Traditional Ayurvedic Technique Now Fashionably known as ‘Oil Pulling’

Ayurvedic Oil Pulling

Ayurvedic Oil Pulling

This ancient traditional technique of Ayurveda know as ‘gandusha’ has been recently commonly brought to light  as Oil Pulling. A practice which has been a health ritual in India for over 5000 years.

As the oil is retained in the mouth, it mixes with the saliva becoming thinner in consistency and white in colour. This subtly draws toxins from the local area and the blood by the enzymatic stimulation and lipophilic action, collecting all the accumulated fat soluble toxins ready for expulsion beyond in the mouth and beyond. If the oil is still yellow it could indicate that the pulling needs to be done for longer. Cured sesame is widely used in Ayuveda for this and numerous other treatments for it therapeutic actions on the body.

The Benefits

The health benefits for using this technique are plentiful. Here are a few of to get you thinking:

  • Brilliant for oral healthcare, preventing gum disease, cavities, firmly rooted teeth, heals bleeding gums, prevents sensitivity of the teeth and tooth aches.
  • Keeps breath freshen by removing local toxins
  • Pulls toxins and removed mucous from the mouth, throat and head
  • Improved taste and digestive metabolism
  • prevents dryness in mouth & throat
  • Invokes a clearer mind, reduces headaches
  • Helps keep sinuses clear and healthy
  • Strengthens jaw and voice

Try it for yourself:

Do this technique in the morning before Breakfast and on empty stomach.

After brushing teeth, and using a tongue scrapper. Take a table spoon or body temperature cured sesame oil or coconut oil. Retain in the mouth swooshing gently from side to side for 10-12 minutes and then expel the oil. Simple, easy, inexpensive, harmless and effective.

please note: this used should not be swallowed as it has become laced with toxins

Reference: Charaka Samhita. Ch 5. V78 -80 (Ayurvedic classical text)

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Neem (azadiracta indica) – The Ayurvedic Friend for Skin Health

neemParts used: leaves, flowers, bark & roots

Energetics: bitter, cool, pungent, -PK +V

Neem is a fast-growing tree that can reach up to heights of 50 feet, growing in many parts of India and the subcontinent, with the ability to withstand very high temperatures and low rainfall. In Ayurveda it is known as sarva roga nivarini,  translating as ‘the curer of all ailments’, indicating its vast healing benefits. The most commonly used part of the neem tree are its dried leaves which are very bitter in nature.

The anti fungal and anti viral and powerful blood purification and properties of neem makes it a key ingredient for remedies of skin conditions and curing diabetes. It was also found to be effectively used to cure diseases like malaria, insect bites, nausea, vomiting, rheumatism, jaundice, obesity, arthritis, hair loss, urinary tract problems and parasites.

With its powerful detoxification properties, neem cools fevers and clears the toxins involved in many inflammatory skin diseases (especially burning). It has the qualities to pacify all doshas, however cautions needs to be applied in conditions of colds and debilitation.

One of the reknowned uses for Neem is the prevention of tooth decay & gum disease. Neem twigs and leaves have been used for thousands of years in India by millions of people to brush their teeth and to promote oral hygiene.

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Milk – to boil or not to boil

A pitcher of fresh milk on the terraceWith so much questioning around the subject of milk, whether it’s good for you, if the alternatives are more digestible, are most people lactose intolerant etc etc. There is no doubt there is confusion. Here is the Ayurvedic perspective. Cows milk is considered to be the best and a complete food, providing unique nutrition with ‘saatvic’ qualities when it is digested properly, nourishing the body tissues, balancing the doshas and promoting emotional balance and ojas (a refined substance providing strength, immunity and contentment). With such nourishing properties why would we want to exclude milk from our diet?

Western research has found milk harmful largely due to their mode of intake. When milk is taken cold, unspiced, homogenized, combined with unsuitable foods and in excess, health concerns will prevail. The secret to milk as a healthy food lies in the way it is prepared and consumed.

First is it advisable to choose organic milk which does not contain hormones that are fed to cows to increase milk production. Traditionally, ayurveda recommends milk to be taken raw (not homogenized or pasteurised). In order to digest milk properly it should be brought to the boil for at least 5 minutes. The process of boiling changes the molecular structure of the milk, breaking down the milk proteins into digestible amino acids ensuring that it easier and lighter to digest, taken with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, turmeric can help reduce the accumulation of phlegm for kapha types and its cooling properties.

So we may argue that pasteurisation cleanses milk of bacteria, therefore it has already been ‘treated with heat’. However, it’s worth noting that the process does make the milk more digestible. The process of pasteurising is a treatment of milk to the temperature of 71.7 °C (161 °F) for 15–20 seconds which assists in the partial breakdown of milk proteins, making them very difficult to digest for the human system.

Furthermore, homogenization only serves to make it easier to pack, store and retail, benefiting only the organizations that want to make profit by retailing milk, and clearly overlooking the health issues. It is no wonder that there are so many complaints of milk intolerance and the switch to alternatives.

However it is safe to say that the cow’s milk whose virtues were praised by the ancient ayurvedic seers, is not the same milk that we are getting to consume today, so it will not have the same properties. We can do our level best to make informed choices to consume organic milk and undertake the process of boiling so we can still digest and get the best of what is available without having to substitute. Ayurveda also recommends goats milk, since it is less mucus forming and easier to digest than cow’s milk.

Milk should not be taken with incompatible foods such as fish, meat, fruits, foods that are sour, bitter, salty and astringent which can cause the build up of harmful toxins. Milk can however be taken with sweet tasting foods such as rice, dates and almonds. Boiled milk at night with spices can be a fantastic aid to sleep. Why not try the Geeta Vara Ayurveda ‘goodnight milk blend’.

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Easy & Light Spiced Chickpea Recipe

Basil leafs over assortment of spices1 cup chana dal (dried chick-peas)
1 teaspoon salt
5 cup water; plus
2 tbsp ghee (clairifed butter)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 medium chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root; scraped, finely chopped
1/2 tsp each of turmeric, ground cumin ground coriander, garam masala
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves

Thoroughly wash the chick-peas under cold and soak overnight for 12 hours uncovered with 5cm water at top. Drain the chick-peas, place them in a heavy saucepan, with salt and 4 cups of the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover the pan, and simmer over a low heat for 1 hour.

In a separate saucepan, heat the ghee over high heat and add the cumin seeds and stir for 30 seconds, then add the onions and ginger. Lower the heat to medium and constantly stir for approx 7/8 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden brown. Do not let onions burn.
Stir in the all the ground spices with 2 tablespoon of water, and fry for 1 minute. Then add the chick-peas their cooking liquid and add 1 cup of water (as necessary). Bring to a boil over high heat and stir constantly, cover the pan and simmer for about 25 minutes on a low heat, or until the chick-peas are tender but still whole. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice.

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The Ayurvedic Perspective of Gastritis

Gastritis, otherwise known as urdhvaga amlapitta in ayurveda is an inflammatory condition of the mucous membrane and glands of the stomach. Pitta types are more prone to this conditions and it is a vitiation of the pitta dosha where stomach acids such as Hydrochloric acid and other digestive enzymes secreted by the stomach become inflamed and results in the increase of these liquid secretions leading to indigestion and symptoms such as, loss of appetite, nausea, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal pain, heartburn coated tongue, foul breath, increased salivation, sour belching, irritable bowels.

The typical root causes could include, excessive intake of alcohol, strong tea/coffee, sauces, vinegars, anger, worry, grief, strong drugs such as NA

In managing and treating this condition it is advised to avoid the causative factors such as alcohol, spicy and sour foods, fried foods, yoghurts, pickles, chutneys, chocolate, caffeine, smoking, stress, aspirin. Do increase intake of boiled milk, vitamin C (not from oranges), rice and dahl, kitchari, ghee, bitter gourd, pomegranate, barley, wheat, honey.

A panca karma approach would consider a purgation treatment to eliminate the excess pitta dosha out if the body. In terms of herbs there are various options depending on the type of condition that prevails and these can include simple herbs such as yasti madhu (liquorice), Shatavari (asparagus racemosus) and Amla (Emblica officinalis) amongst other specialist compounds.

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The wonders of Tulasi (holy basil),

botanical name: Ocimum Sanctum

holy basil

Tulasi – holy basil

Tulasi, cultivated in India for thousands of years for its religious and medicinal purposes is an aromatic leafy plant. Of the two types, rama and shyam tulasi, the latter is considered to contain more medicinal properties. Ancient Ayurvedic seers, including charaka recognised tulasi as the ‘elixir of life’.

Of the plant, the leaf is most commonly used for its heath benefits, although the whole plant including the stem, roots, flowers and seeds have various medicinal properties. Tulasi can be taken in a variety of forms including fresh and dried leaf tea, fresh green leaves, alcohol tinctures, medicated ghee and used in external body treatments in herbal poultices and pastes.

Rich in vitamin A, C and minerals such as zinc, calcium, iron, chlorophyll and other phytochemicals, this pillar in Ayurvedic herbology enhances digestion, absorption and general health and well-being with positive effects on the mind and body. Tulasi is commonly used to treat various conditions from coughs, colds, flu, headaches, arthritis, ear ache, rheumatism, fever, allergies, intestinal parasites, insect bites as well as being a key herb in formulations used in treatment for conditions of the heart, blood, liver, kidneys, throat and metabolism to name but a few.

As a powerful adaptogen, holy basil has the capacity to enhance the body’s natural adaptability to physical, mental and emotional stress and various stress-related degenerative disorders.

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Ayurvedic Winter Warming Rice Kheer

One of the most common desserts is a very simple preparation of milk and rice, better known as Indian rice pudding. It is a wonderful nurturing dessert for the winter months at the same time being wholesome and vata pacifying.

Ingredients:Ayurvedic Rejuvenating Kheer
Pinch saffron (soaked in a little hot milk)
4 cups whole milk
¼ cup basmati rice (washed & drained)
1/4 tsp crushed cardamom seeds
2 tbsp blanched & sliced almonds
1 tbsp skinned & chopped pistachio nuts
1 tbsp raisins (optional)
2-3 tbsp raw cane sugar or honey (to taste)

Method:
Heat the rice milk and cardamom in a medium pan and bring to the boil, then simmer gently and keep stirring to prevent lumps. Wait until the rice is soft and start to break

Add the almonds, pistachio, saffron and raisins and simmer for a further 4-5 minutes

Add the sugar until dissolved according to taste. If you are adding honey add at time of serving (do not heat honey).

Remove from heat and serve while warm.

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New Year, New Ayurvedic Outlook

Ayurvedic Herbal TeasSo we are well into the new year and so many of us made a resolution to start a ‘detox’, lose the holiday weight, stop drinking and get back into the gym. How many of us actually last past the first few weeks or even the first few days? So many people fail to complete a detoxifcation cleanse in January as it does not fit in with their lifestyle, they are not mentally prepared and lets face it, there’s still plenty of indulgences lurking in the cupboards. But do not fear all is not doom and gloom, changing diets drastically during the winter months is not conducive to our overall health and according to Ayurveda the ideal time to go through a detoxification programme is in Spring time, so plenty of time to plan and prepare.

Ayurvedic advocates following a seasonal regime to support our well being, we are in the hemanta and shishira months (December to March) and our Agni (digestive fire) is at its strongest during these months, hence the tendency to feel increased hunger. The quest to lose weight can have an adverse affect on our metabolism at this time as we starve our body of essential nutrients.

Without radical dieting, we can adopt methods to pacify winter ailments such as fatigue, mental confusion, digestive problems, aches, pains and persistent cold while giving ourselves time to prepare for a deeper cleanse and weight loss in a more suitable season. Winter is essentially a vata and kapha period and a vata pacifying diet is most suitable.

  • Avoid the causative factors such as refined sugars, fried, leftover or cold foods saturated fats, and heavy dairy.
  • Eat foods that are naturally sweet, sour and salty by taste to help pacify vata dosha, such as soups, stews, hot teas and stewed fruits.
  • Favour foods that are wholesome and easy to digest including, carrots, tomatoes, figs, dates, cane sugar, nuts, seeds, seasonal root vegetables, wheat, gram flour, rice barley, rye, milk products, edible oils such as ghee and olive oil
  • Immunity is connected to digestion and when digestion is strong then immunity is robust, so drink warm/hot water and digestion enhancing spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom and cinnamon. Strengthen your immune system with chywanprash, a jam packed full of immune boosting herbs.
  • Good news, Ayurveda says that a glass of warmed red wine can be and beneficial in winter, you can warm with cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, fennel, nutmeg and black pepper
  • Opt for regular massage and hot or steam bath
  • Arise at 7am and take plenty of exercise to keep lymph moving and prevent congestion,
  • sexual activity is encouraged
  • Wear warm clothing of cottons, silks and wools.
  • Take exposure to sun when possible
  • Engage in calming meditation

Following a more natural regime will ensure that the body is able to cope with a detox and expel the toxins out of the body more effectively. Consult a practitioner for one to one guidance on your constitution and a personalised detox plan for the Spring.

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Shake off those bad salts

Rock saltToday our diet consists of excess salt intake usually hidden in processed and pre-prepared foods. This excess of usually ‘bad’ salts can lead to health conditions including high blood pressure, water retention, dehydration, premature aging, hair loss, and hamper the taste buds.

As a necessity in life, the body needs salt to balance the electrolytes in the body as well as other functions. ‘Lavana’ as it is know in ayurveda is one of six tastes. It has the quality to heat, moisten, stimulating digestive activity, absorption, and assimilation. It has the ability to clear obstructions in the bodily channels and pores and increases salivation. It has a penetrating quality enhancing the qualities of other herbs and spices and is also responsible for lubrication of the body as well as producing sweat as a metabolic waste product.

According to ayurveda the water and fire element of salty taste increases pitta and kapha dosha if taken in excess but can be balancing and calming for vata dosha.

In classical texts ayurveda outlines 5 types of salt including sea salt, black salt and rock salt. Rock salt pacifies all the three doshas and traditionally considered the healthiest form of salt in ayurveda as it has a high mineral content and cooling.

Regular table salt is chemically cleaned and left with only sodium and chloride prepared at high temperatures changing the structure of a natural salt. An intake of this salt leaves our bodies deprived of essential trace mineral leading to imbalances. For example, sea water has 84 naturally occurring minerals which are beneficial for our bodies.

When a pinch of rock salt is taken with a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger before a main meal, it can act appetizer and it gets the salivary and digestive juices flowing. Other natural sources of salt can be found in seaweed and now widely available samphire.

Get sprouting

Sprouting mung

Sprouted mung beans

Sprouting is a great way to optimise the nutritional value of grains, beans and legumes as they contain the energy, enzymes and vitamins needed to transform seeds into strong healthy plants. By the simple method of sprouting, mung beans, adzuki beans, chick peas, fenugreek, red clover, radish, sunflower seeds, rye berries and alfalfa and many grains can be eaten as a tasty addition to a super food salad, stir fry’s, in green juices and can also be lightly sautéed with ghee and spices as a snack.

Sprouted beans are alkalizing and a live food with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, proteins and anti-oxidants. Packed with all this goodness sprouted foods help fight against toxins and boost the body’s immune system

Growing your own sprouts is easy. Simply take 2 cups of mung beans. Wash in cold water until water runs clear and soak them in a sprouter or glass bowl in room temperature water 2 -3 times as much as seeds over night (8-12 hours). Soaking neutralises the enzyme inhibitors. Rinse thoroughly and drain off the next day. Place in a cheese cloth, sieve or colander and rest in a covered bowl and leave at room temperature out of direct sunlight. The seeds need to be kept damp and aired, but not wet, otherwise it could spoil. Leave for 2 -3 days rinsing every 12 hours with low impact. They are then ready. For larger sprouts leave for 4-5 days. Most sprouts are edible as soon as you see a tail (the root) emerging from the seed.

Spice up your mung sprouts

Lightly sauté some cumin in ghee in a large heavy based pan. Add some turmeric and ginger and then the mung sprouts. Season with lime/lemon and salt and paprika.