In the Summer when the weather is hot, our digestive fire (agni) is diminished. We are less hungry, and easily feel uncomfortable when we overeat.
In addition, people with a strong Pitta (fire) component become overheated. They may have loose stools, become irritable, and their skins have problems.
In this post we will talk about ideal herbs to stimulate digestion in Summer, while at the same time pacifying Pitta. In fact, these herbs can be used all year round by Pitta people, and by those who can’t take foods that are too spicy.
Called Jiraka in Sanskrit, these are the seeds of the plant, which grows abundantly in India, South East Asia and the Mediterranean. It has a fragrant, pungent smell, and has carminative properties to eliminate wind. Cumin is mildly warming, so useful for Pitta.
Cumin is one of the most commonly-used herbs in Indian cooking, because it is so gentle yet effective for the digestion. It is an ideal herb for children as it also eliminates colic, and for the elderly.
It is known in Sanskrit as Dhanyaka, and is used in Asia as well as Europe. The smell is very mild, and has a cooling effect. Coriander is a diuretic, which means it stimulates kidney function, reducing water retention. Although coriander has an anti-allergic effect for most people, it may provoke allergy for others.
Coriander is used in many ways, such as for curries, for cooking rice, and in Europe for pickling and making sausages. The leaves, called cilantro in New Zealand, are very fragrant and have a cooling effect in spicy foods.
Fennel is called shatapushpi in Sanskrit and saunf in Hindi, is related to cumin, but has a sweeter fragrance and is more cooling. It is also carminative and often used in children’s colic remedies.
While fennel is often used in curries and savoury dishes, it lends itself very well to sweet dishes like rice pudding, candies, and mukhwas, the breath-fresheners offered in restaurants after meals. Mukhwas also aid in reducing the sense of bloating after heavy meals.
Mint is a leaf from a plant that is often grown in gardens because it is said to ward off aphids and insects. The leaves are very aromatic, with a sweet fragrance that is loved by many.
Mint is used in savoury as well as sweet dishes, and mint tea is a popular beverage drunk around the world.
Cooling formulas and recipes for digestion in Summer
You can make teas from mint, rose petals, fennel and even cumin, which gently stimulate digestion and help to detoxify.
Use the powdered form for the seeds, or whole or chopped leaves. Add boiling water to a cup with a teaspoon of the herb. You can also combine them to make interesting flavours.
If you need a stronger brew to help with digestion, you can make a herbal formula called a decoction. Add a teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds to 1 litre of water. Boil until the water has reduced to 250 ml (1 cup). Drink about 50 ml several times a day.
You can make a chutney of coconut and coriander leaves. This chutney is cooling and soothing while stoking the digestive fire.
Blend 1/2 cup grated coconut, 1/2 cup coriander leaves, a small green chilly, 1 tbs roasted chana dhal, salt, and up to 1/2 cup water. Add some lime juice to taste.
Cucumber Mint Raita
This is another delicious combination for a hot day!
Grate a cucumber, add to 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, 2 cups plain yoghurt, and a tsp ground cumin. Have it as a side dish for curries, it will balance the spiciness while helping your digestion.
When your agni is not as strong in Summer, you need to be aware, and to reduce the load on your digestion.
- Eat smaller quantities so you are not overfull.
- Eat only when hungry, and avoid snacking.
- Drink well before meals, but only a little during and after meals.
- Have your main meal at lunchtime.
- Have a day in the week when you give your digestion a rest. Avoid solid foods and just drink herb teas and warm water.
- Avoid too much carbs, sugar, and heavy proteins.
If you need help
If you need further help with your digestion, please get in touch with Dr Priya Punjabi on (09) 829 2045 or 0800 829 2045.