Thursday, December 9, 2010

Curing Colds In The Kitchen

December 9, 2010
It is December and the weather has become colder and in some places more wet. Since this is typically the time of year where we are all more susceptible to colds, I thought I’d make my inaugural post about the different ways my family and I prevent and cure colds. Ever since I’ve been studying Ayurveda at Vedika Gurukula, we haven’t had anything more than a runny nose for a day or two in this house. Sometimes, I feel like an Ayurveda magician! Life is easier when you have a few tricks up your sleeve and I’m here to share what I’ve learned with you. These tips that I offer are very easy to handle for both you and your kids. When I break out the spoon with honey and spices, my one year old daughter goes “mmmmmmm!” before she even eats it.
Colds are a very common problem that we all have experienced: runny nose, sneezing, dryness. If not cared for, they can lead to worse infections in the body. For this reason, it is extremely important to learn how to eliminate the excess kapha [watery secretions in the body] and rebuild our system to health.
One of the causes of cold-like symptoms is weak digestion. This is something worth paying close attention to. 
Other causes to the common cold are exposure to cold or extremely wet conditions. This occurs because even though we think we are our own self-contained organism, we are not separate from our outside environment. Akasha (Ether), Prithvi (Earth), Aap (Water), Tejas (Fire) and Vayu (Wind) compose the Universe, including the human body. Hence, if it’s wet and cold outside, you may experience this in your own body.
When our creator, that one great intelligence, sometimes called God, sometimes Nature and sometimes referred to as 'IT" was (and is) creating the universe - the same building blocks were used. Hence, what connects each one of us is that we all are composed of the same essence (energy) and is that we are all essentially the same. Whatever difference that we perceive is not a qualitative one, merely quantitative. When we sit in front of the Grand Canyon or any other large splendour of nature we observe it's natural offering of space and stillness - and before long we embody the same stillness and space. When we sit by a lake or river we notice sentiments and hidden emotions arising in our hearts and a busy noisy city street aggravates anxious thought and sensations in spite of us.” – Shunya Pratichi Mathur For more information read about “Dance of the Doshas”
These Ayurvedic remedies involve using honey, warming herbs and spices to help you break down and force out mucus while re-kindling your digestive fire. While the idea of a snotty nose might not appeal to you, chances are that if you can transition from being ‘stuffed up’ to ‘blowing it all out,’ then you are well on your way to recovery.
There are many remedies out there that work and I encourage you to explore all the knowledge and information that is available. My intention with this post is to be a good resource for those unfamiliar with the healing powers that many common things in your kitchen hold. Start by really paying attention to how you/your kids feel afterwards. One suggestion is to keep a journal.
It is important to remember to not overdo any of these remedies. Since, many of them increase heat in the body, too much could create a whole new set of health problems.
Lets start with some basic things to avoid when preventing or curing a cold:
* Avoid cold foods and drinks.
* Avoid yeast, salt, cheese, yogurt, chocolate, and refined sugars and flours. All of these increase mucus.
* Avoid overeating, especially at night.
* Do not eat when you are not hungry.
* Avoid sweet and juicy fruits including oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, avocados, tomatoes, coconut and melons
* Do not eat between meals.

Tips for prevention:
* Follow the diet appropriate for your constitution and current condition
* Eat seasonally
* Takra - buttermilk (recipe below).
-It enhances agni [digestive fire] & like a nectar in cold season, BUT avoid when already have excess mucus and when it’s cloudy out. Do not drink after sunset.
- This is my daughter’s favorite! I believe it was her 4th word after "mama", "dada" and "more". I give it to her after or in place of meals. Even my dogs love it!
* Chyvanprash - The main ingredient amalaki is the richest natural source of vitamin C

* Neti pot – keep nasal passages healthy
* Use turmeric in cooking
First sign of mucus/cold:
* Trikatu w/ honey or trikatu w/ warm water - up to 3 times a day
-Trikatu is made up of Pippali (long pepper), Shunti (dry ginger) and Maricha (black pepper). It is available in powder & capsule form
* Cold Calm homeopathic medicine by Boiron (also available in pellets for kids!)
* Eat light foods (no dairy, wheat, sugar and fried foods)
* Don’t sleep in daytime even if tired
* Cinnamon w/ honey or cinnamon tea
* Turmeric w/ honey
* Licorice w/ honey – twice a day
* Ginger juice w/ honey
A quick note on honey –
It should always be raw and unheated. Heated honey creates toxicity in the body.
Honey also enhances the medicinal qualities of what it’s combined with and helps them to reach the deeper tissues.
Food :
Kitchadi (recipe below)
Mung Dal
Homemade chicken stock w/ turmeric ( for young kids, cook white basmati rice in the stock)
Eating only these foods or foods that are similar is most important for when feeling the onset of a cold or the cold is already full blown. You do not want to clog up your system anymore than it already is. These foods will help while most others will only hinder the progress you are trying to make.
Steam for congestion:
Boil eucalyptus oil/leaves and inhale steam
Boil dry ginger and inhale steam
Recipes of the day:
Ingredients -
  • 1 part - room temperature whole milk yogurt
  • 4 parts - water that is previously boiled but brought back to room temperature
1 part yogurt : 4 parts water
  1. hand whisk/churn yogurt with a molinillo (or use immersion blender)
  2. add water to yogurt
  3. churn until frothy
You can add digestive herbs such as fresh ginger/salt, cumin, curry leaves, trikatu.
Ingredient -
  • ½ cup white basmati rice
  • 1 cup mung dal (soak in water for a couple of hours)
  • 2 cups of vegetables – beans, greens, squash, carrot, etc
  • 1 pinch of hing (asaofetida)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 TBS of ghee
  • Himalayan rock salt (to taste)
  1. Heat ghee in pot
  2. Add hing
  3. Add cumin seed
  4. Add turmeric
  5. Swirl and add all of the ingredients
  6. Mix well
  7. Add 2 more cups of water
  8. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes on low-medium heat
  9. Add more ghee on top if desired and garnish with cilantro

There is a plethora of knowledge out there. These are just a start for some easy things to keep on hand. You don’t need to do all of these things. Give one or two a try and listen to your body. Then, share your comments below.


  1. stupid question- does putting honey in my hot tea count as warmed honey?

    also, how do you deal with all the staining that comes along with cooking with turmeric? It makes me a little crazy, I have yellow stains all over my kitchen!

  2. Sorry Cheryl but it does. You shouldn't mix honey into anything hot. It would be better to use a high quality raw or unrefined sugar.

    I'm not sure why you have stains. Our kitchen has no noticeable yellow stains and we use a lot of turmeric here for everything from food to skin care!

  3. this is great! i love it! looking forward to following your blog.

    please check out mine too at

    keep it up!~

  4. I wouldnt say we have no yellow stains. They are hard to get out of the bibs and the high-chair tray, but they are better than the sickies any day. Not to mention how cute lily looks when her face is yellow after licking a bowl of Kitchadi clean.

  5. very cool, iam going to try inhaling eucalyptus steam!

    one part i didnt get.....
    * Avoid sweet and juicy fruits including oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, avocadoes, tomatoes, coconut and melons
    i eat most of those. how are they detrimental?? i was under the impression that oranges provide vitamin c, tomatoes provide antioxidants, avocados healthy lipids and so on....

  6. I actually use both sugar and honey in my morning's so yummy!

  7. While it is true that oranges pack a lot of vitamin c, they are also sour and extremely moist. During the kapha times of year [winter/spring], it is best to avoid foods which are overly sweet, sour, salty, moist &/or oily. These kinds of food increase watery secretions in the body and don't contribute to maintaining a healthy internal environment during the winter and spring. All of those are just some examples of fruit which have these properties. Try fruits like apples, cranberries, raisins or pomegranate instead!

  8. Very awesome! I'm really happy at the timing of this...I've finally gotten off of prednisone(which the so called medical proffessionals refused to take me off of for 2 years bc of my rheumatoid arthritis...finally weened off slowly by myself), and so now am finally able to take herbal and natural remedies which, for some reason, I was told I could, under no circumstances, combine with steroid medications. I've just finally again started taking vitamin D, apple cider vinegar and Yerba mate extract, and some natural homeopathic remedies for my joint and nerve pain(FYI potassium and vitamin b12 are great for muscle and circulation problems, but DO NOT buy cheap...a lot of the cheap ones only have a small amount of the actual herb or vitamin, and a TON of filler ie glucose/yeast/shellfish?! I only get my herbs and vitamins from my acupuncturist or from a company in which my father is a distributor). I cook with turmeric a lot...I've always loved it...regarding the stains...immediately after cooking, if you are using wooden utensils, soak in a hot vinegar and water mixture, or instead of wooden, use metal utensils and stainless steel or copper cookware. I hate Teflon anyhow...Nasty stuff. And I kind of look at it as this: I love beets, which stain EVERYTHING bright red, so I use the same cookware for all if my satiny foods.

    My son had a horrible congestion/mucous problem, and I cut out dairy(making sure to still supplement with probiotics), and it was like magic, the problem was gone. Eating at night is a problem for me...busy days with my son cause me to realize I've barely eaten, so I end up pigging out at night...this has caused problems with my sleep, digestion, acidity levels, and mood...I make sure to always have a couple of clif bars(or soyjoy or whatever you prefer) in my purse at all times...I also stopped eating any carbs after early afternoon. If I get hungry at night I drink a yogurt smoothie or something comparable...

    Thank you so much for your info...I'll email you about a couple of other questions I have re your opinion on some other remedies and supplements I have been debating rock, btw! I love this blog :)

  9. Oops...stainy foods, not satiny...although satiny foods made me think of silk and then I thought of franch silk pie and got hungry...dang it...

  10. So the one thing I am really confused about- don't sleep during the day even if tired? Sleep is one of the best things you can do when sick. Studies show it is one of the best cures for the common cold. And of course kids who nap once a day- need it even more when they are sick... Hmmm...

  11. You are amazing! Can't wait to be an Ayurmama myself!

  12. Ani, I should have been more clear but I was referring to adults when I said dion't sleep in the daytime. Young children on the otherhand should be taking their regular naps. Sleeping in the daytime is seen as a very harmful thing in Ayurveda with only a few exceptions. It is one of the many things that increases kapha in the body. It may show up as a dullness of mind or heavy feeling in the body. If you have ever napped in the daytime then you probably know what Im talking about. I know that I get that all the time and typically regret taking the nap. Also, Im not sure what studies you are talking about. I havent ever read that. Im not saying don't sleep when you are sick. It is very important to get the right amount at the proper time! Also, if you cant possibly keep your eyes open then it is more than ok to not fight that urge. Just dont give in to that little voice which says to lay around and sleep to pass the cold away. It's a trick! Hope this clarifies it a little bit!

  13. Ummm is it possible to die from a cleanse? Because that's how I feel right now...either I have a lot of toxins or else something is seriously please?

  14. what would you suggest as a vegetarian alternative to chicken soup (especially given your recommendation to avoid salty foods)?

    thank you

  15. a light vegetable soup with warming herbs and spices. a soup made with split mung & spices is also an easy, healthy meal when feeling like you may be coming down with a cold. there are plenty of options!

  16. I love this stuff Lisa, but there are a LOT of rules. This is a lot to take in and remember. I was planning on ordering some organic oranges from Florida, guess I shouldn't do that now? Oranges are one of the easiest things I can get Cadie to eat. Strawberries too but obviously they are out of season and who knows how many vitamins are actually in them by the time they get eaten.

    I hope Lily stays a good eater for you. This is a frustrating stage, although it has gotten a bit better recently now that her molars are all in.