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November 30, 2007

Sunflower butter

Tahini (sesame seed butter) is an excellent food for Vata, and common in vegetarian food the world over, but tahini is too hot for Pita and to too heavy for Kapha. Consider replacing tahini with sunflower butter for all the dosha to enjoy.

You can buy sunflower butter in some health food stores, but it's often got some of the usual commercial additions and a lot of value adding. So have a go at making it yourself.

First toast sunflower seeds in a dry medium hot fry pan. When they begin to pop and smell delicious, restrain from eating them. Put them into the food processor whilst they are still hot (or mortar and pestle for a bit of exercise). Grind them very well to a fine powder. Now add a dash of sunflower oil or melted ghee and blend. Add a dash more and blend again until the mixture begins to come together. You may need to scrape the powder off the sides of the mixer to try and combine it all. When it does come together get a spoon or your hands involved and mix it thoroughly.

Add a pinch of salt if you like, I do, and store in a sealed jar in the fridge for a few days. Spread on hot chapati for a very good morning, or use where ever you would use peanut butter or tahini.

Sunflower seeds are cooling, light and just a little oily. Good for all constitutions, and provides the often missed B12 to a vegetarian diet.

Sesame Sweets

I love recipes that use ingredients that I always have in my cupboard. Simple things I can throw together at any time without needing to go to the supermarket. I hate going to the supermarket. So these simple, fudge like balls are one of my standby's, but they are super rich, so as always moderation is the key. I'll give you the original recipe, but the variations below are better suited to particular dosha.


1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup honey


Mix it all together with your hands to form a dough. If it is too dry or too wet adjust accordingly. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and form it into a ball, you may prefer to wet or oil your hands to make this a bit easier. Roll in sesame seeds and put in the fridge for an hour or so to set.

Variations are endless...
Vata is very good friends with sesame, but use a different sweetener like molasses. This is a very strengthening combo, especially good for irregular periods or if you are moderation though because it is heavy to digest.
Hot Pita won't get on so well with hot sesame and honey. But try using sunflower butter (you can make your own in the food processor), a cool sweetener like barley malt, and consider coconut instead of sesame seeds.
Kapha does well with the honey, but the sesame is a bit too heavy, so try sunflower butter again. Rice bubbles or crushed cornflakes instead of sesame seeds will make a much lighter sweet.

November 28, 2007

Five Fingers

I've said it before and I'll say it again, your hands are the best eating utensil in town.

Each of your five fingers contains one of the five elements-earth, water, fire, air and ether. By using your five fingers to eat your food imbibes all elements making it a more satisfying and rounded meal.

So forget what your mum said when you were growing up, get your hands stuck into it.

But she was right to tell you not to play with your food. You should eat when you are eating, not read, talk, play games, watch tv, walk...just eat. Eat and enjoy.

November 26, 2007


Until the early 1800's vegetarians were commonly known as Pythagoreans, yes, after the ancient Greek mathematician. In those days it could mean with or without eggs and dairy.

Pythagoras was born on the Island of Samos in 569 BC. The details of his life are shady and somewhat mythical. At the tender age of 18 he left Samos and traveled extensively through Europe, Egypt and India, finally settling in Italy and founding a school.

Those who wanted to enter his school had to remain silent in the community for five years before being allowed to contribute their own ideas. The group of men and women were vegetarian, ascetic and believed in reincarnation.

Whilst most famous for his contribution to what is now known as Pythagorean theorem. His group contributed to music, astronomy and philosophy. There are no writings by Pythagoras, so little is actually known of his accomplishments.

But next time someone offers you a sausage you can say "no thanks, I'm a Pythagorean."

November 23, 2007

Simple Potato Subji

We just ate puri-subji for breakfast-not highly recommended for health, but excellent for the
taste buds!

Puri are like chapati, but made with a drier dough, rolled a bit thicker and smaller and deep fried. Subji just means vegetable, but often refers to a cooked vegetable dish with lots of spices. D just rocked my world with the best potato subji, and I don't even like potatoes!

It looks like a long list of ingredients, and it is, but they are all spices, so you can substitute what you have on hand or leave something out. Just remember the powdered spices thicken the sauce, so try to make sure you have enough powdered spices if nothing else.


2 large potatoes

1 tspn cumin seeds
1/2 tspn ajwain seeds
3 cloves
4 cardamom pods
pinch of asoefatida

1 tspn salt
1 tspn cumin powder
1 tspn coriander powder
1/2 tspn cinnamon powder
1 tspn tumeric


Boil the potatoes in their skins till tender (we use the pressure cooker). Break them apart with your hands into big chunks.

Fry first five spices in ghee till fragant. add the potatoes and about one cup of water. Add powdered spices and simmer gently for a few minutes. Don't let it dry out, the potatoes should be in quite a thick, wet sauce. Add more water if needed.

Best served with chapati, so you can mash the potatoes into the sauce with the bread. But also very good with rice.


The fennel plant has a lot to offer. The root is used as a vegetable, the seeds as a spice and the leaves as a herb. Even the pollen can be eaten, but good like finding that in the supermarket! Fennel is native to the Mediterranean, but commonly used in Chinese, Iranian and Italian cuisine.

Fennel seeds have a gentle aniseed/licorice taste, and they are excellent for all dosha. Here I go again, but it's true, they are very good for digestion. Fennel is calming and can be made into a tea for bloating and gas. Fennel has a gentle laxative effect. It is cooling and sweet, and one of my favourite flavours.

You can dry roast fennel seeds with sunflower seeds for a delicious snack, or chew them on their own as a mouth freshener. My all time favourite fennel dish (I'm serving it at my wedding) is fry a few teaspoons of fennel seeds in ghee, then add a grated carrot. Cook covered on a low heat, stirring often. You may need to add a tablespoon of water now and then to stop it sticking.

Fennel seeds should be avoided in the early stages of pregnancy, or if there are any concerns about the pregnancy. However they are excellent post-partum for lactation.

November 19, 2007

Rose and Mint Cordial

We're in the middle of a heat wave in Melbourne (who doesn't seem to be these days?) so to fight the fire I'm constantly looking for ways to cool my body, from the inside out.

Milk is very cooling, but I think I may have already overdone it today. Coconut, cucumber and watermelon are great too. But what I actually want is a drink, so I have combined mint and rose, both very pita friendly into a punch.

Cool Cordial for a hot day

1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup maple syrup
1-2 tspns rose water


Wash and chop mint leaves well. Mix all ingredients and infuse in the fridge for four hours. When ready to serve mix with water to taste, about 1 part cordial to 6 parts water works for me.

Very Vata and Pita friendly, but use honey for Kapha.

NB Don't serve it too cold . Cold things make your digestive fire work harder and you will actually heat up and disturb pita in the long term.

November 16, 2007

What exactly is a dosha?

Dosha literally means blemish or fault. It is the bit of you that's not so strong. The bit that causes the most problems. Everyone is born with one of these bits, and that is called your prakruti.

Your prakruti is set by your parents prakruti, their state of health, the season, what your mother eats, the alignement of the stars...This is with you for life, so it's worth getting to know this bit of you pretty well.

But we all know life can throw some curve balls, and the effect of this is called your vikruti. This is when you get colds in winter in infections in trpoical countries. Your Vakruti may be at play if have a heart attack for disrespecting your emotions or why you gain weight if you eat the wrong foods. Your vikruti will change throughout your life, this is your current weakness or state of ill health.

Your prakruti and vikruti are made up of one of countless combinations of Pita, Kapha and Vata. You must have all three in order to live, but to be at your peak health your vikruti must match your prakruti.

In their simplest forms these three dosha are elements. Pita is fire and water, Kapha is earth and water and Vata is air and ether. But to really understand Ayurveda we must think in terms of processes. The way these elements interact with eachother. For example, we all know if you add earth to fire, it will extinguish the flame. On the other hand if you add air the flames will be fanned, causing more fire. Fire will dry out water and cause air, and earth will ground ether.

It's best to see an Ayurvedic doctor to determine your prakruti and vikruti, and try to feel how food and seasons and your work and other people interact with your own elements. Everything is made up of elements and will affect the processes going on in your body.

November 14, 2007


As soon as I started my research for this post I realised that I've been misspelling Tumeric. It has an extra r in it. Turmeric. Has anyone else noticed how difficult spices are to spell? Cinnamon is another one...

Known as haldi in Hindi, Turmeric is fast becoming one of western sciences super foods too. It is contains curcumin (not to be confused with cumin) which is being investigated for a host of medical applications, especially Alzheimer's. Turmeric is antiseptic, antibacterial, anti parasitic and anti inflammatory.

Of course Ayurveda has known all of this for thousands of years. That's why Indian food is distinctly yellow. Turmeric provides the often missed bitter and astringent tastes to our food, for this reason use it sparingly. About a quarter of a teaspoon per person is plenty, or it will adversely affect the taste of your meal. In those quantities however you can add turmeric to anything, because the taste is almost imperceptible.

And add it to every meal you should. Turmeric is tridoshic, aids digestions, prevents infections and strengthens the eyes. It especially works on the liver, in turn cleansing the blood and the skin. Turmeric can be applied topically to the skin for rashes and sunburn-but be careful it stains!

A few more diseases turmeric is beneficial for: diabetes, cancer, parasites, conjunctivitis, anemia, asthma, high cholesterol, ulcers, gum disease, tonsillitis...if you are still not convinced check out these anecdotes.

November 12, 2007

Overweight or obesity

In Ayurveda Kapha is considered the most beautiful body type, with some strength and a bit of meat on their bones. In Western culture it is the lithe, wiry frame of Vata is considered most attractive. As a 52kg Vata, I'm telling you, this is not desirable for your health. A word of caution. Please approach weight loss with a Satvic (pure) mind, you truly know what your healthy weight is.

Obesity is predominantly Kapha. But if your weight gain/loss is irregular (Vata) or your appetite is very high (Pita) do not follow this advice. This diet will dry out the water in your body, by applying fire and air. Fire and air will raise Vata and Pita.

Having established you are Kapha imbalanced, the first thing is to reduce the minds attachment to food, no mean feat for loving Kapha. It is important not to diet too strongly or the mind will rebel. Be gentle, replace foods rather than giving them up entirely, and take things one step at a time. One advantage Kapha has here is endurance, use it.

Reduce your intake of sweet food, this includes most fruit, rice, wheat, meats and oils. Take less dairy products, salt, and sour foods like vinegar, pickles and olives.

Eat dry grains like crackers (corn thins or ryvita's are excellent) or dry oats, and dry vegies including broccoli, potatoes and cabbage. Steamed vegetables and mung beans, especially sprouted are an excellent everyday food. Sprouting them creates beneficial enzymes for your digestion.

Take hot and bitter spices like chili, pepper, tumeric and dry ginger powder to stimulate digestion. Drink hot ginger tea before meals. Food should not be taken before 10am or after 6pm.

The Veda's have one surefire way for losing weight. The patient must only eat whilst squatting!

November 11, 2007

Amenorrhea-absence of menstruation

Although many women consider their period a real drag, in Ayurveda it is thought that this is one of the reasons women live longer than men. When we bleed it's like a mini detox, so if there are lots of toxins it can feel pretty bad.

But what happens if we don't bleed? Well before you consider yourself lucky, consider why your body isn't doing what it should. Unless you are Pregnant or past menopause then something in your body is not right.

Amenorrhea is generally caused by Vata. The sub dosha responsible for menstruation moves from the belly button down, called Apana Vata. This same aspect of Vata is responsible for childbirth, excretion and reproduction.

Apana Vata will be blocked by of the same things that disturb Vata generally, like cold, anxiety, exercise, dehydration, travel or stress. Anal sex can disturb Apana Vata. If you have stopped getting your period try taking a warm, wet diet, eat regular meals and take nourishing foods like ghee, tahini, dates and molasses. Spend time at home with people who love and nurture you and drink plenty of warm water. Take a warm bath with sesame oil.

Ginger and ajwain will bring on menstruation, as will castor oil rubbed onto the lower back. Be careful not to over heat the body or this will cause dryness. As always, balance is the key, trust your instincts. Keep yourself warm and safe and avoid exposure to wind, stress, travel and exercise.

November 09, 2007

Good Days, Bad Days

Today is one of the bad days. Good days, bad days. This mantra has gotten us through the last eighteen months. One day you feel better, but if you cling to it, if you try to hold on to it, then the next time a bad day comes around it feels much much worse.

The key is detachment, detachment from the good days as well as the bad days. Something I am still working on. I remind myself that all feelings are temporary, and this helps me through. We watched a film about a young preacher dying of Luekemia. He said everyone wants to walk with God in the mountains, but it is quite another thing to walk with God in the valley.

So this is the challenge, to have faith, to be peaceful, to remember the goodness in the world on the good days and on the bad days.

November 08, 2007


Milk is another food held in high esteem in Ayurveda, but it has fallen out of fashion in this modern world. This is not really surprising considering the way in which we drink milk, when and with what...

First and foremost drink milk hot, not cold. Milky tea for example is great, but a milkshake is very heavy and cold on your digestion, and could waylay even the sturdiest Pita. Add a little cardamom powder to aid digestion and for good taste if you like.

Milk has few real companions, and makes a bad food combination with many of the things we generally eat it with. Milk shouldn't be taken with eggs, meat, beans, yeast or fruit. There goes your classic English breakfast! So try to avoid milk with meals and revive elevenses instead.

And of course milk ain't milk anymore. Milk is one of only three foodstuffs revered as having equal quantities of all three doshas (the other two are black pepper and fish). But that is only raw milk on the day of milking. After that it becomes predominantly Kapha. If you live on a dairy farm you are in luck. The rest of us will have to be vigilant consumers and scan the supermarket shelves for something better then milk powder reconstituted in water with the addition of the latest fad vitamin.

Pasturisation is basically boiling milk, to kill germs and make it last longer, which Ayurveda recommends anyway. Homogenisation on the other hand is a thoroughly modern process born out of our obsession with fat. Basically it breaks up the fat particles so they are suspended in the milk, instead of floating to the top.

The problem with this is it augments the Vata in milk. Put simply, it's like deepfrying, and we all know how bad that is. And there is a theory that the fat particles are so small they can leak straight into your blood stream undigested, causing allergic reactions and ama.

I know of two brands in Australia that have un-homogenated milk, Paul's (parmalat) and Margaret River. Also it is often available at Farmer's Markets.

If you have trouble digesting milk, take a break from it to rest your body, and then consider gently reintroducing milk to your diet in the appropriate ways. Of course this does not apply if you are actually lactose intolerant.

More on milk here.

Mung beans

So what's the big deal about mung beans? We all know the association between beans and gas (beans, beans the glorious fruit the more you eat the more you toot...) That's because most beans are high in air element, making them a big mistake for Vata, but great for drying out Kapha.

But mung beans on the other hand are much easier to digest. They are not too dry, not too cold and not too light. They are just right. This makes them suitable for all doshas, and in fact one of the most revered foods by the vaidya's. They are prescribed for illnesses from fever to cancer to hepatitis, and are an excellent daily food.

But mung beans can be a bit harder to find then their larger relatives. Mung beans can be bought as whole beans, with a green skin on. These take much longer to cook, and have an even higher fibre content. This actually makes more work for your digestive system, so only buy whole beans for sprouting or to replace big beans like chickpeas in recipes.

Split mung beans (also known as mung dahl) are halved. They cook to buttery soft in fifteen or twenty minutes and are the preferred option in Ayurveda. Sometimes split mung still have their skin on, and you can see the green bits, again go for hulled if you have the option. Hulled split mung dahl are yellow, not to be mistaken for split peas which are slightly larger and rounder, but will take closer to 45 mins to cook, and have the unpleasant airy side effects of most beans.

In western terms mung beans are high in Vitamin B and C, potassium, magnesium, iron, phospherous, copper, fibre and protein. Anyway you look at, the mung bean is a terrific addition to your diet.

November 07, 2007

One dahl- endless variations...

You can of course add any vegies you like to your daily dahl at the appropriate stage of cooking. Fry onions in the ghee, or throw some potatoes in at the beginning, or some spinach in towards the end...

The daily dahl recipe mild and suitable for all constitutions. For a bit more spice:
Vata will do well with 1/2 teaspoon each of ajwain and fresh ginger stirred into the ghee
Pita is best off sticking to the above spices and maybe garnish with fresh coriander or grated coconut
Kapha after adding the water add 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder, and a pinch each of chili powder and asoefatida

My personal favourite combo is:
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, 4 cloves, pinch of mustard seeds and a pinch of asoefatida in the ghee
  • half an onion fried gently before adding the dahl
  • One chopped carrot and a handful of chopped green beens added to the water early on
  • Add 1 teaspoon of coriander, 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric and some chopped fresh coriander leaves before serving

Give us this day our Daily Dahl

So everyones got their own way of making dahl, and here's mine, just as a starting point. You really can use any combination of spices, but keeping the spices tridoshic makes for a well balanced daily dahl. As usual practice makes perfect, and dahl is so quick, uses any ingredients from your cupboard and above all is super healthy.

Daily Dahl-for two


4-6 muthi split mung dahl
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 cloves
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric


In a large pot warm some ghee and add the cumin and cloves. As soon as one pops or the aroma is released (like I keep saying be careful not to burn it!) stir in the mung dahl. Then cover with water, about 4 or 5 times the amount of water to dahl. Add salt to taste-I use a scant teaspoon but that's probably a bit generous for kapha and pita. But salt is the secret to bringing out the flavour of other spices. Bring it to the boil, lower the heat and simmer covered. Check it every ten minutes of so and add more water if needed-more is less with water, dry dahl is no good at all.

The dahl should be cooked after about fifteen minutes, but will be even better if you give it another ten minutes. This will turn it from dahl suspended in broth, to one big thick homogeneous mass. Now you can add coriander and tumeric and serve...

serve with:
  • rice
  • chapati (or wholemeal mountain bread/sorj if you can't be bothered cooking)
  • roast vegies (not very traditional, but it really works!)

November 06, 2007


Cumin is native to Egypt and is a member of the parsley family. It grows in hot places and has become a very popular spice in many countries including South America, Morocco and of course India.

In Sanskrit it is known as jeera, which means decay. This refers to it's digestive qualities, helping your body to break down food. Ayurvedically good digestion is the key to health, so of course cumin is highly valued as a medicine.

It is suitable for all dosha's and it's mild flavour goes well with dishes from pasta to dahl to nacho's. It's hard to use too much cumin, I'd go for about a teaspoon for two people.

So, how to use it. The whole seeds add a lovely texture and can be fried lightly in ghee before adding rice/vegies/dahl etc. They are ready when the aroma is released or the moment the first seed pops. Now the prana is released and you can add the next ingredients. If you burn the seeds, which is very easy to do, throw them out and start again.

The powder is better to use if you want to thicken a sauce or make a paste. Use for a stew or tajine or curry, something thick and saucy. The powder also lends well to being suateed in ghee, but burns even more easily than the whole seeds.

For Jeera Chowel fry whole cumin seeds in ghee before stirring in rice and adding water. Cook as usual. Cumin is cleansing and stimulates the appetite and is a good daily spice.

November 04, 2007

Fear and Kindness-oil massage

Snehana is a crucial stage of Panch Karma. The word implies kindness and love, and the process is the application of oils to the body both internally and externally. And it truly makes you feel as nurtured as a baby in the womb!

Bahya Snehana is external oleation. What I don't understand is the use of the word Bahya here, as it means fear. Any ideas?

In Bahya Snehana two Ayurvedic practitioners massage your body in synchronised strokes. The strokes match the five movements of Vata. Sesame is the primary oil used in Bahya Snehana, as it is the only oil to penetrate all seven tissues. But for Kapha and Pitta this may be contraindicated as it may be too hot or too heavy.

The oil is infused with herbs and along with the massage technique works to loosen the grip of the ama (toxins), preparing them for elimination. It might be difficult to imagine the skin as a digestive organ, but through oil massage the body actually ingests a significant amount of oil. Any oil remaining on the skin should be washed off within an hour of the massage, taking the toxins with it.

Oil massage, along with Shirodhara, usually form the very early stages of a Panch Karma. They work to relax the body and the mind, in preparation for the more stressful procedures ahead.

November 03, 2007


If you have Hepatitis A please email me immediately. If I had known then what I know now I truly believe I would not still be sick today, 18 months later. If you have any other form of Hepatitis, the treatment is the same so contact me anyway.

Your Doctor will probably tell you your body will expel the Hepatitis A virus within two to four weeks. What they won't tell you is that the virus will take half your liver with it. Unmanaged, Hepatitis A can cause a battery of other illnesses including, but not limited to malabsorbtion, sprue, anemia, chronic fatigue, depression, allergies and low immune. I even know of a case of terminal cancer attributed to untreated Hepatitis A.

Ayurvedic treatment will manage the symptoms and prevent chronic illness. This means you must follow the treatment for at least 3 months, even if all symptoms disappear, or they will come back with a vengeance! The treatment is simple diet and lifestyle advice which you can easily follow yourself at home.

I know I'm coming down heavy, but I really want you to take me seriously. Hepatitis has been widely researched by the Vaidya's, and is very simple to cure. But Western medecine can offer little advice beyond rest and a good diet-whatever that means! OK, rant over!

November 02, 2007


Anemia is iron deficiency, in Sanskrit it is called panduroga: disease that turns the body pale. Many many people are anemic and it's causes can be an imbalance of any dosha. Check your other symptoms to see which dosha is imbalanced.

Of course you can eat more iron, but iron is very difficult to digest, and anemia is often caused by weak digestion to begin with, so eating more iron must be balanced with improving the processes of the digestion.
  • Dates should be eaten just a few at a time an hour apart from taking any other food
  • Sultanas, taken as above, but soaked for Vata
  • Cook kichadee with spinach and use cumin seeds, mustard seeds, tumeric and coriander powder to aid digestion
To improve absorbtion try the following spices according to your dosha imbalance:
  • liver cleansing spices such as aloe, saffron and tumeric for Pitta
  • phlegm expelling and circulatory hot spices such as chili, cinnamon and dry ginger for Kapha
  • Rich foods such as ghee and sesame taken with tumeric, saffron and coriander for Vata

Also you can try wearing stones such as ruby or garnet (but not for Pitta) and pearl or moonstone (not for Kapha)

For the faint hearted

That day I was so weak I could barely grip my hands, I had to cling to the hand rail to climb the stairs, and D had to carry everything for me. It was a bit frightening, and I asked my doctor if perhaps the treatment is too strong. She said this treatment is not too strong for anyone and just advised rest.

Other factors leading to fainting may include:
  • travel-it takes me an hour and a half to get to the treatment everyday, and movement disturbs vata
  • weather-it's been really windy here, movement of air doubly disturbs vata
  • anemia, malabsorbtion and low blood pressure-my poor liver and small intestines just aren't turning the food I eat into the things my body needs. In another week or two the purgation should sort this out
Anyway, the next day I woke up fresh and early without even a hint of dizziness or tingling extremities or numbness...I mentioned this to the Doc and she said "I know."