It’s time to fall out of autumn and leap into spring! Soon, flowers will be blossoming to express the new season. A gentle, quarterly reminder from Mother Nature to start shifting lifestyle choices and harmonize with her spring energy. Generating heat and movement internally will support balancing the cold, wet and heavy qualities she exudes in the spring. While helping to prevent common spring imbalances such as congestion, sluggishness and stiffness. A natural antidote for producing internal warmth to break-up and move stagnation within the body are heating spices. The intoxicating flavors and aromas will lure the cook. While their medicinal magic will bless the meal with the ability to heal.
Generally speaking, all spices can be enjoyed year round, simply by adjusting their quantity according to the season. Ayurveda, determines the seasonal recommendations based the spices’ inherent cooling or heating energy. Spices which foster heat, are recommended in the cold season—winter into early spring. The heat warms the cold and dries the wet qualities. Lightening up congestion not just in the chest but also in the gut. Helping to balance the qualities in the body that Mother Nature is now providing within the external environment.
Adding heating spices to meals or teas, before the daffodils pop-up to say hello can start to prepare the body for the seasonal shift. Spring may officially begin on the equinox, but the wet and heavy qualities start manifesting earlier. The progression is slow and often not realized until there is an imbalance. When the days start getting longer, begin introducing heating spices with carminative, stimulating and diaphoretic effects to the daily menu. Generating internal heat, prior to spring, can help prevent imbalances and begin to align the body to the season.
Five Heating Spices for Spring
1. Black Pepper (Kali Mirchi) according to Dr. Vasant Lad, is one of the most powerful digestive stimulants. It burns ama or toxins, helps digest food, kindles appetite and a sluggish digestion, relieves sinus congestion and headaches. Sprinkle a little extra on to cold and raw foods such as cucumbers and salads. Grind a little extra on an egg scramble, spring soups or stews. Mix a pinch with honey to aide in dissolving and drying up mucous. Want to learn more about this spice? Check out Digestive Fire: Keep it Kindling with Black Pepper.
2. Cardamon (Elaichi) – the new cinnamon as it’s often referred to in the States, green cardamom has a naturally sweet taste. A fabulous spice to counterbalance the qualities of kapha dosha—cold, mucous, congestion in the stomach and lungs. It opens up the lungs, aides congested breathing, stimulates digestion, reduces intestinal spasms and mental fog. Add a few crushed pods when warming milk (cow’s) to reduce the mucous-y quality, chew on a pod when craving sugar, or toss in a couple pods when sauté up some veggies, making rice or to a curry. Delicious aromatherapy!
3. Fenugreek (Methi) is that spice in the curry powder that’s hard to place. Fenugreek seeds or leaves are a fabulous spring detoxifier. Used in Ayurveda to treat diabetes, cholesterol, obesity and stimulate digestion. In comparison to cardamom, fenugreek is very heating and should be reduced or not eaten in the summer. Lightly sauté the seeds in ghee when making a curry, add them to a stew or sprout them. The leaves can be added to stews, curries and goes nicely with spinach. Note—a little goes a long way! I’ve also know elders who drink fenugreek water in the morning to balance blood sugar. Enjoy this fabulous spice and be warned, fenugreek can be a little stinky—scrub those pits a little extra in the shower.
4. Garam Masala, not an official spice, rather a spice mix consisting of several spices. Garam masala, literally translates to heating spice mix. Traditionally consisting of cloves, black pepper, green and black cardamom, mace, cinnamon and nutmeg to name a few. Each spice fosters internal heat. Leading to counterbalance the imbalances caused by an over accumulation of cold in the body. South Asian families usually have their own ‘secret’ recipe with with their own ‘secret’ ratios. Fortunately, nowadays garam masala is readily available in most grocery stores and specialty spice shops. Add a pinch of masala to your sauté, when making a grain or as a finishing touch to boost the aromatics. A little goes a long way a pinch or two is all you need.
5. Oregano is a terrific carminative spice. Aiding digestion, dispelling mucous, ama or toxins and stagnation. Similar to the other spices listed here, oregano is known as a stimulating and diaphoretic herb. Generating movement through its heating nature and aiding joint stiffness caused by too much cold qualities. It also helps counter the chills, and breaks down mucous. Use oregano oil in a steam to open up the lungs. It is also terrific in lentil soups, stews, soups, a veggie sauté or herbed grain. Fresh or dry, oregano is a lovely aromatic, digestive friendly, warming, spring spice.
A good party requires a plan, seasonal living and prevention begins with one too. Let’s the planning begin! Which spice are planning to add to your spring menu?