A carminative spice is one that relieves gas or flatulence from the body.
Yes, and ironically they are some of the most aromatic spices in your pantry. The ones that entice your appetite and release a feel good emotion because they smell so good. Spices like cinnamon, cardamom, basil, mint, etc. not only add a boost of flavor, but can help prevent diseases that begin with indigestion.
Carminative spices move excess vata (air+ether) out from our body. In encouraging vata to flow, these spices help prevent stagnation in the gut allowing our digestive fire (agni) to kindle. Like a gentle breeze that provides just the right of amount of oxygen to maintain a nice campfire. Carminative spices work in the same way. They support our digestive fire (agni) by balancing vata and allowing it to move smoothly. In-turn, kindling our digestive fire so food can be digested.
In creating a smooth pathway, carminative spices also allow prana (our breath, put very simply) to flow helping to prevent other vata imbalances such as nervousness and anxiety. For example, when there is no stagnation in the gut the benefits from a nice deep or even just our normal breath are more impactful as there are no roadblocks preventing prana or life-force from reaching all of our cells. According to Ayurveda, the nourishment our cells receive from prana is integral to our overall well-being.
The health of our gut is essential in supporting the health of our mind and vice versa. The two are intertwined. When one is treated so is the other.
Recall a time when you were feeling bloated and were in pain because your body couldn’t release excess gas. How did it make you feel? And when you were able to release it, how did you feel? Was there a difference in your thoughts or in your mood? Imagine if you could prevent flatulence from occurring. How would that impact you? What about if you were able to enjoy foods that you avoid because your left feeling bloated or gassy?
Including a well-balanced combination of warm and cooling carminative spices in your meals will help to relieve gas and prevent many diseases that begin with recurring indigestion. The best part is that foods look prettier, taste richer, and smells better with carminative spices. At the same time, food becomes our medicine—no more antacids, no more spending money on supplements! Good digestion=better absorption=better health.
For your next meal, spice it up with *carminative spices—happy eating!
- moves Vata
- relieve gas or flatulence
- tend to be aromatic
- are tasty!
- can be cooling and heating (see list below)
- can be drying (in excess may aggravate Vata if using only cooling spices)
- reduce Kapha since they tend to be drying
- are mostly pungent in taste
- in your daily meals help maintain balance and can prevent diseases that arise from indigestion
A small list of heating carminatives
- Asafoetida (Hing)
- Bay Leaves
- Orange peel
A small list of cooling carminatives
*Taking spices/herbs medicinally versus cooking with them are 2 different things. In Ayurveda, a single herbs/spices are rarely prescribed. They are always combined for balance. Consult a practitioner versus self-medicating. Instead, opt for increasing the use of spice/herbs in your food. Spice it up, but always with balance using a good mixture of heating and cooling spices. Listen to your body.
Frawley, Dr. David and Lad, Dr. Vasant. The Yoga of Herbs. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin; Lotus Press, 2001
Kerala Ayurveda Academy. Lessons 101-109. Foster City, CA, 2009
A version of this article was published on Elephant Journal on June 29, 2015