Depending on where you are in the country right now as you read this, you may still be in the midst of a cold snap and snow, or, like us (sorry east coasters), having a heat wave that sends you to the beach in your bikini to soak up the rays in February (while you secretly worry about the drought and whether we will get any more rain this year).
Regardless of your micro-climate and location, we are all in the season of kapha, during which cold and wet have accumulated in the external environment and reflectively in our internal environment as well. The picture above is of a pool I visited last week where back in November (check out my November blog on Vata season), the creek was dry as a bone and sporting some lovely plantain growing in the creek bed below the boulders. So, even in Santa Barbara with our heat wave and lack of rain, wetness (and cold) have accumulated internally and externally. Ayurveda, as usual, has something to say about how to deal with accumulated kapha in the system in order to stay in balance and not be overtaken by mucous (the presentation of kapha within the individual body) and foreign invaders that thrive in moist, damp conditions, like the viruses that cause cold and flu.
Staying warm is of course one of the basic ways of avoiding invasion of cold. Here in SB we need to have our layers ready, as it is cold in the morning and evenings and hot in the afternoons. We can also use herbs to help increase our internal heat and digestive fire, or agni, which is dampened by kapha and mucous accumulation in the stomach, which is the seat of kahpa in the body. If our digestive fire is reduced, we can’t process the foods we take in, and we begin to accumulate ama, a sticky substance like mucous that clogs our system and impedes our vitality and health.
Trikatu, a traditional Ayurvedic blend of three spices; black pepper, ginger, and long pepper (which can be replaced with star anise as it is difficult to find), is a great way to increase the digestive fire and dry up the accumulated kapha in the stomach. Mix equal parts of the three powdered herbs and keep on the counter for regular use throughout the late winter and early spring season. Trikatu is traditionally take before a meal 1t mixed with an equal amount of honey. Honey is heating and drying and helps to make the herbs palatable as well as acting as an anupan, carrier or catalyst, for the herbs.
Drinking teas that balance the kapha dosha is another way to use your food as medicine. Turmeric has been in the news a lot lately for it’s many amazing powers. It is a bitter and heating herb, perfect for balancing kapha. I have been making a morning pot of tea with the juice of one lemon, 1/4t turmeric, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper, and a small dollop of honey. I serve this to myself and my family (to my surprise even my kids drink it!) every morning to help the healthy functioning of the liver (to stay on top of eliminating ama/toxins) as well as to balance kapha dosha. Black pepper has been scientifically proven (and proven by experience for hundreds of years) to increase our absorption of turmeric by 1000%, so don’t leave this one out of your tea.
Ginger is another great herb for increasing the digestive fire and balancing kapha. Fresh ginger tea with honey and lemon is another great way to start your day. Also Triphala, the herbal nursemaid of Ayurveda, is a great combination of herbs to reduce accumulation of kapha dosha in the system. I love to drink it and enjoy the extremely astringent and bitter flavor of the three berries that comprise this formula, but not everyone will be open to this, as westerners have difficulty with the bitter taste in general, but need it very much. Triphala is available in tablets which can be taken at night just before bed, or in powdered form which can be drunk as a tea before bed. Triphala can be found at most health food stores as well as online at Banyan Botanicals.
Lastly on the herbal front, Holy Basil, Ocimum Sanctum, is a great kapha relieving herb which helps with clearing chest congestion as well as working diaphoretically (to induce sweat), to help release toxins and moderate and relieve fever. Holy basil tincture can be used 5-30 drops in a couple of ounces of warm water 3x a day for short periods. Tulsi is not to be used long term, according to Matthew Alfs in his materia medica. Tulsi is a cooling and drying herb, helps to clear mucous congestion (accumulated Kapha in respiratory system), bronchitis, and other respiratory infections. It can help to heal a ‘closed’ mind or heart, ease nausea, ease symptoms of diabetes and adrenal stress. These are just a few of tulsi’s affinities and powers. It is considered a sacred plant in India and is kept and tended as a diety at the front door of many Indian homes and is a wonderful plant to get to know and grow.
Scraping the tongue, which is an extension of the digestive tract, upon awakening helps to get rid of accumulated kapha in the system and is a simple and easy practice to add into your daily rhythm. Metal tongue scrapers can be purchased through Banyan Botanicals and other online Ayurvedic retailers as well as at local health food stores.
Regular exercise is another important part of a daily rhythm, or dinacharya, to keep the system functioning and clear and keep kapha, the wet and cold elements of the season, from accumulating within the body and wreaking havoc with our health.
I hope these simple and easy practices help you to stay in balance through the kapha season of late winter and early spring.
Blessings of health and happiness to you and yours,