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February 22, 2009


Jaggary, or gur, is basically boiled sugar cane juice. The longer it is boiled the more water evaporates and the final product is drier and harder. Jaggary is a totally different product to white sugar, even thought they are both made from sugar cane. For example, sugarcane juice is found to have reduced the number of teeth cavities, whilst refined white sugar is known to increase them.

Jaggary is heavy, moist and warm, whilst white sugar is light, dry and cold. Sugarcane jouice is moist and cool just to confuse things! White sugar is recommended as an antidote to make some hot medicines more tolerable for Pitta, but not as a regular food.

Jaggary balances Vata, but is too heavy and sweet for Kapha and too warm for Pitta to enjoy regularly. It is a very important source of nutrients and can be eaten daily by Vata. It is useful in cases like convalesence, pregnancy and post natal care. It has specific action on the lungs and is a very good blood builder. It is high in iron, and can be eaten daily with black sesame seeds for Vata type anemia. Jaggary also has the advantage of being sattvic, unlike white sugar (rajasic) or treacle (tamasic).

Since it naturally contains potassium and sodium jaggary doesn't cause a blood sugar spike like refined sugar does. Jaggary may be tolerated by diabetics a little better than white sugar, but raw honey is still best in this case. This mineral salt content also makes it excellent for rehydration or blood loss.

Jaggary is most typically used in India food for making sweets with sesame, coconut or milk. But Gujarati cuisine is famous for it's unique sweetness, and jaggary is used in dahl and vegetable dishes. A typical Punjabi meal is mustard greens with corn flour flat bread and a chunk of jaggary-delicious and really fun to eat!

If it looks light and dry it probably is, so most 'raw' sugar and 'brown' sugar likely shares more qualities with white sugar than jaggary. Find the most moist and gooey and dark sugar you can. In my experience gooey dark sugar made from coconut, date or palm has similiar qualities to that made from sugarcane, and may be more available.

It isn't as sweet as white sugar, and does affect the outcome of various baked goods, but I love it so much I use it in baking anyway. To use it in cooking you can dissolve it with a dash of warm water and use in place of syrups like honey (which shouldn't be cooked) and golden syrup (which is highly refined). This syrup is also delicious on pancakes. Dryer jaggary can be grated, and then blended to make a powder which can be used in place a regular sugar for a darker, heavier, less sweet result. Jaggary chunks can be easily dissolved in tea or porridge.

February 15, 2009

First Aid for Travellers

I am one of those people who gets sick even just at the thought of travel. This is due to Vata, the dosha which reacts badly to change, movement and lack of routine. There are lots of things you can do to minimise these aspects of travel, like eating and sleeping at regular times, travelling more slowly and spending more time in one spot.

You can also take a few herbs and essential oils to assist you in the case of minor illnesses. What you choose depend on what illnesses you personally tend towards and the illnessess associated with the place in which you are travelling. Here are my favourites:
  • Nutmeg (as freshly grated as possible)
  • triphla
  • lavender oil
  • ginger powder
  • fennel seeds
  • 1 part rock salt mixed with 8 parts grated jaggary sugar
I buy a whole bunch of little snap lock plastic bags for storage. Now here's what you can use this first aid for:

Constipation is so common when travelling due to Vata aggravation and extravagant feasting. If you are prone to constipation you could almost take triphla every day whilst travelling for a month as a general digestive aid. 1/2 -1 teaspoon in warm water before bed.

Diarrhea is especially common is less developed countries. If it is a simple case of food poisining let it run it's course. If after three days you still have diarrhea take 1-2 tspns of nutmeg in warm water before eating something soupy and go and see a doctor. See also dehydration.

Burns and bites are best treated topically with lavender oil. Take pitta reducing foods.

Travel sickness responds well to ginger. Take half a teaspoon of ginger powder in hot water before travelling. Take some more along the way for long trips. Feeling hungry or too full exacerbates travel sickness.

Dehydration often results from sun, wind, exercise, diarrhea or if water supply is not reliable. Dissolve three teaspoons of the salt/sugar mix with 2 tspns of lime juice in half a litre of hot water. Sip constantly. You can use less lime in case of high Pitta. Water that rice has been cooked in or green coconut water both make effective electrolyte drinks for rehydration too, and may better for pitta.

Headaches can be treated topically by smearing a paste of ginger powder and water on the forehead and resting in a cool dark room. Try some lavender oil on the temples. See also dehydration.

Indigestion from over eating, unusual food or bad food combining can be helped by drinking hot water with a pinch of ginger, chewing fennel seeds after meals or in stronger cases taking triphla (as for constipation).

Insomnia is common due to jetlag or lack of routine. It can be helped by taking 1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg in hot milk before bed (not to be used in case of constipation). Try to regulate your sleeping patterns and try some deep breathing or pose of the child daily. Lavender oil is a calming scent.

Above all get adequate rest whilst you are travelling. Avoid over eating and try to keep some simple routine in you day to day life. Enjoy!

February 08, 2009

Hazelnut Shortbread

A delicious, simple, rich biscuit. Perfect for Vata, alright for Pitta, and as usual no good for Kapha. To prepare the hazelnuts dry roast them in a pan stirring constantly. When a little golden let cool then rub gently in a clean tea towel to remove the brown skins. Grind to a fine powder in a blender. To prepare the jaggary grate it, or it's a bit quicker to shave it with a knife then blend it briefly to remove any lumps.

250 g butter
1/4 cup jaggary (grated)
3/4 cup roasted ground hazelnuts
1 2/3 cup atta flour

Leave the butter out to come to room temperature. Cream the butter with the jaggary (this helps dissolve the jaggary too). Mix in the ground hazelnuts and flour well.

You can now make it look pretty by piping it into small patty pans like soft serve, or if you can't be bothered, just spoon it in. They should be very small biscuits because they are so rich. Bake for 10-15 mins at 180'.

You can use blanched almonds instead of hazelnuts and regular sugar instead of jaggary for a bit more balance for Pitta.

February 01, 2009


The ears are an empty cavity, with tiny hairs which vibrate to pick up sound. This air and movement show that the ears are a vata dominated part of the body. They are, however, prone to imbalance of any dosha, and surprisingly Kapha earaches are the most common. This is why children have earaches a lot, but tend to grow out of it. This is also why it is common to get an earache after swimming, when the ear becomes full of water (Kapha).

Earaches can be viral, fungal or bacterial. If an earache is cause by a cold and congestion it is most likely to be Kapha. Hot, red, swollen, itchy ear ache tends to be Pitta, and Vata ear ache is caused by exposure to wind or cold. More often than not more than one dosha is involved.

General treatment of earaches includes alterative herbs, which are blood purifying, taken internally, or administered through the ear or nose. Mint tea (infused not boiled) is excellent internally, whilst a few drops of ginger juice, or garlic infused sesame oil are best for application directly into the ears. Neti can work effectively as it actually creates a vaccuum which helps to draw out any toxins from the greater sinus cavity, not just the nose. With neti be especially careful not to blow your nose afterwards because if you block your nose and blow the water will be pushed deeper into the sinuses-aggravating the problem. Especially as we grow older daily oiling of the ears is very useful.

If you find loud noises very disturbing this indicates a low white blood cell count, commonly caused by anemia, dehydation or low blood pressure (usually Vata and Pitta).