Monday, November 19, 2012

The Tonic Effect of Spices

It is very common to think of spices as a culinary experience only. However, they also play an important role in human health and the prevention of disease. Today, I would like to expand on the concept of support and maintenance in health using common spices. Look at the word “tonic”. This is the main quality of many spices. Tonics fortify cellular capacity to perform under stress, aging, disease, weakness, in childhood, surgery, or general mental fatigue. Common tonics are usually rich in anti-oxidants, found in turmeric, chili, pepper, clove, ginger, mustard, and nutmeg. Tonics are also suitable as a daily supplement, especially in wintertime, or as mentioned before, in convalescence.

It is my experience, as well as in medical research, that spices have a dual type of action: producing inflammation, pain, heat, redness, and swelling, on acute application and anti-inflammation, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, and anti-mutagenic actions on long term treatments. Taking spices in a low dose on a daily basis is the best form of tonic you can use to benefit your health. There are tonics with specific aims: anti-inflammatory tonics, analgesic tonics, fortifying tonics, antimicrobial tonics, anti-pollutants, and anti-mutagenic tonics. The whole secret of tonics is to take them for at least 40-days consecutively, and during cycles of the Earth where the energy sustains regeneration, in the summer and winter. In the spring and fall, it is better to prepare spices that aid detox.
You can prepare tonics using different media. Combine spices with honey, suitable for kapha dosha, or in fat, like ghee, suitable for vata dosha, and in alcohol, or tinctures, that is suitable for all doshas, or decoctions, water soluble—again suitable for all doshas. In any case, what you want is to allow enough time for the spices and the media to blend. For example, you can create a honey based tonic by adding fortifying spices, like nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, and celery seeds, into honey. Let it rest for 2 or 3 weeks, in that way all the components of the spices can be infused in the honey. You can also do cooking tonics by cooking in water the spices for your dosha, or your preference, and make a strong decoction, then add molasses and allow the water to evaporate. This way the molasses maintains the healing properties of the spices.
A guideline for tonics depends on age and weight. For children and seniors, take 1 tsp a day before meals. For adults, they can take 2x a day, preferable in morning and noon. Guided by an Ayurvedic practitioner you can also apply tonics in the  form of an enema using sesame oil or almond oil as conductor.

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