Ayurvedic Spices to Balance Vata Dosha

ayurvedic-spicesUntil recently, I used few herbs or spices other than the basics I grew up with (salt, pepper, and, like every good Italian, basil and oregano). I had no idea what I was missing! Now that I’m beginning to tap into the benefits of spices for health (and for making food tastier), I have many favorites (basil and oregano still among them). I also love a blend of vata-balancing Ayurvedic spices that I now use every time I make a salad: cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, asafetida, and salt.

According to Ayurveda, a balanced diet should consist of foods that contain all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent). A few years ago, I found a product called Organic Surya Spice Blend from the Chopra Center that contains the six tastes I listed above.

Balancing Vata

If you’re not familiar with the concept of the doshas, here’s a quick overview. In Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, each person has a unique constitution that is classified as one (or in some cases a combination) of three types, called doshas. The three doshas are vata, pitta and kapha.

Since my dosha is vata, I was drawn to this blend of spices, and it became a staple in my kitchen right away. It’s delicious in salads (also in soups, as in ingredient in dips and for seasoning fish), but beyond that, the properties of each spice have unique health benefits for someone of my constitution. Balancing vata energy is especially important now that it is “Vata season” (autumn). Vata is an airy, spacey kind of energy, so these grounding spices are especially useful.

Spices for Vata

Here’s a rundown of each ingredient in this delicious spice blend.

Asafetida, the one ingredient on this list that may not have heard of before, is so-named for its strong odor. It also has the nickname “devil’s dung.” Sound good so far? I didn’t think so either – until I learned more about it. This sour herb is great for the digestive system, and it also reduces inflammation throughout the body.

Cardamom is a warm spice from India. Those with a vata constitution do well with warmer foods and can also benefit from cardamom’s cleansing and detoxifying properties. It’s a peppery spice that is classified as bitter, though it has a very pleasant taste. Cardamom is one of the ingredients in curry.

Cinnamon is another warming spice, and it’s one of my favorites. Since vata people (among others) do better avoiding sugar, the sweetness of cinnamon is a great substitute.

Cumin, a favorite among Indian cooks, is a bitter spice with strong antibacterial properties. It’s also another spice that can help balance the digestive system.

Ginger, the astringent in the group, is great for the digestive troubles that vata people often experience. It’s also known to be an uplifting spice (maybe that’s why it’s used to make those yummy holiday cookies).

Nutmeg is often found alongside ginger and cinnamon in many recipes that hint of the warmth of autumn evenings by the fire. This spice adds a pungent flavor to the blend.

Salt may not seem like a healing spice, but when blended properly among the other tastes, it adds just the right balance and helps bring out the flavors of the other spices.

The flavors in this blend really do come together nicely. It’s not too sweet, bitter, spicy, salty, sour or astringent; it’s just right! So, if you’re intrigued by the idea of using more spices to add flavor and health benefits to your food but you don’t know where to start, try a blend like this. There are also blends available for the other two doshas. You can find them all at the Chopra Center store, or you can buy the individual spices and experiment with combining them yourself!

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Maria Kuzmiak, M.A. is a health and well-being writer with a background in nutrition, psychology and education and a passion for yoga. She has written hundreds of articles, blogs and newsletters for clients in health-related fields, particularly those specializing in yoga, natural medicine, nutrition, and spiritual health and healing. Maria has also worked as a nutritionist, teacher and technical editor. Learn more about her writing at www.wellbeingwriter.net.

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