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 multi-colored radishes, I thought,  "Wow, what an understated vegetable, why don't more people enjoy them? And more so, why are they never mentioned for how good they are for our health?"  This unassuming root vegetable actually packs more health benefits than you may suspect, like, the simple fact that they stimulate the flow of bile in our system which makes them a useful tool for cleansing fat, blood and the liver. Radishes have also been used to break up gall stones and kidney stones. 

Radishes contain magnesium, manganese, calcium, vitamin B6, folate, riboflavin and a good amount of copper. Radishes are excellent for blood pressure, as they high in potassium, which supports the body in keeping the blood pressure at safe levels. Since potassium is a diuretic, it flushes stored water from the body and the National Institute of Health DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends increasing potassium, calcium and magnesium to keep blood pressure in balance.

Radishes are also a very good source of vitamin C – 25% of the daily recommended value – helping to rebuild tissues and blood vessels, and keeping bones and teeth strong. Vitamin C fights disease and rescues the cells from an onslaught of destructive free radicals. This is done through electrolytes and natural antioxidant action of this one vitamin, increasing immunity of the body, and helping to fight against all kinds of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Radishes can also have effects on relieving congestion, and preventing 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 prospective it is best to eat them freshly cooked. Radishes can provoke the pitta in the digestive tract. This is good for both Vata and Kapha, as it clears food stagnation and has a laxative effect due to its diuretic nature, all while having a cooling effect so the vegetable can be eaten by Pitta in moderation. If you are a Vata individual you may find a raw radish to be difficult to digest and they can create gas sotry to avoid eating them raw, but don't leave them out of your diet, as they are Vata balancing.

White Radish With Mung Dal & Radish Greens Recipe

Ingredients:

For the seasoning

2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 to 3 dry red chilies, broken into bits
1/2 tsp asafetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
radish greens cut from the radishes, finely chopped

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

Method:

In a small or medium sized sauce pan pour in enough water, add in the mung dal, bring to a boil over a medium flame and cook until half cooked, about 12 to 15 minutes.

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

Add the finely chopped radish, cover and cook on a medium low flame, stirring in between until the radishes are half cooked, about 7 to 8 minutes. Put in the mung dal, mix well, cover and cook until the radishes are fully cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the coconut, give it a good mix and switch off the flame. Serve hot with rotis or rice.

 

*Note that raw brassicas contain chemicals that can block the thyroid function called goitrogens. These chemicals are easily inactivated by steaming or cooking, so always ensure you eat this 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

Its important to understand that not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol is essential to the functions of the body. It is a fatty acid produced in the liver used to build cell membranes, lubricates the channels of the body, and synthesizes vitamin D, hormones and bile acids. To be healthy the body must have this lubrication and elasticity that cholesterol provides. According to Ayurveda, cholesterol isn’t bad in and of itself, however it has a harmful effect when ama is present in the body. Ama, is the metabolic waste that has accumulated in the body, caused by improper digestion. It can block the channels of the body and arteries, causing a variety of health concerns and imbalances.

According to Ayurveda, the principle factor behind balancing cholesterol in the body is balancing the digestive system. Therefore, when digestion, assimilation and elimination are in balanced the fat tissue and cholesterol will also be in balance. One of the Ayurvedic dosha principles involved in fat metabolism is the Kapha dosha. Unbalance Kapha dosha lies at the root of excess production of cholesterol in the body. With this understanding lowering cholesterol by using dietary recommendations that balance Kapha and the overall fat metabolism of the body.

A diet to enhance fat metabolism and pacify Kapha would be a diet which 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 that are astringent in taste are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and fruits such as apples and pears. Bitter foods such chard, kale, spinach and other leafy greens cooked with spices help cleanse the bowel helping the prevention of bad cholesterol from accumulated in the body. Spices to use in cooking can include, black pepper, garlic, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, cilantro, Basil, Asafetida and parsley.

It is also important to know what tastes to avoid when trying to balance cholesterol in the body, these include sweet, sour and salty. Sweet foods are not just sugary foods, its food with a sweet taste, such as wheat, pasta, breads, yam, and sweet milk products. Sour foods include lemons, tomatoes, cheese, yogurt and vinegar which are found in dressings, ketchup, mustard and pickles. Try cooking with less salt in your food, and avoid processed foods such as crackers, salted nuts, and chips.

One of the best thing you can do for the body to support its metabolic process is to eat freshly cooked foods eaten when it warm and directly after preparation. Cook with small amounts of oil such as ghee or mustard oil or sunflower oil. Avoid dry hard cool foods, or foods frozen or packaged meals.

Ayurveda has many effective herbs to support the body in the reduction of cholesterol. The herbal formula of Triphala can be used before bed to improve digestion and fat metabolism. Guduchi can also be taken daily as it supports the metabolism of the whole body including fat tissue and fat metabolism, it does this by enhancing the intelligence of the liver. In many studies Guggul was shown to reduce cholesterol as much as cholesterol-lowing drugs, but with out harmful side effects and Turmeric was found to lower triglycerides and serum cholesterol. Consider speaking with an Ayurvedic practitioner to find out what herbal support can work best for you as well as additional dietary recommendations.

 

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 while 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.