Getting the Most From Your Fruits and Vegetables

With the fullness of summer comes bustling farmers’ markets and overflowing shelves in the fruit and vegetable sections of our grocery stores. It is the time of the year when the availability of local produce is at its peak. Indulge! Studies have shown that eating seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day can extend life expectancy a staggering 42%.

To cook vegetables or to eat them raw is the question of the season. According to Ayurveda, this decision is best made with an understanding of your body type, your state of balance or imbalance, and the quality of your digestion.

Ayurveda’s main text, the Charak Samhita, recommends primarily cooked foods because cooking increases the element of agni that is essential for the assimilation of nutrients and their transformation into the bodily tissues. The higher proportion of nutrients available in raw food doesn’t count if you can’t digest, absorb and assimilate them. Let’s look first at body types and who can eat what. Then we’ll move on to specific foods and how to best make their nutrients available to us.

In order to choose the best option for your physiology, not only do you need to evaluate your individual physiology, it also helps take into account seasonal influences. In the summer, for instance, our body reacts to the high external heat by turning down our metabolism. This means that for many the ability to digest food is severely diminished.

Raw Food vs Body Type

In general, those with Pitta, or Pitta/Kapha body types who do not have significant Vata imbalances can handle raw foods in their diet, especially in the late spring and summer seasons. This is because the element of “fire” or “agni” is very lively in their constitutions and they benefit from a cooling diet.

The overly cold, dry, light qualities of raw foods, however, may create problems for anyone with a severe Vata imbalance. They may find an increase in symptoms of abdominal gas, bloating, constipation, worry and anxiety, and dryness. Those wishing to balance or counter Vata imbalances do better with a diet that is warm, moist and easily digestible.

Those with Kapha imbalances may find that the cold nature of raw foods leads to allergies, sinus problems or asthma.

One solution for those who prefer raw foods but lack a strong Pitta component is to enjoy raw juices. Juicing or blending with “super blenders” that basically pulverize foods allows you to break down the cellulose the surrounds the outer layer of fruit and vegetable molecules, thus allowing you to derive optimum nutritional benefits.

Nutrient Availability in Foods 

It turns out that many vegetables only offer their full nutritional value when they have been cooked. Let’s look at how to get the most out of this summer’s fresh, organic vegetables.

It is important to note that when I refer to cooking vegetables, I am usually referring to steaming for 4 or 5 minutes or baking in the oven with a slight drizzle of oil. Obviously, mushy, over-cooked vegetables are not going to provide many healthful nutrients. Boiling vegetables removes many important minerals and nutrients.

  1. Cooking vegetables reduces the mass of the vegetable, concentrating more nutrients with less bulk. Bitter greens like spinach and kale are generally more edible when cooked because cooking also eliminates the oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption.
  2. Cooking significantly improves the digestibility and bioavailability of starchy foods such as potatoes and yams, squashes. This is also true with grains and legumes.
  3. One note about whole grains: the phosphorus in bran is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. According to the book, Nourishing Traditions, phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. This is why many traditional ways of cooking grains include presoaking or fermenting grains before eating them. These processes neutralize the phytates, essentially predigesting the food so that their nutrients are more available. Phytic acid is also present in nuts, which also should be soaked before eating.
  4. Green beans always need to be cooked until soft otherwise, they are actually toxic. Raw beans are poisonous because they contain prussic acid, which is deactivated only by cooking.
  5. Cooked carrots, spinach, asparagus, cabbage, and peppers supply more antioxidants such as carotenoids and ferulic acid to the body than they do when raw,
  6. Mild heating, such as steaming, appears to improve the extractability of beta-carotene from vegetables, along with increasing betacarotene’s bioavailability. Beta-carotene absorption can be as low as 1-2% from raw vegetables such as carrots.
  7. Lycopene in tomatoes is thought to be responsible for reducing the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Studies have shown that the absorption of lycopene is greater from cooked tomatoes. However cooking tomatoes can destroy other vitamins, so it is good to include raw tomatoes in one’s diet as well as cooked tomatoes.
  8. Steaming asparagus ignites its cancer-fighting potential.

If you have any questions about which form of vegetables is best for you, check with an Ayurveda expert in your area. Ayurveda pulse assessment will reveal what kinds and forms of vegetables will be most helpful in creating a healthy balance for your mind/body system. Ayurveda recognizes the unique differences of each individual. In order to correctly determine your optimal requirements, it is important to understand your level of balance and imbalance. For information on Ayurvedic consultations, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

 

Summer Eye Care: Protecting Your Eyes with Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, the eye is the seat Alochaka Pitta, one of the five subdoshas of Pitta. Pitta governs heat, metabolism and transformation. Whenever our eyes are open, they are involved in the complex process of transforming light into ideas: distilling foreground from background, recognizing objects presented in a wide range of orientations, and accurately interpreting spatial cues. Researchers estimate that the human retina can transmit visual input at about the same rate as an Ethernet connection, at roughly 10 million bits per second.

Given the Pitta nature of our eyes, it follows that they can become sensitive and irritated when we are exposed to excess heat. Regardless of whether you have a predominance of Pitta in your constitution, everyone should take extra caution in protecting their eyes in the summer.

Tips For Protecting Your Eyes in the Summer

Wear sunglasses and a hat during the day. Bright light can actually cause an inflammatory response in the eyes which can lead to damage of the optic nerve. Sunglasses will also help protect the eyes from the dust and other environmental particles that increase in the summer months. Look for a label that says 99-100 percent UV absorption or UV 400 (which means they block all UVA and UVB rays).

 

Cool compresses can help draw out Pitta from the eyes. There is a reason for the traditional spa image of a lady relaxing with slices of cucumbers over her eyes. Cucumbers not only have high water content, they also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Cotton balls with sprayed with rose water or chamomile water can also be used as compresses to reduce heat in the eyes.

Air conditioning, dry winds and dust can cause eye dryness or irritation. If your eyes are feeling dry, see an Ayurvedic expert regarding lubrication for the eyes, and drink lots of room temperature water and fluids.

Getting a good night’s sleep will help refresh and rejuvenate the eyes. Your eyes are very busy during the day and need a good night’s sleep stay healthy. Additionally, a lack of sleep tends to increase the retention of blood and fluid around the eyes, leading to dark circles under the eyes.

During the Pitta season, everyone should eat a Pitta reducing diet, even if Pitta is not your main dosha. Increase your intake of vegetables and fruits. Cucumbers, cilantro, dill, fennel are all are very cooling. Rice, especially white basmati rice, and barley are ideal grains for summer. Emphasize foods that are liquid rather than dry, and cool or lukewarm rather than hot.

Stress, anger, anxiety, alcohol, spicy food, pollution will all increase your risk for eye irritation.

If you spend long hours in front of a computer, your eyes can become strained. Be sure to look away from the computer every thirty minutes or so. If you are able, take time to stretch and look out a window. Switching focus from near to far allows the ciliary muscles in the eye to relax. The ability of our eyes to change shape to allow for near-focus or far-focus is high when we are young and decreases with age. Doing focused work for hours on end can increase eye strain and decrease our overall ability to change focus.

Netra Tarpana

Netra Tarpana is a special Ayurveda treatment that strengthens and protects the eyes against the sun’s rays, relieves tired, achy eyes, and improves vision. This treatment is known to be very rejuvenating for the eyes and is an ancient remedy for many eye and sight ailments.

Freshly made dough rings filled with fragrant oils are placed around the eyes, and gently filled with herbal healing to bathe and lubricate the eyes and surrounding area. As a side benefit, Netra Tarpana also helps address sagging around the eyes and crows feet.

Ayurveda Consultations

Burning, red, or bloodshot eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and a yellowish tinge in the whites of the eyes are all signs of excess Pitta circulating in the system. If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to consult with an Ayurvedic expert.

To schedule a consultation with an Ayurveda expert or to learn more about Ayurveda treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

 

Taste: Your Mind/Body Messenger

When you sit down to eat, slowly savoring the blends of spices and sauces, the freshly cooked foods and delicious dessert, instantaneous messages from your taste buds prepare your stomach for digestion.

How Taste Talks

Ayurveda describes the deep link between health and taste. It posits that taste “speaks” to Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas, the three governors of your body’s functioning. For example, if you eat a hot chili pepper, your eyes water, your body heats up and your mind gets a shot of mental clarity. The spicy taste increases Pitta, which is hot by nature. If you ate some mint chutney, it would cool off the hot Pitta. In this way, various tastes increase or decrease Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Ayurveda has long considered food as medicine. The tastes you choose to eat have the power to help bring your body into a health balance—or to create imbalance.

Which Tastes Are For You?

Ayurvedic texts divide all foods into six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. Sweet doesn’t just mean sugary—it includes breads, milk and cream, and rice. Astringent means dry foods such as beans, broccoli and apples. Bitter tastes include grees such as spinach. Pungent foods are spicy and hot.

How do you know which tastes to eat? The main guideline is to include all sixe tastes at every meal, to satisfy all three principles.

Besides making sure that you are eating all six tastes, favor—meaning, add more—of the tastes that balance your particular mind/body type. For instance, if you have more of slow-moving Kapha in your constitution, you will probably feel lighter, more active, and mentally sharper by eating more of the the tastes that decrease Kapha. Thus your diet should include more pungent spices such as ginger, bitter foods such as leafy greens, and astringent foods such as bean soups.

Here is an overview of how tastes influence the doshas:

Vata Balancing: sweet, sour, salty

Vata Aggravating: bitter, astringent, pungent

Pitta Balancing: sweet, astringent, bitter

Pitta Aggravating: sour, pungent, salty

Kapha Balancing: bitter, pungent, astringent

Kapha Aggravating: sweet, sour, salty

So, if your mind/body type is more Vata, favor sweet, sour and salty foods. And if you have a lot of fiery Pitta, eat more sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and avoid large quantities of pungent, sour and salty foods.

It is helpful to also pay attention to the time of year and which dosha is dominant in your environment. During the cold, dry, windy weather of fall and early winter, Vata dosha is naturally enlivened. At this time, start to reduce the amount of foods that increase Vata and begin to favor those spicy Pitta foods that you were avoiding all summer. Kapha increasing foods can also be enjoyed at this time. But as the late winter and early spring become increasingly wet, Kapha dosha begins to dominate and it is better to shy away from Kapha foods and add in more foods that increase Pitta. Continue to balance Vata, which may have build up over the past season. During the hot days summer is it best to minimize heating foods.

One easy way to make sure you are eating the right combination of tastes is to use Vata, Pitta and Kapha herbal seasonings, or churnas, which contain traditional spicy mixtures that target specific doshas.

Above all, Ayurveda says to enjoy your food. Whatever you are eating, relax, take your time, and enjoy. Savor the taste. Then your body’s important messenger can do its job.

For more information on creating a healthy balance in the body through Ayurveda treatments and consultations, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

 

 

 

 

Summer Foods That Protect and Heal

For the US and other mid-latitude countries north of the equator, the sun’s rays in the summer months hit the Earth at a steeper angle than in the winter. Because the sun’s rays at this time are not as spread out, they hit the earth more directly. Therefore the environment absorbs more of the sun’s energy. As we are exposed to increased heat from the sun, the quality of Pitta, or heat, in our own physiology increases.

The sun gives off three kinds of ultraviolet waves throughout the year: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Only the UVA and UVB rays actually hit the earth. UVA rays are fairly consistent in intensity all year round. The amount of UVB rays that hit the earth, however, increase from April to October, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM. During this time we are essentially getting a double dose of light rays. If we expose our skin during this time it can contribute to conditions such as premature skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancers. UVB rays can also suppress the immune system, reducing our ability to fight off other maladies.

Luckily, the perfect organizing power of nature provides summer fruits and vegetables that actually have the capacity to protect our skin from damaging effects of UV rays.

Foods with Vitamin C

A medium-size red bell pepper provides more than 200 percent of the daily recommended amounts of vitamin C. Researchers have suggested that vitamin C can promote the repair of DNA that has been damaged by UV rays.

It also triggers the production of white blood cells. White blood cells are the cells of the immune system that help fight off germs and bacteria. One study found that people with diets high in vitamin C were less prone to wrinkles.

Red and Orange Vegetables and Fruits

Red fruits and vegetables are rich in lycopene. a natural pigment and carotenoid, or antioxidant, responsible for the red color. Lycopene can combat free radicals (ions or molecules that can damage healthy cells and suppress our immune system.) In addition, it turns out that consuming lycopene can protect skin from sunburn. One study showed that the intake of 2.5 tablespoons of tomato paste daily can reduce the UV rays damage up to 50%.

Beta-carotene — another type of carotenoid found in red and orange produce (like carrots) — has been linked to reduced reactions to sunburns.

Orange and pink citrus fruits contain flavonoid, which has also been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect against UV rays.

Spinach

Spinach contains lutein, a carotenoid that protects your skin from UV damage.

Other Health Creating Fruits and Vegetables

While not directly linked to protecting us from the increase in UV rays, many fruits and vegetables pack a lot of other health benefits. Since overexposure to UVB rays can suppress the immune system, it makes sense to enjoy foods that can help give our system an extra boost. Here are just a few:

Blackberries are high in rutin, a type of antioxidant that has been found to block an enzyme linked to the formation of blood clots, thus lowering the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Brussels sprouts contain sulfur compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation and activate cartilage-protecting proteins. These qualities suggest the vegetable may be helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Basil contains the antioxidant eugenol, which has been found to have cancer-fighting properties.

Kale contains 12 times the recommended daily amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K has been linked to decreased heart disease and osteoporosis.

Ayurveda Tips for Summer

Staying out of the mid-day sun, eating meals on time, choosing Pitta-reducing foods, avoiding strenuous activity, keeping well hydrated with room temperature water and other drinks, and eating lots of fresh produce are all simple steps you can take to help keep your Pitta pacified during the hot summer months.

Signs of an aggravated Pitta include excess stomach acid, gastritis, heartburn, skin eruptions, insomnia, and irritability. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a visit with an Ayurveda expert can help to identify foods or habits that are aggravating Pitta and give recommendations to avoid more serious imbalances.

For more information on consultations with Ayurveda experts, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

 

Daily Oil Massage to Pacify Vata and Remove Toxins

Among the top recommendations for guests at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa is to add daily oil massage (abhyanga) to their daily routine when they return home. The effects of daily Ayurveda oil massage (recommended before bathing in the morning) are multifold: Not only will a morning oil massage help pull toxins from the skin (the largest organ in the body and an important organ for the elimination of toxins), it also leaves a protective film that acts as a barrier between your skin and harmful environmental elements.

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While oil massage helps balance all doshas — especially when you use oil infused with herbs that specifically target Vata, Pitta or Kapha — it is especially good for balancing Vata. I know many people who never travel without a small container of sesame oil. After a long plane or car ride, there is nothing more grounding than an oil massage followed by a good soak in a hot bath. (Add in some Vata tea and aroma oil to your travel kit and you are well on your way to sidestepping the jangling effects of travel.)

But the beneficial effects of oil massage don’t stop there. Research also suggests that sesame oil (the oil most often used in abhyanaga) selectively stops malignant skin cancer cells from growing in laboratory tissue culture, and at the same time allows normal skin cells to proliferate.

According to the study, sesame and safflower oils selectively inhibited the grown of malignant melanoma cell cultures, but coconut, olive and mineral oils did not. The traditional Ayurveda texts specifically recommend sesame oil massage to promote health and longevity.

(One note of caution: sesame oil has a naturally heating property. Those with a Pitta body type or with Pitta imbalances may need to opt for more cooling oil. Sesame oil can cause rashes or redness in Pitta-sensitive skin. If you are in this category, you might want to try coconut or olive oil. Although these oils do not inhibit the growth of cancer, they will help to pacify Vata and to remove toxins.)

Researchers have known for years that linoleic acid, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that is present in small quantities in the body, inhibits many kinds of cancer growth. But because pure linoleic acid is highly unstable and can irritate a person’s skin and eyes, it cannot be used or ingested safely. In the above mentioned research study, scientists used the whole vegetable oil, rather than trying to isolate the active ingredient, thus avoiding unnatural side effects.

Research also shows that oil massage is an important component in removing synthetic chemicals from our physiology. In the US there are thousands of these kind of chemicals used in various types of industry or agriculture. These toxins are present everywhere in our environment and can be found in virtually every living organism around the world. Regardless of our lifestyle, profession, eating habits, or geographic location, by the time we are 40 years old, our toxin level is substantial.

A study on clients participating in the traditional Ayurveda detoxification and purification treatments (Panchakarma) at The Raj showed that blood levels of these chemicals were reduced by 50% after a 5-day course of treatment. Because these harmful chemicals are fat-soluble, the toxins can be “washed” from our fat cells by the deeply penetrating sesame oil (as well as by other components of the treatment program.)

Integrating a 10-minute sesame oil massage into your morning routine can have a significant impact on reducing Vata imbalances, purifying the skin and maintaining balance throughout the body.

To learn more about the research on removing fat-soluble toxins through the detoxification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma), visit The Raj website:

www.theraj.com/rajresults/index.php

www.theraj.com

 

Ayurveda is About Choice

The most important contribution to that anyone can make to their overall state of health is their every day lifestyle. Every day we have a choice in our diet and our routine. These choices ultimately create our body, our mind, and our consciousness. The more we understand these choices, the more we support our continued health and happiness.

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Choosing the optimal Ayurvedic diet and routine begins with understanding not only your underlying body “type” but also your current state of balance and imbalance. For instance, given the fast pace of our modern lives, even those with a predominately Kapha constitution may find themselves with a Vata imbalance. To simply choose foods and activities that reduce Kapha would end up exacerbating that imbalance. If you do not have an Ayurvedic expert in your area to help you determine your current state of balance, you can base your choices on an understanding of the basics of the Ayurveda daily routine that apply to everyone, no matter what your body type.

Foundational to following an ideal daily routine is understanding which dosha predominates at the different hours of the day. There are two cycles, in the morning and in the evening:

From 6:00 to 10:00, both morning and evening, Kapha predominates

From 10:00 to 2:00, both morning and evening, Pitta predominates

From 2:00 to 6:00, both morning and evening, Vata predominates.

Ideal Times for Sleeping

There is a saying, “The day starts the night before”. Only by going to bed early can the next day’s activity be fully supported. By going to bed during Kapha time, (before 10:00 P.M. when the evening Pitta period begins), we take advantage of Nature’s natural cycle of healing and rejuvenation. The qualities of Kapha, (heaviness and dullness), allows us to get to sleep most quickly, and to have the deepest, least interrupted sleep.

The Pitta that begins to dominate at 10:00 PM is meant to be directed towards metabolic cleansing. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that it can focus its intelligence and energy on restoring and rejuvenating the body. If we are up and active during this time, we may enjoy an effective spurt of energy but we cheat our bodies on much needed self-repair. Over time this can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health.

Going to bed on time allows us to easily rise at the proper time, before 6:00 A.M. The period before 6 AM is the time when all of Nature is waking up, and a time when Vata is enlivened in the environment. If we start our day in Vata time, our mind will experience more of the qualities of balanced Vata throughout the day: increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.

If we sleep past 6 AM, we sleep into the Kapha time of the day. When a person sleeps until 7:30 AM they have been lying dull and dormant for one and a half hours in Kapha time and they wake experiencing the qualities of Kapha: dullness, heaviness and lethargy.

Understanding and following the ideal times for eating and sleeping means harmonizing our behavior with the rhythms and cycles of the body and the cycles of nature. This is the key to living a health-promoting life. If we live a lifestyle that disrupts our natural biological rhythms, we are sabotaging our own health, breaking down the resistance of the body and contributing to the creation of disease.

Ideal Times for Eating

Breakfast

Digestion is not strong when we first awake, so breakfast should not be a heavy meal. Cooked apples and pears are a perfect way to begin the day. It is best to avoid cheeses, meats and other heavy, hard-to digest foods at breakfast.

Lunch

In the middle of the day the transformational element in nature is at its peak. This activates that same principle, Pitta, in our own bodies. Pitta is responsible for our digestion and metabolism.

For this reason we should eat our largest meal at noon. The ideal time for lunch is between 12:30 and 1:00, as this is the period of highest Pitta and greatest digestive power. Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal, with all six tastes. Take at least 30 minutes, eat in a relaxed setting, and then sit comfortably for 10 to 15 minutes after you finish.

Dinner

In the evening, digestion is less strong. In a few hours we should be sleeping, which further slows the digestive and metabolic processes. Therefore dinner should be a lighter meal. Heavy foods like cheese, ice cream and meat are best avoided at this meal.

It is better to eat earlier in the evening than later. The later you eat, the less food you should consume and the lighter the food should be.

If we have been living a life that is out of tune with nature’s laws, it is never too late to make healthy changes. A consultation with an Ayurvedic expert can pinpoint imbalances that have built up in the physiology, and provide specific recommendations for restoring a healthy balance. The traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma treatments, can remove accumulated imbalances and blockages from deep within the tissues.. These treatments offer a giant step forward as a technology to maintain and create a deep level of health.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and treatment programs, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Pepper and Turmeric: Enhancing Heart and Brain Health with Ayurvedic Spices

“Bioenhancer” is a term that has become very important to drug and food supplement companies. Bioenhancers are substances that increase the “bioavailability and bioefficacy” of other substances. What is “bioavailablity”? In terms of both pharmicudical and herbal supplements, it means the quantity or fraction of an ingested dose that is actually absorbed by the body. Because of either differing digestive capabilities or because of our body’s cellular membranes that block foreign particles, much of what we take in orally is actually not absorbed by our body. While we can see why this is of concern to drug companies, this concern should extend to our every day life and our ability to extract vital nutrients from our food.

Peririne was the first bioenhancer to be discovered by modern science. It is found naturally  in pepper. Peririne, along with cucumine (found in turmeric), and gingerols (found in ginger) are now being isolated and sold by numerous pharmacutical companies in order to improve the bioefficacy of their products.

This “new” science is in fact age-old wisdom offered by Ayurveda, the 5000 year old health science of India. Spicing has always been a key part of both Ayurvedic cooking and Ayurveda health recommendations. Not only do spices make our meals taste delicious, they help our bodies stay balanced and healthy. Spices help us better absorb nutrients in our food. They have been found to be antioxidants, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol and blood sugar, improve memory, flush out toxins, and enhance digestion During consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, spices are normally a part of the individualized recommendations given to help restore balanced health.

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Let’s look at these “new” bioenhancers:

Pepper Helps Feed Your Brain

Perinine is found in cracked black pepper. Perinine has been found to help carry nutrition across the blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier is a layer of tightly packed cells that make up the walls of brain capillaries and prevent substances in the blood from entering the brain. This protects the brain from “foreign substances”, helps maintain a constant environment for the brain and protects the brain from hormones and neurotransmitters in the rest of the body.

Because our brain is made up of almost 60% fat, it needs high quality fats to keep the lining of the brain cells flexible so that memory and other brain messages can easily pass between cells. Getting fat to cross the blood brain barrier can be a challenge. If we are using healthy oils in our diet, adding freshly ground pepper helps us make the most of oils and other nutrients. Bioenhancers increase the absorption of oils and nutrients for our body, as well as our brain, supporting cell growth, protecting our organs and helping manufacture hormones in our body.

Perinine also helps strengthens the functioning of the heart and kidneys. It effective against colon cancer and inflammation and generally enhances immunity. Pepper it is very stimulating to the digestive system. It is also inherently heating and should be used cautiously by those with a Pitta imbalance.

Pepper is most efficient when it is fresh. A pepper grinder and organic pepper corns will allow you to get the most out of this important spice.

Turmeric

Cucumin is found in turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Ayurveda considers turmeric a medicinal herb as well as a cooking spice.

Curcumin is said to have powerful anti-oxidizing effects. Because of its chemical structure, curcumin can neutralize free radicals. In addition, it supports and boosts the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Curcumin, however, is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. To get the most out of turmeric it is recommended that you add freshly ground black pepper to your spice mixture. The piperine in black pepper has been shown to enhance the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.

Curcumin is also anti-inflammatory. Because inflammation and oxidative damage are contributors to many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis and various cancers, turmeric is gaining world wide interest in the world of science. It has been noted that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and certain cancers in India is among the world’s lowest. Turmeric has been shown to have an effect in blocking the growth skin cancer, and inhibiting the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.

Curcumin has recently been shown to strengthen and order cell membranes, making cells more resistant to infection and malignancy. There is new evidence that curcumin can help keep away neurogenerative disease through its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and act as an antioxidant.

Ginger

Ginger is another spice that Ayurveda recommends for its medicinal properties. The active ingredient in ginger is gingerol, a compound that is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. Traditionally ginger has been used as a remedy for poor circulation, colds, flue, arthritis, heart disease, and poor digestion, as well as nausea and motion sickness. Gingerol is a is also potent anti-inflammatory agent, which means it may be useful in fighting heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity have also been reported. Gingerol has been reported to not only reduce pain levels in individuals suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but also to improve mobility.

Ginger is also heating by nature. If you have Pitta imbalances such as ulcers or heartburn, check first with an Ayurveda expert to see how best to use ginger in cooking.

Purchasing Spices

Turmeric, black pepper and ginger are all sold in the supermarkets in a ground form. While the pre-packaged, ground forms of black pepper and ginger may add flavor to your food, they are mostly deficient in their health benefits.

Ideally black pepper and ginger should be bought in their whole form and then ground or chopped at the time of cooking. To purchase high quality herbs, visit a local organic grocery or spice shop, or order them from a spice retailer online. Always use organic herbs that have their full range of nutrients and are not irradiated or sprayed with pesticide.

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Improve Immunity and Vitality with Ojas—Your Body’s Secret Weapon Against Disease

Last week we discussed how Ayurveda considers good digestion to be central to maintaining health and vitality. We also discussed how poor digestion could lead to a build-up of toxins (called ama) throughout the body.

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Today I want to touch on another product of digestion: ama’s opposite: ojas. When our digestion is strong and is capable of thoroughly digesting the food that we eat, a state of balance is created in our entire mind/body system. As digestion improves it creates more of a subtle substance called ojas.

Ojas is the finest product of digestion and brings a healthy glow to the skin. It nourishes the experience of bliss in the mind and body. According to the original texts of Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, when the quality of ojas diminishes too much, life itself is threatened. The more ojas we have in our body, the more our health, immunity from disease and sense of well-being increase.

Ojas is also said to stand as the “lamp at the door” between consciousness and matter, connecting them and thus assuring that the sequence of intelligence is expressed properly in the body. Ojas is said to be the most important biochemical substance mediating the influence of consciousness on the body.

All Ayurvedic treatments and recommendations are designed to increase the abundance of ojas and to avoid reducing ojas. both aspects are considered central to restoring health and preventing illness. Foundational for increasing ojas is good digestion and balanced diet.

WHAT INCREASES OJAS, BESIDES GOOD DIGESTION?

Food

There are some foods that directly increase ojas, while others decrease it.Foods that increase ojas (providing that you are properly digesting them) are milk, ghee, and rice.

Food should be fresh and organic.

Preparation and eating of food

Food taken in an atmosphere of warmth, upliftment and congeniality increases ojas.

Behavior

Positivity in feelings, speech and behavior are said to increase ojas. Love, joy, and appreciation produce more ojas and, therefore, better immunity. This ties in well with the current findings in mind/body medicine and may provide a way of understanding such findings.

Panchakarma

Ayurvedic purification therapies remove impurities from the channels of circulation in the body. This is said to improve the cells’ ability to take up and receive ojas, thus helping rejuvenation the body.

WHAT DECREASES OJAS?

Negative emotions

Stress, hurrying, and excessive exercise

Staying up too late

Overexposure to wind and sun

Injury or trauma to the body

Alcoholic beverages

For more information on Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

WWW.THERAJ.COM

Winter Skin Care: Ayurveda Tips for a Glowing Complexion

This week we are reposting one of our most-read posts… 

woman in spa

If you are familiar with Ayurveda, you are familiar with the concept that everything in life — including our bodies, the food that we eat, and the environment around us — is composed of the three “doshas”; Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  These qualities, or principles of nature, each have their own fundamental traits. Vata, the principle of movement, is the ruling dosha for the late fall and winter seasons. These months are marked by the same qualities that characterize Vata: coldness, dryness, lightness, and movement.

During the winter many notice a tendency toward dryness, constipation, anxiety and insomnia — all Vata imbalances that can take their toll on our skin.  Luckily, through the understanding of Ayurvedic principles, we can take steps to pacify Vata and keep our skin balanced and glowing throughout the winter months.

Washing the Face

At any time of the year it is important to be gentle when washing the face, as it is easy to aggravate vata, which can promote dryness and wrinkles. Favor body-temperature water over hot water. Avoid using soaps with chemical additives. For most skin types, sweet almond oil is a good lubricant to use after washing to help protect the skin. Sweet almond oil is also healthy way to remove make-up before washing. A luxurious option for keeping skin lubricated in the winter is to bathe the face with milk. Whole, organic milk is ideal. The tiny, nutritious molecules of milk can be easily be absorbed by our skin without clogging the pores. Heat the milk to body temperature (not too hot) before applying.

Ten Vata-Reducing Tips to Promote Glowing Skin

  1. Drink plenty of warm, pure water throughout the day to both purify the body and stay well hydrated.
  2. Ideally, enjoy organic, freshly cooked meals, using healthy oils such as olive oil and ghee. Remember, you want to counter the influence of Vata, which is characterized as light, dry and cold. Healthy oils in winter are our friends.
  3. Eat your main meal at noon.
  4. Avoid packaged, frozen, canned and processed foods, which are difficult to digest and often include harmful additives.
  5. Favor Vata-pacifying foods such as avocados, pumpkins, carrots, beets, asparagus, bananas, lemons, mangoes, peaches, quinoa, basmati rice, wheat, almonds, sesame seeds, boiled milk, and ghee. Nuts and seeds provide healthy oils that are good for skin and hair. Eat more foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes and less of those with bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes.  Don’t forget that Ayurveda recommends having some amounts of all six tastes with every meal. Otherwise the body can develop food cravings. Ayurvedic spice mixes or “churnas” can help you make sure that you get all six tastes.
  6. Avoid dry, raw foods, especially salads and raw vegetables.
  7. Use a humidifier at night, especially if you have forced air heating.
  8. Oil Up! Before your morning bath, give yourself a gentle self-massage with sesame oil. Those who tend toward pitta imbalances may prefer sweet almond oil or olive oil or coconut oil. The oil helps to pull out toxins from the skin and also leaves a protective layer between your skin and the harsh winter environment. Don’t feel like you have to remove the oil with soap. Soap is essentially oil and fat combined with salt. A good scrub with a luffa or body brush after your morning oil massage is really all you need.
  9. Go to bed early and try to get eight hours of sleep. The most effective means of pacifying Vata is to increase rest.
  10. Learn to meditate.  The Raj Ayurveda Health Center recommends the Transcendental Meditation program (TM) to complement their in-residence Ayurvedic treatment packages. An imbalance of Vata can lead to an overactive mind, worry, anxiety and insomnia. Over 350 published research studies on the TM technique have documented a wide range of benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved health and brain function, and increased self-actualization.

For more information on Vata-pacifying skin care products, herbal formulas to improve skin or digestion please contact the herb room at The Raj. Ideally a visit to an Ayurvedic expert in your area will help to more precisely determine which supplements, diet recommendations and life-style tips would benefit your individual mind/body make-up.

Learn more at:

www.theraj.com

Can Ayurveda Panchakarma Treatments Cure Disease?

The Ayurveda approach to disease and disorders focuses on boosting the overall immune system and restoring balance to the physiolgoy. One of the key approaches is through Panchakarma, the traditional purification therapies of Ayurveda. Panchakarma effectively eliminates toxins from the body and helps eliminate imbalances. It is recommended for healthy individuals as well as for those showing symptoms of various disorders.

According to Ayurveda, our physiology is made up of doshas (functional elements), dhatus (structural elements) and malas (waste products). The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. (Read our blog on Understanding the Doshas if you are unfamiliar with this concept.) The three doshas are responsible for specific functions in our body and their balance is foundational to our health — whereas a loss of balance is known to contribute to disease and disorders.

The traditional detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, called Panchakarma, are designed to help to bring these doshas back to their natural balance, thus restoring health and vitality.

Healthy Life wooden sign with a beach on background

Three Stages of Panchakarma:

Stage one: During the first phase of Panchakarma, the body and the internal system is prepared for the elimination of toxins. This process is marked by 1) oliation: purifying the body by administering various oils both internally and externally, and 2) sudation: preparing the sweat glands to expel the toxins through sweat.

Oliation begins a week before your actual treatment program and continues through your course of therapies. The home routine is created specifically to support your individual doshic balance and state of health. Most people follow a low-fat diet during this time, while ingesting varying amounts of ghee and/or herbs.

Stage two: Stage two involves the elimination process. This stage is added during your treatment program. Most people who undergo Panchakarma are prescribed “basti” treatments. Basti is an Ayurvedic treatment in which medicated oils and herbal preparations are introduced as an enema in order to flush toxins from the intestinal tract. Bastis offer more healing benefits than simply evacuating the colon. The medicinal effects of herbs given in this manner are able to penetrate the deeper tissues of the physiology, including the bones. Bastis are extremely effective in balancing Vata dosha. Because Vata dosha is the first dosha to go out of balance and tends to create problems with the other doshas, balancing Vata is key to bringing balance to the physiology as a whole.

Stage three: Adopting a healthy routine. Removing toxins is not a magical solution that will keep you healthy for life. During your stay at The Raj, you will be given recommendations for changes in diet and lifestyle that will help you to maintain balance and support a healthy immune system. Understanding the Ayurvedic principles of daily routine and diet according to the seasons and your doshic balance, and understanding how to maintain a strong digestion are all key to keeping your mind/body system at its strongest.

Over the years we have seen guests arrive at The Raj with numerous concerns ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes, MS, migraines, asthma, arthritis and more. And again and again, we receive letters weeks after guests’ departures telling us how their symptoms have improved. Did Panchakarma “cure” these disorders? Not at all. What Panchakarma did was to remove the toxins and imbalances that were blocking the natural ability of the body to heal itself. If you support your immune system, your immune system will support you.

For more information on Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com