Now that the temp is down to the 80s here in Bakersfield, it feels like Fall and Winter are about to ring the doorbell. And that means it’s time to give a little more attention to immune strength!
Henry David Thoreau had some good seasonal advice:
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet, drink, and botanical medicine. (1906. Journals ientry for 23 August 1853.)
Living in harmony with the seasons and eating in-season vegetables, fruits and herbs for health and healing is sage advice. Yogis also know that certain foods, herbs and spices are particularly good for maintaining health and warding off the assorted bugs and ailments associated with changes in weather, sunlight, and seasons. A few most important ones to include in your daily diet are: Turmeric, Ajwain, Onions, Garlic, and Ginger. This post will focus on turmeric and ajwain. Next week we’ll look at the Trinity Herbs: onions, garlic and ginger.
Turmeric – the Golden Healer
In Ayurveda there is a saying, “The fox found a small piece of turmeric and became a doctor.” It is healing for the body internally and externally and is good for building the immune system, relieving stomach problems, arthritis, bones & joints, and lowering cholesterol. Turmeric is a potent, safe, and natural antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Yogi Bhajan summarizes turmeric:
Turmeric has one hundred and eight elements of body healing in it. One ingredient which is very powerful is the energy ingredients. It energizes your body, it heals your system. For all internal hurt and pain or a sickness or recovery and recuperation, people take turmeric. … It is one of the best tonics ever God made. It’s called the master herb. (4/7/1992, YB Library of Teachings)
If you take a quarter ounce of turmeric in your body every day, your inside organs and your energy will remain in balance. This is the cheapest herb, cheapest root on the Earth. (3/24/1992 YB Library of Teachings)
It’s easy to include turmeric in your diet every day. It is most commonly available and used in powder form. You can sometimes find fresh turmeric root in markets. If making a morning smoothie, I like to add a 2-3 inch piece of turmeric root. Ideally though, turmeric is cooked with oil. Sizzling in oil for a minute or two releases its properties and we are better able to assimilate. If not sizzled in oil, it should boil in water for at least 8 minutes.
You can make Turmeric Paste by boiling a few tablespoons of turmeric with a cup of water for at least 8 minutes, until it makes a thick paste (add more water as necessary so it cooks long enough). Store in an airtight jar in the fridge where it will keep for a good week. Then add a spoonful to stir-fries, smoothies, rice, and other foods you prepare.
Stir a spoonful of Turmeric Paste into plain yogurt. When I make Homemade Yogurt I add the turmeric paste the same time I add the culture to the boiled milk (about 1 rounded Tbsp. paste per quart of milk). Sometimes I make the paste right in the pot (about 2-1/2 Tbsp. turmeric and a cup of water for 2 quarts yogurt), and when the paste is done, stir in the milk and bring it to the boiling point. Either way you will have essentially the same tasty result. It’s delicious with sweet or savory. Lately my breakfast has been sliced pears and strawberries, soaked almonds, and Golden Yogurt. So perfectly good.
Bring 2 cups of milk to the boiling point, add a tablespoon of almond oil and a spoonful of turmeric paste. Blend to a froth with some honey and a dash of pepper or nutmeg. Drink a cup a day for 40 days and see if your creaky achy joints creak and ache less. I sometimes make Golden Milk with cardamom (a few crushed pods or cardamom powder added to the milk when heating it up). This is a very soothing drink at night.
What about turmeric supplements? Yes, you can take those if you like for convenience. These contain a concentrate of turmeric’s active component curcumin. Be sure the capsules contain curcumin in an oil base. Make it a point to include turmeric in your diet every day, whether as a supplement or as part of a meal.
Ajwain is a spice available in India specialty markets. Tiny seed pods, with a flavor akin to oregano, ajwain is for immune strength and fighting off disease. Like its friends oregano and thyme, ajwain contains Thymol.
Thymol is a potent antimicrobial and antioxidant. Starting in September or October, I start adding 2-3 teaspoons of ajwain to each gallon batch of Yogi Tea I make . You can also add it to tofu dishes, curries, breads, chapatti dough, rice, and besan (garbanzo flour) pancakes. Yogi Bhajan has given numerous recipes with ajwain for immune strength and detox. These are included in my cookbook, From Vegetables with Love: Recipes and Tales from a Yogi’s Kitchen (coming out in April 2015).
What you eat is just part of keeping your immune system strong. Stress is one of the main factors causing weakened immune function. Manage stress well. Start your day with meditation or prayer, or at least 11 minutes of long deep breathing. Exercise regularly. Keep a sunny outlook on life. Share laughter. Serve…whether through small acts of kindness or by volunteering at a local nonprofit. All these things work on body, mind and spirit… keeping you in balance.
Stay tuned for my post about Garlic, Onions & Ginger next week.
In the meantime enjoy every breath and bite, every day!