Let life happen to you.
Believe me: life is in the right, always.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Baby, it’s cleanse time! In the Ayurveda world, it is full on kitchari season. Twice a year, especially in the Spring and Fall, it is ideal to give the body a rest and reset by performing a 3-10 day kitchari cleanse.
For those in the dark, kitchari is basically like the Indian version of chicken noodle soup. It’s similar to a risotto, composed of equal parts split mung dahl and basmati rice. These two are cooked to make a soupy porridge and sprinkled with a medley of spices that aid in digestion and assimilation.
This lovely golden substance (colored by turmeric) is consumed as part of a mono-diet. By eating a simple mono-diet, this gives the body a reprieve. The digestive system and liver are not overtaxed with complicated food combinations, thereby allowing time and energy to devote to restoring the body. Mending tissues, eliminating toxins and creating a sense of clarity are just a few of the benefits.
For me, self-study, swadhyaya, is the most fascinating part. If you have ever done a cleanse or a restrictive diet, you may have had this experience. It is truly interesting to see what cravings and aversions come up. For me it is always nut butter, always (squirrel). However, like with anything, once you get over the hump of day three, the cravings subside and the addictive tendencies fall away. This experience only works to strengthen what the Yogis call tapas, or discipline. And let’s face it, who can’t benefit from creating more discipline in their life?
As you can imagine, a mono-diet gets a bit boring. Yesterday, while scanning the fridge for additional veggies to throw in the pot, I felt a pang of guilt as I spotted the wilting basil I had purchased a few days prior to the cleanse. Kripalu always has this delicious cilantro chutney at their Buddha bar, so I decided to rig up a nice Pitta pacifying variety, no sugar, no jalapenos, and you know, poetic license.
Here’s an Ayur rundown of the top ingredients- coconut, basil, coriander seeds and spinach.
Coconut- A Gift of the Gods
With a sweet taste and a sweet post digestive effect, coconut is truly a balm for the warming times of year. Coconut has a cooling potency, making it top choice for those with a lot of fire in their constitution.
Despite its cooling nature, coconut can be used on Vatas because it has a substantial amount of saturated fat and is predominantly sweet.
The Actions of Coconut Include:
- Refrigerant- funny word when applied to food and not an ice box, but it basically means cooling. Think about all the folks in the Philippines that consume a diet primarily made up of coconut, they are thriving and straight up glowing rather than constantly griping about the heat.
- Diuretic- flushes out water retention
- Demulcent- relives inflammation and irritation, both traits brought to you by Pitta
- Emollient- You may have encountered this word on a bottle of Alba lotion, emollient means that it softens the skin. Coconut oil is a great choice for topical massage, but ingesting coconut oils can also bestow silkiness to the skin from the inside out. We become our food, right?
Coriander seeds are astringent, bitter, pungent, and sweet. That’s pretty amazing, the only two tastes that are lacking, sour and salty, can easily be remedied by a squirt of lime juice and a dash of pink salt.
Coriander has a cooling potency, which is often the case when bitter and astringent are part of the mix. These tastes tend to constrict, in turn creating a cooling affect. Think about how your fingers shrink in the cold and blood does not seem to be circulating.
The post digestive effect is sweet, which works to pacify Pitta and Vata.
The dosha karma suggests that it reduces all three, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Fun fact, this bad boy helps with parasites, just in case you like to roam around on farms barefoot.
Therapeutic Benefits of Coriander:
- Carminative- helps decrease flatulence
- Diuretic- Great for inflammation of the kidney and urinary issues
- Nausea- great to chew on the tilt o whirl
- Allergies- just in time for spring, Hari Om
- Kindles digestive fire
- Improves Digestion
- Stimulates the Liver- I assume this is why it is good for Pittas, because let’s face it, Pittas can always use a bit of a bile flush to the old liver
Pungent, bitter, sweet and astringent, like coriander, spinach nails 4 out of 6 tastes. Remember it is ideal to experience all six tastes in each meal (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent). Spinach is pacifying to Kapha dosha but can increase Pitta and Vata in excess.
It exacerbates Vata because it has a cooling potency and revs up Pitta if you consume as much as Popeye, because it does have a slightly pungent post digestive effect.
Benefits of Spinach-
- Alterative- works to restore the body to a natural state of health
- Refrigerant- Cooling
- Demulcent- again, helps with inflammation and irritation
- Laxative- who can argue with this? Admit it, everyone feels better if they are pooping regularly
- Soothes mucus membranes
- Cleanse the blood
- Rich in minerals and vitamins- can help to alleviate signs of anemia
Contraindications of Spinach-
Yes, they do exist. Do not eat spinach if you are showing signs of liver disease, gall bladder or kidneys stones or arthritis. Spinach can be quite difficult to digest and has a significant amount of calcium which can exacerbate stone conditions.
Ghee is the crowning gem of Ayurveda, it works to kindle agni and pacifies all the doshas. Boom.
Pink Peppercorns are amazing, if you haven’t tried them they are citrusy and aesthetically pleasing.
Pink Himalayan Salt is a mineral salt and is better for Kapha and Pittas because it does not contain as much of the water element as sea salt (both Kapha and Pitta contain water in their elemental makeup). This salt is not as heating and contains more minerals than sea salt.
Kitchari accessorizing time- After all, Green is really the new Black.
Basil Kitchari Kick-up Recipe
- 3 Handfuls of Fresh Basil Leaves
- 3 Handfuls of Baby Spinach
- ½ Cup of finely shredded coconut
- ¼ cup of Ghee or Olive Oil
- 1 Tsp Pink Peppercorns
- 1 Tsp Whole Coriander (dry toasted in a skillet if that’s your thing)
- ¼ tsp Pink Himalayan salt
- ½ Lime, Zest and Juice
- Place the basil and spinach leaves in a blender or food processor fitted with the s-blade. Pulse until the greens begin to breakdown enough to fit more ingredients.
- Add the remaining ingredients and whirl until it becomes the desired texture.
- Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
- Add 1-2 Tablespoons to your next bowl of Kitchari to vary the flavor and monotony.
Damn, kitchari never looked so good. Happy Cleanse Season!
FYI, Beethoven’s Silencio is a great piece to accompany your cleanse.