Spices: 5 Favorites for Fall

tulsi loves you

Did you know that spices can have up to 50 times more antioxidants than your favorite fruit, making them powerhouses when it comes to anti-aging?

Most of us think of spices as a food flavoring. Ayurveda considers them as medicine. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, for example, found that spices can significantly reduce blood sugar levels, a potent aid in warding off premature aging, heart disease, and diabetes.

Think of it as Spice Therapy. It’s one of the genius gifts of Ayurveda: Optimizing health in a pinch!

To keep you healthy, happy and whole, here are my top five spices for Autumn ~

1. Tulsi

My love for Tulsi causes me to write today. Tulsi has been my tea of choice this week. When I woke up Monday morning feeling a sore throat coming on, it was to Tulsi I turned. When I inadvertently inhaled gas on Tuesday (from a restaurant’s open patio fire extinguished by the wind, which then scooped up the gas and swept it right into our lungs), Tulsi relieved the ensuing headache. When a reaction to new carpeting caused a slight asthma flare up, I sat down to a cup of Tulsi.

I am talking like Tulsi is a person! In fact, Tulsi is a living being, a plant known as Holy Basil. Similar to the basil that so deliciously flavors Italian dishes, this basil is warm, slightly sweet and a bit peppery. It’s becoming a bit of a celebrity in the arena of women’s health as it reduces cortisol, that tricky hormone that when chronically elevated can cause aging, weight gain, sleeplessness, irritability, depression, and the list goes on.

Organic India has built a successful global company on Tulsi and their organic teas are prolific these days. Look for them in your local healthy markets. Or, you can order online:  Banyan Botanicals is now selling the divine Pukka teas with a Tulsi sampler, also selling Tulsi in an easy liquid extract and powdered.

2. Ginger

You know that people the world over turn to Ginger for stomach upset, but do you know why? According to my Ayurvedic mentor Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, Ginger stimulates Agni, the inner fires that burn away toxins and any cause of upset.

Warming, calming, balancing, Ginger also helps reduce anxiety, inflammation, asthma, congestion, cough, cramps. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and analgesic.

One inch of fresh ginger in a cup of boiling water is the ideal accompaniment to your meals this season. You can also use 1/2 a teaspoon of ginger powder, which is in fact the better option if you are Pitta Dosha.

3. Cinnamon

Light, dry and warm, cinnamon is one of the best digestive spices there is. No wonder it is added to so many sweet dishes!

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, “Cinnamon may help reduce chronic inflammation, which is linked to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Meningitis.” It is also known to lower glucose and cholesterol, helpful again for heart disease and diabetes.

4. Cardamom

Probably my favorite spice in any season, Cardamom is medicine for all three doshas (doshas are bio-energies you can learn about here). It decongests Kapha, regulates Vata and calms Pitta. Add it to coffee and it reduces the negative impacts of caffeine. Add it to any dessert and it helps reduce blood sugar.

According to Vedic guru Dr. David Frawley, cardamom can help with nausea, vomiting, bloating, flatulence and acidity. According to Dosha Guru, “science is investigating its antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, kidney and urinary disorders, gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering, diuretic, and sedative” actions.

For all these reasons I love cardamom, but mostly I love those peppery little seeds as they tumble out of their ochre-lined, green pods. I love the way it is added to breakfast every morning in India so you start your day fragrantly. I love it in Chai, Chayvanprash and Rose Petal Lassi, and I love the way it smells in a home-made, seasonal Abhyanga oil. Cardamom is like a favorite perfume to me: redolent of all that is rich, tender and so dear.

5. Nutmeg

Remember when Grandma made you a cup of hot milk to help you sleep at night? Did she add Nutmeg? Nutmeg helps cut the heaviness of milk which is one way it helps you sleep – so you are not kept awake by a noisy, roiling digestive engine. More importantly, nutmeg has been found to have direct benefits to sleep by its calming, sedative effects, which is one reason it is such an key ingredient in this deep sleep tonic.

Nutmeg is a nervine, and can be useful in treating skin, liver and bladder problems. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, nutmeg is a tonic for the brain and heart. Just don’t take too much.

Cinnamon Cardamom
Cinnamon Cardamom

In the Autumn, when days are shorter and cooler, brewing a cup of tea is a simple way to enjoy the benefits of the spices in your pantry, while warming you to the core, and encouraging that necessary daily pause.

Autumn Wellness Tea
Serves 2

1 T Tulsi, powdered
1″ fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped, or 1/2 t Ginger powder
1 stick Cinnamon or 1/2 t Cinnamon powder
2 pods Cardamom crushed, or 1/2 t Cardamom powder
1/8 t Nutmeg, freshly grated powder
2 cups water

Steep spices in gently boiling water for ten minutes. Strain and serve.

This tea is great as is, but you can also add almond milk for a richer cup. For a deeply nourishing tonic, blend 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk with 2 dates. Add 1/2 cup of the hot spice tea. Stir, drink warm and watch your Vata melt into a puddle of Ojas.

teaPhoto: Art Flow | Getty Images

In addition to the Tulsi, you can order organic spices from Banyan Botanicals.

What are your favorite autumn flavors, spices, and ways to renew? What I really want to know is how are you taking care of you this month? 

Namaste! 

Spring Clean: The 21 Day Challenge

According to Ayurveda, good health is dependent upon our capacity to fully metabolize the nutritional, emotional and sensory information that we ingest. When our digestive energies, known as Agni (fire), are robust, we create healthy tissues, eliminate waste products efficiently and produce a subtle essence called ojas. Ojas, which is like our inner sap, is the basis for clarity of perception, physical strength, and immunity. On the other hand, if our agnis are weakened, digestion is incomplete, creating an accumulation of toxic residue known as Ama.

When Ama accumulates, allergies, congestion, headaches, fatigue, chronic pain, low energy, brain fog, moodiness are some of the indications.  Have you ever felt this way?

Now is the time to feel better.

This is the time of year when it is most important to clear Ama from the system. As Spring begins, the warmer weather melts the winter freeze. The same thing is happening within you. After putting on your winter coat ~ adding warm layers, strengthening immunity, and tonifying to the bone ~ your system is now ready to lighten up. If this is done effectively, you have optimal health for Spring and Summer. If not, the system gets clogged, sluggish, rundown and worn out.

That is why Ayurveda places great importance on detoxification in early Spring. And that is why I am offering an easy, do it yourself, in the comfort of your own home, detox program called Spring Clean: The 21 Day Challenge to help you release winter’s accumulation and blossom into your best Spring yet.

What would your life look like if you had boundless energy, acrobatic mental acuity, inspiring creativity, radiant skin, that youthful glow that describes fantastic health in mind and body?

Ayurveda is said to be the oldest, most comprehensive system of medicine in the world, which means it has had thousands of years and thousands of patients for trial and error. As such it has evolved time-tested, effective protocols for cleansing, repairing and restoring the body to its best function.

What is an Ayurvedic Detox program?

Your “Spring Clean” includes 21 days of guided, gentle, nourishing detoxification in three phases:

1) Preparing the Way ~ Week One prepares your body for detoxification, beginning the process gently by introducing Detox Tea, Ayurvedic Herbal Formula, certain natural foods and daily practices to open the channels of elimination safely.

2) Guided Detoxification ~ Week Two involves simple meals that offer a deep tissue cleanse while simultaneously nourishing the body so you don’t have to go hungry.

3) Integration ~ Completing a Detoxification is as important as the detoxification itself. In Week Three, we will reintroduce every day foods, incorporating the best meals, digestive tonics, and practices to maintain that “clean” all Spring.

Begins again April 22nd.  Registration here.  

What do you need? 

1) Email to receive the program.

2) A phone to engage with your support team (missed calls will be recorded and can be listened to at any time).

3) A grocery list will be supplied.

What have others said?

“I am so impressed by this program. It is so holistic, so nourishing, so educational. I learned so much and truly feel that it has the capacity to change anyone’s life. Just amazing!” ~ Marcia Kimpton

“This has been so wonderful. It has really worked well for me.  I’ve lost weight, my skin looks better, reduced the fine lines, and I’ve enjoyed the group. I feel so well supported. There’s a wealth of information. It’s all been so helpful. Namaste!” ~ Nancy Marks

I’m a changed man… Thank you so much for being there, Laura. I learned a LOT of valuable information, and as a single guy, this makes food simple for me–without sacrificing taste. 🙂  I look forward to my next yoga class with you.  Hugs to Bhava for his great gifts to the world, also. I love you guys. ~ Boyd Martin

“I feel lighter, clearer, better. By the second week, people were commenting on how good my skin looked. By the third, I had lost 7 pounds, an unexpected benefit.  It has been easy. I always felt full and nourished. Definitely recommend it!” – Gail

“Your Detox Workshop was absolutely amazing and so relevant. I don’t say this lightly but you are truly the most amazing teacher I’ve had the pleasure of taking a class with. Thank you for your instruction, insight and pure spirit…Happy Spring!” ~ Amanda DeWitt

“thank you for encouraging us to take on 21 blissful days… a couple of things i found interesting in the last 3 weeks were an increased ability to meditate and a sense of increased focus on tasks. i’m fortunate to live in a place where i can choose a healthy lifestyle, and really become attuned with these finer points of good living. your challenge was met with open arms. we both look forward to… live it in greater fullness. *thank you* for proposing this and being the inspiring teacher that you are!” ~ Scott Davis

“Who knew that Ayurvedic cooking could result in such piquant dishes, perfectly balanced in taste and nutrition? Laura Plumb did, and thanks to her… I can now cook healthy and delicious meals!” ~ Anne-Marie Welsh
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You can imagine great health. I invite you to join us and seize the season. Make it yours. Let it be your best Spring yet. 

Further details, prices and registration here.
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Thank you & Namaste!