We are used to using spices to enhance the flavor or food. Our spice pantry is also a medicine chest! Learning the beneficial health properties of spices and herbs is a fun way to turn your kitchen into a pharmacy.
There are so many herbs and spices to choose from! Here is a list of some of my favorite herbs and spices with their energetic qualities and health benefits.
Anise: pungent, heating, light, detoxifying, boosts digestion
Allspice: pungent, heating, boosts digestion
Asafoetida: pungent, heating, dispels gas, boosts digestion, anti-parasitic, antibiotic
Basil: astringent, warming, stimulating
Black pepper: pungent, heating, increases circulation, promotes digestion and weight loss, relieves cough and congestion
Bay leaf: pungent, bitter, heating, boosts digestion
Caraway: sour, pungent, warming, reduces gas, relieves water retention
Cardamom: sweet, mildly pungent, cooling, digestive stimulant, curbs sweet cravings, relieves gas and indigestion
Cayenne: pungent, heating, promotes circulation, heating, and drying
Cinnamon: sweet, mildly pungent, warming, boosts circulation, detoxifying, antiseptic
Clove: pungent, heating, stimulates digestion, remedy for colds and coughs, antibacterial, anti-fungal
Coriander/cilantro: astringent, cooling, relieves excess heat, boosts digestion, relieves gas
Cumin: slightly pungent, bitter, warming, strong digestive, boosts appetite, cleanses fat and toxins, antimicrobial
Fennel: sweet, cooling, cooling digestive, breath sweetener
Fenugreek: pungent, bitter, boosts digestive fire, relieves gas and indigestion, increases lactation,
Garlic: pungent, heating, anti-parasitic, immune booster
Ginger: pungent, warming, strong digestive
Mint: sweet and slightly pungent, cooling, boosts digestive fire, curbs cravings, antibacterial, reduces inflammation
Mustard seed: pungent, heating, boosts digestive fire
Nutmeg: pungent, heating, stimulates digestion, binds stool, induces sleep
Oregano: slightly pungent, warming, boosts digestive fire, diuretic, decongestant
Parsley: astringent, pungent, warming, drying, reduces water, digestive aid, alkalizing, aids in weight loss
Rose: sweet, mildly bitter, cooling, soothes inflammation, calms nerves
Rosemary: pungent, heating, reduces gas
Thyme: pungent, heating, reduces mucus, astringent, antibiotic
Turmeric: bitter, heating, digestive, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal
We all have to eat, and what we choose to eat affects our own health and the health of the planet. To this end, I have created a downloadable Healthy Eating Tip Sheet (see below).
In this blog, I discuss meal timing, meal spacing, and why a bigger, better lunch may be healthier for you.
What is a plant based diet?
Unlike most diets, a plant-based diet is defined by what it focuses on, not what it excludes. When you eat a plant based diet, you maximize consumption of nutrient-dense plant based foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal foods. Eat veggies, fruits, beans, seeds, and nuts. Include local and sustainably-raised dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat in smaller amounts if you wish.
Foods to Favor for Summer
The summer season has these characteristics: heat, long days of bright sun, and sharp intensity.
These are all attributes of pitta dosha (fire and a little water), which is why summer is considered in Ayurveda to be a pitta season. And, even though some climates are also humid this time of year, the cumulative effect of intense heat is to dry things out, so summer is also considered dry.
According to Ayurveda, our bodies heat up over the course of the summer season. The effects of this heat can show up as skin irritations, rashes, hay fever, and disrupted digestion. If you suffer from any of these, it is likely that your body has accumulated excess heat. If you can cool and release the hot, sharp qualities of summer from your body, you will enjoy the summer season more.
Thankfully, if you look to what is fresh in your area, you can cool the heat by eating what nature provides best this season.
Inflammation is the cause of many serious diseases. Inflammation in the body occurs due to factors such including stress, lack of movement, genetic disposition, and a poor diet. If you are eating a plant-based diet, chances are you are probably eating an anti-inflammatory diet as well.
I acknowledge that life continues to be pretty crazy for all of us. Despite all that is challenging and intense, I hope you are treating yourself to some time outside. Nature's healing energy is good for all of us. With this in mind, I offer you some seasonal wellness tips from Ayurveda.
The Mighty Dandelion
What is more hip than kale? Dandelions! Dandelions are some of the healthiest greens around, and, they are everywhere... in your yard and garden, along roads and pathways, in fields.
Ayurveda is all about embracing what's seasonal. As the summer heats up, you can balance the heat of the summer with bitter greens.
Read more and watch a video about spring season foods and ideas on my blog: Foods to Favor in Spring
Ever since I was young, I have always loved ringing in the New Year. It has always been a special and potent time for reflecting on my past and envisioning the future. As a kid, I always enjoyed the ritual of writing New Year’s resolutions. As a yogi, this ritual has morphed into what I call a New Year's Reflection and dharma exercise.
The word dharma comes from Sanskrit, and it refers to your unique purpose and passion in life. The dharma alignment exercise is an opportunity to get clear on who you are, who you are becoming, what you stand for, and where you want to put my time and energy. The premise is that you are not entirely the same as you were twelve months ago. Hopefully you have evolved. That is the point! Hopefully you have learned and grown from the past year and have acquired new gifts and skills to take with you into the New Year.
The Busy Month of December
If your life is like that of most North Americans, the month of December is intensely busy with activities, to-lists, gift lists and holiday events. Peace and tranquility may be what you want, yet for many, this month and the holiday season is far from peaceful.
Yet, I believe in my capacity (and yours) to cultivate peace this month and and anytime.
Thanksgiving is coming right up!
Here is a list of 13 tips for a making your Thanksgiving weekend healthier.
1. Plan to eat your Thanksgiving meal at midday or in the afternoon. This is when your digestive capacity is at its peak. Studies show that eating the bulk of your calories earlier in the day supports maintaining a healthy weight.
Don’t you hate it when you realize that you’ve been living life in the fast lane, being too busy, feeling stressed, not eating well and not resting enough, and you wear down on your immune system and you end up sick. Let’s not let that happen!
Ayurvedic wellness is a time tested tradition that excels at guiding individuals toward greater well-being through lifestyle habits, individualized diet recommendations, and mind-body practices.
An on-going theme that I teach my clients and emphasize in my wellness courses and explore in my own life is how to step into the role of being your own best care-giver and how to prioritize self-care. This is the intelligent stance of putting yourself first when it comes to health. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
Are you tired of being tired?
I can't believe how often I hear this. I get it. I'm 48 and may women (and men) in my age bracket just don't sleep as well as they used to.
This post is for you if..
Eat for the season.
I so appreciate how Ayurveda, the healing tradition from India that I am so found of, offers guidance for living in sync with the seasons of the year and suggests adjustments for diet and daily activities to stay healthy and balanced.
If we don’t live in alignment with the seasons, we can easily fall into imbalance and dis-ease. When we understand the nature of the season and how to adapt, we can weather the changes and thrive.
The days are getting chillier. Apples are falling off the trees. The trees in my back yard are starting to drop their leaves. The natural world is in transition and the Ayurveda tradition offers a wonderful lens from which to understand this season and practical guidance for healthy living.
In Ayurveda, autumn is considered a vata season dominated by the elements of air and space. The qualities of autumn according to Ayurveda are dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear. To see this in nature and in our own lives, think of dry leaves and skin, windy weather, erratic schedules, cool mornings and clear nights.
Because this season is dynamic, moving and changeable, there is a sense of excitement and possibility. At the same time, the qualities of dynamism and variability inherent to Autumn can leave us feeling overwhelmed or depleted, especially those of us who have busy schedules. Therefore Ayurveda recommends focusing on the qualities that balance vata.
To bring balance to the busyness of this season, focus on creating more predictable routines and boundaries to support them.
Autumn is a time of transition. In Ayurveda, the autumn is the season is dominated by the elements of air and ether, which Ayurveda calls the Vata dosha (learn more about the Ayurvedic doshas here). Fall is a time of transition in the natural world. Plants and trees shed their leaves, the temperature begins to drop, and the wind begins to pick up. Depending on where you live, the temperature can be very changeable, warm one day, and cool the next. This is a season that is filled with possibility, and at the same time autumn can make us feel like we are up in a flurry!
Why Do a Seasonal Detox?
I hope you had a fun summer. I hope you enjoyed celebrations, travel, vacation, BBQ, ice-cream, and exciting late nights with people you enjoy. know I did. Getting back into the swing of work and family life after a busy summer can be tough. If you played hard in the summer, it's possible that you put on a few extra pounds, let your healthy diet slip a little, and tended to stay up later than usual. When September comes around, you may feel exhausted rather than rested. If this is the case, then you may be starting the busy fall season from a place of health depletion rather than health abundance.
A fundamental principle of Ayurveda is that our habits, routines, and dietary choices should align with the seasons. Ayurveda views our physical bodies, along with everything in the Universe, as being made up of the five primary elements; earth, water, fire, air, and ether or empty space. These elements are expressed in the physical body as qualities of stability/support (earth), feeling/fluidity (water), heat and metabolism (fire), respiration and circulation (air), and space and lightness (ether).
The characteristics of summer are heat, long days of bright sun, and sharp intensity. These are all attributes of pitta dosha, which is why summer is considered a pitta season.
While the warm summer weather is appealing for most of us, too much heat creates imbalance. When the fire element becomes too intense, it creates an excess of the pitta dosha. To move toward balance, Ayurveda reminds us that “like increases like and opposites balance.” This wisdom is extremely helpful when considering your physical activities in the summer.
Read on to learn how to best practice yoga in the summer and to receive a guided heat reducing yoga practice for summer.
Ayurveda Foods for August
According to Ayurveda, our bodies heat up at the end of the summer. The effects of this heat can show up as skin irritations, rashes, hay fever, and disrupted digestion. If you suffer from any of these, it is likely that your body has accumulated excess heat. If you can cool and release the hot, sharp qualities of summer from your body, you will transition more smoothly to the dry season of fall and you will strengthen your immune system and prevent full colds and flus.
Thankfully, if you look to what is fresh in your area, you can cool the heat by eating what nature provides best this season: juicy fruits!
Enjoy the juicy fruits of August:
Saludos from Pisac, Peru!
If you have been following me, you have probably noticed that I write and teach about daily rhythm and healthy habits through Ayurveda. Over the past several years, I have been on a personal mission to up-level my own and my family’s daily rhythm. As many of you know, my family spends time each year in a rural area in the Peruvian Andes. Here people’s lives continue to be interwoven with their majestic landscape and the agrarian calendar. In many ways, it has been here in the Andes where I have learned the most about rhythm and have been most successful at aligning my body and life to the rhythms of nature, which is at the heart of the practices and teachings of Ayurveda. Of course, Ayurveda comes from India, but anyone who has traveled to a region of the world where traditional cultures are still intact will find that traditional cultures naturally sync up with nature. That is how we evolved. Humans evolved with and within the cycles and rhythms of nature.
In this blog post, I want to share the key lessons I’ve learned about daily rhythm from the people of the Andes:
In this blog, I'd like to share a lovely practice that I've learned in the Peruvian Andes to connect specifically to the energy of the Mother Earth, called Pachamama in the Andean world. Increasingly and around the globe, we are becoming a headier and headier species. It seems sometimes that we fully forget that our feet are on the ground. While I am a lover and user of technology to connect with people and to spread ideas, and I acknowledge that you are using technology to read this blog post, I am also very aware that I need lots of time with my feet on the ground, with my hands in the dirt, and I believe that many of our modern ailments could be healed and eradicated if only more humans spent time outside.
As I write this, I am in Peru, in a rural landscape, surrounded by majestic mountains, apus, and with views of corn fields, potato fields and quinoa fields. It is an inspiring and nourishing place. Being down here has taught me a lot about how humans can interact and connect to their natural environment. Here the landscape is considered animate and sacred and everyday people venerate Mother Nature. People here are still connected to an agrarian calendar with times for planting, harvesting, and fertilizing the land. They know where their food comes from and are actively engaged in the food system.
I’ll give you an idea of what this is like: Recently I spent the day with a Quechua family from a highland community. They live at about 13,000 feet. They live in simple but beautiful, traditional adobe homes, made of the earth, and painted with beautiful designs in clay paints. Their cooking stove is earthen and they cook and heat with wood. This family grows and harvests corn, potatoes, barley, wheat and quinoa. They also have a bountiful garden with herbs, greens, and flowers. They have animals: alpacas, sheep, cows and guinea pigs. They spin and dye their own wool and the women make incredibly beautiful weavings. They make their own medicines with the native plants of the environment. Their life is simple but very rich. Each time I spend time with families like this, I feel uplifted and inspired to create a stronger connection to the earth.
Wherever you are, reading this blog, I want to encourage you to develop a relationship with your landscape and ecosystem. I wish for you to create a stronger connection to your food source. Begin by paying attention to your environment. Is there a landmass, a mountain or hill, or even a rock that you particularly enjoy having in your environment? Or perhaps you have a garden, a forest or even a sweet grassy patch close by. I encourage you to get friendly with the earth in your backyard and neighborhood this week. As well, pay attention to the plants that grow in your environment. Think about where your food comes from. Grow a garden. Get to know your wild edibles in your landscape. Visit your farmer’s market. Eat a more local and seasonal diet. All of these are ways that we can deepen our connection to Mother Earth.
Make time for taking walks or hikes in nature and simply sitting outside.. It seems obvious enough, but now we have studies to prove it as well: nature is healing! Being in nature improves mental clarity, reduced inflammation, reduces stress, restores mental energy, improves vision, boosts the immune system, may reduce likelihood of cancer, is linked to longevity and improves your mood!
We all already know this! So, this week, step away from your desk, get out of your car, and get yourself outside. Here are some ideas:
Meditation Practice: Touching Earth
Here is a beautiful and simple meditation to connect with the earth that is inspired from the Andean Tradition. This meditation is for bringing the different aspects and parts of your being into harmony with the energy of Mother Earth. Mother Earth goes by many names in many cultures. In the Indian culture, she may be called Bhumi or Prithvi. In the Andean tradition, this energy is known as Pachamama. The Pachamama is considered the conscious entity that is our mother who supports and nurtures all life on this planet. She is venerated and revered daily in simple and elaborate ways by the Andean people.
This meditation is a variation of a practice that Oakley Gordon describes in his book, the Andean Cosmovision. This is a tool for grounding and coming back to yourself. Often in modern life, we get caught up in our heads thinking, rather than experiencing. This takes our energy upward, where it either concentrates and becomes uncomfortably heated or overly focused or else it dissipates, which can leave us literally feeling ungrounded.
This practice, is meant to help you ground and come back to a feeling of integration. When we are in contact with the Earth, with the Pachamama, we feel support and can better navigate whatever is going on in our life.
Begin this practice sitting on the ground. You can do this practice anywhere, but the effect might be more potent if you do it outside and sit on the earth.
Take a few moments and notice your energy, physically, mentally, emotionally , spiritually.
Now, put your hands on the earth and with intent, connect the energy of your body-mind to the energy of the Pachamama. Make a sincere request/intention to bring her energy into harmony with yours. Mother Earth is gracious. You are her child and she wants to nourish and support you. That is her nature.
With intent, you can consciously connect the various parts of your being one at a time with the Mother Earth, Pachamama. Connect your physical body, especially the lower half of your body, grounding and pressing your physical foundation into the support of the earth. Notice if anything shifts.
Next, connect your emotional body. Let the area of your heart connect up to the earth. Just allow your emotions to drop downward and ground. Notice any sensations.
Finally, let your mental body, the energy of your head, and mind, connect to the earth. Notice how that feels. Now, take a moment and just be. Consciously connecting and experiencing the energy of the earth harmonizing with your energy. Feel yourself to be connected and part of the bigger energy that includes you and the Earth.
Stay here as long as you like.
When you are finished, consciously and sincerely offer gratitude for Mother Earth, Pachamama. Thank her for supporting you.
Consider spending a few minutes in Savasana.
Educator, certified health coach, educator and yoga instructor.
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