Herb of the Week: Rose

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

This is a quote from one of my favorite childhood books, Anne of Green Gables. As is evident, the protagonist, Anne, understood something special about the rose. Indeed, roses are not only beautiful, they have symbolic and medicinal significance as well.

Roses are especially beneficial for Pitta due to their cooling nature. Their sweet, nourishing qualities also benefit Vata. Rose water is used in puja (devotional ceremony) and I like to keep it around the house as a refreshing skin spray. Rose water is moistening, and it is reputed to protect one’s energetic fields. Dr. Lad and Dr. David Frawley write of rose water: “It opens the mind and heart and is cooling and refreshing to the eyes” (Yoga of Herbs). Indeed, pure rosewater can be used safely as an eye wash.

Taken internally, rose can be used as a tonic. Roses also cool inflammation. For regulating menses and clearing blood stagnation, take rose with hibiscus or safflower.

Herb of the Week: Guduchi for Your Liver

Guduchi is a highly revered herb in Ayurveda, and one that I had never heard of before my studies in Ayurveda. However, it has become a staple in my herbal pharmacopeia. Guduchi is also know as “Amrit.” It is tridoshic, meaning it will not aggravate any of the doshas (constitutional types). It is a powerful rejuvenative and yet clears ama (toxins) at the same time. It helps liver cells regenerate and also helps decongest the liver. It stabilizes nerve function as well, so is useful in cases of nervous system disorder or imbalance. Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad write in Yoga of Herbs that Guduchi “increases our positive energy in conditions of debility like chronic fatigue syndrome” (p.243). Thus, Guduchi is good for treating and preventing chronic disease.
You may not see Guduchi at your local health food store, but you can order it rather inexpensively from Banyan Botanicals. Take a small amount of the powder in warm water or warm milk with a pinch of cardamom or other digestive spice.

Allergies: don’t be a victim.

The cherry blossoms are in bloom and we are moving into what is allergy season for many. Though fatigue, sniffles and a stuffy nose are certainly aggravating, the good news is you don’t have to be a victim to allergies…or to pharmaceuticals. Kicking allergies the holistic way takes diligence, but it can be done! According to Ayurveda the process is thus:

1. Remove ama (toxins)
2. Build agni (digestion)
3. Build ojas (immunity/protective life force)

Ama is essentially toxins. Ayurvedic practitioners consider it to be a sticky substance that clings to our cells. By detoxing you remove irritants and impurities from your blood, digestive system, and other bodily tissues. This way your body functions more cleanly and efficiently. When you detox, your energy and clarity improves. You can clear ama by eating a simple, whole foods diet, drinking plenty of water (especially warm or hot water), and avoiding intoxicants such as wine and coffee. A few special herbs to reduce ama are turmeric, guduchi, triphala, and guggul.

Raising agni (digestive power) is part and parcel to removing ama. We don’t accumulate ama when our agni is strong. When our digestion is strong we burn up toxins and effectively put the nutrients in our food to use. Ways to improve agni are: getting adequate exercise, eating mostly cooked and moist food (cold, heavy foods burden agni), eating mindfully and chewing our food, and adding spices to our food. Spices that help raise the agni are: fennel, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and peppers. If you tend to run hot (Pitta constitution), focus on fennel, cardamom and coriander as your digestives. If you are of Kapha constitution hot peppers and dry ginger are suitable. If you are of Vata constitution, go for the gentle warming spices: cinnamon, fresh ginger, and cumin.

Step three of the allergy protocol is build ojas, ojas being immunity and sense of protection. We cannot build ojas until we first remove ama and raise agni, so focus on the first two steps first–a task that could take awhile. When the agni is strong and the body pure, then you can work on building ojas and healthy, strong tissues on top of a clean base. Special foods to build ojas include dates, milk, almonds, and herbs such as Ashwagandha, Shatavari, and the famous herbal jelly Chvanprash. Mental and physical rest are also vital for building ojas. This doesn’t mean staying in bed all day, but rather aligning oneself with nature’s rhythms. You can do this by taking walks in nature, getting plenty of sleep, maintaining a yoga practice, and limiting use of technology, especially at night. Also, doing daily Abhyanga (oil massage) helps build ojas. You can of course get someone else to do your Abhyanga, but this is something you can do briefly on your own every day after bathing.

Keep in mind this process will take time, but the lasting benefits are worth it! You will not only kick your allergies for the long-term, my guess is that you will reap many other health benefits along the way. Working with an Ayurvedic practitioner and receiving Ayurvedic body therapies will help support you in the process.

Herb of the Week: Hawthorn for the Heart

Herb of the week: Hawthorn berries! Hawthorn berries are great for heart health, as they are anti-hypertensives and help to regulate the heart beat. They also treat anxiety and thus are good for the emotional heart as well. You can take Hawthorn as a tea, tincture, or capsule. For heart conditions, it can take two weeks to take effect, so give it time. If you take it in whole herb powdered form, you can add a little fresh ginger or cardamom to help with absorption.
In Dr. Lad and David Frawley’s book “Yoga of Herbs” this is one way to take Hawthorn: “One half ounce of hawthorn berries can be simmered in one pint of water for 20 minutes along with one teaspoon of cinnamon and taken three times a day after meals…”