Spices are found in all kitchens. Some of you may even have a few or perhaps even all of these spices. No doubt they make the food sumptuous, but did you know these tasty morsels these simple spices, possess powerful healing abilities? Read on and you will want to invite these unassuming kitchen helpers to live your kitchen for life.
Key: V= Vayu; P= Pitta; K=Kapha; + means increases/aggravates; – means reduces/heals/balances
Excerpt from the Ayurveda Encyclopedia.
Reprinted with permission.
1. Black Pepper (Kali Maricha)
Energetics: Pungent/hot/pungent VK-P+ rajasic
Actions: Stimulant, carminative, decongestant, expectorant Indications: Burns up Ã¡ma very well, colds, flu, cough, gargle for sore throat, fevers, colon cleanse, digests fat and obesity; metabolism, mucus, expectorant, sinus congestion, cold extremities, raises agni, epileptic seizures, with honey, clears Kapha from the system in the morning. External-inflammations, urticaria, erysipelas.
2. Caraway/Cumin (Jaraka)
Energetics: Caraway-Sour, pungent/hot/sweet K- VP+ Cumin-Pungent/hot/pungent VK- P=
Actions: Stimulant, carminative, lactagogue, diuretic (used like fennel and coriander)
Indications: Digests bread, like fennel and dill relatives; colitis, gas, digestion, abdominal pain, distention .
Antidote: Overeating, heavy foods
3. Cardamom (Ela) Hindi: Elachi
Latin: Elatarria cardamomum Maton (E. repens)
Part Used: Seeds
Habitat: Found throughout Northern, Western, and Southern India, Sri Lanka, and Burma (Myanmar).
Energetics: Pungent, sweet-heating-pungent VK- (P+ in excess – Large ela) In the U.S. only the small or choti ela is available. Choti ela is slightly cooling and better for Pitta than for Vayu and Kapha).
Tissues: Blood, marrow, nerve, plasma
Systems: Circulatory, digestive, nervous, respiratory
Action: Carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, digestive stimulant, stomachic
Uses: Absorption of nutrients, asthma, bronchitis, colds, cough, excellent for stomach complaints, hoarseness, indigestion, loss of taste, helps the spleen and pancreas, reduces Kapha in lungs and stomach, stimulates the mind, with milk it reduces mucus formation, detoxifies caffeine in coffee, nervous digestion, vomiting, headache, belching, acid indigestion, nausea, expels Vayu in colon and digests foods in colon, convalescing from diarrhea, biliousness, respiratory disorders, involuntary urination.
Spiritual Uses: Sattwic, gives clarity and joy Antidote: Ice cream, milk, cold or sweet foods like bananas, coffee Precautions: Ulcers, high Pitta Preparation: Infusion (don’t boil seeds), powder, milk decoction
4. Coriander (Dhyanaka) Hindi: Dhania
Latin: Coriandrum sativum Linn.
Part Used: Seeds, leaves Habitat: Common throughout India Energetics: Bitter, pungent-cooling-pungent VPK=
Tissues: Blood, muscle, plasma Systems: Digestive, respiratory, urinary
Action: Alterative, antibilious, aphrodisiac, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic Uses: Griping, flatulent colic, rheumatism, neuralgia, indigestion, vomiting, intestinal disorders, removes excess Kapha, eyewash, conjunctivitis, relieves internal heat and thirst, skin/rash problems, urogenital system (burning urethra, cystitis, infections, etc.), sore throat, allergies, hay fever, for all Pitta disorders, burning, juice for allergies, hay fever, and skin rashes (and externally as well); antidotes hot pungent foods, bleeding hemorrhoids. Externally-eye disorders. Antidote: Hot foods and spices (i.e., as cilantro, coriander leaf) Preparation: Cilantro juice, infusions (hot and cold), powder Precautions: Not to be used in extreme Vayu nerve tissue deficiency
5. Fennel (Methica)
Energetics: Sweet/cold/sweet VPK= perhaps the most sattwic spice Actions: Stimulant, diuretic, carminative, stomachic, antispasmodic, lactagogue
Indications: Abdominal pain (gas or indigestion), menstrual cramps, hernia, diarrhea, colic, vomiting, morning sickness, nausea, anorexia, cough, dry cough, promotes semen, increases vision, raises agni, difficult or burning urination, digestion-children and elderly; promotes menstruation, nursing mothers-increases breast milk flow.
6. Fenugreek (Medhika)
Energetics: Pungent, bitter/hot/pungent VK- P+
Actions: Demulcent, diuretic, tonic, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, stimulant, antirheumatic
Indications: Longevity, nerves, allergies, arthritis, skin, rejuvenation, diabetes, allergies, bronchitis, flu, chronic cough, dysentery, dyspepsia, convalescence, edema, toothache, sciatica, neurasthenia, counters cold (i.e., extremities, abdominal pain, indigestion, respiratory and reproductive systems, hair growth, promotes breast milk flow, liver hypo-function, seminal debility, debility, outdoor winter work). Precaution: Do not use when pregnant.
7. Turmeric (Haridra) Hindi: Haldi
Latin: Curcuma longa Linn.
Part Used: Rhizome, tubers Habitat: Throughout India Energetics: Bitter, astringent, pungent-heating-pungent K- (VP+ in excess)
Tissues: All Systems: Circulatory, digestive, respiratory, urinary
Action: Alterative, anthelmintic, antibacterial/antibiotic, aromatic, carminative, stimulant, tonic, vulnerary
Uses: Amenorrhea, anemia, arthritis, blood purifier, blood tissue formation, circulation, cooking spice, cough, diabetes, worms, jaundice, eye problems, fevers, gas, hemorrhoids, edema, indigestion, ligament stretching, metabolism regulator; mucus relief, and hysteria (from inhaling fumes); pharyngitis, protein digesting, skin disorders, abscess, urinary diseases, wound and bruise healer; a natural antibiotic that also improves intestinal flora; inflammatory bowel syndrome (e.g., ulcerative colitis), Chron’s Disease, chronic hepatitis, chronic bronchial asthma, psoriasis, all inflammatory conditions. External-acne, insect bites, sore eyes, with honey or aloe gel for bruises or sprains.
Spiritual Uses: Gives one the Divine Goddess’s energy and prosperity; chakra and subtle body cleanser; limbers for yoga asana practice
Precautions: Do not use if pregnant, with excess Pitta, with acute jaundice or hepatitis.
Preparation: Infusion, decoction, milk decoction, powder, external paste (with sandalwood).
This article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. It in no way is intended to substitute for care from duly licensed health professionals.
Swami Sadashiva Tirtha, D.Sc., may be contacted through the International Vedic Institute – School of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda Encyclopedia Natural Secrets For Healing, Prevention & Longevity by Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha, D.Sc.