Growing up in India, each time I had a cold or cough, my mum would give me a concoction of Ayurvedic herbs. They literally left a bitter taste in the mouth but worked wonders! As a child I thought maybe these were India’s version of magic beans. Now I understand and appreciate Ayurveda as a blessing. It is an ancient system of medicine; some refer to it as the sister of Yoga. Ayur means life and Veda means knowledge. Put together Ayurveda defines the science of life.
Like Yoga, Ayurveda is also thousands of years old. While treatment measures in yoga are drawn from the life energy within us, Ayurveda uses products from nature’s basket around us.
Most of the herbs used by Ayurvedic practitioners can be found in the kitchen cupboard of your own house. We are just not aware of the many benefits these lend us or how to use them.
Let’s start with bright yellow turmeric. It has a multitude of health benefits and can give any drug manufacturer a run for their money. Not only is it scientifically proven to be anti-cancerous, but is also a blood purifier, heals cuts and wounds, prevents liver damage and is anti-inflammatory. The next time you are feeling under the weather, add half a teaspoon of turmeric to hot milk. To this you can add honey or jaggery to enhance the taste. Have it while it’s hot. To enhance skin tone, make a paste of gram flour, sour curd, turmeric, and rose water and apply it on your face. Leave to dry and wash off with water.
Next on the list is ginger. Ayurveda has taken use of this herb to aid in many digestive problems. Chewing a small piece of ginger with some rock salt works wonders for digestion. Having it as an infusion with lemon juice in warm water soothes the throat. It also helps alleviate nausea and common cold.
For me the fragrant cardamom brings back memories of lush green plantations in India. Believe it or not, cardamom does induce happiness. Ayurveda has used this spice in treatment of depression. So the next time you feel the blues, make a cup of tea infused with ground cardamom and soak in the aromas. The warmth of this spice will also aid digestion, detoxify the cells and lend great oral hygiene.
Last but not the least is the king of spices: pepper. How can we forget this spice, which was worth a king’s ransom once upon a time? The reason pepper has been a prized spice throughout history is not only because it served important culinary processes but also is anti-bacterial in nature and was used to preserve food. It’s consumption was believed to cure impotency, muscular stress, anemia, constipation, pyorrhea and dental disease to name a few. Scientific studies have shown that pepper in combination with turmeric works remarkably well. Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin skyrockets to almost 2000% when combined with pepper. It doesn’t come as a surprise now; the key ingredients of curry are turmeric and pepper.
Ayurveda empowers us with the science behind the foods we eat. The synergy in foods is a testament to the power of plants. It’s remarkable how we can improve our health just by changing our food habits.