Summers are blazing hard in most parts of India and scurrying for cover from the harsh sun into air-conditioned spaces is top of our minds. The loss of appetite, indigestion due to the heat, dehydration, sun-burns, prickly heat, I could go on and on with summer woes. While a lot on ‘hydrating ourselves in summer’ is being written about and suggested, I am taking the spice-route to keeping cool.
According to Ayurveda, summer time is categorised as the ‘Pitta’ or fire season and certain spices can help ease the discomfort the season brings along. Listing a few here with some tips, but its best to get experimental and creative and add these spices in as many foods and beverages as possible. These spices are not specific to Ayurveda alone, but are used in everyday cooking in most cuisines.
Researching these spices was fun, but proved to be a tough job filtering information pertinent to this blog. I would love to write in detail about each spice some day when the need arises. But what stood out amongst all the spices was their power to combat inflammation in the body caused by the rising heat of summer. Thankfully, they are all everyday spices and not some exotic stuff that we have to go looking for. But it’s always best to go for organic produce like these.
Organic Mint :
People turn to mint most often as a remedy for bad breath, but there is more to this herb than being a mouth freshener. It is interesting how mint (pudhina) helps cool the body. See what Naina Marballi, an Ayurveda physician says “Packed with menthol, it helps soothe ‘pitta’ by dispersing heat and cooling you down by opening up the pores of the skin thereby encouraging sweating”.
- Add freshly picked mint to your summer salad or lemonade. Actually grow it in your backyard garden, even pot it. Its got its uses throughout the year.
- Did you know it eases indigestion and chest pains?
- It can relieve heart-burns.
- Can be used to lighten sun-damaged skin. Grind mint leaves, mix with rosewater and lemon juice and apply it to the affected areas.
Try this : Get a jar of infused water with watermelon and mint. Keep it refrigerated overnight and sip on it all day long.
Organic Fennel :
Fennel is known as saunf in India and widely used in many cuisines for its nutritional benefits. We are now adding its cooling properties to the list. It is also a popular mouth freshener in many cultures.
- They stimulate intestinal juices, hence aid in digestion. They are also known to reduce acid-reflux. Precisely why chewing a few fennel seeds is recommended before and after a meal.
- It is an excellent source of Vitamin C and is known to calm inflammation of the stomach and intestine which is on the rise in summer.
- Known to protect eyes from inflammation too.
Make this summer energiser : Soak fennel seeds in water overnight. Strain the water, add a pinch of sugar, black salt, lemon or anything else you like. Replace refined sugar with palm sugar for added benefits and drink it the next morning.
Organic Turmeric :
The golden hue of turmeric is mesmerizing visually and how it adds that dash of colour to food! It is also known as the wonder spice, Ayurveda’s favourite.
- Turmeric cleanses the liver and purifies blood.
- With the healthy chemical ‘circumin’ at its heart, turmeric promotes healthy heart functions.
- With its astringent properties, it acts as an inflammatory agent, is an anti allergen and an anti bacterial. All the above go into lending it excellent cooling properties.
Most of Indian cooking uses turmeric in at least one of the dishes, for our grannies knew better than us about its healing properties.
You must try this : You can make a delicious and soothing tea using honey and turmeric paste.
- Bring four cups of water to a boil.
- Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup, add honey and/or lemon to taste.
Organic Green Cardamom :
Just the word cardamom sends whiffs of flavourful fragrance to your olfactory senses. This is one spice that can be added to almost any Indian dish to add that ‘goodness aroma’ to food.
- It is known to counteract stomach acids and relieve stomach cramps.
- It is a good digestive aid, just why cardamom is added to most rich foods.
- Why, in India, it is even added to tea, making it ‘masala chai’!
Try This : Cardamom can be added to a cup of cold and warm milk alike to turn them into comfort beverages. Add it to lemonades, smoothies, desserts or simple plain yogurt.
Precious coriander is treasured in India, China, Europe and North Africa as a highly cooling herb, as also to flavour meats and vegetables. The seeds and the leaves of the coriander plant are both cooling when used in foods. In Europe, it is more popularly known as Cilantro.
- It is known to stabilise blood sugar and aids digestion.
- It tones down the inflammation in our bodies caused by the heat.
- It is known to contain oil in it that makes it a great relaxant.
- Coriander aids appetite and digestion.
Remember to eat this herb raw – when cooked it wilts and loses its flavour. Hence, chefs always sprinkle their dishes with the leaves for the finishing touch. But the seeds are almost always ground into fine powder to be used to flavour dishes while they get cooked.
Organic Saffron :
Saffron is another versatile spice that is widely used in sweets as well as curries and meats. This spice is known to be a mood enhancer and that is due to its cooling fragrance and flavour. It is even used in teas and beverages, adding a certain richness to every dish or beverage.
Try this summer beverage : Add some saffron and a couple of cardamom pods to boiling water and let it boil for a few seconds. Add tea bags to it and allow it to steep to the desired strength. Strain it and sweeten with your favourite sweetener.
Organic Cumin :
The very aroma of cumin is cooling. A savoury spice that adds oodles of taste to grain dishes, vegetable recipes and soups.
- Used in small amounts, it acts as a detoxifying and a cooling agent.
- It is known to remedy bloating issues due to accumulation of gas in the body.
- When someone around you has prickly heat issues, remember to include cumin in their diet.
- Drinking cumin water induces sleep and rest.
Beat the heat : Add Cumin powder to buttermilk to give that extra dollop of taste and cooling.
Organic Cinnamon :
Cinnamon is a spice that can cool in summer and warm you up in winter.
- It reduces inflammation, lowers cholesterol and increases brain power.
- It regulates blood sugar and here is something interesting, it can curb your cravings if you have a sweet tooth. So all those watching their weights, time to add cinnamon to your diet regularly.
The herbs and spices nature has provided us with are a bounty of health benefits. Very often, or almost always we tend to focus merely on the taste and flavour aspects. I stand guilty too till I started blogging about these spices. It helps if we are to use these everyday spices knowing their medicinal properties. One way of reminding ourselves is to probably make a chart of the spices and pin them on somewhere in the kitchen.
Just like so many of you I am going the organic way too, wherever and whenever I can. If you are looking to find all these spices under one roof, you could head to Hablis Hotels and buy their Hab-Life merchandise.
Hablis Hotels, 19 GST Road, Guindy, Chennai 600032, India, Tel : 91 44 4023 5555. Ask to be connected to SPICE restaurant to buy their merchandise.
Wishing Wellness ! So long !