Did you know that in Ayurvedic tradition, we understand there is a need to shift our diet according to the season, as well as according to our own individual dosha, or psychological and metabolic type? The doshas of Ayurveda are vata, pitta, and kapha; air, fire, and water respectively. Summer is considered the pitta season, with it’s long days and potentially hot sun and dry conditions. What that means is that those of us who are mostly fiery in nature, tend to more easily go out of balance in this season as we overheat, dry out, and get irritable and inflamed. Unless, that is, we watch the balance of our individual selves in relationship to the balance of the elements around us, calling on herbal allies and thoughtful nutrition to keep ourselves in vibrant equilibrium.
As my teacher John Douillard says, to each extreme of nature, nature provides an antidote. Right now, as the days get longer and the sun gets stronger, elder flowers and elder berries abound. Elder flowers are cooling in nature and have a rising energy, to help cool the head. You can go to my previous blog here on Elderflower cordial to get a simple recipe to make a cooling herbal beverage to counteract hot days. The flavors of bitter, astringent, and sweet are best for cooling and balancing pitta/fire, and can all be found in the recipe below for Elderberry Jam sweetened with date paste. Dates are sweet and considered a tonic food which helps build Ojas, our juiciest, most refined vital fluid nature according to Ayurveda.
Tonic Immune Building Elderberry Jam
1 ½ cup fresh elderberries
¾ cup water (preferably filtered)
1 1/2 cups juice (I use pomegranate juice, cooling and astringent for pitta reduction. Use lemon or lime juice for a low carb option.)
3 tsp sugar-free pectin (I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin)
½ cup of date paste (see recipe below)
1. Bring berries, water, and juice to a boil.
2. Remove one cup of jam mixture from heat, add pectin and date paste and blend until smooth.
3. Return blended ingredients to pot and bring to a boil once again. Reduce heat slightly and keep stirring for 10 minutes.
4. Remove pot from heat and pour jam into canning jars. The sugar-free pectin will harden the jam as it cools.
1 cup dates
1 cup water
1. Soak dates in water overnight.
2. Separate the dates from water, and place dates in blender or food processor.
3. Blend on medium speed adding date water as necessary to form a thick paste. You shouldn’t need more than ½ cup of the date water, and even less for a thicker paste.
4. Store in fridge or freezer. Dates can be substituted with other dried fruits, however you may need to boil tougher dried fruits such as apricots and figs for 30 minutes before blending.
Other herbs that help you keep your cool are hibiscus, mint, lemon verbena, and a less common Ayurvedic herb I find very effective for clearing heat, manjista.
You can also keep your cool with abhyanga. Abhyanga is Ayuvedic daily self massage. I have written about this before and you can go here to my blog on Abhyanga to read about how oiling with cooling oils and herbs can keep your skin healthy and vibrant, your nervous system soothed and nourished, and how the massage itself unlocks your inner pharmacy of healing chemistry. You can also go to my botanicals page or Etsy site to purchase Pitta abhyanga oil, made from cooling coconut oil infused with anti inflammatory turmeric and cooling, nourishing licorice roots, then blended with luxurious and cooling sandalwood essential oil. Other essential oils like jasmine, lemon balm, and lavender are all cooling essential oils to use in the summer months to help keep the fire burning just right. Essential oils can be applied a couple of drops at a time to a finger, then gently massaged into the third eye and heart chakra for cooling soothing efffects. A few drops can also be used in a cooling bath to help absorb the constituents and benefits of the oils.
Remember, if you are a pitta person, to keep your balance with the heat, not to take on too much sun (although vitamin d is important and we do want natural exposure to healthy levels of sun), drink cooling herbal teas, take cold shower splashes after your hot showers, jump in the ocean, give yourself the gift of herbalized self massage, eat thoughtfully, and keep your cool through the summer to reduce inflammation and thermal accumulation.
Try not to eat too many spicy, pungent, salty heating foods, but rather to focus on the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes in your diet. Remember also that sweet means things like whole grains, legumes, dates, fruits, and full sweet foods, not ’empty’ sweet foods made of processed grains and sugars.
These are just a few thoughts on seasonal balance from an Ayurvedic perspective. If you would like to learn more about seasonal eating and keeping in balance in the wheel of the year, come to my Autumn Cleanse Workshop this September.
Health and Happiness to you,
*The information above is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. I am not a doctor, I am a certified Integrative Holistic Health Counselor and herbalist, as well as a CMT and certified yoga instructor with over 20 years experience. Please see my info here to learn more about my work.