Your wild-woman world will shift when you become a goddess of the spice. Spices are plant medicines that enhance digestion, help us assimilate what we eat, and remove toxic buildup. The harder a food is to digest, the more we need the help of spices. Even if the healthiest of foods are not spiced properly, they can produce toxic ama, even many so-called superfoods. That may be why I hated my cabbage as a kid. My mom would boil it, throw some salt on it and say, “Enjoy!” Yuck. We need to spice veggies.
Also, there is something delightful about establishing a relationship to your spices. And if you think about it, spices are pretty sexy. They are the refined aspect of the most aromatic, concentrated essence of plants. From pungent to sweet to just plain stinky, spices are extracted from bark, buds, fruit, roots, seeds or stems of Mother Nature’s own medicine cabinet. In Ayurvedic cooking, spices aren’t just something we add for flavor or color, but are one of the primary ways a mama takes care of her clan. They are revered as daily doses of potent healing medicines. And today, modern science is now confirming what the ancients knew instinctively. It wouldn’t be a stretch to ask: Is the lack of spice in the bland American meat-and potatoes diet leading to the onslaught of chronic conditions?
When you learn more about what things like turmeric, cinnamon, oregano and cardamom can do for your overall health, you will be astounded that you weren’t working them into every meal, every day. Experiment. Make mistakes. Let your turmeric-stained towels be the new testament to your body’s brightness.
There are hundreds of different spices to choose from. Here are some of my favorites, including their energetic properties + healing potentials:
- Seeds—Seeds such as mustard, cumin and coriander are more resilient to heat. Because of their hard little outer shells, its a good idea to sauté them in a little ghee or olive oil.
- Fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley or mint are heat-sensitive, and should be finely chopped and used as a garnish once food has been cooked, or should only be added at the end of the cooking process.
- Powders—By far the most common form of spices, powders can generally be lightly sautéed in oil, but are more often simmered directly into grains, veggies or beans as they cook. Spice powders can also be added directly to milks, dressings or breakfast grains.
- Barks, roots and tougher seeds—Perhaps the least common form of spice, barks and roots require more fire for releasing their medicinal capacities. Whole cinnamon sticks or cardamom pods, for example, can be boiled in water to release their aromas.
- Adding to oils—It is usually best to sauté spices (and salt) in an oil, such as ghee or coconut oil, as it allows the medicinal properties of the spice to be released and more efficiently carried to the seven dhatus (tissues). In fact, Ayurveda considers oils to be “carriers” for medicines. In this sense, the body can better absorb the spice.