India’s woodlands are home to an inexhaustible wealth of medicinal and aromatic plants. Many of these spices have been used in Ayurveda for centuries. Exactly which herbs or spices one uses will depend on personal taste, the effect of the herb or spice, the illness being treated and the individual constitution of the patient. Every plant has its own Taste: Sweet, Sour, Salt, Bitter, Pungent or Astringent.

By adding spices to our food we can achieve very specific results. In winter, for example, Pitta-strengthening spices are recommended. Spice mixtures, too, such as masalas or curry powder, can be used in line with ayurvedic principles providing one is aware of the qualities of the respective mixture and its effects on Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Kapha-types should, in principle, use Pungent spices. Vata types should also spice their food, though not as much as Kapha. Pitta types should use mild spices, and sparingly.

The following glossary will introduce you to the most popular spices in the ayurvedic kitchen and lists their most important qualities and effects.


  • Ajwain
    is Pungent and Bitter and reduces Kapha. It is good for the bronchial tubes and is used for treating cramps and flatulence.


    is Pungent and reduces Vata. It calms the intestines and stimulates digestion. 


    has a pungent taste, reduces Vata and Kapha and strengthens Pitta. It stimulates the intestine and the digestive fire (Agni) and assists the intestinal/gut flora.


    Fenugreek seeds
    are Bitter, Pungent and, at the same time, Sweet. They reduce Vata and Kapha and strengthen Pitta; they help counter debility and stress; they strengthen the nerves and are a real fountain of youth.


    Chilli peppers
    are Pungent and reduce Kapha. They absorb a lot of solar energy and so stimulate the digestion and blood circulation. They should be used carefully in cases of inflammation.


    Curry leaves
    are Bitter and Pungent. They reduce Kapha and Pitta, cleanse the blood and stimulate the pancreas.


    is Sweet and Pungent. It balances all three doshas, strengthens the digestion, reduces flatulence and helps relieve intestinal cramps. It calms the nerves and promotes sleep.


    is Pungent (fresh ginger) or Sweet (dried ginger). It is beneficial for all three doshas and particularly calms Vata. Ginger warms, stimulates the digestion and the appetite, assists the intestinal/gut flora, is antiseptic and loosens mucous in the bronchial tubes.


    reduces all doshas, and has a general strengthening effect, including on the heart and memory. Cardamom stimulates the gall bladder and thus the whole digestive system. It cleanses the breath and is very good for treating coughs.

  • Garlic
    contains all six Tastes, apart from Sour, and strengthens all the doshas. It reduces blood pressure and cholesterol, alleviates rheumatism, detoxifies and purges. 


    Coriander seeds are dry, Pungent and Bitter. The fresh leaves are Sweet, Bitter and Pungent. Coriander promotes digestion and stimulates the appetite; it helps alleviate inflammations of the intestinal and urinary tracts.


    is Pungent and Bitter and strengthens the digestive fire, Agni. It stimulates the digestion; is effective against constipation and flatulence; relieves pain; and is effective as a general stimulant, diuretic and blood cleanser. 


    is Pungent, Bitter and Astringent. It stimulates the appetite, assists the intestinal flora, reduces flatulence, disinfects both inside and outside the body and is therefore good for treating wounds.


    are Bitter and Pungent. They are good for treating colds, toothache, influenza and coughs. They promote lymph drainage and relieve pain.


    is Pungent. It stimulates Pitta and reduces Kapha. It strengthens the digestive fire, Agni; burns off waste products in the body and should always be added to raw food.


    Mustard seeds 
    are Pungent, Bitter and Astringent. They reduce Kapha and Vata and increase Pitta. They reduce sweat and mucous, promote mental calm and clarity and calm the heart.


    is Pungent and Bitter. It heats strongly, stimulates the appetite, warms the kidneys, increases urination and stimulates blood circulation. 



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