Ayurveda and the Use of Spices


Spices – do you realize how important they are for your health? 

Most of us know that spices make food taste better. Throughout history, spices have been sought after for preserving and flavoring foods as well as for healing purposes.

Ayurveda teaches that one should “never eat bland food” – meaning food without spices. Why are spices so important?

“Spices are essential to digestion. Spices are generally light and warming. They increase agni (digestive capacity) as well as the taste of food. Ayurveda emphasizes the proper use of spices. People of all constitutional types require the use of spices. Spices not only enhance taste and digestion but also prevent the accumulation of ama (toxins from poorly digested food) in the body. 

While most spices are warming, some, such as coriander and fennel, are considered to be cooling. They are not very cold but rather gently regulate the agni. They will raise low agni and reduce high agni. This makes them very beneficial for all doshas but best for pitta dosha

Other spices are very hot. These pungent spices dry the body and hence they aggravate vata as well as pitta. These spices include hot peppers, hot mustards and cloves. 

When cooking, a multitude of spices are usually mixed together. The result is a combination of attributes added to food. It is important to taste the food in order to determine its effects on the dosha. When food is very spicy hot, it is best for kapha. When it is moderate, it is good for vata. When it is tasty and mild, it benefits pitta

In summary, almost all spices are good for kapha. The hottest spices are best. Vata benefits from all spices except for the hottest of spices. Pitta benefits from mild spicing and specifically from fennel and coriander.” ~ Excerpt from “Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine,” by Dr. Marc Halpern, Founder of the California College of Ayurveda

Please stay tuned and watch for information about specific spices in upcoming posts!

By Dr. Marisa Jackson-Kinman, CAS, PKS, AYT, faculty at the California College of Ayurveda