I have been on a quest of expanding my knowledge in the area of Ayurveda for some time now, but in particular these past few years since being diagnosed with colitis. 

This year I stumbled upon Dr. John Douillard from Colorado while listening to my favourite mentor in the yoga and wisdom tradition of tantra, Rod Stryker. Both of them have become my most favourite podcasts to listen to when I am driving or doing tasks around the house, and I don’t think I have come across anyone who has informed my practice, and my life habits as much as both of these very wise and knowledgable people.

Many of you who attend my classes regularly know that my classes often are informed by Ayurveda, Tantra & the chakra system, and these 3 areas of study are all interwoven in the ancient wisdom of Tantra. 

Today as I was going over some of my notes, I wanted to share some very simple information about the 5 key spices used in Ayurveda for healthy digestion. Many of you already know the gut is key to health and well being, not only in Ayurvedic practices, but also being recognized as key in the scientific world as well.

We talk a lot about how to utilize our asana practice to affect the dosha’s seasonally, Vata in Autumn, Kapha in Spring, and Pita in summer, but there just isn’t time to talk about the food aspect of Ayurveda during an asana practice. 

These 5 spices can be used in drinks like a homemade Chai, & in cooking daily, and work really well used together.

I have transcribed the info below on these 5 key spices of coriander, cardamon, cumin fennel and ginger, from Dr. John Douilliard’s website “LifeSpa.com where you will find a wealth of information, articles and videos that are based not only in Ayurveda, but also in science.  

You will also find some recipes on his website that are great way to start incorporating these into your daily meals. Have some fun with them…

Coriander Seed (Coriandrum sativum)

Coriander is perhaps the most cooling of the five digestive spices. The seeds are commonly used in herbal formulas for a host of imbalances. The leaves, known as cilantro, are slightly less cooling than the seeds. The seeds are best known for their digestive properties by cooling excess pitta in the body and intestinal tract. Therefore, it is used effectively for occasional heartburn. It is a natural “carminative,” which means it prevents or relieves gas from the intestinal tract, and is beneficial for numerous heat-related pitta conditions.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)

As a member of the ginger family, Ayurvedic texts celebrated cardamom’s ability to make foods easier to digest and enhance the taste of most ordinary foods. Its taste is most recognizable in a cup of Indian chai tea as it neutralizes the stimulating effects of caffeine, allowing the chai to boost the digestive process without taxing the nervous system. Cardamom is known to reduce the extreme acidity of many foods and caffeinated beverages including coffee; it is the signature spice in traditional Turkish coffee. When cooked into your food, it also balances mucus, gas and bloating in the stomach and small intestine.

Cumin Seed (Cuminum cyminum)

Cumin is perhaps the most powerful digestive tonic of the five spices of digestion. It has a strong taste and, while very effective alone, it blends well in both taste and effectiveness with the other four spices for boosting digestion and reducing gas and bloating. It is much like coriander in that it cools the digestive system while boosting digestive strength. It supports healthy assimilation, the proliferation of good microbes, as well as the detoxification of the intestinal tract.

Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel is best-known as the tri-doshic digestive spice. Not only does it combat gas and bloating in the digestive tract, it is one of Ayurveda’s favorite lymph-movers. As a lymph-mover, it supports healthy lactation and radiant skin on both the inside and outside. Fennel seeds are considered the most sattvic (promoting purity and balance) of the spices because of its very balancing effect on vata, kapha, and pitta. It is one of the best herbs for digestion, as it strengthens the digestive fire without aggravating pitta, and is beneficial for intestinal discomfort, nausea, and dispelling flatulence.

Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale)

In Ayurveda, ginger is called the universal spice because of its many health benefits. It is heating for the upper digestion with its pungent taste, but cooling and soothing for the lower digestion as a result of its sweet aftertaste. It is therefore considered to be a tri-doshic herb, meaning it balances vata, pitta, and kapha – although in excess it can be too heating to the upper digestion. It is the classic kindling to start the digestive fire in the stomach. Scientific studies have shown that it supports healthy microbes, a healthy intestinal wall, and acts as a digestive stimulant. In one study, ginger was shown to support healthy cells of the intestinal wall as well as boost the proliferation of good microbes in the gut.  In another study, these spices negatively affected the microbe H. pylori – which is linked to indigestion in the stomach – from proliferation and adhering to the stomach lining. The spices seem to work with the body’s digestive intelligence by supporting digestive function, a healthy environment for the digestive microbes, healthy villi and improved intestinal function.