Did you know it is possible for your very own kitchen to be like a mini clinic, equipped with medicinal, healing spices that can correct and prevent ailments ranging from physical pain to indigestion, to itching to headaches?
It is certainly possible thanks to the ancient science of Ayurveda, a medical system from India that is also the sister science of yoga. Stemming from two root words: “Ayush,” meaning “life,” and “Veda,” which means “study or knowledge of,” Ayurveda is the knowledge or study of life.
Yes, it really is that expansive.
As a student, teacher and practitioner of Ayurveda, using these Ayurvedic spices regularly has contributed to making my kitchen like a magical medical clinic, in which I feel inspired and empowered to create as much health as I wish, with my very own two hands.
1. Ajwain Seeds (Bishop’s Weed)
My personal mantra every time I have any kind of physical pain (which is fortunately much rarer now, thanks to living by Ayurveda’s healing wisdom) is to reach for Ajwain. This Ayurvedic herb is an extremely potent painkiller. I always feel almost instantaneous relief from pain upon consuming Ajwain seeds. This herb is also incredibly helpful for bloating, gas, and constipation.
Ways to use Ajwain Seeds:
- Ajwain seed tea: boil Ajwain seeds in water. Allow the Ajwain tea to cool to a temperature at which you can drink, then enjoy.
- Cook with ajwain: This is especially helpful to do if you are experiencing chronic gas, bloating and constipation. This spice can be added to almost every savory dish, in its seed form, dry roasted, or as a powder (just blend the seeds in a blender or Magic Bullet).
Many aspects of Indian culture and spirituality have practical, as well as sublime, purpose. In Hindu spiritual rituals, a red dot is often symbolically placed on a person’s forehead, in between their eyes (often referred to as the ‘third eye’), as a blessing to awaken one’s inner wisdom. Did you know that the practical reason for this placement of saffron is to act on the blood tissue of the body (called rakta dhatu) in a way that prevents and treat headaches?
Saffron is additionally utilized to help with reducing vomiting. It also benefits the skin, improving the complexion, and serving as a key ingredient in many all-natural Ayurvedic beauty regimens.
Ways to use Saffron:
- Saffron milk: boil milk with sugar, and add a few strands of saffron to it for a delicious and beautifying recipe to enjoy in the morning or at night (at least three hours after dinner).
- Saffron paste: rub saffron strands with milk and apply the resultant paste to reduce dark circles around your eyes.
- Saffron rice: cook rice with a few strands of saffron in it for a delicious accompaniment to your favorite savory dishes.
This herb has an amazing list of benefits. It helps boost immunity, which makes it a powerful health prevention tool, found in every Indian household. Turmeric also benefits the digestive system by appetizing food. It purifies the blood. Turmeric improves complexion and is another ingredient often found in Ayurvedic beauty recipes and home remedies. This herb helps with itching, swelling, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-trauma wound healing. It is so helpful for wounds, in fact, that in India, Johnson & Johnson has created its very own turmeric-infused band-aid!
Ways to use Turmeric:
- Cook with turmeric: Turmeric can be used as a healing spice in almost any recipe — from chicken to vegetables to soup. A small amount of turmeric can also be added to saffron rice for added benefit.
- Turmeric mask: Mix turmeric with either milk or water and apply on the face prior to showering in the morning. This external application of turmeric is traditionally used to beautify Indian brides-to-be prior to their marriage ceremonies.
- Turmeric milk: boil milk and add ½ tsp. of turmeric powder, along with sugar, for a delicious wound-healing antidote to swelling and other post-injury physical trauma symptoms.
4. Cumin seeds
I cannot think of a single savory Ayurvedic meal I have made without adding cumin seeds. This herb helps digest existing toxins in the body. Cumin seeds are such a great overall digestive aid, which help prevent all sorts of digestive disorders from cropping up to begin with. Cumin seeds are particularly beneficial for diarrhea and vomiting. Another benefit of cumin seeds is that it helps to purify breast milk for lactating mothers.
Ways to use Cumin Seeds:
- Cook with cumin seeds
- Use cumin seeds as a table spice: roast cumin seeds, grind them into a powder in a Magic Bullet or with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle on your food to boost digestion
Nutmeg has an affinity to benefit those with stress and psychological issues. It improves the smell of both stools and your breath. It is good for the voice. Nutmeg is an anti-diarrheal and helps in cases of heart disease. One of my favorite aspects of nutmeg is how it helps you sleep like a baby!
Ways to use Nutmeg:
- Sleep soundly: add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg to warm milk at night to promote sleep
Cardamom is an amazingly delicious herb—I always make sure I stock my spice box with cardamom. I never drink milk without adding a dash of cardamom to it; this spice is also what helps make Indian and other types of sweets taste so sweet, and benefits hyperacidity.
Cardamom can also help you fight bad breath—one of its actions in the body is cleansing the mouth.
The main action of cardamom in the body is reducing nausea. It can also be mixed with honey or lukewarm water to give to babies who are suffering from coughing accompanied with vomiting.
Ways to use Cardamom:
- Mouth freshener: chew 1-2 pods and spit out the peel
- Nausea: chew 1-2 pods directly
7. Rock salt
Did you ever think that your standard salt could be a culprit in preventing you from losing needed weight? It can. The reason for this is that normal salt comes from the sea (which is why it is called “sea salt”), and therefore has a lot of water in it. We always recommend that clients who are interested in weight loss consume Himalayan rock salt instead. Since this rock salt comes from land, rather than the sea, it will not cause the same kind of water retention and weight gain that regular sea salt can create.
According to Ashtanga Hrdayam Sutrasthana, Chapter Six, Verse 144, rock salt has the additional benefits of kindling the digestive fire (with a balanced digestive fire being the key to good health in Ayurveda), and prevents burning, along with many skin conditions.
Ways to use Rock Salt:
- Cook with rock salt instead of regular sea salt
- Digestive aid: start your meals with a small piece of fresh ginger and rock salt to ignite your digestive fire
Try adding these spices to your kitchen and you, too, can begin to experience the magic and empowerment of taking health into your own hands with Ayurveda.