NATURAL MEDICINE: An Ayurvedic primer

By on June 23, 2015

Two simple recipes to get balanced, cleansed


Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Recently, many of my patients have been expressing an interest in Ayurvedic cleansing and healing, a fascinating system of medicine aiming toward a balance of mind, body and sprit.

Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine developed in India and has been around for 5,000 years. I am no expert in Ayurveda, but we did study it in naturopathic medical school. I have much more experience with Chinese medicine, which was developed from Ayurveda. While there are similarities, Chinese medicine is only 2,000 years old.

Ayurveda is more than just a system for treating illness, the root of the word means “science or knowledge of life.” It stems from the belief that we are connected to everything in the universe. In order to be healthy, we must not only be free of disease but also have energy, a sense of well-being and be in harmony with the universe.

According to Ayurveda, to be healthy you must have balanced “doshas.” These are energies that reside over our bodies and depict a specific constitution. There are three types of doshas: kapha, pitta and vata. All three doshas are present in each of us, but usually one is predominant. Read on to see if you can identify the ones that might be strongest in you.

Kapha is the earth dosha. Individuals with more of this energy have a heavier build. They are grounded, stable and loyal, often with slower digestion. Actions that can disrupt this dosha are daytime sleeping, drinking or eating or too much—especially salt or sweet foods and greed. The actions turn a Kapha-dominant person from balanced and stable to sluggish.

Pitta is the fire dosha, People with more of this energy run hot—they are warm-blooded, compulsive, sometimes irritable, prone to inflammation and indigestion. Actions that can disrupt this dosha are sour and spicy foods, heat exposure and exhaustion. When balanced, they are warm, goal oriented, disciplined and a good leaders.

Vata is the wind/air dosha. Individuals with more of this energy tend to have a slender build and can tend towards anxiety and constipation. Actions that can disrupt this dosha are cold foods, waiting too long to eat and staying up too late. In a balanced state, they are lively, adaptable and creative.

Of the many types of cleansing in Ayurvedic medicine, the most well-known one is “Panchakarma.” It is known as the ultimate mind/body healing experience for detoxifying the body, strengthening the immune system and restoring balance and well-being. It is a set of five procedures done under the supervision of a doctor. They include medically induced vomiting, purging the bowels, nasal cleansing, enemas and, occasionally, blood cleansing.

Don’t worry – other less intense Ayurvedic cleanses are very beneficial and can be done at home. A simple cleanse can be a mono diet consisting only of “kitchari.” This can be done for one to 21 days, giving the body a break from the food we normally consume. After you have differentiated which dosha is predominant in your constitution, you can make additions to your cleanse. As always, drink lots of water, and if you feel uncomfortable, stop.

A cumin, coriander and fennel (CCF) tea can also be consumed with kitchari.

Here’s a basic recipe for it:

1 cup mung beans (green/whole) soaked overnight

1 cup brown basmati rice

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons coriander

2 teaspoons turmeric

(ginger fresh or ground) optional

(fennel) optional

1 teaspoon ghee or butter

Chicken broth/ water

You may add chard and/or sweet potato


Soak beans

Cook beans in 7 cups of water/chicken broth for one hour, add washed rice and cook for 45 minutes

Add seasoning and veggies

Cook for 20 minutes

Add sea salt to taste

CCF tea is 2 teaspoons each of cumin, coriander and fennel added to boiling water and then simmered for 10 minutes. Strain and drink throughout the day.

Jackson has many Ayurvedic practitioners that can further direct you. This is just a small glimpse of the wonderful healing system.

About Dr. Monique Lai

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