The basic human condition is dependent upon skillfully tending the fire within in the form of digestion. Life itself cannot be sustained if the process of learning how to tend this flame s is not of primary importance. This means that we are looking for ways our diet, lifestyle and relationships can support samagni or balanced digestion. Remember the children’s story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” where she tests their porridge, chairs and beds to find the one that is just right? This is the essence of the science of Agni. We will know that our Agni is sama or balanced when what we eat makes us feel just right. Herbs and spices can have a pronounced and long term effect on the body and mind. That is why something as simple as an herbal tea when drank regularly can bring balance to the digestive fire.
Our ability to digest food is the keystone to good health and agni has four different forms it takes based on genetics, environment, consciousness. They are:
A note about making teas
Formulating teas in Ayurvedic medicine follows a general pattern that allows for a synergy between the respective herbs that are utilized. This pattern has been described in many ways. The California College of Ayurveda describes a tea formulation as consisting of a 4 parts. These are:
Vishama Agni tea blend
Get off the digestive roller coaster! If your agni has been taken over by the vata dosha you will experience irregular digestion characterized by gas, bloating or heaviness and gurgling in the abdomen. In addition to not overeating and instituting regular meal times, this tea blend can be helpful.
Chief: 1 teaspoon Fennel seed
Support: 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger root
Assist: ½ teaspoon cinnamon stick pieces
Carrier: ¼ teaspoon licorice stick pieces
This sweet and spicy blend will help to normalize the reactivity of the digestive system. For the best results place all ingredients in 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, then strain into a cup and drink when warm. The chief herb is fennel, more information about its effects are below.
Foeniculum vulgaris; Umbelloferae
Character: The Soothing Spice
Fennel is a soothing digestive stimulant for variable digestion. Part of its effectiveness comes from its effect on the energetic system of the body known as the chakra’s and meridians. Fennel has been shown to be balancing to the lower three chakras and to balance the meridians associated with the kidney, liver, bladder, and spleen.
Guna: light, slightly oily
Rasa: sweet, pungent, bitter
Prabhava: digestive aid
Main Action: Reduces gas, relieves muscle spasm, slightly diuretic
Action on Doshas: Balances all doshas
Action on Dhatus: Especially good for the blood, fat, and female reproductive tissues
Fennel not only improves digestion and absorption it also helps with cramping, muscle spasms, and gas. Because of its affect on the energetic body it has a grounding effect (Freeman, 2007) that helps the irregularity of digestion.
Special Uses: Fennel has traditionally been used to improve PMS symptoms and improve milk flow for nursing mothers.
Watch the video here!
Manda Agni Tea Blend
Wake up from your hibernation! If your digestive strength is on vacation it is likely that kapha is blocking its natural flow. Although the appetite may appear strong on the surface only small meals can be taken without discomfort and heaviness in the abdomen, sleepiness after eating, nausea and fatigue. To remedy this sluggish digestion we use a tea with hot, stimulating spices.
Chief: 1 teaspoon fresh Ginger root cut into small pieces
Support: ½ teaspoon Tulsi leaves
Assist: ½ teaspoon Cloves
Carrier: ¼ teaspoon Stevia leaf
This spicy blend will wake up the digestive bear from hibernation. For the best results place cloves and ginger in a saucepan with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil, then turn off heat and add tulsi and stevia. In about 5 minutes strain the herbs and pour tea into a cup and drink when the tea has sufficiently cooled. The chief herb of the kapha tea is ginger and here is its monograph:
Character: The Divine Digester
Ginger is the universal digester. Few things are as good at stimulating digestion as ginger. It has also shown benefit in arthritis by reducing cellular oxidation and inflammation similar to Turmeric.
Guna: Light, dry
Rasa: Pungent, Sweet
Prabhava: Universal digester
Main Action: Digestive stimulant, carminative, antibacterial. anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Action on Doshas: Clears ama; balances kledaka Kapha. Increases Pitta and Vata
Action on Dhatus: Good for all dhatus
Description: Gingerol, gingerdiones, volatile oils and other bioactive constituents of ginger have a wide range of beneficial effects on the body (Koo, 2001). Although used in Ayurveda primarily as a digestive stimulant to combat the effects of ama (toxins) ginger has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties useful in the treatment of cancer and arthritis. Although the fresh root is preferable the powder can also be used for health maintenance and healing.
Watch the video here!
Tikshna Agni Tea Blend
Cool your jets! When the bonfire of pitta mixes with the flame of agni it becomes more than the body can handle and will lead to dryness of the throat, acidity, and a feeling of burnout. There may a ravenous appetite that feels insatiable. In order to rejuvenate pitta and bring balance to the digestive fire cooling spices can be used.
Chief: 1 teaspoon Coriander seeds
Support: ½ teaspoon Cardamom seeds
Assist: ½ teaspoon Hibiscus powder
Carrier: ¼ teaspoon Turmeric powder or fresh root pieces
This cooling blend will cool the jets that are burning the inside of your body. For the best results place coriander seed and cardamom seed in a saucepan with a cup of water. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and add hibiscus and turmeric. After 5 minutes strain herbs and pour into a cup. The main ingredient is coriander which will be explained below:
Coriandrum sativum; Umbelliferae
Character: The burning body pacifier
Coriander is the seed of cilantro and it is very effective in balancing an overheated digestive system. As both the leaf of cilantro and the see it can be really helpful for reducing Pitta anywhere in the body.
Guna: Light, unctuous
Rasa: Astringent, bitter, sweet
Prabhava: Can reduce swelling after trauma
Main Action: Cooling digestive stimulant. Relieves excess gas and bloating, diuretic.
Action on Doshas: Decreases all three doshas, aids pachaka pitta.
Action on Dhatus: Supports blood and smooth muscle tissue
Description: Coriander can be used safely to improve digestive capacity and absorption without aggravating acidity or inflammation. As is helps with excess heat in the abdomen it also improves symptoms of heat elsewhere in the body such as urinary tract infections, hot flashes and fever.
Precautions: No drug-herb interactions known.
Watch the video here!
Balanced Agni is a key to health and drinking these teas consistently for 1-2 weeks will have a noticeable effect on the digestive system. To do this it is helpful to pre-mix the herbs and store them in an airtight container, then simply use 2 teaspoons of tea blend for each cup that you brew. As you may identify with more than one of the types of Agni it can be helpful to work with an Ayurvedic professional. If you would like to work with Noah please contact him at Rhythm of Healing.
To see a list of references for this article please visit Rhythm of Healing.