Ayurvedic Home Remedies: Uses of Herbs and Spices
by Aparna Bapat, BAMS
Ayurveda is an ancient science of Life and healing. Food is the most important part of all living beings and "what we eat is who we are." Our food is not just for growth and nourishment but can help in healing and balancing the body and mind suffering from simple to chronic diseases and its symptoms.
Ayurveda emphasizes on eating freshly cooked seasonal foods using whole grains, lentils and beans, fresh vegetables, ghee, herbs and spices and proper understanding of food combining. All six tastes in food- sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent if properly consumed can keep the body healthy, mind satisfied and free of cravings.
Regular cooking with herbs and spices like Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Basil, Garlic, Fennel, Coriander, Cumin, Asafoetida, Fenugreek, Saffron, Mustard, Mint etc, not only adds great taste and flavor to the food, but delivers a lot of medicinal and healing qualities in food.
1. Herbal Detox tea
In one glass(8 oz) of boiling water, add the following herbs and leave
it covered overnight-
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
6-8 mint leaves
Next morning boil it to make a strong tea and filter it. Before drinking add- as per taste- fresh lemon/ lime juice, honey, black pepper and black salt. Stir and drink once a day, empty stomach in the morning or keep sipping throughout the day.
2.Organic Cow milk
This can be boiled with any one or any combination of the following spices, to make it lighter, easy to digest and absorb: Cardamom, Dry ginger, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Saffron, Balck pepper, Fennel Turmeric and Long pepper. This milk also helps in many people to overcome lactose intolerance and is safely used by children having mucus/cold etc.
3. Cooling and cleansing tea
Boil 1 tsp each of coriander, fennel and cumin seeds in a big glass of water with covered lid. Let it boil for about 15 min, then filter and drink( can be cooled to room temp. before drinking). For hot flashes, Kidney problems, urinary burning and yeast infection can be used throughout the day (make more quantity).
For Kidney stones add 1/2 tsp of cardamom seeds to the mixture and use the tea instead of water for few days. This tea is very cooling and diuretic, flushing out toxins and heat from circulation.
4. Seasoning for cooking: soups, lentils, vegetables etc.
Take 1 tbsp of Ghee (clarified butter) in a pan and let it melt. Add 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp of cumin seeds, 18 th tsp of fenugreek seeds and let them crackle. Then add a pinch of Asafoetida (hing) followed by turmeric powder 1/4 tsp. After this immediately add finely chopped or crushes garlic, ginger and let it all fry for a few
minutes (2-3), then add chopped onions and let them cook till translucent. After this add the washed and soaked lentils/ beans or washed and cut vegetables.
These spices are all digestive and carminative. They help to digest the gassy food like beans without making the person feel gas, indigestion and bloating. Turmeric and ginger is anti-inflammatory and used for treating all types of Arthritis and swellings.
Turmeric is also good coagulant and disinfectant(antibacterial)and used as in first aid in the kitchen to heal cuts, wounds, burns and bruises. Turmeric is good for skin problems and balancing blood sugar levels. Garlic is also antibacterial/ antiviral (has sulphur), good for lowering cholesterol and lipid metabolism, decongesting mucus (roasted garlic is good for chronic mucus and sinus congestion), and digestive with heating qualities.
5. Blood sugar balancing
Take 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 2 tsp of Amalaki (Indian gooseberry) powder and soak it in a glass of hot water. Leave it covered overnight. Reheat in the morning, filter and drink once a day empty stomach early morning.
6. Tired, dry and red eyes
Put 2 to 3 drops of melted ghee (room temp)in both eyes at bedtime. Cover the closed eyelids with rose water eye-pads and leave them overnight. Eyes feel cool, hydrated and fresh in the morning. This also improves vision and reduces the eye glasses number. Excellent for the people who work with computers all day and night!
7. Arthritis and dry skin
Abhyanga or self massage is recommended for winter / all year round skin dryness with oils like sesame, almond, sunflower, coconut etc. To enhance the qualities and fragrance any of the following oils can be added to the base oils- ginger, lavender, rose, sandalwood, citrus, vetiver, calamus, jasmine etc. For arthritis and swellings warm Sesame or mustard oil massage is advised daily before shower (leave oil on the body for 1 hr.)
8. Home facial mask- All skin types
Soak and peel 5 almonds. Make a paste of these with a piece of ripe papaya, 1 tsp. plain yogurt, 1/2 tsp egg white, 2 pinches turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp coriander seed powder, 1/4 tsp honey and 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Apply the smooth paste to washed and steamed face and leave for 1/2 to 1 hour. Rinse with warm water and pat dry. Good for weekly use.
9. For sleep
Boil 1/4 tsp of nutmeg powder in 1 cup of milk till approx. 3/4 cup milk remains. Add 1/4 tsp of ghee to it and take it at bedtime. Also massage the feet and temples with ghee and press the mid point of eyebrow (third eye region) with a drop of ghee. Sleep will be more deeper and relaxed and the person will wake up fresh.
Nutmeg is also used as a home remedy for diarrhea. Boil 1 cup of water with 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and 1/2 to 1 tsp of coffee powder. Filter and drink 2-3 cups if the stools are very watery and runs are more than 4-5 times.
10. Toxins and Fatigue
According to Ayurveda when the digestion and metabolism is improper the food remains undigested, unabsorbed in the intestines creating toxins. They circulate through the lymphatic system, making the person feel lethargic, sleepy, tired all the time.
To improve the digestive and metabolic fire- Take 1 tsp juice of fresh ginger, 1/2 tsp juice of fresh lemon/ lime juice and 2-3 pinches of black salt and a pinch of freshly crushed/ ground black pepper. Have this mixture 10 min before lunch and dinner.
Fasting once a week with only hot water, digestive herbal teas(ginger, mint etc) and some fresh fruit is also suggested along with breathing exercises and yoga.
Food is not only helping us grow and nourish physically but also has deep impact on our mind- thoughts, emotions, actions etc. Food is classified as Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic based on the mental qualities it affects.