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The importance of spice consumption in Ayurveda

Little notions of history

Spices have been used since ancient times by all civilizations. Each town used its own recipes with the spices at its disposal: basil in the Mediterranean, coriander in the Middle East, cumin in the Maghreb...

Historically, spices were more intended for the bourgeoisie: they allowed them to improve the flavor of dishes and give them a more "appetizing" appearance. However, they were also used in the manufacture of medicinal remedies , also sometimes called "grandmother's remedies." One of the best-known examples in Spain is thyme, consumed most of the time in the form of infusions to strengthen immune defenses and fight winter ailments.

In Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, spices are considered foods in their own right. They are not only used for their flavor interest, but also for all their properties. Most spices facilitate digestion of other foods, and thus strengthen the immune system. In fact, digestion is a central aspect of Ayurvedic medicine, since an organism that digests well maintains a maximum of energy to perform other tasks, such as fighting disease.

All spices can be used in Ayurveda. Garlic and onion are also classified as spices because their properties are very close to them (strengthening natural defenses and strengthening the flavor of the foods with which they are associated) and because of their digestibility.

Some of the most common Ayurvedic spices include:

  1. Turmeric: It is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is used to treat digestive problems and to strengthen the immune system.

  2. Cardamom: It is a digestive spice, it helps relieve gastrointestinal disorders and relieves heartburn.

  3. Cinnamon: known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it helps regulate blood sugar and improve digestion.

  4. Cumin: It is a digestive spice, it helps relieve gastrointestinal disorders and relieves heartburn.

  5. Ginger: known for its anti-inflammatory and digestive properties, it helps relieve stomach pain and improve digestion.

  6. Black pepper: It is a digestive spice, it helps relieve gastrointestinal disorders and relieves heartburn.

The properties of spices

Therefore, spices are used to aid in the digestion of a food, but also for their properties . There are four of them:

To Warm Up - increase digestive fire

To Cool - refresh

To Dry - lose weight

To Lubricate - hydrate

To simply recognize the qualities associated with a spice, simply try it alone or as an herbal tea. For example, pepper is very warm and dry, hence the burning sensation and dryness in your throat, which makes you want to drink a lot. On the contrary, licorice is a cooling spice (it cools the body) and is very lubricating. Some people don't like the taste of licorice because it is too "slimy."

The consumption of spices in Ayurveda is not random: it must correspond to a specific need and period . For example, a Pitta type person, who lives in Africa, in a fairly hot and humid climate, will not have the same needs as another Vata type person who lives in Sweden, in a much colder and drier climate.

Therefore, it is necessary to constantly adapt your spice consumption so as not to reinforce a possible imbalance or create one.

About two-thirds of the spices have a warming effect that strengthens Pitta, the fire dosha. Pitta type or imbalanced people should limit their consumption of spices, as they can accumulate too much heat and overstimulate Agni, the digestive fire. This is what can subsequently induce periods of diarrhea, heartburn...

Ayurvedic cuisine uses many spices, depending on the needs of each individual. Some of them are also used in Western cuisine, such as bay leaf, black pepper, nutmeg or basil. Others are used more in oriental cuisine, such as asa-foetida, green cardamom, saffron or fenugreek. Some spices are extremely difficult to find in Spain and must be imported directly from India.

Therefore, the consumption of spices should not only be adapted to the Doshas, ​​but also to the climate: hot, cold, dry or humid, to help balance the body.

Climate Hot Cold
Dry Dill/Fennel


green anise


green cardamom

Wet Hibiscus





Chili pepper




There are spices that are called " tridoshic ", that is, they adapt to the three Doshas, ​​thanks to their balancing aspect.

Among them we can find:

  • dill and fennel (refreshing and lubricating)
  • cinnamon (warming and lubrication)
  • cilantro (refreshing and lubricating)
  • saffron (neither heats nor cools, but dries)

Therefore, these spices are particularly suitable for regular consumption , since they do not disturb the balance of each dosha. However, they still have properties (giving heat, cooling or cooling, drying, lubricating), and their consumption must be adapted to the climate so as not to create too strong cooling and vice versa.

Depending on the country, the season, the tastes and the constitution of each one, it is possible to create combinations of spices during cooking or in the form of herbal teas, in order to get as close as possible to the needs of the body and mind in a specific moment.

Cooking and consumption

In Ayurveda, the way spices are prepared is as important as the spices themselves. In fact, it is recommended to use spices whole and fresh , which will have preserved all their Prana. In leaves, seeds or flowers, spices are most beneficial when cooked as is.

In order to release all its molecules and strengthen its flavor and interest qualities, Ayurvedic doctors heat the fat (oil or ghee) and put the spices before any other food. This allows the fat to absorb the properties of the spices and then return them to other foods.

Therefore, it is advisable to start with fat, then whole or crushed spices, then garlic, onion and finally vegetables, from the least digestible to the most digestible. Spices help digestion, the longer a vegetable or legume is cooked in contact with them, the easier it will be for the body to assimilate them.

Powdered spices should not be added at the beginning of cooking due to their texture which could burn very easily and lose all its qualities. It is then recommended to add the powder during cooking or use it in water-based preparations (such as soups or sauces), to avoid direct contact with fat.

Ayurvedic cuisine offers almost unlimited possibilities of creation, mixing and testing in order to adapt the diet as much as possible to your tastes, needs and reality. Every person is different, and a recipe that works for someone may be totally ineffective for another person. The main thing will always be to listen to your body and promote what relieves it and makes you happy.

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