Spice Churnas
from Ayurveda Today, Volume 19, Number 2, Fall 2006

One simple way of turning food from any culture into Ayurvedic fare is to use a spice blend (churna or masala). Churnas can be taken with almost any food—before, during or after a meal—to improve digestion. According to Ayurvedic guidelines for optimal digestion, all six tastes should be present in the main meal of the day. Using a churna is an excellent way to include all six tastes.

Churnas are best used with a meal, but can be taken as a simple remedy for indigestion between meals. Use as an antidote when you can’t control what you eat, e.g., when eating out, by sprinkling ½ teaspoon over food or by taking the same quantity with a little warm water before or after meals to enhance digestion.

Dried spices are a bit ‘sleepy’ in nature and it is best to wake them up before use to benefit from their therapeutic effects. Dormant spices can be enlivened by sautéing in ghee or oil (more ghee/oil for vata, less for pitta). Ghee or oil acts as a vehicle via which the spices can be transported to the tissues. For kapha, dry roast the spices.

Other ways to use churnas include dressing salads: add 1 tsp. churna to a mixture of 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive or flax seed oil and 2 tsp. lime; and spicing up popcorn: toss churna with melted ghee and drizzle over freshly popped popcorn.

To get started, here are some ideas of spice blends that you can create for yourself. The

 

Spices in Kathmandu, Durbar Squareamount of each spice is up to you, descending in quantity as you go down each list. You may also choose spices from your doshic list, mixing and matching for dual doshas. Mineral salt (also known as “Real SaltĀ®) and SucanatĀ® are optional; however, adding them brings all six tastes into the mixture, aligning with the Ayurvedic principle of all six tastes in a meal. Salt helps to pull the spices together.

There’s also the possibility of adding raw ginger root (grated or sliced) for vata or kapha. However, this needs to be done at the last minute and the churna must be used the same day. The same applies for fresh turmeric root, when in season. Chopped fresh mint is a nice addition for pitta.

To preserve the energetic nature of the spices, it is preferable to grind the seeds by hand in a mortar and pestle or suribachi. An alternative is to use an electric coffee grinder whose use is reserved for this purpose.

Vata (warming and calming)
Cardamom seeds
Fennel seeds
Cumin seeds
Dry ginger powder
Turmeric
Sucanat
Mineral salt
Hing

 

Pitta (cooling)
Fennel seeds
Cumin seeds
Coriander seeds
Cardamom seeds
Turmeric
Sucanat
Mineral salt

     

Kapha (stimulating)
Dry ginger powder
Black pepper
Cumin
Fenugreek
Cinnamon
Turmeric
Sucanat
Mineral salt

 

A suribachi is an earthenware mortar and pestle, used in Japanese cooking.

Churna: a combination of ground spices; Sanskrit word for “powder”

Masala: a spice blend; Hindi word for spices; a seasoning made by blending dry roasted and ground spices such as garam masala

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Michele Schulz's love for Ayurveda began more than 15 years ago and infuses her offerings of nutrition, cooking, and yoga. From her adoptive home of France and internationally, Michele gives Ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle consultations, as well as cooking and yoga workshops. Michele gives courses and consultations internationally and can be contacted at micheleschulz@gmail.com.

Spices in Durbar Square, Kathmandu © Michele Schulz, 2009
 
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