The Wisdom of Ayurveda
A Wholistic Science of Life
The ancient Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine offers comprehensive healing and wellness strategies for all physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life. A truly wholistic system encompassing science, philosophy and yogic teachings, Ayurveda is as much a system of medicine as it is a way of life. The word Ayurveda comes from two Sanskrit words, “ayur” meaning life and “veda” meaning science or knowledge. This “science of life” not only seeks to bring balance to the body, but also stillness to the mind and is a vehicle for achieving self-realization and a harmonious connection to the larger world.
Ayurvedic principles arise out of the concept of the three Gunas, the three primary energetic forces known as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, from which the five elements known as ether, air, fire, water and earth are formed. The five elements correspond to the five senses and influence how we react to and perceive the world we live in. They also combine to form the principle of the doshas, or Ayurvedic constitutions.
One is born with a particular doshic dominance, which determines one’s core constitution. To manage health and balance the body, proper balancing of the doshic energies throughout one’s life is critical. The three constitutions are vata (comprised of ether and air), pitta (fire and water) and kapha (earth and water). Ayurveda also characterizes 6 primary tastes known as Rasa, such as sweet, sour, salty, astringent, bitter and pungent that are associated with other energetic attributes such as hot, cold, wet, dry, heavy or light that are used to balance the doshas.
An imbalance of excess kapha energy for example may present itself as water retention, weight issues, sluggishness and congestion. From an Ayurvedic perspective, warming herbs such as ginger and turmeric and the avoidance of cold, damp foods would be indicated to decrease excess kapha. This is a gross simplification of a highly complex system, but it provides a sense of one of the core concepts used by Ayurvedic practitioners.
Central to Ayurveda is a vast repertoire of plant-based medicines and foods. Herbs such as Holy Basil, Turmeric, Amla, Shatavari, Ashwagandha and Gotu Kola are just a few examples of some of the powerful plants that are commonly used as daily rejuvenating, nutritive tonics. Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is one of the most revered herbs in Ayurveda. Known as Tulsi or the “incomparable one” Holy Basil is an adaptogen that has the ability to reduce cortisol, inflammation, lower blood pressure and calm the mind.
For many, incorporating new herbs in the diet can be daunting. Without having to visit an Ayurvedic practitioner, something as simple as incorporating Ayurvedic herbs in the form of teas into one’s daily diet can provide subtle, but significant shifts. Drinking herbal tea blends is a gentle way to introduce these herbs while still getting some phyto-therapeutic benefits.
A UK based company, Pukka Herbs has been creating award-winning Ayurvedic tea blends for the past ten years with the intention to inspire healthier lives through the power of Ayurvedic herbs, one incredible cup of Pukka tea at a time. Translated from Hindi to mean ‘just right,’ ‘genuine’ or, more colloquially, ‘top-quality’, Pukka brings the wisdom of Ayurveda to a larger audience in an authentic, accessible way. Creating balanced, flavourful tea blends that are aromatic as well as therapeutic is an art as much as it is a science. With such a vast tradition, understanding the synergistic pairings of certain herbs and the ratios required to create balance is very much dependent on the experience and understanding of the teasmith. Masterfully blended by Ayurvedic herbalist Sebastian Pole, each tea blend is truly a magical sensory experience with subtle benefits.
Founded by Sebastian Pole and Tim Westwell, Pukka is committed to Certified Organic, sustainably grown and ethically sourced herbs. The teas are Certified Organic and Soil Association Organic, gluten-free and kosher with some teas being Fair Trade and Fair Wild. Pukka has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund raising over 57,000 pounds last year in support of an ecological project to protect and restore natural habitats through the Living Himalayas Initiative.
With over 30 flavours and growing, Pukka teas offer a wide range of blends from uplifting teas to those that help one unwind. Detox tea contains fennel seed, aniseed, cardamom and licorice to soothe digestion and gently cleanse. Relax tea contains herbs such as Chamomile, Licorice, Fennel, Cardamom, Ginger and Marshmallow. Serene Jasmine Green is a unique combination of green jasmine with the calming influence of such herbs as chamomile, limeflower, elderflower, rose and lavender.
For those seeking to reduce coffee consumption or simply increase hydration, incorporating different herbal teas throughout the day is a wonderful strategy. It is amazing how something so simple can have such an impact on one’s energy, mood, mental clarity and ability to fall asleep at night. Beyond enjoying these blends as hot teas, one can also use the infused teas as a base for smoothies, cold drinks and other recipes.
It is fascinating that Ayurveda was dismissed as folkloric medicine by British colonialists in the mid 1800s when Ayurvedic schools were closed and the system was secretly kept alive and practiced in villages and temples. In 1947, when India gained independence, so too did Ayurveda resurface and today it is flourishing. People are in need more than ever of the ancient herbal wisdom of this incredible system. What better way to open that portal than to brew a relaxing cup of tea.
Renita Rietz is a health and nutrition writer and speaker who educates on the phytotherapeutic potential of indigenous foods and plants for prevention and regeneration.