By Jill Leslie
Owner and Founder
Ever notice that as the temperatures rise during the summer, temperaments heat up, too?
That’s because during the summer, the sun’s rays hit the Earth at a steep angle. The light does not spread out as much, thus increasing the amount of energy hitting any given spot. Also, the long daylight hours allow the Earth plenty of time to reach warm temperatures. This change causes an increase in the what we call in Ayurveda, the fire element—one of five natural elements that impact our body’s health and well-being. Source: www.loc.gov
That’s why during July, and especially in August, we tend to feel more intense, impassioned, excited—and perhaps a bit impatient, irritable, and hotheaded.
A Little Background
According to the five-element theory, the heat of summer kicks up the “pitta dosha,” one of three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha), which we use to describe the unique combination of an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional make-up.
Understanding the five-element theory, which is the basis for Ayurveda natural medicine, helps us find the proper foods and exercise to maintain balance or to remedy an imbalance in the body.
Many of us are familiar with that burning feeling in the gut after eating a spicy meal. The fire element in the food we ate increased the fire element in the body. The result is a hot, burning sensation in the belly, diarrhea, acid reflux, heart burn, ulcers, and the like.
In the heat of the moment, when we are temporarily engorged with anger or excitement, our body temperature rises and the skin flushes. In other words, the fire element in our body is quite literally increasing.
It really is that simple.
Living in harmony with nature is the prescription for a healthy mind and body. And understanding the Ayurvedic guidelines of “like increases like” and “opposites balance” allows us to make choices that support our health and well-being. As we learn to apply these principles, we naturally begin to make choices that are in harmony with nature.
Here are some simple and effective practices for keeping the fire stoked without letting it blaze out of control:
- Eat sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes like fresh greens, juicy fruits, seasonal vegetables, barley, oats, rice, and wheat.
- Limit salty, pungent, and sour foods, including anything “spicy” or fermented.
- Eat cooling herbs and spices such as fennel, mint, coriander, cilantro, turmeric, and dill.
- Avoid heating spices like cayenne, garlic, horseradish, chilies, basil, and black pepper.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugar.
- Spend time in cool, peaceful environments.
- Enjoy time in nature, moonlit walks, go for a swim.
- Massage your body with cooling oils, like coconut and safflower oil.
- Laugh, play, relax, and unwind, and take time to enjoy life.
- Wear colors from the cool side of the spectrum like blues, greens, and whites.
What’s for Dinner?
As summer heats up, try these cooling dishes to calm your pitta dosha.
Simply Sautéed Greens
- 1 Bunch: Young fresh kale, collards, chard, spinach, or dandelion greens. De-stem, de-rib, and shred them into very thin strips.
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 2 tsp. coriander powder
- 1-2 T. ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil
Steam greens for approximately 10 minutes. Heat ghee or coconut oil with 3 T. water in a pan until clear, add the turmeric, coriander, and cumin seeds, and stir briefly to release aroma. Add the greens and salt, and sauté for 2-3 minutes until flavors are blended.
Coconut Mint Chutney
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped mint leaves
- 1 cup coconut flakes
- ¼ lime
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. raw honey or raw sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- Optional: 1 T. fresh grated ginger root
Combine mint, water, and lime juice in a blender or food processor. Then add all other ingredients and blend until mixture becomes a smooth paste. Enjoy as a condiment with vegetables, grains, poultry, or fish.
A note about fresh coconut water: For an incredibly refreshing summer drink, try coconut water. It is an isotonic and natural electrolyte, and is filled with immune-boosting vitamins and nutrients. It is an ideal alternative to sugary energy drinks. You could say that it is nature’s Gatorade.
About Jill Leslie and Ayurveda Alchemy
Jill Leslie is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, herbalist, wellness chef, and yoga teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area who, for more than two decades, has been immersed in the study and practice of natural healing.
The entrepreneur, who has owned her own businesses since graduating from the University of Maryland in 1986, founded the award-winning retail shop Milk & Honey in Sebastapol, CA, in 1999. She sold it in 2006 so that she could delve deeper into her study of yoga and Ayurveda.
As she discovered the life-changing wisdom of these ancient practices, she began sharing her knowledge at wellness retreats, yoga studios, and through cooking classes. Her passion for herbal medicine and nutrition, and her love of sweets, inspired her to found Ayurvedic Alchemy, in 2008.
In addition to hosting classes and events, and providing consultations and dietary advice about Ayurveda, she has created a line of healthy and delicious confections, which are available online at Kitchen Alchemy Treats. “When I learned the adage of Ayurveda, ‘Let your food be your medicine,’ I put on my apron and said, ‘Let your medicine be delicious,’” she says. Learn more at www.AyurvedaAlchemy.com.