not taste great, but they are free of any binders or preservatives.

They are also medicinal oils, meaning they have had medicinal grade (and organic) herbs cooked into them in a process that takes approximately 8 hours. This makes them more potent than some of the “ayurvedic oils” you may see in the health food markets, which usually use essential oils (and all have preservatives because the FDA requires that for mass distribution).

My theory is that if I’m feeding my skin and my body with an oil everyday, I’m not going to miss the opportunity to get in some rejuvenative herbs at the same time. So we infuse our oils with herbs (rasayana) that encourage rejuvenation of the immune, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. Who couldn’t use that?

The qualities of the base oil (e.g. sesame oil is heavy, nutritive, and warming), and the herbs (e.g. brahmi is cooling and supports the nervous system from fatigue and inflammation) are both taken into consideration when formulating an oil to address a doshic imbalance.

Unlike plastic bottles, our glass bottles do not interact with the oil, so you can be free of plastic byproducts going into your body.

 

What are the benefits?

  1. Feeding your body good stuff. Your skin is a digestive organ, and its eating whatever it catches on it’s oil surface, whether that’s air pollution, or laundry detergent or dry-cleaning agents. When you actively feed the skin, it’s eating more of what you are consciously feeding then what’s there by default.
  2. Nourishing the skin. The oil mantle becomes more thick, and the skin more healthy. Decreased dryness, sagging (all my postmenopausal women reading this), and skin turgor (toning) are all benefits of well-nourished skin. For those that have skin irritations (whether in the dry, flaky vata house, or the inflammatory pitta house, or both), daily oiling can help to soothe those.
  3. Increased circulation from the daily massage. This is going to reduce stagnation, and support the delivery of oxygenated blood to peripheral tissues.
  4. Increased lymphatic clearance from the daily massage. This reduces fluid and toxic waste accumulation, and helps to support the immune system.
  5. Herbs get into body in an easy way. This is a long term subtle effect that happens in the background, but it still counts.
  6. You get into the habit of connecting with your body and nurturing it in a daily practice.
  7. You eliminate more chemicals from your life.

 

How do I apply it?

I can’t really imagine a wrong way to rub oil in. But simply put some oil in your palm (the amount will vary for different people, seasons, etc), rub it in your palms and massage it into your body.

I prefer to start at the extremities and work my way in towards my heart.

Don’t forget to do the bottom of your feet, where there are lovely energetic channels waiting to be nurtured.

You can totally use these oils on your face.

Perhaps the most important instruction here is to go in the direction of digestion on your abdomen. I start at my navel and work my way clockwise (UP on RIGHT, DOWN on LEFT, in a circle)

Most days, this is a quick five minute thing. But, on somedays, I’ll sit on my towel and actually massage my feet and open my heart chakra, and try to reverse the effects of gravity on my neck and face. After all, this is an act of self love. And if you want to take it there, the oils are safe to use for that as well. :)

We send the oils in amber glass bottles, so they last, and can be easily warmed. Simply put the whole bottle in a pot (or sink) of hot water before you get in the shower, and by the time you get out, the oil should be nice and warm. Warm oil feels so delicious.

 

FAQ

  1. What if it feels to thick and sticky? My skin almost immediately drinks up the oil and I don’t have to worry about getting dressed and getting oil on things. I also have a lot of vata. If you are someone that doesn’t absorb the oil immediately, you may want to just designate a robe or t-shirt to hang out in while you do other things and see if giving it 10-15 minutes does the trick. Alternatively, you can shift your shower/oiling to bedtime and let it soak in while you sleep. If you still feel too sticky, you can cut the oil with some organic almond, apricot or olive oil, as these are all lighter oils that absorb faster and are relatively neutral (not really warming or cooling).
  2. What if I don’t like the smell? You are welcome to add in any organic essential oils that you’d like. My suggestion is that if you are going to use essential oils, you choose ones that attend to your doshic balancing (e.g. sandalwood would help to balance vata and pitta and would be a great add to the PV oil). But really, just make it smell like what you need to feel you smell good, and you’ll be fine.
  3.  What if I don’t want to use a medicinal oil? You can use just organic cooking oils (e.g. coconut). The most important thing is to keep in mind the qualities of the oil and what its effects are. For example, I have come across a lot of people with dry skin oiling with coconut in the winter, and that is not really serving them.

 

Purchase in our Online Store

Winter Detoxing

Dec 12, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

Why a green juice cleanse may not be the best idea right now.

After the holidays, we are collectively more inspired to make changes for our health, whether it’s with a new diet, cleanse, supplement, or exercise regimen. Your digestive system is likely going to crave a fresh start after all the Thanksgiving to New Year’s debauchery as well.

Our instinct, or social programming, may lead us to a cleanse or detox regimen. And yes, you can likely green juice cleanse out those extra holiday pounds. But is that the healthiest approach?

Well, not really, especially this time of year.

In Ayurveda, winter is predominated by Vata energy. This means we see the qualities of Vata (cold, dry, depletion) in our environment as well as in ourselves. The key to keeping balance in this season is to replete, replete, replete. But most detoxifying cleanses strip away resources along with the toxins. The lemon juice-maple syrup-cayenne cleanse, a green juice cleanse, and the cabbage soup cleanse are a few examples of detox diets that are stripping and lack sufficient protein, carbs, fats, or vitamins.

The main ingredients of these cleanses are astringent and light in quality, which is why they help to rid the body of extra accumulation (whether that’s mucus or fat). But astringent and light are also qualities of Vata. This means these cleanses increase Vata in our bodies, at a time when Vata is already quite high in our natural climate. This is why doing a stripping cleanse for an extended period of time can be truly unhealthy, or depleting, especially during the winter.

The first signs of too much Vata are feeling easily fatigued, dry, gassy, or anxious, and having trouble sleeping or irregular bowel movements. When the body is functioning in a state of depletion, we run out of what Ayurveda calls ojas. I like to describe ojas as your life force reservoir, or a buffer to whatever life throws at you. When our ojas is low, we are more upset by the waves of life than when it is robust. Anyone under chronic stress has low ojas. That’s why those who are already depleted get more affected by a stressful event.

Low ojas manifests in our nervous system as frayed nerves, anxiety, reactivity, inability to relax or sleep well, difficulty concentrating. Internally, our reproductive tissues are most affected by low ojas, as resources are shunted to bodily functions that are essential for survival. This is the link between chronic depletion and the rise of reproductive cancers, and disorders (e.g. infertility, dysmennorhea, endometriosis).

In short, depleted states (when there’s more energetic output than input) lead to low ojas, which allows the effects of stress to be magnified. Stress affects every system in the body. For all of us, its a depleting and inflaming force, which means lower immunity, and poor quality tissue (re)generation.

So save the more stripping cleanses for the end of spring when we’re full of the energy of new life and accumulation. And try Ayurveda’s answer to a nutritive, replenishing cleanse, which is safe any time of year: Kitchardi.  See How To Do A Kitchardi Cleanse.

Triphala: Preventing Disease

Dec 12, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments
 There is enough research about triphala to fill a book, but here is a basic introduction to this ancient herbal remedy.

Triphala, meaning “three fruits,” is made from the fruits of three trees that grow throughout India and the Middle East: amalaki fruit, bibhitaki fruit and haritaki fruit. These fruits are known for their high antioxidant content and rare ability to rejuvenate (combating aging and stress) and detoxify at the same time.

Most detoxifying herbs also strip the body of nutrients, which is why they aren’t recommended for long-term use. But because triphala is also nourishing, it’s safe for daily intake—I’ve been taking it for 10 years myself. I mix one teaspoon of triphala powder in a cup of water in the morning, and let it sit all day (if you’re in a rush, you only need to let the mixture steep for 10 minutes; five minutes if you use hot water). At bedtime, I’ll drink off the liquid portion (like a shot), leaving the sediment at the bottom of the cup. Then I refill the cup with water and let that sit all night. Upon waking, I drink off the liquid portion again, pour the sediment down the drain and mix a new cup for bedtime. If you really can’t deal with triphala’s earthy taste, try taking it in capsule form: two in the morning and two at bedtime.

Here’s why practitioners of Ayurveda (an ancient holistic health tradition that originated in India thousands of years ago) recommend a teaspoon of triphala a day:

1. It detoxifies the body.

At higher doses (e.g., 2,000 mg), triphala acts as a laxative, but at lower doses (e.g., 1,000 mg), it promotes regular bowel movements by reducing Vata (cold, dryness, gas) in the digestive tract. This means less constipation/straining and easier bowel movements. When you begin taking triphala, you may have a lot of gurgling or loose stool as it moves stuff out of your digestive tract. Just stick with it and everything should settle down in a week. If it doesn’t, try cutting the dose in half (especially if you are a tiny person).

Triphala is also an expectorant, encouraging the release of mucus from the digestive tract. Although we may not typically think of it, mucus plays an integral role in protecting the esophagus and stomach. As it does in the respiratory system, mucus accumulation in the digestive tract leads to stagnation and blockage, which results in sluggish digestion. For those more familiar with Ayurveda, this reduces both Kapha imbalance and ama (fermented, partially digested food) buildup.

As an aperient (a gentle laxative), triphala opens physical passageways in the body as well as energetic channels. If you think of the number of ducts in the digestive system—e.g., the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, intestines—you can imagine how powerful this biomedical action can be to release and promote flow in the body. Any blockage of flow in the body, whether in the arteries or in hormonal feedback loops, will result in disease, which is why aperients are powerful prevention. This function of triphala reduces Kaphic stagnation and excess Kapha (which results in congestion and accumulation).

2. It’s an anti-inflammatory.

Triphala is also alterative, which means it has blood-purifying properties and supports the cleansing functions of the liver, spleen and kidneys. From an Ayurvedic perspective, this reduces Pitta in the blood. Pitta imbalance causes inflammation, and blood is distributed to all of the body’s parts, so alteratives help reduce inflammation across all tissue systems.

Infection is another aspect of excess Pitta and triggers inflammation. Triphala’s natural antimicrobial properties help decrease infection and further reduce inflammation in the body.

3. It calms the nervous system.

The digestive system is intimately related to the emotional body/nervous system. We all have experienced this relationship with our gut response to stress. Triphala is a colon tonic and carminative (reduces gas). When you keep the digestive system healthy and well supported, it in turn supports the nervous system.

Because triphala promotes flow, it can encourage bleeding and even cause miscarriage, so pregnant women and people with active bleeding from any tissue (e.g., bleeding fibroids or ulcers) or dysentery (lower GI bugs that cause diarrhea) should avoid it. There are no known drug interactions.

A quality of triphala that is rarely discussed is its ability to promote healthy flow in the emotional body. Personally, I’ve noticed triphala helps me to flow through challenging life situations with greater ease and less depletion.

Most herbs are best taken in certain situations or for certain periods of time. But triphala is one formula that really does benefit most everyone at any time.

Turmeric

Dec 12, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

Your favorite Indian or Thai curry is feeding much more than your stomach—it’s also feeding your brain, heart, lungs and all your other vital organs. Scientists say turmeric, the primary spice in curry, which can be found online or at most grocery stores, has been shown to have positive effects on your health (and even your pet’s health), nurturing your nerves, arteries and even the tiniest blood vessels in your legs, arms, toes and fingers.

Like ginger comes from the ginger plant’s roots, turmeric spice comes from the turmeric plant’s underground stems, called rhizomes. Curcumin, the primary active ingredient in turmeric, gives the spice its bold orange color and has been the focus of thousands of scientific studies. But turmeric is certainly not new—it’s been used in Ayurvedic, Chinese and Indonesian medicine for more than 5,000 years.

Western scientific research is validating ancient wisdom. “The amount of information now is mind-boggling,” says Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, author of Healing Spices and professor and experimental therapeutics researcher at The University Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “We’ve been studying turmeric for 25 years, and the more we work on it, the more surprised we are. We see more and more evidence that turmeric and curcumin have multiple uses in medicine.”

According to Aggarwal, more than 8,000 studies have revealed turmeric’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anticancer properties. And more than 130 clinical trials have shed light on turmeric’s role in fighting chronic diseases like autoimmune, cardiovascular, metabolic (obesity and diabetes), neurological and psychological diseases, as well as cancer.

Turmeric’s ability to halt inflammation is the key to controlling many of these chronic diseases, explains Aggarwal. Turmeric flips a switch that blocks two nasty inflammation triggers: tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). “The multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry has a myriad of drugs approved to control inflammation, when turmeric will do just that,” he continues.

The Ayurvedic Perspective

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric’s benefits are understood from a broader energetic perspective—the system of doshas—says LivingHealthy expert Siva Mohan, MD, MPH. Turmeric works with multiple organ systems to decrease inflammation and promote regeneration, she explains.

The doshas—pitta, vata and kapha—are fundamental concepts in Ayurvedic medicine. They are the mind-body types, each representing a unique blend of physical, emotional and mental traits. Inflammation is the result of a pitta imbalance, as there is excess heat and intensity. Pitta imbalance requires a cooling herb, and all anti-inflammatory herbs have cooling properties. However, while this cooling helps to balance pitta, it aggravates a vata-depleted state, which affects digestion and movement of nutrients into the cells, and can cause degeneration in the body. “Turmeric is unique because it is a great fit for those with inflammation and degeneration together,” Mohan explains.

While turmeric is a great herb to address imbalances, true Ayurvedic healing would also address the root causes of inflammation and depletion and approach the problem from a holistic perspective. Treatment would focus on making lifestyle changes that help balance the doshas, including environment, food choices and even relationships.

Turmeric for Your Pet

While veterinary research lags far behind human clinical trials in this area, it appears that your cat or dog could also benefit from a bit of spicy turmeric. “After all, they are mammals, just like we are. What works for us works for them,” says Mohan. A recent review in the Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics found evidence that curcumin helps to reduce osteoarthritis inflammation in dogs, especially when taken in a form that the dog’s intestine could absorb.

Mohan advises using organic turmeric powder (available from online suppliers) and preparing it a specific way so that it will be absorbed. “Pan-brown 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in 1 tablespoon of ghee. Add the spiced ghee to the dog food,” she says. “See how the animal responds to the taste and try for six months consistently to see deeper results.”

Cooking with Turmeric

To get sufficient amounts of turmeric in your diet, Mohan recommends using the whole herb—fresh turmeric root—in cooking as much as possible. You can buy Turmeric online  It looks like a bright orange piece of ginger root and has a slightly bitter flavor. “Just cut up whole chunks and put it in your stir-fry,” says Mohan, who notes that fresh turmeric root is more potent than an extract or powder, but promises, “you won’t even taste it.”

Fresh turmeric root, similar to ginger root, is now appearing in mainstream supermarkets, she adds. Supplements and off-the-shelf spices might have some effect, but they won’t be as powerful as the turmeric root. “Any packaged product loses potency to manufacture, delivery and shelf time,” Mohan explains.

The health benefits of turmeric come from regularly eating it in small amounts over a long time period, says Aggarwal. There seem to be no toxic effects from eating turmeric, even at high doses. The FDA has declared turmeric and curcumin to be generally regarded as safe (GRAS)—and you’ll see it on food labels, including mustard, cereals, chips, cheese and butter.

In countries where turmeric is consumed, there is evidence of fewer chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementia, compared with countries where turmeric is not popular, Aggarwal adds. So there’s a solid reason to add turmeric to your daily diet. “You can add turmeric to any food,” he says. “It has been popular for so many centuries because it has a wonderful taste.”

Kitchardi: The Ayurvedic Detox

Dec 12, 2016   //   by Jamie Alger   //   Healthy Body  //  No Comments

All the benefits of fasting, but without fasting.

What is kitchardi? Touted as an Ayurvedic superfood, kitchardi is a stew of mung bean, basmati rice, ghee (clarified butter), and digestive spices. The mung lentil’s completeness score (how complete a food is in all of the elements needed by the human body, including vitamins, minerals, starches, fats and proteins) is 80/100 (this is super rare). Ghee and rice supply the 20 missing elements like fat soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and carbohydrates. So this means that kitchardi gives you everything your body needs without any other foods, and actually eating kitchardi is probably giving you more of the elements your regular diet is missing.

In Ayurveda, mung is recognized for its detoxifying properties, while also being rejuvenative. This is really unique because most herbs and foods that detox strip down the body tissues instead of replenishing them. Kitchardi is considered a nutritive for the digestive system, meaning it helps to restore and rehabilitate digestive tissues.

So this means I can eat kitchardi and cleanse my body (and mind) without feeling like I’m going to faint or like I’m too weak to keep up with my family and business. In fact, when I eat kitchardi, I usually feel more energized, and naturally eat a smaller quanitity of food because I feel so nourished. Mung is considered asattvic food, meaning it promotes mental and emotional clarity and evenness.

In the digestive system specifically, mung has several amazing medicinal actions. It helps the body release accumulated toxins and toxic metabolites (detoxicant); alleviates constipation, gas, and hard, dry stool (the ghee and digestive spices help with this); resolves loose stools (rice helps here too); reduces stomach acid (ghee helps with this as well); helps to resolve inflammation and bleeding in the GI tract (as does ghee); encourages the release of accumulated ama (fermented, partially-digested food) and mucus in the intestines.

The ghee, rice, and digestive spices all have medicinal actions as well, and help to make kitchardi a complete food. White basmati is the easiest rice for the body to digest. Ghee, derived from (cow) breast milk, has the dharma (purpose of existence) to rejuvenate all mammalian tissues, is anti-inflammatory, and reduces Vata symptoms such as gas, bloating, lethargy, anxiety, and constipation. If you are vegan, you can substitute the ghee with a warming vegetable oil (like sesame or flaxseed) in winter or cooling coconut oil in summer.

Many of us avoid carbs today for fear of weight gain. In Ayurveda, we understand that the body only holds on to unnecessary weight when it’s depleted—physically, or emotionally. By replenishing our bodies, we actually turn off the switch for the body to hold on to extra resources. I have never seen anyone that gained weight on a kitchardi mono-fast, unless they were in a starvation pattern and needed it.

For those of you familiar with Ayurveda, mung is balancing for all the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha symptoms in the digestive tract. Depleted or dysfunctional digestive tissues (Vata imbalance), inflamed or infected tissues (Pitta imbalance), stagnant or accumulative processes (Kapha imbalance) all benefit from kitchardi. This is why kitchardi is safe and beneficial for anyone, any time of year.   (read How To Do A Kitchardi Cleanse)

KITCHARDI RECIPE

Ingredients:

2 T. organic ghee (or oil if vegan)

1 t. each: organic ground cumin, ground coriander, ground fennel

3/4 t. organic turmeric powder or ½” piece of fresh turmeric root peeled and grated

1 t. natural sea or rock salt

1/2 c. organic SPLIT mung beans*

1/2 c. organic white basmati rice

4 c. water

Up to 2 c. chopped veggies – optional

*If you use whole mung beans, you will definitely need to soak and drain for 1-2 days, and/or add kombu seaweed to help with softening the lentil, and/or use a pressure cooker.

Step 1: Rinse your lentils and rice

First place your mung lentils and rice in a saucepan and add water. Stir around and the water will get cloudy. This is from the remaining husk of the rice and lentils. Rinse and drain and repeat 5-10 times until the water is more clear (it will not get all the way clear).

Step 2: Bring to a boil

Add the 4 cups of water to the rice and lentils and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer.

Step 3: Add spices and ghee

If you would like some bonus points, you can brown the spices in the ghee in a small saucepan before adding. Otherwise, just add them into the rice and lentils.

Step 4: Cook until soft

Stir occasionally and in approximately 20 minutes, the rice and lentils should be soft. If you taste and you feel anything al dente, keep cooking. The goal is to have a soft and easy to digest stew. Also, you can add as much water as you need to keep cooking or to retain a moist consistency.

Optional Vegetables

You can add any vegetables to kitchardi. Add the heavier vegetables (like carrots, or potatoes) at the same time as the spices. Lighter vegetables, such as kale, or green beans, can be added in the last few minutes of cooking.

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