Use of herbs in Ayurveda

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Ayurveda is an ancient system of healing that is still widely practised today.

The view that Ayurveda takes on health is linked to the view it takes on the world: Every substance and every person is considered to arise, in an abstract sense, from the three essential properties, or doshas. They occur in everything, and in each of us, in a unique mix. This mix characterises us: maybe we have a warm nature (Pitta dosha), or maybe a lot of sensitivity (Kapha dosha), for example. Illness occurs when the fundamental balance of doshas is disturbed.

One of the ways we can re-balance our doshas is through changing the foods we eat: remember, each food will also have its dosha balance, which could help to rebalance our own. Other ways to correct our dosha balance include use of herbs. Every herb has its own dosha balance, and so use of herbs can realign us as well.

The classification of herbs as having a certain Dosha was done so long ago that it is well-known and accepted today. The plants are prescribed according to the way they balance the Doshas. As explained in the Plant of the Week articles by my colleague, there is often a recently-discovered scientific basis for why they act as they do, which is quite miraculous.

Many of the herbal plants used in Ayurveda are native to India, but some of them are found more widely as well, especially today, such as ginger and turmeric. Teas or tablets made of the dried plant matter are usually prescribed, although it is of course great to use the herbs in cooking as well, where applicable. Certain plants have the ability to gently raise the levels of one Dosha, while balancing another in a non-invasive way. They are also more “intense” in their dosha properties than, say, animal-derived foodstuffs, in which the doshas are more blended. In this way a more precise and intense tool, perhaps, than dietary and lifestyle changes, and can be used to make more dramatic shifts.

Let’s keep in mind this additional dimension of this powerful theory of health!

Plant of the Week- Bitter orange

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Bitter orange is the citrus tree (Citrus aurantium), a hybrid between Citrus maxima and Citrus reticulata. Bitter orange is used for essential oil, food production and traditional medicine. The bitter orange tree is indigenous to eastern Africa, Arabia, and Syria, and cultivated in Spain, Italy, and North America.
Bitter orange has a complex chemical makeup. The peel contains flavones, the alkaloids synephrine, octopamine, and N-methyltyramine and carotenoids. It is employed in herbal medicine as a stimulant and paradoxically both as an appetite suppressant and to improve appetite. However, Bitter orange and caffeine, a frequent combination in weight loss and bodybuilding products, can cause high blood pressure and increased heart rate in healthy adults with otherwise normal blood pressure, and has caused death in some cases. Bitter orange’s action as a stimulant also causes it to possibly hinder surgery by increasing heart rate as well as blood pressure, and it is advised to suspend using bitter orange a minimum of 2 weeks just before surgery.

Bitter orange peel and oil (extracted from the leaves and young shoots and known as petit grain in the perfumery and scent industry) are used for intestinal ulcers, constipation, diarrhoea, blood in faeces, prolapsed anus and intestinal gas. In Asian medicine, the entire dried unripe fruit is used primarily for digestive disorders such as indigestion, heartburn, low stomach acidity, abdominal pain, a laxative for constipation, and dysenteric diarrhoea.
Bitter orange can also be helpful for nasal congestion.
Since it is a stimulant, bitter orange has been used to assist in cases of chronic fatigue syndrome, in stimulating the heart and circulation, general feebleness, anaemia, swelling of the veins (phlebitis), the exhaustion accompanying colds and flu, bed sores and headaches.
A major use of biter orange leaf is as a sedative for sleep disorders such as insomnia; in Mexico and South America the leaf is used as a tonic, a sedative for insomnia, and to calm frazzled nerves. The Basque people in Europe use the leaves for stomach aches, insomnia, and palpitations and the bitter orange peel as an anti-spasmodic

Bitter orange leaves can also be used for impurities of the skin, hair loss and applied to the skin for swelling of the eyelid, eyelid lining and retina. The oil, when applied to the skin, has been demonstrated to be effective for treatment of fungal skin infections.

Oil extracted from the flowers of the bitter orange was used as a scent throughout the 16th century; this tradition was allegedly begun by an Italian princess, Anna-Marie de Nerola, who used the oil to scent her gloves, and the orange flower oil became known as Neroli in her honour. Neroli oil is citrusy, slightly bitter with hints of of orange and honey blossom , and is widely used in the perfume and fragrance industry. In fact, Eau-de-Cologne, the famous perfume from Cologne, Germany, used this oil as its main ingredient. In aromatherapy, a number of studies show that neroli essential oil may help to lessen anxiety; in a 2013 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an aromatherapy treatment involving a blend of neroli, lavender, and chamomile essential oils helped alleviate anxiety and improve sleep quality in a group of 56 coronary angioplasty patients in an intensive care unit. According to another study in the same journal, published in 2012, 83 people with high blood pressure inhaled either a placebo fragrance or an aromatherapy blend of neroli, lavender, ylang-ylang, and marjoram essential oils for 24 hours. Those assigned to an aromatherapy blend experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure, as well as in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Neroli oil produced in France and Tunisia are considered the finest and still command the highest price. A third product of distillation of the bitter orange is orange flower water, which is used extensively in cooking in southern France.

In foods, bitter orange oil is used as a flavouring agent. The fruit is used for making marmalades and liqueurs such as Triple Sec, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and Curacao. The sour, bitter fruit itself is even eaten by bold gourmets of Iran and Mexico. The dried peel of the fruit is also used as a seasoning. In manufacturing, bitter orange oil is used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and soaps. This orange is also used as a rootstock in groves of sweet orange.

A more interesting current use of bitter oranges is as a projectile: in Greece, many streets are lined with bitter orange trees for ornamental purposes, although Greeks also use the green, unripe fruit or the peel of the mature ones for making preserves. The fruits do, however, have long history of being used as projectiles by demonstrators – having bombarded such diverse threats as the German occupation forces, junta policemen, and modern riot police – to the extent that at the apex of the Greek “crisis” , city cleaning crews removed all the fruit in the city centre, in an attempt to deprive potential protesters of this ammunition.

In the timeless words of Davin Turney, “When life gives you lemons, sell them and buy a pineapple”. However, when life gives you a bitter orange, you can make neroli, Curacao or anti-insomnia medicine. Or you can do as they do in Greece, and just throw that bitter orange right back at whatever annoyed you in the first place…

Ayurveda and the Endocrine system

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The endocrine system refers to all organs of the body which produce hormones: the chemical messengers that set into motion all our bodily processes like growth, sleep, fight-or-flight reactions or reproduction. Every hormone-producing gland in the body is linked to the others in a complex system that mediates how we respond to our environment. The adrenals, the thyroid, the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the reproductive hormones are all part of this system.

Since the endocrine system is responding all the time, even to subtle input like the sound of someone shouting in the street outside, our endocrine system is often hardest hit by threats or discomforts in our environment. It is also the first to respond to any negative thoughts. We will look at this system from a more Ayurvedic perspective, to try and heal the subtle imbalances and promote our health!

The endocrine system is broadly Water-Kapha in nature, as it secretes hormones and regulates processes and cycles in the body. If we want our hormones to be flowing and balanced, we should take a deep breath and promote peaceful, relaxed Water-Kapha energy in our lives. When we suppress or reject Water-Kapha dosha in the form of peacefulness or our own feelings, we drive up our cortisol and adrenalin and disrupt our thyroid function. We also shut down on creative, nourishing processes like sleep, growth and digestion. We disrupt cycles and natural responses. Chemically, the main thing that derails our endocrine system is elevated cortisol, from stress and fear.

If you have an endocrine imbalance of any kind, it is a good indication that you are “pushing” yourself, or fighting your own natural responses. You are either holding back, or bleeding yourself dry. You are probably also changing your own pace. Either you are overriding your desire to think more before you act, your desire to respond emotionally, or you are shutting down on your natural swift movement. Your mind is constantly giving you negative messages about how you respond.

What to do for an imbalanced endocrine system:

  1. Allow yourself to feel as you feel and respond as you respond, whatever those feelings are.
  2. Honour the cycles in your life, and be considerate of your body’s needs.
  3. Allow yourself joy! Joy fires up the endocrine system.
  4. Promote Water-Kapha dosha in your lifestyle! Have a hot, scented bath, watch a sunset, smell the scents of rose or lavender. Take some time to do something pleasurable and relaxing every day.
  5. Promote Water-Kapha in your diet! Eat more dairy-products, seafood, sweet fruits like melons, peaches and bananas. Drink hot cocoa, sweet smoothies or milkshakes. Try these recipes.
  6. Water-Kapha is connective, so spend some quality time with loved ones! Connect, and have coffee with friends. If your friends happen to be Water-Kapha people, then that will help even more!
  7. After two days of absolutely saturating yourself with Water-Kapha dosha with the above steps, take some time to assess how you feel.

If you feel peaceful and like your symptoms are being alleviated after two days, then carry on with promoting Water-Kapha by following these steps as long as it feels good to you. If you notice you start to feel depressed or indecisive, then go to gently promoting your own primary Dosha (here are our tips for Vata, Pitta, Water-Kapha and Earth-Kapha).

If, after two days you are feeling weepy, restless, indecisive, or especially if you feel back pain or itches anywhere in the body, then your own endocrine imbalance is probably arising from slowing down your natural energy. If this is the case, ask yourself if you are making yourself wrong for being too swift, too impulsive or too loud. There is no such thing as “too much”! You are a beautiful expression of your natural Dosha energy. Start promoting your own natural Dosha energy through diet and lifestyle today.

In closing, an endocrine imbalance always arises from questioning and criticising the self, from making your natural responses “wrong”, or from living in an environment where you feel under threat for your natural responses. You are the gift you bring to the world. Honour that today! Live your passion and prioritise your joy. You will return to balance in no time.

Plant of the Week: Jamaica dogwood

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Jamaica dogwood, Jabim or Florida fishpoison tree (Piscidia piscipula) is a deciduous, tropical tree. This member of the bean family is native to southern Florida, the Florida Keys, Texas, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
As the name ‘Florida fishpoison tree’ suggests, native Americans used to throw the powdered bark into streams to poison fish. A number of chemicals present in the bark are toxic to fish, the principal one being rotenone, which while it turns fish belly-up with paralysis is believed to be nontoxic to warm-blooded animals, including people, when taken orally. Thus the recipients of the fish supper would in no way suffer any ill-effects! Rotenone’s paralysing effect also acts against insects, and it can be used in insecticides to control lice, fleas, and larvae.
Jamaica dogwood has sedative properties that also translate to human beings, making it an important sedative and analgesic (although determining proper dosage is something of a tricky business which is best left to a professional).
As early as 1844, Western scientists began to uncover the pain-relieving and fever-reducing properties of Jamaica dogwood. Dr. Isaac Ott (who wrote Pharmacology of Newer Materia Medica), made extensive experiments with the drug, and stated that it “slows the pulse, increases the arterial tension, succeeded by a fall of tension due to a weakening of the heart; dilates the pupils, except when passing into a state of asphyxia, when contraction takes place; it does not affect the irritability of the motor nerve fibres, nor does it attack the peripheral sensory nerve endings…”. Dr Hamilton in Burnett’s Outlines, described its local application is a specific in removing toothache, irritation of the dental pulp, inflammation of the peridental membrane, alveolar abscess, as well as in other painful affections of the mouth and that it could be used to relieve burns, scalds and haemorrhoids. He also recommended it for sciatica, abdominal neuralgia, renal neuralgia and migraine.
Recent scientific studies in animals suggest that bark extracts may have potential for their anti-inflammatory, sedative, and antispasmodic effects.
Jamaica dogwood is also a sedative which can be used for nervous conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, fear, and nervous tension. It promotes sleep but can also be used as a daytime sedative and nervine.
As an analgesic and anodyne, Jamaica dogwood has been used as a traditional remedy for treating nerve pain and migraines. It has been shown to have antispasmodic effects in animals, helping to relieve smooth muscle spasms along the digestive tract. Thus it is useful for period pain and dysmenorrhea.
It is well-known as a traditional remedy for treating migraine. The bark of the root works similarly to aspirin pain relievers by blocking an enzyme that produces inflammatory and pain-causing chemicals called prostaglandins. musculoskeletal pain of arthritis and rheumatism.
Because of its ability to reduce smooth muscle spasms, the bark decoction of Jamaica dogwood has been used to relieve the spasmodic couch in cases of whooping cough.
It is also anti-inflammatory due to its ability to block prostaglandins, and it reduces fever. It has cardiotonic and diuretic effects.
Jamaica dogwood has rarely been studied in humans, so there are no known scientific reports of interactions between it and conventional medications. However, Jamaica dogwood has sedative effects, and may increase the effects of other drugs or herbs used for insomnia or anxiety (called central nervous system depressants). Do not take it if you already take medications for anxiety or insomnia. Also, be careful not to confuse Jamaican dogwood and American dogwood.
An interesting property of Jamaica dogwood trees is that the heartwood is incredibly hard. Among the Maya, who do not use it as a fish poison (since most water-sources are subterranean and fishing is not a part of the culture) it is famed for its heartwood, which has the ability to bend any nails an unwary carpenter tries to hammer into it. However, due to its beautiful pink flowers, it makes a good ornamental tree.
The Jamaica Dogwood is a good object lesson not to judge a book by its cover: the delicate pink lacy flowers conceal a poisoner, a nail-bending hardwood and a powerful source of medicine!

Ayurveda and the pericardium

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The pericardium – the protective sac that surrounds the heart – protects the heart from external shock when we move abruptly or fall; anchoring, cushioning and regulating its blood content.

In the West, we tend to overlook the pericardium and its important functions, while in Ayurveda and other traditional Eastern medical practises, it is well-considered. It does play a vital role in heart-health, and an inflamed pericardium is a large cause of heart incidents. The pericardium can become inflamed as a result of infection or wear-and-tear, and symptoms of a sore chest, disrupted heart rhythm, a bruised feeling around the heart and difficulty breathing can indicate an inflamed pericardium. Exercising with an inflamed pericardium due to influenza is a leading cause of heart attacks following a bout of ‘flu.

Here, we will discuss looking after this important and often-neglected organ from an Ayurvedic perspective.

The nature of the pericardium
The nature of the pericardium is yin and fire-elemental. The colour associated with it is pink. The pericardium protects the heart. Issues around the pericardium are associated with issues of protection and of openness – if we get angry with ourselves for being “too trusting” or “too friendly”, we will probably manifest pericarditis, as we will if we chastise ourselves for being “too ungenerous” or “too hesitating/untrusting”. Any situation in which we question the openness of our hearts will inflame the pericardium.

Pericarditis is an inflammation. Thus, the body can be predisposed to it by anything in the body which raises levels of inflammation, like acidity and stress, or a low-level infection or undiagnosed allergy that maintains a low but persistent level of inflammation in the body.

According to Ayurveda, inflammation always arises from excess Pitta dosha, while stiffness (constrictive pericarditis) arises from excess Vata dosha. If there is an accumulation of fluid around the heart, there is also an excess Kapha dosha involvement, but Kapha is itself beneficial to the pericardium. So, unless there is fluid around the heart, your treatment should involve reducing Pitta in your diet and lifestyle, and promoting Kapha.

Steps for a healthy Pericardium:
1. Take it easy. Stop pushing yourself so much! Sit and watch the sunset. Take some me-time doing whatever it is that you really love doing. Relax and stop stressing.
2. Say the affirmation: “It is safe for me to love. I can give and receive love exactly as I wish to. Love flows from and to my heart freely and easily.”
3. Reduce Pitta foods for a few days: that is, reduce citrus, spicy foods, red meat, tomatoes, fried foods, pulses, peanuts and pungent foods.
4. Increase Kapha foods, unless there is fluid on the heart. So, drink milkshakes or cocoa, eat dairy products, seafood, cucumber, melons and sweet fruits like mangoes, bananas and berries. Here is the list of Kapha promoting meal ideas.
In the case of a buildup of fluid around the heart, reduce Pitta and slightly increase Vata: eat more raw foods, wholegrain products, sprouts, seeds, muesli, bran and anything with a mildly astringent quality, like lemonade or green tea. Here is the list of Vata promoting meal ideas.
5. Introduce something pearlescent or pink into your décor, and soft fabrics like silks, velvets or even very fine, silky polyesters into your décor and wardrobe.
6. Surround yourself with the scents of rose or lotus.

If you have friends who are predominantly Kapha-dosha people (Water-Kapha or Earth-Kapha), it would also be good to spend some time out with them, and let their peaceful energy soak into your soul.

Let yourself relax, stop questioning how deeply you feel, and let the love flow!

Next week we will discuss Ayurveda and the endocrine system.

Plant of the Week: bitter melon

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Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is a form of gourd related to squash, watermelon, cantaloupes and cucumbers. It is also known as Karela or Goya. This tropical and subtropical vine originated on the Indian subcontinent and is now grown prolifically in Asia Africa and the Caribbean where it is used both as a food and a medicine.

Bitter melon fruits are very bitter, which means that like all bitter herbs they act on the glands to increase glandular secretions. As a food, bitter melon satisfies the body’s daily requirements for vitamin K, and is a moderate source of B-complex vitamins such as vitamin B-3, 5 and 6 and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium. Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates, carrying about 72 µg/100g (18% of RDA). Fresh bitter melon also contains about 140% of the RDA and a good amount of vitamin A. In fact, it has some of the highest concentrations of these vitamins and minerals in the world of green vegetables. Bitter melon is traditionally used in stir fries along with ginger, lime, cilantro and garlic, and it can be added to salads, in tempura, and chopped into any dish you’d use bell peppers for. Even the leaves can even be eaten, and are sometimes added in soups. In India it is sometimes used as an ingredient in some kinds of curries, and a paste of bitter melon leaves, along with tulsi leaves mixed with honey can be taken daily as a tonic.

The high vitamin content of bitter melon makes it invaluable for the immune system. In the Philippines and other countries, it is considered a tonic against coughs and colds, and its support of the immune system can also be helpful in supporting the body against bacterial and fungal infections of all kinds.

As a medicine, a major application of bitter melon is in decreasing the blood sugar through increasing the absorption of glucose. In this way, Bitter melon juice benefits those suffering from type 2 diabetes. Indeed, it was used against diabetes by Chinese and Indian medicine practitioners for centuries, an application modern research has only recently confirmed. The absorption of glucose occurs due to the activation the protein kinase in the cells. Bitter gourd activates these kinases due to which the absorption of sugar increases. It also contains the phyto-nutrient, polypeptide-P, plant insulin, known to lower blood sugar levels and a hypoglycemic agent called charantin, which increases the glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis inside the cells of liver, muscle and adipose tissue. Several clinical trials have shown that bitter melon extract and juice lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It has been suggested that increasing glucose absorption also can help to inhibit the growth of cells in pancreatic cancer, although I cannot think of a direct mechanism through which that would occur.

Because it aids in glycogen synthesis in the liver cells, bitter melon can be supportive in cases of cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis and other liver conditions. Drink one glass of bitter melon juice daily to heal liver problems. It has also been used to help in the expulsion of kidney stones, and because it increases secretions, it can help to combat indigestion.

Bitter melon can be taken internally for psoriasis and eczema and has been used topically for skin abscesses and wounds. It also has the ability to start menstruation and so should be avoided by pregnant people. The alkaloids in bitter melon can also cause an allergic reaction, including skin redness, dimness of vision, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhoea.

Bitter melon is one of the vegetables that is commonly grown in the Philippines, where it is used as a cure for colds and asthma. A charming Filipino tale explains the source of bitter melon’s bitterness: Once upon a time in the town of Vegetables, a newcomer arrived that was bitter melon. Now, bitter melon looked around and observed the sweetness of squash, the smoothness of tomato, the hotness of ginger, eggplant’s vibrant purple colour and mustard’s fresh spring greens, and he was unsatisfied with himself. He slowly grew more and more bitter, rejecting the other vegetables’ attempts at friendliness, until he hatched his master plan. The jealous vegetable crawled quietly under the trellises of the other sleeping vegetables during the night, harvesting all their good qualities. The following day, news broke of the catastrophic robbery, and along with the news a new vegetable arrived in town, with different skin colours, a mixture of smoothness and roughness, and all the good taste a vegetable should have. Although initially the other vegetables were distracted, close scrutiny eventually enabled them to put two and two together and realise the ‘newcomer’ was none other than the transformed culprit, bitter melon! The vegetables were at a loss of what to do; however, the faeries, having seen bitter melon’s treachery, decided to intervene: and surprisingly, bitter melon’s punishment was to keep the menagerie of conflicting properties that he had stolen from the other vegetables forever, a state in which it exists to this day.

These ‘conflicting properties’ described in folklore are the things that make bitter melon such an interesting plant, both as a food source and a medicine…as well as serving as a warning of the dangers that can befall us when we compare ourselves to others! However, in this case bitter melon’s evil deed resulted in a quite incomparable exotic vegetable.

Ayurveda basics: Do You

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Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine, whose chief tenet is that all objects and beings have a unique natural balance of the elements or Doshas, and that the disruption of this balance causes ill health. One of the overwhelming messages that comes through this discipline is that suppression of natural inclinations is wrong, and is the major source of illness. In other words, as we would say it nowadays: Do you!

You maintain inside you somewhere the same characteristics with which you were born – the unique combination of Doshas that made you the sparkly, gentle, adventurous or contemplative being you were born to be! Over time, we learn to restrain our natural qualities, simply because they are prominent. If you were told you were “too quiet”, or “too slow”, you can bet others were being told they were “too loud”, or “too hasty”! So that criticism of you was meaningless: it was simply noticing what it was about you that stands out. But you’re probably still carrying it as a criticism, using it to restrain yourself, and it’s probably still making you sick.

We talked a week or so ago about the four Dosha Excess constitutions. Let’s look this week at what suppression of your dominant Dosha energy would look like, and let’s cast that away! Do you from this moment in time! If you are still not sure about your dominant Dosha, reading this post might help.

Vata suppression:
Negative messages you probably heard: “you’re too much”, “you’re not still/focused enough”, or “be serious/realistic/grown-up”. You have likely been called “hyper”.
Health issues: Respiratory problems, constipation, being “out of breath”, thyroid problems, feeling tired all the time, depression, oily skin, migranes, feeling stuck, trapped or uninspired, oedema, slow circulation.
Dietary indicator: A sudden idea that you should eat starchy or substantial foods or foods with rich flavour, even if you don’t actually like them. A sudden desire to avoid fresh fruits or vegetables, raw food, fibrous foods or stimulants, even if you actually like them.

Water-Kapha suppression:
Negative messages you probably heard: That you’re “oversensitive” or “overemotional”, “wishy-washy”, “shy”, or that you should be “tough”, or be faster. You have probably been criticised for feeling too much, taking things too much to heart or too intensely, or thinking too much.
Health issues: Inflammation or ulceration anywhere in the body, issues in the throat (tonsillitis, inflammation, thyroid problems), flare-ups of the skin, stomach ulcers, indigestion, burnout, atherosclerosis, heart strain or pain, heart attack.
Dietary indicator: A sudden idea that you should eat acidic foods, spicy foods or meat, even if you don’t actually like them. A sudden desire to avoid dairy products, seafood and sweet, cooling or paste-like things, even if you actually like them.

Earth-Kapha suppression:
Negative messages you’ve probably heard: That you’re “too overbearing”, “too serious”, “too critical”, or “too slow”. They also receive a lot of criticism for being “too cautious”, “too indecisive”, or hear that they are “lazy”, or “overthink” things.
Health issues: Dryness anywhere in the body, dry skin with irritated patches, heart strain, erratic heart rhythm or palpitations, graininess in the skin, mouth or eyes, cracks in the corners of the mouth, diarrhoea or disrupted bowel movements, hyperventilation or panic attacks, feeling on edge all the time.
Dietary indicator: A sudden idea that you should eat raw foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, wholegrain or unleavened foods, or anything dry and with a crisp texture, even if you really don’t like them. A sudden desire not to eat starchy foods or foods with an intense, salty, or complex flavour, even if you really like them.

Pitta suppression:
Negative messages you’ve probably heard: That you’re “too hasty”, “too quick off the mark”, or that they “live too big”, “overexceed themselves” or they “go too far”. You have probably also been told you are too “overenthusiastic” or pushy.
Health issues: Coldness anywhere in the body, especially in the extremities. Low blood pressure, poor circulation. Waxy or clammy skin, diarrhoea, chills or cramps, blanketing headaches, feeling shakily tired, feeling indecisive or overwhelmed by the details.
Dietary indicator: A sudden idea that you should eat dairy products, cool foods, paste-like foods, seafood or sweet foods, even if you don’t actually like them. A sudden aversion to meat, acidic foods, citrus, pulses or pungent spicy foods, even if you really like them.

What you should do:
Stop thinking you are “too” anything! Everyone around you loves you for who you are. Just know that, and it will be so. And do you! Here are the positive messages you have probably also heard about your Dosha, to remind you of them, and of how essential it is to do you:
Vata Dosha: You are inspiring, you are fun, you are cute, you make people feel happy, you’re a breath of fresh air!
Water-Kapha Dosha: You’re such a great listener, you’re so insightful or wise, you’re thoughtful, you’re caring. You make people feel comfortable. You bring peace.
Earth-Kapha Dosha: You are so reliable, you are so trustworthy, you bring clarity or understanding. You’re a loyal friend. People rely on you. You know a lot.
Pitta Dosha: You are encouraging, you are enthusiastic, you get things done, you get things moving. You are strong.

So much to love about being you! Support yourself! Eat to support your Dosha (here are our boards for Vata, Water-Kapha, Earth-Kapha and Pitta), live to support your Dosha (Vata, Water-Kapha, Earth-Kapha and Pitta). And express and actualise yourself in your life today! The whole universe is waiting to receive your unique energy! Let’s express that now.

Plant of the Week: Dahlia

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Dahlia is a genus of bushy perennial plants native to Mexico. There are 42 species of dahlia and many hybrids. The Badianus Manuscript, a herbal compendium published in 1552 and only rediscovered in Vatican archives in the1930s has on one of its 184 plates of Aztec herbal plants, an illustration of a dahlia – a red flowering plant with slender roots given the Aztec name of “Couanenepilli” (other words for the Dahlia are Chichicpatli, Cocoxochitl, Jicamita or Xicamatl, and even Xicamaxochitl ). However, the Aztec scholars who created the herbal under the direction of the Spanish drew for their people, not for European botanists, and some of the plants appear to be composites of many plants that possibly shared healing properties, making the manuscript difficult to interpret. This manuscript is contemporary with the earliest description of Dahlias, by the Spanish royal physician Francisco Hernández, who visited Mexico in 1570 to study the “natural products of that country”. From Hernandez’ understanding of Aztec, to Spanish, the dahlia is known as “water cane”, “water pipe”, “water pipe flower”, “hollow stem flower” and “cane flower”, which refers to the hollowness of the plants’ stem.
Dahlias were used as both a source of medicine and food by the Aztecs, and were both gathered in the wild and cultivated. The Aztecs used them to treat epilepsy and are said to have used the long hollow stem for water storage. As a medicine, dahlia roots contain the compound inulin, used in medicine today to help measure kidney function. In mice experiment, mice supplemented with inulin showed reduced carcinogen-induced aberrant crypt foci in the distal colon during exposure to pathogens or tumor inducers. Research on Crohn’s disease patients suggested daily intake of inulin significantly decreases disease activity. Another benefit of Inulin on the colon is enhanced growth and activities of selected beneficial bacteria and (consequently) inhibited growth of certain pathogenic bacteria. In vitro inulin was found to selectively stimulate the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, which are healthful bacteria. Inulin is also reported to decrease the level of cholesterol, although strangely a study of men showed decreased cholesterol, while the same study carried out on a group of women showed no effects. Dahlia tubers yield the substance called Laevulose (also Atlanta Starch or Diabetic Sugar) which is prescribed for diabetic and consumptive patients, and has been given to children in cases of wasting illness. During WW I, the research staff of one of the Scottish Universities developed a process of extracting a valuable and much needed drug for the Army from Dahlia tubers, and there was a very considerable business done in Laevulose before the War by certain German firms. A paper read at the Second International Congress of the Sugar Industry, held at Paris in 1908, described a process of preparing Laevulouse by the inversion of Inulin with dilute acids.
The culinary properties of dahlias were well-known to the Aztecs, who valued the plant especially as a source of water for travelling hunters and would forage them on hunting trips; Dahlias will store large reserves of water in their stems. In fact, the early breeders of dahlias in Europe were mainly interested in developing the plant as a food source, but those experiments never met with much success. However, a Swiss company Lubera apparently recently spent two years working with Austrian dahlia grower Peter Haslhofer to develop a range of edible dahlias. These can be used as a substitute for potato in any dish and are full of carbohydrate. The range consists of six varieties, each has with its own taste; varying from asparagus to celery and fennel.

Dahlias were introduced to England via Madrid, in 1789, by the Marchioness of Bute. However, the gardeners at Kew, having been told that these were ‘tropical plants’ in need of very specific care, kept them in conditions too damp and too warm, causing them to decay. In fact, it wasn’t until their third introduction, from France in 1814, that Dahlias actually managed to be successfully grown in the United Kingdom.

In France, the dahlia is said to have met with the approval of Napoleon’s Empress Josephine, who had a great interest in botany and was claimed to try to prevent knowledge of the dahlia’s entry into France from reaching the local population. However, the main royal patrons of the dahlia were the emperor Moctezuma and his court, who wore the flower (or depictions of it, in gold) as a solar symbol. In an homage to it’s Aztec glory, the dahlia was declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963.

From the TV series ‘A gardener’s diary’ comes the quote “What grows in the garden, so lovely and rare?  Roses and Dahlias and people grow there.” The history of dahlias is a very human story, growing and developing alongside our own as we cultivated them for food, medicine and pleasure to the eye since the early days of the Aztecs. Whether contributing to the war effort or providing relief from Crohn’s disease, the dahlia’s pretty face overlays a powerful character!

Autumn and Ayurveda

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It’s Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere! What an amazing time of year. Gentle sunsets, longer night, and a tranquil misty feeling as the earth prepares for sleep.
Autumn has a strong Water-Kapha feel: it is tranquil, intensely beautiful and relaxed, as the earth settles down to rest. We gather the harvest and prepare the soil and contemplate the year. It is surprisingly delicate, with mauve skies, falling leaves, and a gentle haze on everything.
All this Water-Kapha in the environment makes us feel naturally peaceful and thoughtful. We tend to reflect on the year and to feel restful. This is a great time of year for all conditions arising from a Water-Kapha lack: heart strain of any kind, high blood pressure, dry eyes, dry skin, endocrine problems of any sort, kidney pain, bladder infection, inflammation, and generally any condition which is inflamed or throbbing.
To assist these conditions, we should honour the Water-Kapha season and allow this gentle, supportive energy to flow through us!

Honour the Water-Kapha season by:
Enjoying a sunset.
Drinking hot chocolate.
Bringing some roses into the house.
Using greys and mauves or rose pink in your décor.
Relaxing more.
Trying meal ideas that promote Water-Kapha (here is our collection of ideas).

While Water-Kapha is soothing and cooling, too much of it can become overwhelming! If you have conditions such as chills, poor circulation, phlegm on the chest or sinuses, a stuffy nose, postnasal drip, diarrhoea, dull headaches, low blood pressure or a feeling of deep coldness anywhere in the body, you might find all the ambient Water-Kapha that is around in autumn a little overwhelming! You will know if you are experiencing a Water-Kapha excess constitution. The best way to warm up a little and overcome this excess Water-Kapha in you is by gently promoting Pitta energy.

  • Eat oranges and other citrus, red meat (if you eat meat), lentils, pulses, nuts, onions, garlic, hummus and chickpeas, brinjals, spinach, raisins and tomatoes.
  • Use more spices and mustard as condiments, and make more curries.
  • Add the scents of cinnamon and basil to your repertoire of household air fresheners or incenses!
  • Bring some elements of golden and ochre colours to your décor.
  • Drink ginger tea, orange juice, Oxo, tomato or meat-flavoured broths or anything citrusy or spicy.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough iron, sulphur and vitamin C. Try these Pitta-promoting recipes.

Support yourself and your Dosha and have a beautiful Autumn!