Ayurveda 101: An Intro to Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
Curious about how to use Ayurvedic herbs in your routine? Consider this your beginner's guide.
by Stacy Mosel, LMSW
Why has Ayurveda lasted for more than 5000 years?
The increasing popularity of Ayurveda and the use of Ayurvedic herbs and spices is largely due to its holistic approach to healing and wellness.
Ayurveda, a mind-body system developed in ancient India, translates from Sanskrit to mean “science of life,” and proponents of this healing method believe it may promote wellness and help support your body’s natural balance.
If you’re curious about the practice of Ayurveda and want to learn more about how Ayurvedic herbs and spices work, this article will explain how to incorporate active herbs into your routine to support wellness and create a calm and balanced atmosphere in your daily life.
How Herbs and Spices Work in the Ayurvedic System
Ayurvedic medicine is based on the tridoshic system, which explains how the five elements (air, fire, water, earth and ether) combine in every person to create their unique dosha, or Ayurvedic body type, which includes vata, kapha and pitta. Your dosha is the way these elemental energy patterns manifest in your body to produce your unique physical and mental characteristics. When your doshas are in balance, you should experience well-being; however, doshas can also come out of balance, in which case you might use herbs or spices to level things back out.
Herbs and spices are a crucial component of Ayurveda because they are believed to have different properties that may help to maintain a healthy balance in the body and in the mind. Many Ayurvedic herbs and spices are revered for these properties – for example, even in modern India, people wear cardamom garlands as a preventive against certain ailments.
According to Ayurveda, any “plant, animal, or mineral substance can be incorporated into the ayurvedic pharmacopeia,” but only when its uses and properties are fully understood. Out of the thousands of herbs and spices that exist, only around 1500 have been consistently used in the practice over the past 3000 years. Ayurvedic herbs and spices are classified based on their properties that include “their energies, tastes, the organs and channels affected as well as their therapeutic properties and biochemical properties.” It is similar to the way Chinese medicine uses different herbs depending on a person’s physical, mental and energetic constitution.
Common Ayurvedic Herbs and Their Benefits
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that doshas can become imbalanced due to a variety of influences, such as environmental factors, food, stress and the climate.
Practitioners rely on certain herbs and spices because they are thought to possess properties that may help correct doshic imbalances. Herbs are often recommended based on the specific concern the person experiences (such as sleeplessness or lack of energy).
The following are just a few of the most commonly used herbs and spices in the practice of Ayurveda:
Ginger is an age-old remedy traditionally used to settle an upset stomach and can also be effective for supporting healthy digestion, providing relief from occasional nausea and promoting a healthy circulatory system. Ginger oil benefits are thought to include warming properties that can support a healthy inflammatory response.
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that black pepper benefits and uses may include supporting healthy digestion, promoting the body’s innate inflammatory response and providing warming qualities. Additionally, black pepper is thought to ease ailments such as throat irritation, congestion, occasional trouble sleeping and joint issues.
Cardamom is a spice that Ayurvedic practitioners have traditionally used to support healthy blood pressure, balance excess kapha and support healthy respiration during exercise. It may also promote normal gastrointestinal health and have a calming effect on the mind.
Turmeric, whose main active herb ingredient is curcumin, is responsible for giving curries their traditional yellow color – it is also traditionally used in Ayurveda to promote a healthy inflammatory response and can provide antioxidant support for a more balanced lifestyle. Turmeric is typically used by Ayurvedic practitioners to balance all of the doshas.
In traditional Ayurveda practice, chamomile is often used for its calming properties and to promote healthy sleep; it may also be effective for occasional inflammation and tenderness.
The aroma of sweet orange oil can envelop you in a sense of well-being. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that it can promote a refreshing and mood-elevating atmosphere that may stimulate feelings of joy and peace.
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that basil has warming properties. It is thought to create a stimulating atmosphere, may support a healthy digestive system and is traditionally used to assist with concentration and memory.
How to Incorporate Ayurvedic Herbs into Your Routine
If you’re interested in testing out the benefits of Ayurvedic herbs and spices, you may wish to check with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner to get advice tailored to your needs. However, you can also experiment with cooking using whole herbs (you can even grow your own in your garden or on a balcony flowerbox), make tea out of dried herbs and use essential oils as tinctures, in diffusers or in a warm bath.
Using tinctures from the Root of It All, which are made from Ayurvedic herbs and amplified with hemp, is a great way to help bring you back into balance throughout the entire day. We offer different formulations for a variety of purposes to take you from morning to night, including sleep, calming, energy, recharging, stress relief and nausea formulas.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW is a health and wellness writer, as well as a licensed social worker, yoga enthusiast, certified Reiki practitioner and musician. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1999 and a Master of Social Work from New York University in 2002.