Elemental Eating: The Secret to Nourishing Harmoniously
I've been wanting to share this post for some time now. After being halfway through our Ayurvedic Clinical Program, I've felt these concepts sink deeper and have been using the elements to better understand, not just herbs, but the world around me. In a way, it's a 're-learning.' What inspires me most about studying Ayurveda is how intuitive it can be, but how intuition is also like a muscle that needs training. You have to relearn to see the world through your sense organs and to understand the connections between the way something looks, smells, tastes, sounds, feels and how that is going to react to the body.
With so many people flocking to herbal medicine and ancient practices these days, and with all of the new information out there, it becomes harder to know what is right for your own unique body. Even though high priced cold-pressed juice and blue algae are the chic new beautifying 'cure all' it might not be the best thing for YOU, personally. What I mean by that is, what energetics does it have? Its it going to support someone who runs cold and dry? Or is it going to cool someone down that tends to run hot and has inflammation?
Something that often gets missed when profiling specific plants or potions, is who they are suited for.
Ayurveda, though a complex and sophisticated system of healing, has a beautiful way of reminding us that, at the simplest level, everything is made up of elements. By using this simple principle, we can unlock the essence of our food, herbs and self-care rituals to use them as tools to find balance everyday. Once you know what your constitution or dosha is, you're much more likely to 'intuitively' know what your body is calling for.
Here are some examples of constitutional imbalances:
COLD | cold hands + feet, poor circulation, slow digestion, low energy, tends to worry + have anxiety
DRY | rough dry skin, dehydrated, low blood pressure, overthinks
HOT | lots of energy, acidic metabolism, heartburn, red complexion or rashes, overworks
WET | poor metabolism, sluggish energy, water retention or puffy, overeats
OPPOSITES For Balance - AIR | FIRE | WATER | EARTH
When we're experiencing an imbalance, the first thing we can do is the opposite of what we're experiencing. For example, if you're feeling cold, grab a warm cup of tea or some soup with lots of ginger and grab your favorite socks to warm up your feet. Better yet, make yourself a warm foot soak while enjoying your tea! When looking for herbal allies to support your dosha, don't be afraid to use your senses to have an understanding of their energetics. What color is it? Does is taste bitter, astringent, pungent, sweet? Here are some examples of different foods + practices as opposites for balance:
COLD needs WARMING | warm soups/stews, broths, pungent, sour and sweet flavors, grounding self-care rituals, soaks/scrubs and needs to eat consistently.
Warming herbs | ashwagandha, ginger, cinnamon, tulsi
DRY needs NOURISHING | wet cooked foods, broths/stews, sweet and salty flavors, abhyanga or oilinate the skin, grazing on food throughout the day.
Nourishing herbs | licorice root, cardamom, basil, cilantro
HOT needs COOLING | raw, wet and alkaline foods, bitter and astringent flavors, taking rest, eating three meals on time each day.
Cooling herbs | aloe vera, mint, fennel, dill
WET needs CLEANSING | raw, juices, light foods, sour, pungent, bitter flavors, steams, salt scrubs and invigorating self-care rituals, daily exercise and eating three small meals a day.
Cleansing herbs | elecampane, rosemary, thyme, black pepper
*Adapted from DeAnna Batdorff, Dhyana Center
Each one of us comes into the world with a unique constitution, also known as your Prakruti. This is your foundation and the result of your parents' constitutions which are the result of their parent's constitutions... and your entire ancestry. Pretty fascinating! When you know what your foundation is you're better equipped to know when you're in balance and when you're not.
Try noticing when you feel like you're running warmer that usual or when you're skin is a bit dyer that normal. Can you think of any plant allies that would be cooling and soothing? Notice the properties of the foods and plants you tend to use the most or feel drawn to. Is there an intuitive balance already happening in your life? Keep working out your 'intuitive muscle' by seeing, tasting, touching, smelling and listening to what is around you and what you take in.