I learned that every mortal will taste death.
But only some will taste life.
This weekend I had the honor of assisting Hilary Garivaltis, the founder of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, as she led a group of fellow Chicagoans through a simple Ayurvedic cleanse. Being a huge fan of the kitchen, I eagerly offered to help with the cooking. Post kitchari and coconut kheer, I found myself with some extra knobs of ginger and turmeric and one Meyer lemon. I figured I didn’t want to schlep this stuff back on the train, so ventured to see what happens when these three things are boiled together.
Behold, a delicious, golden, earthy tea. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the results and have consumed it every day since. A sweet Nepalese man commented that this tea tastes exactly like Rishi’s Ginger Turmeric blend. It delighted him to realize that he could save cash and simply craft his own brew.
This blend is ideal to go along with a cleanse, as it collectively stimulates the digestive fire, brings down inflammation and pumps up the immune system. Before I give you the recipe, let’s dive into some of the Ayurvedic theory and benefits behind each ingredient.
Ginger is an incredibly powerful rhizome. For those that are not garden or herb nerds, a rhizome is a continuously growing horizontal underground stem that puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals. Thank you Wikipedia. Ginger packs a powerful punch and is one of the best ways to kindle the digestive fire.
Fresh ginger is pungent to the taste buds (rasa), has a sweet post-digestive effect (vipaka) and a heating potency (virya).
Despite being heating, it is actually a tri-doshic spice/herb. The spicy and heating nature of ginger works to decrease Vata and Kapha. Due to its sweet post-digestive effect, it does not aggravate fiery pitta constitution. That being said, please be mindful if you tend to run a little hot and notice if you become more sharp. Anything with a heating virya will inevitably turn up the body’s thermostat bit by bit.
Ginger Can Offer Relief for-
- Flatulence- just in time for Cinco de Mayo, ole!
- Indigestion- ginger cranks up the digestive fire, allowing relief from digestive discomforts
- Nausea- many pregnant women find ginger to be their new bff for morning sickness
- Inflammation- goodbye tennis elbow
- Pain- ginger is an analgesic, a fancy word for pain relieving
- Headaches- the spicy quality of ginger can help shed brain fog and clear the mind.
- Colds & congestion- the hot/spicy nature of ginger can aid in liquefying mucus
Turmeric has become a rockstar as of late. Touted for its copious amounts of curcumin, the bright yellow compound that can dye clothes and your fingers. Turmeric has been getting lots of fanfare for its anti-inflammatory properties. Like ginger, turmeric is also a rhizome.
Turmeric has the tastes of pungent, bitter and astringent. Astringent is the taste that basically leeches water from your mouth. Think about what happens when you eat an unripe banana or drink strong, unsweetened black tea, that sensation you experience is astringency.
The vipaka, or post-digestive effect, is also pungent (remember that ginger was sweet).Finally, the virya, or potency is heating. Because it contains all three tastes that pacify Kapha dosha- bitter, pungent and astringent, turmeric is a perfect choice for Kapha. However, the three tastes that balance Kapha increase Vata (Vata prefers Sweet, Sour & Salty, don’t we all?). The pungency and heating nature can also exacerbate Pitta dosha.
Benefits of Turmeric-
- Kicks up digestion, boosts agni
- Can kill worms or parasites- you know, if your child has a habit of swishing gravel around in their mouth
- Alleviates constipation
- Beautiful for the complexion, hello Cover Girl!
- Natural Antibiotic
- Improves circulation- adios cold hands and feet (unless they are cold due to impending nuptials, turmeric can’t help you there…at least I don’t think it can, better check the classics)
As you may have guessed, lemon’s rasa is sour. The post digestive effect is also sour. Like turmeric, lemons posses a heating virya. The heating nature of lemons decreases Vata and Kapha, while in excess, may aggravate Pitta (limes are a great substitute for Pitta).
The actions of lemon include-
- Relives thirst
- Expectorant- gets the phlegm up and out
- Stimulates digestive secretion (both the lemon peel and the juice)
- Stomachic- improves the appetite, remember this come Thanksgiving
When life hands you lemons, make kick-ass tea. Let’s do this-
- 3 inches of Turmeric Root- peeled and thinly sliced
- Golf ball sized Ginger- peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 Organic Meyer lemon- rind removed with a peeler and cut in half
- 5 cups Water
- Combine sliced turmeric, ginger and lemon peel in a medium saucepan
- Add water
- Over a Med-Hi flame, allow water to come to a boil then drop to a simmer for 5 minutes
- Remove from heat, allow to cool to a palatable temperature before adding the juice of the lemon. Feel free to toss the whole lemon in there once the juice has been extracted
- Sip throughout the day with your turmeric stained pinkie finger up
Might I also recommend listening to this heartbreakingly beautiful song below as you drink? Crying is also good when on a cleanse, just saying. Listen, you won’t be sorry.