Carminatives in Ayurveda
are herbs that aid in the dispelling and reduction of intestinal gas. They also typically enhance digestion, absorption, and the assimilation of nutrients. As such, carminatives are very important for pacifying disturbances of apana and samana vayu in the mahavaha srotas (small and large intenstines). All carminatives prevent the formation of ama (internal toxins from poor digestion) and some help eliminate or burn up the ama. In Sanskrit, these actions are called dipana (agni enhancers) and pachana (ama digesting).
Carminatives may be warming or cooling. The warmer carminatives generally aggravate pitta and are best for vata and kapha. They include ajwan, basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and garlic. Warm carminatives generally have a strengthening effect on samana vayu and thus increase agni.
Cooling carminatives are best for pacifying pitta dosha and stabilize samana vayu . They support agni without aggravating pitta. Cool carminatives include coriander, peppermint, chamomile, fennel and lime.
In summary: Use carminatives if you have gas. Choose the one that is best for your dosha. Vata vitiation causes the most gas but it does not smell much. Pitta vitiation causes less gas but it smells a lot. Kapha vitiation can also cause gas but it is strong and not as abundant as it is when vata is vitiated. It’s also sometimes said that the smell is pleasant.
Supremacy of Jaṭharāgni
There are many different agnis (fires, enzyme) in the body and mind. Ayurvedic students study the five bhutuagnis that reside in the liver and seven dhatuagnis that reside in the tissues. All play an important role in maintaining the health of the body. However, it is the jatharagni that is supreme among them all. What happens to the jatharagni, affects all other agnis.
Jaṭharāgni is the main digestive fire. Jaṭhara means stomach or abdomen. The agni that resides here controls all the fires of the body and mind. If it rises, so do the others. If it is diminished, so are the others. Hence, if digestion is healthy, the rest of the body has the best chance of being healthy. So does the mind. If digestion is not healthy, the rest of the body and mind can not be healthy.
In Ayurveda, optimal health of the body begins with healthy digestion!
Based in part on Caraka Samhita, Cikitssthana XV 38-41. Classes at the California College of Ayurveda begin year round. For more information, check out our website: ayurvedacollege.com. Be well, Be kind, Be love!
Avasthāpāka: The Three Stages of Digestion
The word avasthāpāka comes from two words, avasthā and pāka. Avasthā means “stage” and pāka means “digestion.” Thus, the term avasthāpāka means “the stage of digestion.”
There are three stages of digestion as food moves through the digestive tract. These stages are described by the location of the dominant doṣha acting on the food and its influence on the digestive process.
- The first stage of digestion is the kapha or sweet stage. This stage dominates in the mouth and the upper half of the stomach.Here the watery components of saliva and the alkaline secretions of the stomach mix with the food.
- The second stage of digestion is the pitta or sour stage. This stage dominates in the lower half of the stomach and the small intestine. Here the fiery components of the acid secretions of the stomach and the enzymes and bile within the small intestine mix with the food and further transform the food into āhāra rasa (nutrient substance used to build tissue )
- The third stage of digestion is the vāta or pungent stage. This stage dominates the activity within the large intestine. In this phase of digestion, the food remains (annakiṭṭa) undergo a drying process. Water is absorbed and the remaining indigestible earth element is discarded.
Digestion and Weight, Paschimottanasana,
This beautiful asansa offers many benefits to health and well-being. From a purely physical, structural perspective, its easy to see that this asana stretches the muscles of the lower back and hamstrings offering those who practice regularly greater flexibility in general. However, one of the most important benefits according to the texts of Hatha Yoga like the Siva Samhita is that this asana kindles agni – the power of digestion. In addition, the Siva Samhita states that this asana also brings mastery of vata dosha – the air the disturbs digestion. Hence, this asana reduces vata and kapha doshas. Those who have a pitta imbalance (vikruti) should use some caution as this asana increases heat. This is especially true if a person experience GERD or hyperacidity.
Because this asana helps balance both vata and kapha doshas, it can be used to help manage vata-kapha type weight gain. This is weight gain that has its origin in anxiety eating. Indeed, this asana is very grounding and centering – reducing anxiety. Combined with stabilizing or increasing agni, weight slowly comes off. Naturally, for this purpose, the practice should be combined with a vata-kapha pacifying diet and lifestyle.
Caution should be taken by those who have back problems caused by a disc herniation as this can aggravate the back pain. However, not all low back pain has it’s origin in the disc. Please take care and if there is pain, decrease or eliminate the practice.