Food as Medicine

8 Ayurvedic Uses for Honey

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The uses of honey in health care trace back many centuries. In Vedic times, honey was seen as a gift—its remarkable healing properties were valued more than its taste. Now that honey is being re-examined by modern researchers, it’s increasingly recognized for the medicinal and nutritional properties that made it a staple of Ayurvedic practices for thousands of years. Discover the gifts of honey through these 8 Ayurvedic uses.

1. The skin is the largest organ of the body and benefits greatly from the application of honey. Ayurvedic texts have described how honey promotes healing of wounds and sores and acts as an antiseptic, a pain reliever, and a cooling balm that speeds recovery from burns.  

2. Honey helps build tissues and generate energy and heat, three properties that make it  good for aging bodies. One or two teaspoons of honey in a cup of warm water is a refreshing and strengthening drink. Take daily.

3. Because honey contains iron, manganese, and copper, it is excellent for building hemoglobin. In cases of anemia, Ayurvedic practitioners suggest using honey to maintain the right balance of hemoglobin in red blood corpuscles.

4. Honey is easily digested and assimilated, making it one of the best sweet foods for reducing stress on the digestive organs. It’s also useful for maintaining the health of the stomach. Ayurvedic experts find honey not only supports proper digestion, but also helps ward off stomach diseases and symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and heartburn by preventing the overproduction of hydrochloric acid. Honey also promotes clearing the digestive canal of putrefied fecal matter and undigested foods.

5. As an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, honey helps maintain healthy teeth and gums.  According to Ayurveda, a daily application of honey cleanses the teeth, makes them sparkle, and helps prevent tartar, decay, and premature tooth loss. Gargling with honey and water is very useful in protecting against gingivitis (i.e., inflammation of the gums caused by bacterial infection).

6. Insomnia affects many of us in our modern age. Honey has been used for centuries for the treatment of this common affliction. Its hypnotic qualities help bring on sound sleep. Two teaspoons can be taken with a cup of warm water or with warm almond milk before bed. Adding a dash of cardamom and cinnamon makes this soothing beverage more delicious. It’s an excellent remedy for sleepless babies and children.

7. Honey’s natural tendency to clear the channels of the body makes it very useful in helping the body eliminate imbalances in the respiratory pathways. As a demulcent or soothing agent, it reduces the discomfort of inflamed mucous membranes in the upper respiratory tract, coating them with a protective film that helps relieve coughing and irritation. You can ingest a spoonful of honey or gargle with mixture of honey and water for this purpose.

8. Honey can be easily added to all your meals to supply the body with extra energy. Ayurvedic texts recommend honey for arteriosclerosis and weak hearts. It can be taken before bed in a glass of water with lemon juice to provide the heart with energy throughout the night and to alleviate cardiac pain and heart palpitations.

These Ayurvedic recommendations come with several caveats. The Ayurvedic sage Charaka wrote over 500 years ago that “nothing is so troublesome as amacaused by the improper intake of honey.” In Ayurvedic medicine, ama, or undigested matter in the body, is considered to be the root cause of most ill health. Many incompatible food combinations produce this toxic material, but heated honey is one of the most complicated forms to cleanse. Heating honey destroys the enzymes that support the digestive process.

Precautions when using honey:

  • Honey should never be heated to above 40°C (104°F).

  • Honey should not be mixed with hot foods.

  • Honey should not be consumed when you are working in a hot environment. 

  • Honey should never be combined with ghee  or mixed with rainwater; hot, spicy foods; fermented beverages (e.g., whiskey, rum, brandy); or mustard.

  • Honey includes nectar of various flowers some of which may be poisonous.

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

Yummy Radishes!

Today I was working in our beautiful organic garden, and as we harvested our delicious multicolored radishes, I thought, Wow, what an underused vegetable—why don’t more people enjoy them? And even more important, why are their health benefits so seldom mentioned? This unassuming root vegetable actually packs more nutritional punch than you may suspect, including the power of sulphur-based plant chemicals to stimulate the flow of bile, which makes them a valuable tool for optimizing the digestion of fats and cleansing the blood and the liver. Radishes have also been used to dissolve gallstones and kidney stones. 

Radishes contain manganese, vitamin B6, folate, riboflavin and copper, as well as three minerals—potassium, magnesium, and calcium—that support healthy blood pressure. (The National Institute of Health’s DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends increasing our intake of foods that provide these nutrients.) As a potassium-rich food, radishes also help reduce water retention by lowering salt levels and boosting urine output. 

Radishes are also a very good source of vitamin C—providing 25 percent of the daily recommended value.  In addition to helping rebuild tissues and blood vessels and keeping bones and teeth strong, vitamin C fights disease and helps protect our cells from an onslaught of destructive free radicals. The natural antioxidant action and immunoprotective effects of this one vitamin play an important role in reducing the risk of potentially lethal health threats, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Radishes can also help relieve congestion and prevent respiratory problems, such as asthma or bronchitis. They have antibacterial, antifungal, and detoxifying properties and contain compounds that soothe rashes, dryness, and other skin disorders.

Most people eat radishes raw, but from an Ayurvedic perspective, it’s best to eat them freshly cooked. Radishes greatly increase the pitta energy in the digestive tract, which is good for both vata- and kapha-dominant types, because it clears food stagnation and has a laxative effect. While pitta individuals may find heavy consumption of radishes overstimulating, they can eat them in moderation. Raw radishes may be difficult to digest and cause gas in vata individuals, so they should stick to cooked radishes to enhance their diets with this vegetable’s vata-balancing qualities.

Yummy Recipe: White Radish with Mung Dhal & Radish Greens

INGREDIENTS:

For the seasoning

2 tbsp oil
 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 to 3 dry red chilies, broken into bits
½ tsp asafetida
½ tsp turmeric powder
radish greens cut from the radishes, finely chopped

500 gm or 2 white or pink radishes, finely chopped
100 gm (½ cup) mung dhal
1 tsp sugar
1¼ tsp salt or to taste
3–4 tbsp grated fresh coconut (you can also use frozen)

METHOD:

In a small or medium-sized saucepan, pour in enough water for cooking the mung beans and add them to the pot. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, and simmer until cooked halfway, about 12 to 15 minutes.

In a wok or kadhai, heat the oil over medium heat. Reduce the heat before the oil smokes, and add the mustard and cumin seeds. When the seeds pop, add the chilies, asafetida, turmeric, and radish greens. Stir fry for 30 seconds.

Add the finely chopped radishes, cover, and cook over a medium-low flame, stirring from time to time until the radishes are half-cooked, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the mung dhal, mix well, cover, and cook until the radishes are fully cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the coconut, mix well, and switch off the burner. Serve hot with rotis or rice.

*Note that raw brassicas contain chemicals called goitrogens that can block the thyroid function. These chemicals are easily inactivated by steaming or cooking, so always ensure you eat these nutrient-packed foods freshly cooked. 

 

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

Reducing Cholesterol Through Ayurveda

It’s important to understand that cholesterol per se isn’t bad. In fact, it’s essential to the functions of the body. A combination of fatty acids and protein produced in the liver, cholesterol helps build cell membranes; lubricate the channels of the body; and synthesize vitamin D, hormones, and bile acids. To remain healthy, the body needs the lubrication and elasticity that this fatty substance provides. 

From an Ayurvedic perspective, cholesterol becomes harmful only when amais present in the body. Ama is the metabolic waste that accumulates in the body as a result of improper digestion. It can block the body’s channels and arteries, causing a variety of health concerns and imbalances.

According to Ayurveda, the key to balancing cholesterol in the body lies in maintaining the strength and healthy functioning of our digestive fire (metabolic process). A strong, balanced metabolic process prevents ama from accumulating in the body and thus helps keep fat tissue and cholesterol levels in balance. 

Ayurvedic principles hold that an overabundance of the kapha dosha in our systems can disrupt this balance, slowing the metabolism and promoting the accumulation of fat. This buildup of fat in turn leads to increased levels of cholesterol in our bloodstream. In keeping with this logic, a diet that pacifies the kapha imbalance would serve as the first step toward balancing cholesterol levels and optimizing fat metabolism. 

Such a diet favors foods that have primarily bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. Astringent foods include dried beans, such as split mung dhal, lentils, and garbanzo beans. Avoid larger beans such as pinto and black beans. Vegetables and fruits with an astringent taste range from broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower to apples and pears. Bitter foods, such chard, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens, should be cooked with spices that help cleanse the bowel and prevent bad cholesterol from accumulating in the body. These include black pepper, garlic, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, cilantro, basil, asafetida, and parsley.

Avoiding the three tastes that increase kapha—namely, sweet, sour, and salty—is equally important. In addition to sugary foods, you should limit your intake of other sweet-tasting foods such as wheat, pasta, breads, yams, and sweet milk products. Sour foods, such as lemons, tomatoes, cheese, yogurt, and vinegar, are often found in dressings, ketchup, mustard, and pickles—so use condiments sparingly. Try cooking with less salt in your food, and avoid processed foods such as crackers, salted nuts, and chips.

One of the best ways to support a vigorous metabolic process is to eat cooked food that’s freshly prepared and still warm. Cook with small amounts of oil, such as ghee or mustard oil or sunflower oil. Avoid dry, hard, cool foods as well as frozen foods and packaged meals.

Ayurveda  recommends a variety of herbs to support the body’s capacity to manage cholesterol levels. The herbal formula triphala can be consumed before bed to improve digestion and fat metabolism. Guduchi can also be taken daily to boost fat burning and cholesterol metabolism by enhancing liver function. Studies of guggul have shown it reduces cholesterol as much as cholesterol-lowing drugs, but without harmful side effects. Research also suggests that turmeric  lowers triglycerides and serum cholesterol. Consider speaking with an Ayurvedic practitioner for more specific information about what herbal support and dietary measures will work best for you.

CHOLESTEROL BALANCING SPICE MIXTURE

  • 6 parts ground cumin

  • 6 parts ground coriander

  • 6 parts ground fennel

  • 3 parts ground turmeric

  • 2 parts ground fenugreek

  • 1 part powdered ginger

  • 1 part ground black pepper

Mix and store; use desired amount for cooking.

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

 

 

To Supplement or Not To Supplement?

Ayurveda believes you should get your daily nutrients out of food as much as possible, and you can do this by eating plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, healthy meats and seaweeds. That said, there are cases in which it makes sense to supplement your diet with vitamins. Vegetarians should take vitamin B12 and possibly vitamin D, since they are missing out on these nutrients by not eating meat. Pregnant women should take extra folic acid. Those with osteoporosis will need to take extra calcium, magnesium, trace minerals like boron, and other supplements that specifically support their bone health. People recovering from a long illness may need to take certain immune-boostig supplements.

Its important to keep in mind that the American soil from which most of our food derives from is significantly depleted of nutrients, and as a result, our food is not as nutritious as it once was, which begs the question of what if we are even getting enough nutrients by eating a wide variety of foods. If this is of concern to you, you may consider taking a general mineral supplement or daily multivitamin. Whenever possible, ingest supplements that are extracted from a whole foods source like fruits, vegetables and grains. These will have the best bioavailability, meaning the highest absorption rate by your digestive system. The best way to take vitamins and minerals in is powdered from, liquid concentrate or as a oil. Avoid taking mega- doses or and dose larger than recommended dietary reference intakes, no matter how good you think they may be for your health. 

Supplementing your diet with vitamins should be the exception, not the rule, they are, after all, called supplements. Nutrients are much more accessible and easily processed by your body when they are consumed in food forms versus supplement form. Also, there is the danger that a person taking vitamins will then rationalize that there is no need to focus on balanced nutrition from food, but there is no magic bullet and no replacement for a diet of healthy, whole foods. 

Wonderful Ghee

In India, ghee has always been a sacred and celebrated symbol of auspiciousness, nourishment and healing; especially in the daily rituals of cooking and worship.

Ghee is a premium cooking oil celebrated for its taste, nutritional benefits, and medicinal qualities. Ayurveda, the ancient medical science of India, recognizes ghee as an essential part of a balanced diet, and considers it to be the best fat one can eat. Ghee is the very essence of butter; the end result of a long, slow, careful clarification process that removes all the moisture, milk solids and impurities. The absence of milk solids and water in ghee make it completely shelf stable. Ghee has one of the highest flash points (485ºF) which make this oil the best choice for high temperature cooking.

Ghee has a full spectrum short, medium and long chain fatty acids, both unsaturated and saturated. Ghee contains Omega 3 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids along with vitamins A, D, E and K. Ghee made from organic butter of pastured cows is one of the highest natural sources of CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). 9 phenolic anti-oxidants, as well as numerous other minerals are present in ghee.

Ghee is known as a substance that gives longevity, its elemental qualities balance the aging characteristics by enriching the living body. Ghee has been used for centuries as a digestive and elimination aid, for energy, sexual vitality, skin and eye health, as a lubricant for the joints and for alkalizing the blood.

The purity of ghee allows it to be deep penetrating and nourishing as it passes through the lipid membranes of cells. For this reason, the vitamins and minerals from food cooked in ghee will be drawn deep into the body where they impart the most benefit. The assimilation of the nutrients increases when suspended in a ghee matrix. When you add spices to ghee to cook with the flavor is carried deep into the food. Many herbal preparations in Ayurveda use ghee as the carrier oil because of these characteristics.