Allspice is pungent, heating, balances K and V, and unbalances P. It relieves gas, promotes peristalsis, and stimulates metabolism. Best for fall, winter, and spring.
Anise is pungent, heating, balances K and V, and unbalances P. It relieves gas and promotes digestion. It comes from the tiny seeds of both Anisum vulgare and Anisum officinalis. In India it is known as “foreign fennel.” Best for fall, winter, and spring.
Asafoetida (hing) is pungent, heating, balances K and V, and unbalances P. It is a powerful stimulant of the digestive fire and dispeller of intestinal gas, pain, and bloating. It is one of the best herbs for removing V imbalance in the colon. It comes from the dry gum of the living rhizome of several species of Ferula growing in India, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. If available, it is preferable to buy asafoetida in what one might call “lump” form because when it is in powdered form it often has added gum arabic, barley, wheat, or flour. In its lump form it is odorless. When ground, asafoetida gives off an onion-like smell due to the sulfur compounds of its volatile oils. Best for fall, winter, and spring.
Basil is pungent, heating, balances K and V, and unbalances P if taken in excess. Basil is said to open the heart and mind to the Divine. There is a variety of basil plants. The most famous basil is called tulsi, or holy basil, in India. There it is said to have an association with Lord Vishnu that dates back to Vedic times. “Holy” basil juice is said to be a longevity drink. Good for all seasons, but less in the summer.
Bay leaves are pungent, heating, balance K and V, and unbalance P if taken in excess. They stimulate digestion and relieve gas. The Indian bay leaves are the leaf of the cassia tree. The tree grows in India and eastern Asia. American bay leaves, called laurel bay, are more pungent, as well as more expensive. Best for fall, winter, and spring.
Black pepper is pungent, heating, balances K and V, and is neutral to P, but unbalances P if taken in excess. It is a powerful digestive stimulant that relieves gas, neutralizes toxins, and burns up mucus. It has been used in food and ceremonies since Vedic times in India. Good for all seasons.
Cardamom is pungent, sweet, heating, and balances V. Its sweetness helps to alleviate P if not taken in excess, and balances K. It is one of the best herbs for enhancing digestion, relieving gas, and strengthening the stomach. Cardamom is the fruit of the plant Elettaria cardamomum, found in southern India and Sri Lanka. The cardamom pod can be used in its whole form for a
mild effect. For a more aromatic effect, the seeds or whole pod can be ground. It comes in three colors: green, white, and black. The white is actually a bleached green. The natural green is preferable. The black cardamom is less spicy. Good for all seasons.
Cayenne is very pungent and heating, balances K and V, and unbalances P. Cayenne can be thought of as containing a great deal of sun energy because of its dramatic heating effect. It has the ability to relieve internal and external chilliness. Cayenne also helps to alleviate indigestion, stimulates the digestion, and burns up toxins in the digestive system. It is good for circulation. It is pleasantly warming on a cold winter day. Other red chiles are also given the name “cayenne.” Dried chile peppers come as pods and also in a powdered form. Best for fall, winter, and spring.
Cinnamon is pungent, sweet, astringent, and heating. It balances K and V, but in excess may unbalance P. Cinnamon’s sweet, astringent qualities makeit suitable for Ps who are not in a state of excess. It stimulates digestion and relieves gas. It comes from the bark of the cassia tree, Cinnamomum cassia. This form of cinnamon is stronger than the cinnamon that comes from the bark of the
Cinnamomum zylanicum, or “sweet” or “true” cinnamon. Cinnamon can be used in whole sticks, crushed, or ground. Good for all seasons.
Clove is pungent, heating, balances K and V, and unbalances P. Cloves stimulate digestion and metabolism and eliminate gas. Cloves come from the dried buds of the plant Syzygium aromaticum,
native to the Molucca Islands in eastern Indonesia. Best for fall, winter, and spring.
Coriander is bitter, pungent, and cooling. It balances V, P, and K. A substance that balances V, P, and K is called tridoshic. It helps to cool P aggravations and is good in general on a hot summer day. The white-colored coriander seeds are taken from the plant Coriandrum sativum. The leaves of this plant are highly aromatic. Coriander seeds are a primary spice in curry. The fresh leaves are used in food preparation the way parsley is used. In Chinese and Japanese stores it is called Chinese parsley. It is also know as cilantro, especially in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking nations. Good for all seasons.
Cumin is bitter, pungent, and cooling and balances V, P, and K. It stimulates digestion and relieves gas. Cumin comes in white or green seeds from the Cumin cyminum plant. It resembles caraway seeds. Cumin is used in Spanish, Mexican, African, West Indian, and Middle Eastern food preparations. There is also a black or royal cumin that comes from the plant Cuminnum nigrum. This variety is more mellow and sweet, grows wild in Iran and in the valleys of Kashmir, and is rarer than other types of cumin. Black onion seeds and caraway seeds are often mistakenly referred to as black cumin. Good for all seasons.
Ginger is pungent, sweet, heating, balances K and V, and unbalances P. It stimulates digestion, relieves gas if not taken in excess, and helps to detoxify the body, especially the liver. Dry ginger is more balancing for kapha because of its drying qualities, and fresh-squeezed ginger is slightly more balancing for vata because of its more fluid qualities. It is good for detoxifying during a juice fast. Its sweetness allows Ps to take it in minimal amounts. Botanically, ginger is an aromatic rhizome of the tropical plant Zingiber officinale.
Mustard Seed is pungent, heating, balances K and V, and unbalances P. It stimulates digestion and relieves gas.
Onion is pungent, sewet and subtly cooling to the digestive tract in its post digestive effect. It is classified as rajasic in the Ayurvedic system. In its raw form, it balances K, slightly unbalances V and unbalances P. Best for fall, winter, and spring.