Ayurveda is the world’s oldest system of medicine and the most profound science of well-being based on natural ingredients.
These 8 miracle ingredients are an important part of Ayurveda and are a must-have in your kitchen for everyday use.
1] Turmeric (haldi)
Turmeric powder is an ingredient consumed in almost every Indian meal and its health benefits have been lauded for centuries.
Benefits: Turmeric is a disinfectant and natural purifier that purifies the blood, body as well as the energy system. It is also anti-phlegm, being a warm spice (see Natural Miracle Drink for the Flu) and remarkably, also anti-cancer. Moreover, turmeric aids yoga-asana practice, helping fight inertia and improving flexibility.(1)
Use: A pinch of turmeric in everyday meals is the best way to derive regular benefits from this spice in daily life. Turmeric is also consumed along with milk or in the form of small (marble-sized) balls made by mixing a little water, which are to be consumed on an empty stomach. Externally, turmeric paste (made with water) is used to heal wounds and also used in beauty regimes to impart a glow to the skin.
Note: When applying as a beauty treatment, mix with a little yogurt and preferably also a bit of lemon juice to avoid yellowish tinge on the skin.
2] Black Pepper
This “black gold” drew merchants to India from far and wide, over treacherous seas and land, for centuries. What’s more, it continues to be the most traded spice in the world. Native to south India, pepper is cultivated mainly in tropical regions.(2)
Benefits: In Ayurveda, pepper is an important spice especially for pacifying Kapha body-type (associated with the element water) and increasing Pitta, the body-type associate with heat or fire (read about Ayurvedic body types, Vata, Pitta and Kapha).
It has cleansing and anti-oxidant properties, helps the flow of oxygen to the brain, aids general circulation and digestion, promotes appetite and the health of joints and the respiratory system.(3)
Use: Black pepper is today a common spice used all over the world to flavour food. In India it is commonly used in curries and also mixed with yogurt and consumed as a digestive food.
Honey (organically produced) is an excellent substitute for sugar. It is said to have a chemical composition very close to human blood and is extremely beneficial for health.
Benefits: Honey is helpful for people with excess mucous and asthma problems. It is good for the brain and helps keep one alert.
Honey has a different impact on the body depending on how it is consumed. If taken with cool water, it cools the body and if taken with warm water, it increases heat within the body. When mixed with tepid water and consumed every day, it enhances the blood’s hemoglobin levels, alleviating anemic conditions.(4)
Use: Dissolve a three-fourth tablespoon of honey in water and consume everyday. Also use as a substitute for sugar in tea and other food preparations. Honey is also applied on the face for glowing skin and to remove sun-burn.
Note: Honey should never be cooked, mixed in boiling hot water, or given to children under the age of one.(4)
Ghee is clarified butter made from cow’s milk. It is one of the most Satvik (pure, positive pranic) foods and many Indians cook their food in ghee as opposed to cooking oils.
Benefits: When ghee is taken with sugar, it produces fat in the body but when consumed otherwise, ghee helps cleanse the digestive tract and colon, promoting health, aliveness and glowing skin.(5) Ghee nourishes the brain and nerves and has a Pitta reducing action.(6)
Use: It is best to consume a spoonful of ghee everyday before your main meal.(5)
5] Coconut oil
In certain parts of India, every part of the coconut is used – from the water and flesh for consumption, to the shell and husk for kitchenware and houseware. The oil derived from this versatile product is equally versatile in both external and internal uses.
Benefits: Coconut oil is hydrating for the skin and hair and promotes hair growth. In South India, it is used for the hair as an everyday ritual. When massaged into the scalp, it releases heat and leaves one feeling calm and cool.
According to Ayurveda, coconut oil has Karshan properties meaning “that which supports the body to stay slim by enhancing fat metabolism.” Recent research suggests that coconut is good for burning fat and lowering cholesterol.(7)
Uses: Coconut oil is popularly used as an everyday cooking oil. It is also used on the skin, scalp and hair. It is a popular and effective oil used in the face cleaning method known as ‘oil-cleansing’ : rub coconut oil on your palms and massage into the skin; wiped off with a damp, warm cloth.
Ayurveda considers ginger to be one of the most beneficial spices, a storehouse of medicinal goodness. It is also widely used in Chinese food and medicine.
Benefits: Ginger has a wide-ranging list of benefits such as aiding digestion (whets the digestive fire), soothing migraines, relieving joint-pains, killing cancerous cells, reducing motion sickness, treating colds and asthma, lowering blood sugar levels, promoting cardio-vascular health, purifying the blood and slowing down DNA damage.(8) Whew, that’s quite a lot for an everyday spice!
Use: Ginger may be consumed raw or as a base spice in cooking. Crushed ginger mixed with honey helps alleviate a sore throat. Ginger may also be boiled along with black or green tea.
Almonds are the world’s most widely grown nuts and another favourite in Ayurveda for general health and vitality.
Benefits: Almonds are a good source of protein and also a rich source of Vitamin E and magnesium. In Ayurveda, they are especially noted for their Vata (air) and Pitta (fire) pacifying properties.
Use: For everyday energy and vitality, eat a handful of peeled almonds every morning (soak overnight and peel off the skin which contains toxins, before consuming).
Almonds are popularly used in sweet dishes and cakes in several countries. Almond milk is a great alternative to dairy milk and is made by mixing peeled almonds with water in a blender (add water according to desired thickness of the milk).
Almond oil nourishes the skin and is commonly used as and in moisturisers.
Another natural substitute for sugar, jaggery or gur is unrefined cane sugar.
Benefits: Jaggery retains the minerals and nutrients lost in the refining process of white sugar.It has been used in Ayurveda to treat dry cough, improve digestion and for many other health issues.(4)
Use: Use jaggery as a replacement for sugar. Note though that it can have a slightly sour undertone which may alter the taste of certain recipes (especially dessert preparations).
See also: Ayurveda and Yoga – Introduction & Tips
(5) Food and Body (Isha Health and Wholeness Guide) by Isha Foundation
(6) Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide by David Frawley