Prabhav = Superpowers
I have heard it said that you are an average of the five people you have spent the most time around. I believe that is true. I also believe you are an average of the five foods that you eat the most of everyday. Therefore, picking your five favorite foods is a big deal. Ayurveda is the system of medicine I refer to in this selection process as Ayurveda has a whole class of foods with Prabhav. Prabhav means a special, unique, and unexplainable quality or in other words…
Many things in nature have superpowers. Camels have three eye lids and a body that gives them the ability to go without water for longer than other species. Their Prabhav is they can survive the dry, hot desert with sand blowing around with greater ease than others. This gives them a lot of value to the people in the desert.
The Alaskan Wood Frog freezes to a solid block of ice in winter. It stops breathing, and its heart stops beating. When the weather warms the frog thaws and moves on about its merry way. It is preserved by the cold, somehow it figured out how to harness the forces around it as opposed to fighting them. When you study Ayurveda you spend a lot of time learning about the Prabhav of everything; plants, animals, foods, gemstones, mantras and more. To help you pick some foods with superpowers I am going to share some of our favorite Prabhavs in Ayurveda.
Ode to Dandelion
When you are drinking an herbal tea or diffusing an essential oil you are using the immune system and prana of that plant to help you balance. Therefore, knowing the immune system strength of each plant is important if you want to harness its superpowers. Let’s take Dandelion’s for example. You can’t kill these things. They are tough, resilient, scrappy little plants that shine bright like the sun. Who couldn’t use some of that? Dandelion is a medicinal plant brought over to America on the boats by the European settlers from the country of Georgia. They went to great trouble to pick the right plants to bring to the new world for their survival. Fast forward a few hundred years and people all over my neighborhood spend their time and money covering the dandelions in toxic chemicals to kill them. Then the chemicals poison the flora and fauna all around us. I think if we can remember the Prabhav in the world around us we might see less of this needless destruction of nature. The roots of dandelion detoxify the soil they grow in and your liver when you drink the tea. The leaves are a fantastic cooling bitter that helps to purify the blood and breakup congestion. Dandelion flowers are often the first food for the bees in spring. So, I am on a crusade to share all I have learned from Ayurveda about the Prabhav of the plants, animals, gemstones, mantras and more. In hopes that it brings back our connection and respect for the entire web of life.
Below is a list of some of my favorite foods with Prabhav. By taking in a healthy amount of foods with Prabhav you can create a body with, hopefully, some superpowers.
Note: Work with an Ayurvedic professional to pick at least five Prabhavs for the season. There are thousands of foods with Prabhav. What you want are the ones that are just the right fit for your dosha, your time of life, the season etc.
1. Ceylon Cinnamon has a special affinity for the lungs. It directs whatever it is mixed with to the lungs. Why? No one knows but it is a fabulous Prabhav. The Vedic texts say that Ceylon Cinnamon dispels all deep cold in the body.
2. Brahmi has a special affinity for the brain. So, if you want to get your blood moving in the brain them mix a bit of Brahmi with some turmeric or some other warming blood invigorator. Brahmi leaf even looks like a brain. This is nature's way of telling us the Prabhav of Brahmi.
3. Turmeric has its own Prabhav. It is known for bringing the solar energy into the blood. It is special in that it is a warming bitter, most bitters are cooling. The bitter taste is the most detoxifying of all the 6 tastes and sometimes we need one that is warming instead of cooling.
4. Amalaki has a sour taste but pacifies Pitta. The sour taste is heating and we cannot explain why that would balance heat conditions/pitta conditions in the body but it does. The Indian Gooseberry aka Amalaki/Amla has more Vitamin C pound for pound than just about any other fruit in the world. Amalaki has a boatload of Prabhav.
5. Honey has a Sweet taste but has a heating Virya (effect on stomach/small intestines). Sweet foods usually have a cooling Virya. So, honey is the one sweetener that a Kapha can use in moderation. Honey has many more superpowers bestowed on it by the bees.
6. Tulsi aka Holy Basil has a Pungent taste, Heating Virya and Pungent Vipaka (post digestive effect) but is known to reduce fever and especially good for the flu. We would not expect that from such a heating plant but Tulsi has Prabhav. It also has an affinity for the heart, blood and lymph. Energetically, Tulsi is a heart opener and plant ally used for protection as well as purification. It is so revered for its ability to create a sattvic or holy space that it is traditional to carry a live Tulsi plant with you while traveling.
7. THE AMAZING GHEE - Traditionally we starve a fever in Ayurveda, but what if someone has a chronic fever? Then starving the fever is not going to work, but ghee has a Prabhav that can help us here. Ghee nourishes them without feeding the fever. Ghee has more Prabhavs than I could ever list. Of all the oils, ghee has the highest absorption rate (96%) and therefore is an extremely effective carrier of nutrition across the gut wall. It is both cooling and strengthening to the digestive system. Ghee is at the core of Ayurveda and has improved my own health in more ways that I can list.
8. Cilantro has so much Prabhav I cannot cover them all here. Cilantro has the ability to strengthen digestion even though it is cooling. We really need that when someone's digestive power is off balance due to excess sharp and hot quality. Cilantro supports detoxification too.
9. Apples, everyone has heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”! This is a food with BIG Prabhav. Apples help to clean things up in the GI tract and get the bile flowing. Apple pectin naturally and gradually removes excess heat which is why nature produces an abundance of apples in late summer and early autumn. Mother Nature knows best!
10. AND NOW…GINGER – THE GRAND POOH BAH OF PRAHBAV! Ginger has way too many Prabhavs to list here but it is known for its ability to increase circulation, immunity and digestion. It is heating but has an anti-inflammatory effect due to a constituent called gingerol. Ginger is known as vishwabhesaj or universal medicine in Ayurveda. Ginger is the single most effective digestive tool I have ever used.
There are many many more Prabhavs in the world. Please add your favorite Prabhav below! Shanti, Susan
P.S. We are in the heart of summer here in Portland. So, I am currently an average of raw ginger slices with lime juice, cilantro, blueberries, avocados and whey.