Adding a little bit of Ayurvedic spice to your diet is an easy way to make your meals healthier. Spices have mild medicinal qualities that boost the agni (digestive fire), burn away toxins, and even help to relieve pain and inflammation. They can support you on your yogic mission to reside in your healthiest physical form.
While all spices have medicinal benefits, these five are a great place to start. You’ll have your pick between whole or ground spices; both of which should be stored in airtight containers. Spices tend to lose their potency with age; whole spices stay fresh for about two years, while ground spices should be used within three months.
Ginger is a panacea of sorts. It’s helpful for motion sickness, joint inflammation, and post-partum care. It possesses the power to increase agni throughout the entire body which aids in both digestion and the healthy formation of body tissues. Ginger also burns away toxic buildup in the digestive system.
In general, use fresh ginger rather than dried. Dry ginger’s heating properties make it inappropriate for some people and during some seasons.
Grate or finely chop a teaspoon of fresh ginger. Toss it with freshly steamed vegetables, or saute it along with onion and garlic for bean dishes.
Cumin also burns away toxic buildup. It regulates the secretions of the gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract, and aids in nutritional absorption. In men it acts mainly as a digestive, while in women cumin has the added bonus of supporting a healthy menstrual cycle.
To release their potency, whole cumin seeds should be sauteed in a little coconut oil or ghee before being added to soups, stews, and veggie dishes. Ground cumin can be added at the very end of cooking, so that its potency isn’t burned away.
The U.S. is going crazy for turmeric right now and for good reason. It boosts immunity, supports the skeletal system, improves digestion, and removes toxins from the body tissues.
Turmeric has become so popular that its active ingredient, curcumin, is commonly separated and sold in capsules. From an Ayurvedic standpoint, this kind of processing disturbs the intelligence of the plant. Use whole turmeric powder to healthfully reap its benefits. Add 1/4 teaspoon to steamed or sauteed vegetables, soups, and stews.
Have you ever noticed that Indian restaurants always have a bowl of fennel seeds next to the cash register or near the front door? Fennel is one of the best spices for regulating digestive and metabolic activity, so these seeds are offered to help digest the heavy food that’s just been served.
Whole fennel seeds can be sauteed in a little coconut oil or ghee, to release their potency, and then added to soups, stews, and veggie dishes. You can also eat 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds after lunch and dinner to prevent gas and bloating.
Cardamom helps to lift the prana (energy) of food upward and toward the mind. It’s also good for the heart and helps the body absorb nutrients.
Milk is a sattvic food traditionally recommended in yoga. Ayurveda always recommends drinking milk with a pinch of cardamom to aid in its digestion. It adds a sweet, aromatic flavor that’s also nice in wholesome desserts. Cardamom makes a good mouth freshener when it’s chewed after meals, too—sort of like an Ayurvedic chewing gum.