The shift to springtime weather and energy has begun. Fickle, changing hot-and-cold days send mixed signals to the body. This natural weather flux demands more flexibility in the body, because the body senses the shift of seasons on a cellular level and begins a natural detox. Many of us experience that, during the cold weather, we tend to eat more. Eating more then is natural, as it is Vata-pacifying (Vata is the mind-body operating principle that governs movement and is associated with fall and winter). The extra weight naturally keeps us warmer and feeling more comfortable in the cold winter months. We have all had the experience of feeling cold when we have missed our main meal. Food is the fuel that allows our metabolism to keep us at normal body temperature. This increase of winter food can also lead to the build-up of ama, or toxins. Animals living in nature slim down in the spring, losing their winter fat, and we humans, by design, naturally move in the same direction. Ayurveda has long recognized that different things are happening inside of us during each season. Ayurveda honors that “change within” and recognizes – and supports – that the body wants to do something different as the seasons come and go.
Spring is invigorating. It’s a time of renewal and rejuvenation. The sunlight and warmth return. Life leaves behind the chilly winter silence and starts to stir again. Cleansing is natural in spring – we often feel a deep urge to rid ourselves of old unwanted items and create a new space. Ayurveda understands this deeply-seated tendency as something very significant: a powerful natural movement within; a physiological trend to clean out. Ayurveda offers a great number of tools for just such deep cleansing.
The Winter Ama Build-up
Over winter, toxins can build up in the body. They find their way into us through foods, the air, water, chemicals, GMOs, pollution and preservatives. Our own digestive fire, called agni in Ayurveda, also plays a role. Overeating during the holidays, and overall poor eating habits, can dampen agni and lead to a build-up of ama – which results in sluggishness, extra pounds, poor sleep or worse. Pressure from work, family and financial concerns may also build up and bog you down physically and mentally.
The build-up of ama, or undigested material, ends up stored in our cells, circulatory and microcirculatory channels, slowing everything down and gumming everything up, including the digestion and elimination processes. The Ayurvedic solution is this: given an opportunity, the body will detox naturally – it’s built to do that.
At-Home Ayurvedic Detoxification
Ancient Herbal Formulations – Ayurvedic formulas carefully crafted by Maharishi Ayurveda can help the detoxifying process any time of the year. There are two formulas in particular that can gently and efficiently jump-start a refreshing, springtime cleanse.
Using 18 traditional Ayurvedic herbs, Elim-Tox works to detoxify the colon and digestive tract. It continues on to cleanse the liver, sweat glands, blood, nutritive fluids and fat tissue. Each pore is purified as the micro-channels of the body release waste, and cellular pathways for vital nutrients are renewed.
Elim-Tox-O is a similar but gentler formula for those who experience heartburn, acne and excess stomach acid (tendency toward Pitta imbalance). Absorption of nutrients is promoted as the liver gently detoxes. At the same time the blood, fatty tissues and muscles are purified.
Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) contains three revered Ayurvedic fruits — Amla, Chebulic myrobalan and Belleric myrobalan. It accomplishes two important tasks overnight: creating ojas, the finest by-product of balanced digestion, and strengthening and balancing agni, the digestive fire. Each of the herbs in this traditional formulation rejuvenates and supports wellness. It is an Ayurvedic Rasayana, acknowledged for its ability to nourish at the deepest levels of the body and mind. For this, it is considered one of the most valuable Ayurvedic herbal preparations in the world. In addition, a fourth ingredient, Cabbage Rose, is added to support the synergy of the other ingredients and promote their effectiveness.
Supporting Spring Immunity
Beej-bhumi: Immunity is traditionally explained in Ayurveda using the beej-bhumi illustration. It means “seed and land.” The body is the land, and pathogens are seeds. If the body is filled with ama and lacking in ojas (the finest product of good digestion), the pathogens find fertile ground for growing. If digestion is strong, and ojas rather than ama predominates in the body, then the seeds don’t take root.
Take a Breath: Everyone is more susceptible to respiratory problems when the seasons are changing, such as in the fall and early spring. This is because the body functions differently in each season, and in the transition between the hot and cold seasons the agni, or digestive fire, can start to fluctuate dramatically. If you do not adjust your diet and routine and follow the Ayurvedic guidelines for the seasonal transitions, you can build up ama. The soil is then primed to grow a seed.
That is why respiratory issues and allergen reactions abound for some in the fall and early spring. In the early spring, there is an added factor, because ama accumulated during the winter starts to dissolve in our system, flooding the micro-channels and overloading the immune system. The body’s immune system is weakened, and becomes a fertile ground for bacteria. In the case of allergens, the body misidentifies and attacks itself, resulting in the allergen symptoms that make us feel so uncomfortable.
Bio-Immune combines traditional purifying herbs with Ayurvedic minerals, including mica. Because it is made traditionally, it takes over six months to prepare! The herbs and minerals together help the immune system without side effects. This herbal combination also helps eliminate digestive impurities and toxins that can affect natural immunity. Bio-Immune tablets, Sniffle Free tablets, and Cold Weather Defense tablets are all immune-promoting herbal supplements that you can take during the winter and spring season to support respiratory health. The herbs in Bio-Immune promote neuro-immune responses, purify the liver and blood, and dissolve ama and amavisha (a more reactive form of ama that has settled in one part of the body). Take one or two tablets of Bio-Immune each morning and evening to support overall immunity.
Premium Amla Berry (formerly ReGen Vitality) – a potent Rasayana (nourishing blend of herbs) for overall rejuvenation. Good nutrition requires a balance of the six Ayurvedic tastes — sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Amla is one of just a handful of herbs that contain five of the six taste categories — all except lavan, or salty. Such balanced nutrition means that Amla helps balance all three of the basic operating principles of mind and body — Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Taken in combination with Bio-Immune and Organic Digest Tone, it is a powerhouse for supporting immunity.
Cold Weather Defense promotes the body’s natural defenses by offering nutritional support. The herbs have a variety of functions:
- Promote well-being and comfort
- Help balance the moisture level and mucus in the lungs and sinuses
- Aid digestion for decreased production of toxic food residues
- Help remove toxins that can weaken resistance
- Nourish the body’s natural defense mechanism
Sniffle Free – Cold weather can compromise your body’s ability to handle cold temperatures that can dampen the digestive fire (agni) and weaken the body. Sniffle Free supports natural agni, which is often compromised by colder weather. This formula also aids your resistance to the cold, helps lubricate the lungs and helps restore your body’s balance of moisture and mucus.
Organic Genitrac – The traditional Ayurvedic herbs in this formulation help cleanse and purify the urinary tract. When the urinary tract isn’t functioning properly, toxins accumulate, breeding bacteria, which leads to more toxins, further impeding urination. One out of five women will be affected by a urinary tract issue. While it’s much rarer for men to experience urinary tract issues, it can be much more serious when they do. The best approach is to maintain the health of the genitourinary tract in the first place.
There a number of Ayurvedic herbals supporting immunity. The complete list can be found here.
Best Ama-Burning Diet Tips
Spring is an ideal time to do gentle purification treatments called Panchakarma. The transition periods between the seasons, in fall and the early spring, are when the body is primed to purify itself of accumulated toxins. Maharishi Panchakarma includes a full program of Ayurvedic massage, steam baths and intestinal cleansing treatments, to rid your body of ama accumulated during the previous season. Panchakarma also strengthens your agni, or digestive fire, so more ama won’t be accumulated.
If you can’t go to a clinic for panchakarma, you can still follow an Ayurvedic regimen at home to cleanse the body of ama during the transition between the seasons. Diet is key. Eating warm, light, nourishing foods such as soups, or light meals of mildly-spiced vegetables with grains such as quinoa, couscous and millet, helps the body cleanse. Enjoying a lighter diet for a few weeks while the weather is changing helps burn away ama rather than accumulate it. Lots of rest at the optimal times is a powerful, age-old secret of Ayurveda. So is drinking plenty of warm fluids, daily walks and other exercise suitable for your body type.
If you feel less hungry at mealtimes than usual, or if you feel heavy and dull in the two hours immediately after a meal, these are indications that your digestive fire is burning low. To help enhance your agni, make a delicious Pomegranate Chutney to accompany your meal.
Cooking your food with immune-supporting spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander, turmeric, ginger and black pepper is also an important way to enhance agni and reduce ama.
You can also take one tablet of the Maharishi Ayurveda herbal supplement Herbal Di-Gest with each meal to promote digestion or, if Organic Digest Tone does not stimulate elimination, take two to three capsules of Herbal Cleanse at night if you are feeling constipated from time to time.
Consider adding the traditional Ayurvedic herbs that support respiratory health. Protection Plus Respiratory System contains 26 herbs that act synergistically to protect the lungs from respiratory problems. This formula separates ama from the Shleshaka Kapha, the subdosha related to joint lubrication and body fluids, making it easier to cleanse the lungs. It also cleanses the channels of ama and nurtures, lubricates, and restores balance to the lungs as the impurities are dissolved, supporting the body’s natural immunity.
You can also drink a warm, immune-supporting tea such as Sniffle Free Tea twice a day, with your meal or after it. The herbs in this thermogenic tea will help balance Kapha immediately. If your head is feeling heavy or congested, you can also use Sniffle Free Aroma oil to help create balance and clear the sinuses.
Tips for a Deep Spring Detox
- Take advantage of the abundance of fresh organic spring greens and organic grains, and include them in your daily diet.
- Enjoy organic fruit, juices and whole milk rather than more-processed options.
- Drink plenty of purified water. Consuming at least 2 quarts a day will help flush out toxins.
- Enjoy exercise outdoors on a regular basis.
- Favor foods that are warm, light and easy to digest.
- Reduce or avoid red meat, refined and canned foods, salt, coffee, dairy products and alcohol.
(Cover photo of Cherry Blossoms By faungg, Flickr Creative Commons)
(Amla photo By-lalithamba, Flickr Creative Commons)
(Waterfall photo By-narin, Flickr Creative Commons)
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.
This article originally appeared on the vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda website and is used here with permission.