Autumn Tips – Spice it UP!
In Ayurveda, our spice cabinet is our medicine cabinet. Eating food cooked with seasonal spices helps to balance the elements in our body and deliver a powerful punch of nature’s medicine. In autumn it is often the elements of ether and air (vata) that are increased. If they are not balanced with diet and lifestyle choices then our tissues can become cold, rough and dry. Knowing how to use nature’s medicine cabinet in the whole food form of spices to keep one’s body in balance is an ART.
Where do you start? Follow your nose!
My nose tells me what my body wants and needs. Granted, I have spent years doing daily breathing practices and the neti pot to heal my nasal passages, so at this point my nose is a fine-tuned instrument that guides my self-healing process. I grew up completely unable to breathe through my nose as I was allergic to a long list of foods that are prevalent in the SAD (Standard American Diet). But after years of practicing Ayurvedic principles for the purpose of creating my own health, with a heavy focus on digestion and detoxification, I have arrived in my adulthood without allergies and able to breathe fully through my nose. Being able to breathe easily through the nose has a plethora of health benefits, but that is for another day.
Right now the topic is; how to balance one’s body in autumn with food. Spice it up!
What would autumn be without Cinnamon? Warm baked apples, squash and pumpkins become so healthy and delicious with Ceylon Cinnamon. Ceylon Cinnamon (aka Sri Lankan Cinnamon) is the ONLY true Cinnamon. In Ayurveda we belief that a person is as old as their digestive system and it just so happens that one of the best ways to stimulate your digestive fire is by eating a baked apple with ghee and fresh grated cinnamon with breakfast (see recipe below).
Ceylon Cinnamon is highly regarded as an anti-oxidant that supports healthy blood sugar levels. It has a sweet and pungent taste and is warming to the digestive system. The Vedic texts say that Cinnamon destroys all deep cold in the body. Cinnamon is said to be useful for cold hands and feet as it increases circulation in the joint space. Cinnamon increases circulation everywhere, especially in the lungs. Cinnamon pairs very well two other POWERHOUSE spices; Ginger and Turmeric.
Homage to Ginger! Ginger is known worldwide as a wide spectrum tonic and remedy. Ginger’s benefits include improving digestion, circulation and immunity while reducing inflammation and nausea. Ginger, when eaten fresh initially has a warming effect on digestion but the post digestive effect is sweet. Fresh ginger breaks up congestion and burns ama (toxins). If ginger is taken dried then it has a heating effect during the entire digestive process. So which one you choose depends on whether or not you are dealing with excess heat. I add fresh ginger to teas, juices and pretty much any vegetable dish. See fresh ginger tea recipe below.
We can’t mention powerhouse spices without mentioning Turmeric. Turmeric is said to invigorate and move the blood, especially in the brain, as well as stimulate blood formation. A small dose is said to clean the liver and blood. Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties. Use it in broths, teas, curry dishes and to spice up vegetables. It is important to note that Turmeric is not absorbed well unless taken with a healthy oil (ghee or coconut oil are my favorites). The Cork Cancer Research Centre’s test results show that turmeric can kill gullet (throat) cancer cells in 24 hours. India has one of the lowest rates of gullet (throat) cancer in the world. Could it be due to their daily intake of Turmeric? Many health professionals recommend taking the standardized extract of Turmeric root, often called Curcuminoids, to increase the health benefits of Turmeric. But it must be taken with fat to be able to be metabolized by the body properly. Ghee is our first choice in Ayurveda as it has a 96% absorption rate, higher than any other healthy fat.
Whichever spice you choose, remember to let your nose guide the way!
Your nose knows! (I wonder if it is a coincidence that nose and knows sound exactly the same. I don’t believe in coincidences!)
Simple Autumn Spice Recipes
Baked Apple with Cinnamon and Ghee
Half and core a whole apple (do not peel), put a little ghee and fresh grated Ceylon Cinnamon on top. Bake for 20 minutes on 350 degrees. This is a great way to kindle your digestive fire!
Ginger-Turmeric Tea - 1 qt. of purified water + 15 ¼-inch slices of fresh ginger root + 1 ½ tsp. of dried turmeric powder + A pinch fresh ground black pepper + ½ tsp. of raw honey added to each cup you drink (optional). Place the turmeric, ginger and water together in a pot and bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain. The tea will last for up to four days stored in the refrigerator. It is best to drink the tea hot or at room temperature. (Use the stove, not microwave, to reheat.) Add honey as needed, after liquid has cooled down to drinking temperature.
Some other fabulous Autumn Spices are; Cumin, Rosemary, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Garlic and Saffron!