Posts Tagged ‘ayurveda’

Let Food Be Your Medicine!
Author: Guest Blogger

This post is authored by Dr. Jay Apte – renowned Ayurvedic physician and expert.  Dr. Apte is the founder of the Ayurveda Institute of America, AyurFoods and Herbal Care (one of the first companies to develop, manufacture and market genuine Ayurvedic food supplements in the United States).  She has also established a Health & Nature Wellness Center (in Northern California) and started schools in Houston, TX, Foster City, CA and Los Angeles, CA.  Dr. Apte is a past president of the CAAM and is on the NAMA board of directors.

Tap into Ayurveda and see how your food can be your medicine!

Many diet fads (such as low/no fat diet, Atkin’s Diet, South Beach Diet, etc., come and go, but an Ayurvedic Prakriti (Body Constitution) – specific diet will always stay and be the right answer for your health and wellness.

Ayurveda looks at the qualities in the foods rather than counting the calories.  For example, foods loaded with cheese, cream and sugar are “heavy” in nature, while popcorn and dry toast are considered “light.”  Salad greens are “cold” while ginger, garlic, a glass of wine or salts are “hot” in potency.  A stew is moist and baked chicken is dry.  Which foods are right?  Everything is right or wrong, depending on your prakriti (Body Constitution).

The key is to balance your predominant dosha/s (qualities which make up your prakriti) with the right qualities of foods.  If your body constitution is Kapha-predominant (heavy and cold in nature), then light and warm foods are your answer.  Some slices of toast and a glass of ginger tea is a perfect breakfast choice.  A grilled vegetable or chicken sandwiches as lunch and then rice, dhal soup and baked veggies as dinner will help to alleviate allergies, colds and congestive headaches.  You will start to lose weight and feel more energetic.

If your personality is hot and angry (Pitha-predominant), cool foods will be your right choice.  That means more leafy greens and sweet fruits, mild spices and low salt.   Salads, grains, fruits and vegetables with mild spices such as cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom, basil or mint or cilantro will help you keep balance and keep heart burn, acid reflux, skin problems and irritability at bay.

If you are like a busy bee – constantly buzzing around, feeling restless and listless and dry all over, with symptoms such as dry skin, dry lips, constipation, etc. (Vata-predominant), warm and moist foods will be your soul food.  A bowl of oatmeal cereal will be an ideal breakfast, and a bowl of hot soup and stew or gumbo is a good lunch.  Dinner can be rice and dal soup and steamed veggies.  Such moist and warm foods will balance the dry, light and cold qualities of Vata and also help prevent and treat anxiety, worry, constipation and aches and pains in the body.

Ayurveda also recommends other rituals about eating:

1.  Eat freshly prepared, home cooked foods.  Fresh foods are rich in Prana – the life energy.  Pranic foods are healing.  When you cook, you put in your positive energy – making the food Sattvic.  Sattva is clarity, purity, light.  Sattvic foods heal the Body and lighten the Mind.

2.  Eat seasonal vegetables and fruits.  Mother Nature provides right qualities in fruits and vegetables in the right season.  Cool salad greens are in abundance during hot summers.  Heavy and sweet squashes and pumpkins make their appearance in bitter cold winters.  Make a trip to the farmer’s market to buy your seasonal fruits and veggies.

3.  Eat three meals a day and zip your lips in between.  Fruit is OK in between, but not a bag of chips or cookies.  It takes 5-6 hours to digest food.  Small, frequent meals cause indigestion, which may produce a toxin called AmaAma becomes the cause of many diseases.

4.  Pay attention to your digestive fire:  Agni.   Agni digests the food.  If it is weak, the food stays undigested.  If it is too strong, it burns the food.  Your tongue is the mirror image of your digestive system.  Watch your tongue in the mirror every morning.  If it looks pink, you have a good digestive fire.  If it has thick white coating, your agni may be low.  You may have to pay better attention to foods you eat.

5.  Eat mindfully and with proper frame of mind.  Savor the food and enjoy the taste and texture.  Eat in a happy mood.  If you are angry while eating, you are swallowing the anger.  If sad, you are ingesting the sadness.  So eat with the proper frame of Mind.

6.  Feed somebody before you eat.  Share your food with the person who is with you.  If you are alone, feed your pet, water the house plant or throw a few bird seeds in your backyard.  It is like feeding the other Soul.

7.  Bless your food before eating.  The grains, the veggies and/or the animals are offering their life to become your food.  Respect them.  Also think about the hunger in the world.  Do not waste the food.

8.  Chew each bite 32 times.  Why?  Because you have 32 teeth.  Chewing improves digestion and absorption and does not spike the blood sugar too high too quickly.

In conclusion, eating is more than filling a bag.  It is the ritual for your health.  Know your doshas and create balance with the right foods.  Ayurvedic text has rightfully described the importance of food in the following verse:

 “If you are eating right foods, why do you need medicine?  If you are not, what is medicine going to do?”

© 2010 Dr. Jay Apte

(image by NCTFN)


My daughter threw mine in the toilet a few weeks ago (thanks, dear), so I had to go without for a few days until my mother could mail me a replacement.  Those couple of days were torture – I felt so (for lack of better word) GROSS.  I’d been using a tongue cleaner since my toddler days, and it had become inseperable from my toothbrush – going with anywhere and everywhere I traveled.

My husband, however, doesn’t use one.  And although I don’t know the intimate details of the brushing habits of my other Indian relatives and friends, if I had to guess, I would say that the usage rate of tongue cleaners among them is about 50%.  Which makes me wonder:  is the use of tongue cleaners limited to particular regions of India?  Is it an urban/rural thing?

Whatever may be the answer, it seems that the West is (slowly) embracing tongue cleaners (apparently they originated in India (an ayurvedic technique) and China).  And why not?  They do nothing but good – scraping away the scummy film that causes bacteria build up and bad breath.  You still can’t hop to a drug store and buy one – which I tried by the way, before I phoned my mother – but you can buy them online (for a ridiculous price by Indian standards).  They come in various sizes and shapes, and in silver, copper, plastic, etc.  Check out TePe’s Tongue Detox (love the name) which is all the rage in Europe and the “patented” spoon-style one from OraMedix.

As for me, I prefer the simple stainless steel ones.  As a precaution, I had my mother-in-law buy 2 dozen of them on her recent trip to India.  So I’ll be getting the kids to start using them.  And now I have a stash of my own to mail to them when they call me in distress.

Image:  Silver Tongue Cleaner by Aspen Dental House$45.00


If you have to hold your nose or wear gloves when using something, it really shouldn’t be in your house.  We’re talking about cleaning products here.  We use a lot of cleaning products in our daily routines – all of which could contain harmful chemicals and toxins which our kids are exposed to.

But before the advent of modern chemical cleaning products, our ancestors in India used completely natural preparations to cleanse and purify.  Such as:

Brushing Teeth:  Instead of synthetic toothbrushes and toothpaste, our ancestors used twigs from the neem tree, which they chewed until the ends became frayed.

Soap and Shampoo:  Also called reetha and kunkudukai, the berries from the soapnut plan contain natural saponins.  When boiled and squeezed, they work up a rich lather when rubbed onto the skin or hair.  Interestingly, “soap nuts” are being resurrected by organic and sustainable living shops as a natural laundry detergent.

Dish Soap:    This may come as a shocker (unless you’re an avid camper), but wood ash – when combined with the fats and oils in used pots and dishes – makes lye and crude soap.  So the fuel used for the fire to cook the food was then recycled when cleaning the dishes!

Air Fresheners:  A simple solution, really – a cupful of baking soda or talcum powder placed in a room will absorb the bad odors (it probably took a little longer than modern sprays though).

Antibacterials:  Pluck a lemon off a tree and there you have it!  Lemons have powerful antibacterial qualities as well as a fresh and invigorating smell.  They can also be used as mild bleaching agents.

Here’s a simple DIY all-purpose cleaner you can make with a few simple ingredients – safe enough for your kids to go to town with (and a great Montessori Practical Life exercise):

In a squirt bottle, combine 2 cups water, 1 cup vinegar, and a few drops of essential oil for fragrance (we used 100% pure therapeutic grade Pink Grapefruit).  For really messy areas, pretreat by sprinkling some baking soda and wiping off with water (but avoid baking soda on easily-scratched surfaces).

Clean and natural!


Aveda Ayurveda Rituals

I love Aveda – they’re the only salons I go to for my beauty needs.  I’d much rather have plant-based products used on my hair and skin than chemicals. 

It just so happens that the Aveda philosophy – a holistic approach to beauty and health “that works in harmony with the greater web of life” is eerily similar to elements of the Hindu philosophy.  It’s also ironic that “Aveda” in literal Sanskrit translates to “against the Veda (knowledge).”  Any student of Sanskrit will tell you that if you put an “A” in front of a word, it will mean the opposite of the root word.

So Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda, obviously wasn’t a Sanskrit scholar.  But he founded a global powerhouse of a company clearly rooted in the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda.  And his book Aveda Rituals is an intelligent and refreshingly concise prescription for incorpating simple Aveda (errr…Ayurveda) style rituals into your daily life.  Rituals like the “Aroma Energizer” and the “Good-Morning Movement” stretching exercises – that awaken your senses and your spirit, connecting you with nature and your surroundings to inspire you to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.

If an American company can research, re-package and superbly brand ancient Indian wisdom into a format that we can all understand – I’ll take more of those.  Now its off to my evening Meditation Moment.

The Spice Is Nice
Author: Gnaana

‘Tis the season of spices, and all through the house…

Spices are synonymous with India – inseparable, really.  And you’ll sure be smelling and consuming a lot of them during the upcoming holiday season:  cookies, cakes and savoury dishes will be infused with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.  Yum!

Spices also have wonderful health benefits and they are widely used in Ayurvedic treatments.  Smelling them, and learning about how they grow, happens to be a wonderful sensorial activity for kids.  So in the spirit of spices, we featured a simple game for kids in our December newsletter.  We call it The Spice Is Nice, and kids as young as 18 months will enjoy it.  Here’s how to play (for 1 or more players – the more the merrier!):

 1.  Gather 6-10 aromatic spices (we used turmeric, cloves, coriander seeds, cardamom, cumin, and garam masala).  We don’t recommend using red chili powder!
2.  Have your children smell each of the spices while you tell them the name of the spice (use your native language if you can!).  While they are smelling, ask them to describe the smell – i.e., if they like it or not and if it smells like something they are familiar with.  Make suggestions – and be fun and whimsical here – making non-food suggestions – the idea is to get them to think and explore.  You’ll be surprised at what they come up with – garam masala may smell like train tracks!  They can also touch and taste if they want (but wash their hands afterwards).
3.  After 2-3 rounds of smelling, blindfold your child.  Present a spice for them to smell and have them identify its name.  Repeat as many times as desired.
4.  For older kids, supplement the activity with information as to how the spice is grown and harvested, and also how each spice is used in cooking and for other purposes.  The Epicentre’s Encyclopedia of Spices is a terrific online resource.

For extra fun, we’ve put together a set of Spice Trivia questions.  Download here.