Ayurveda offers a plethora of herbal recommendations, starting from ginger (Zingiber ofﬁcinalis) and all spices under the sun and going to formulations for better digestion or better elimination.
But before we ‘throw a herb at it’, we should be mindful that all other factors involving digestion such as having enough food on a regular basis, having enough ﬁber in that food, having enough oils and fats in a meal and drinking sufﬁcient water are in place.
Ginger is one of the herbs which can kindle the digestive ﬁre (action refered to in sanskrit as dipana) as well as eliminate toxicity (pachana). However since this is a heating herb it is sometimes used fresh to reduce the sharp and pungent quality, or with sugar in the form of candied ginger to also curb the intensity especially in summer.
Dried ginger is viewed as particularly pungent, hence more beneﬁcial to toxicity or heaviness in general and is suitable for winter or spring or whenever fresh is not available.
Although a native of the Mediterranean, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is revered in Ayurveda as another herb which can be used to increase appetite and although much more cooling than ginger, the seeds are still viewed as heating and capable of both dipana and pachana.
Adding garlic, cloves, turmeric, mustard seeds, cardamom, cumin, coriander, long or black pepper or even salt to food preparations has a multidimensional action as these each have health beneﬁts as well as speciﬁc actions on a person’s constitution beyond their ﬂavor.
Dosha Specific Remedies for Indigestion
When it comes to problems which affect someone after the assimilation of food, Ayurveda has three basic remedies:
hingwasthak churna, usually advised for vata type indigestion with bloating and gas
avipattikar churna, for pitta type indigestion with burning sensations or reﬂux
trikatu churna for those having slow digestion, heaviness or overall indigestion
A number of my clients have come to me for acid reflux, either with medications or trying to avoid them.
I must give credit to the knowledge acquired through my Ayurvedic studies to the power of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). The DGL form, also known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, is extremely helpful and aids not only in the decline of reﬂux episodes but also in the eventual healing of the mucosal lining due to acid erosion.
When it comes to elimination, Ayurveda offers a variety of options.
Triphala itself, a compound which includes haritaki, bhibitaki and amalaki can be made into 9 combinations and permutations to better address the person’s constitution and assist not only in elimination of waste products and toxins from the colon but also in time from all other tissues.
Modern research acknowledges triphala as rich in antioxidants, possessing antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-diarrhoeal, anti-inﬂammatory and anti-cancer properties.
However, when it comes to elimination, sometimes the use of demulcents are more indicated, so using sat-isabgol (psyllium – plantago ovata) with larger quantities of water or using milk with ghee at night may be the required approach.
In the case of long lasting constipation, Ayurveda favors the use of gandharva haritaki, which is haritaki cooked in with castor oil. This, as castor oil itself, has a bhedaniya, stool breaking effect and the action can be expected within 4-6 hours.
In my practice, I always caution against the use of laxatives in any way, shape or form as in essence we do not want to become dependent on substances to have functional integrity of our system. Furthermore, due to decreased transit time by using laxatives there can be an overall decline in absorption in minerals or poor absorption of needed medication.
Good Health Begins With Food
When it comes to digestive health it all starts with the food we ingest. When you can, eat fresh; if you need to cook it, do so simply and add spices and good quality oils, if it is fried or old, do not eat it!
Photo of Fennel courtesy of Morguefile.com.