The fruit of the Amla tree (amalaki) contains the highest amount of vitamin C than any other known source. There is approximately 750 mg of vitamin C in 10g of fresh fruit. Visually, it looks like a large white grape when fresh. If a person found an amla tree and bit into the fruit, they would experience an extremely sour taste, but the flavor soon turns sweet. (After amla has been cooked and processed in medicinal form, it will no longer have an extremely sour taste- it will be just mildly sour.)
Even though Amalaki is sour, it has a cooling effect on the body- making it especially useful for pacifying the pitta dosha. Normally the sour taste is contraindicated for individuals with high pitta in their bodies. However, amla has a prabhava, or special quality of cooling, and is an exception to this rule.
Like many ayurvedic herbs, Amalaki works on many systems in the body. For example, it can increase reproductive fluids and sexual potency- so is considered an aphrodisiac. It has an affinity toward the rakta dhatu, or blood tissue. Due to this, it purifies the blood, is a heart tonic, and can heal bleeding disorders. It can also lower cholesterol and help rectify arterial damage.
Digestively speaking, Amla is especially useful in inflammatory disorders- such as ulcers, colitis, gastritis, and bleeding conditions. In small doses, it can be constipating, but in large doses it can be a laxative. It extracts toxins from the liver. It has the rare quality of increasing agni, or digestive fire, without aggravating the pitta dosha.
Amla can increase energy- so it is a great immune system tonic and builder. It is a main ingredient in Cyanaprasa- the superb and ancient Ayurvedic rejuvenative tonic. It can be used to strengthen a person if they are weak or experiencing debility. In addition to being rejuvenating, this herb has been called an adaptogen and has been indicated in slowing the aging process. It increases virility, vitality, and is an immune-restorative.
Amalaki pacifies vitiated sadhak pitta, which is a sub-dosha of pitta that deals with the way information is digested in the mind. In other words, if a person is feeling mentally “on fire” or aggravated, amla can help relieve this. It has been known to impart a peaceful state of mind and quality of wellbeing on a person’s psyche.
Amla is also very nourishing for the hair. You will find it in ayurvedic hair products or in henna hair powders as a conditioner and nourishing ingredient. It alleviates hair loss and early greyness as well.
1. Use fresh spices.
Spices are a kitchari essential and if you are using stale, old, lifeless spices that have been sitting in your cabinet for over a year, well your kitchari may just taste lifeless too. By using fresh spices, you will be able to smell, taste, and feel the difference in ANY kitchari recipe…. and don’t be shy. Kitchari should be a beautiful golden color with specs of browns and blacks. If your kitchari is a pale yellow, you may need to add another dash of turmeric to your pot!
Freshness tip: Try to make sure your powdered spices are less than 6 to 9 months old, your whole spices are less than a year old, and they are stored in an airtight glass jar out of the sunlight.
2. Sauté the spices before cooking the kitchari. Please do not simply add your spices into your already made kitchari! By taking a moment to sauté them in a small amount of ghee, oil or dry before the cooking process, you will undoubtedly enhance the flavor and aroma of your meal. In fact, your whole house will smell of delicious spice, your mouth will begin to water, and your digestive fire will be awakened!
Sauté tip: Sauté any whole seeds in the hot oil for about 2 minutes stirring frequently (they should begin to pop or crackle when done). The powdered spices will burn more quickly and should be only sautéed for 30 to 60 seconds, stirring constantly. This process should be done as the first step to your recipe and then the water can be added directly to the same pot after the spices (and onion, etc) have been sautéed.
3. Use fresh ginger and freshly ground black pepper. Replacing your powdered ginger with finely minced fresh ginger will give any kitchari recipe more life and zing! Freshly ground black peppercorns will provide much more flavor. Although dry ginger will still bestow many health benefits, many people’s pre-ground black pepper tends to be very old, dull, grey, and yes, lifeless. Black pepper has so much flavor and so many health properties, but to really utilize them, we must think fresh!
4. Keep it exciting – switch up the ingredients! Kitchari traditionally consists of mung dal, basmati rice, ghee, and spices. This is a great basic base, but if you plan to eat kitchari regularly, this will simply not do. I make kitchari using whole mung beans, red lentils, mung dal, or chana dal depending on my day’s preference. I also may use red rice, brown rice, quinoa, millet, or basmati for the grain. And when it comes to vegetables, the possibilities are quite vast – carrots, beets, bitter greens, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato. . . OH MY! Even the choice of spices can greatly change the flavor. Get creative!
By choosing these various ingredients, you can change the flavor, the energetics (heavy, light, heating, cooling, etc), and even the healing properties of any kitchari recipe!
5. Keep it healing – focus on health.
Whether you are looking to calm your Vata, lose weight, strengthen your bones, or cleanse your liver, there is a kitchari recipe out there for you! You would want to use more heavy and nourishing kitchari ingredients such as basmati rice, sweet potato, and beets if your Vata is high, while focusing more on stimulating and lightening ingredients such as quinoa, onion, garlic, chili pepper, and bitter greens during times of weight loss. Similarly you will want to add in some calcium-rich ingredients for improving bone health (think sesame seeds, broccoli, leafy greens), and some liver-healing foods for liver cleansing (think bitter greens, fresh lemon juice, red rice, and olive oil). No matter your healthcare needs, adding in or switching up your typical kitchari ingredients will give you more variety and more focused healing!
6. Keep it Seasonal
Focus on season. Keeping your kitchari ingredients seasonal, will allow more variety of flavor throughout the year, while also providing you with the freshest, most nutrient-rich, and environmentally friendly ingredients.Not to mention mother nature is oh-so-wise and these seasonal vegetables will help to keep you in balance – no matter the time of year! Sweet potato, beets, carrots, and winter squash are in season during fall and winter and will help to keep you grounded and warm. Zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower are freshest in the spring and summer seasons and will keep you cool and hydrated. 7. Use tasty condiments When it comes to kitchari, there are so many scrumptious additions to add to your dish. Each condiment will bring its own unique flavor – and health benefits too! The list is really endless but my absolute favorites are a spicy chutney (or any chutney you desire), shredded coconut, toasted sesame seeds, a scoop of tahini, chopped cilantro, fresh lemon or lime juice, and/or toasted almond slivers or cashew pieces.
As you can imagine, each condiment will add its specific qualities. For example, adding a scoop of yummy tahini to a bowl of kitchari will instantly give it some creaminess, bulkiness, warmth, and a delicious sesame seed flavor; whereas adding in some chopped cilantro will increase the cooling, cleansing properties of the meal and provide its own uniquely, delicious flavor. Mix and match and see (or rather taste) the possibilities as they unfold!
8. Add some ghee to your bowl! Whether you have used ghee to cook your kitchari with or not, I highly recommend adding a bit extra to your bowl upon serving. Adding in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ghee (per bowl) to your kitchari, directly before you are ready to take your first bite, will give your meal a very delicious flavor that will stand out! In the cooking process the taste gets lost, so if you like add a little more and enjoy!
9. Use broth as a base.
If you really want to yummy up your kitchari recipe, this recommendation will not disappoint!Replacing the water in any kitchari recipe with a broth of choice (bone, chicken, veggie, etc – homemade is best), will give a delicious flavor and yes, more health benefits!This recommendation is great during the fall and winter months when you are needing a bit more nutrition, healing, and warmth. It is also great during times of illness, Vata imbalance, and when you are coming off of a cleanse. Of course, I use broth anytime I simply want to add a delicious flavor and some excitement to my everyday kitchari meals.
10. Share the love, eat in good company, and always be grateful! Keeping to this recommendation can make any meal more enjoyable (and healing).It is always best to share your meals and when they are cooked by you, it makes it all the more special! If no one in your house wants your kitchari (sadly I can relate), then the next best thing is to sit, eat, and enjoy your meal in good company and good (light) conversation. If you are alone in your home, well then sit, breath in the aroma, enjoy the silence around you, and give thanks and blessings for your delicious meal!
11. Reheat the right way Reheating meals is not recommended if you are wanting to follow a strict Ayurvedic diet.However, reheating is a reality for many of us (including myself!), and I personally believe that reheating a bowl of kitchari instead of eating out, making a frozen meal, or eating processed pre-made food is still a healthier option.So, if you have made a large pot of kitchari to eat for the next couple of days, here are some essential tips to reheating the right way!
Use a stove top and always avoid microwaves
Heat slow and evenly stirring often
Only reheat what you need – never reheat any food more than once!
Use turmeric and fresh lemon (or lime) juice in your original kitchari recipe to help preserve the kitchari (and its health benefits!)
Kitchari tends to dry out when refrigerated – add in 1/4 cup of water or broth to make it moist again (if needed)
Add a small amount of fresh spices (e.g. turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt) when reheating your meal to awaken the flavor
Add fresh ghee and condiments (cilantro, lemon juice, etc) after reheating each serving
Store the extra kitchari in an airtight glass container
Eat within 1 to 2 days
12. Cut Vegetables fresh for each batch I have learned that once metal cuts through vegetables, they begin to oxidize and lose prana & vitality. Therefore, if you can and it’s practical chop your vegetables while kitchari is cooking.
Mung dal Mung dal is the split version of the mung bean and is used in any traditional kitchari recipe for its high nutrient content and easy-to-digest nature. This recipe utilizes an exaggerated amount of liquid making the mung dal even more digestible and easy on the stomach. If mung dal is not available, one can replace this with an equal amount of split red lentils.
Basmati rice Basmati rice is a kitchari essential due to its soft nature and easy-to-digest properties. Eating the basmati rice along with the mung dal creates a “perfect protein” meaning it provides all of the 9 essential amino acids. If basmati rice is not preferred, one can replace this with an equal amount of long grain white rice or white quinoa.
Fresh lemon juice Fresh lemon juice is used to add a touch of immune boosting vitamin C while simultaneously aiding in the flushing of toxins and providing us with essential digestive enzymes.
Fresh ginger Fresh ginger is unparalleled in its ability to heal during times of illness. Some of its major health benefits include boosting the digestion and immunity, detoxifying the system, relieving nausea, promoting sweating and alleviating fever.
Spices (black pepper, turmeric, cumin, fennel, brown mustard seed) These spices have been carefully chosen as they all are well known for their digestive enhancing properties. Utilizing these spices during illness will aid in flushing the system, killing off unwanted bacteria and viruses, promoting sweating and reducing fever.
Ghee Ghee is another kitchari essential as it is known to boost the digestive fire, promote healthy elimination and increase our vital immunity and energy (Ojas).
Garlic When used properly, this heating vegetables is very effective at stimulating the digestive fire and detoxifying the system. Garlic is a potent immune-boosting, antimicrobial agent and is very beneficial for the system during times of illness (in moderation).
Green onion Green onion has been added to help spark the digestion, add a bit of flavor and provide us with some much needed vitamins (spec A, C, K). Studies have shown this tasty condiment to enhance immune function.
There are many kitchari variations listed under the Easy & Delicious Recipe category of my blog and for detailed instructions on how I cook Kitchari, please see The Art of Cooking Kitchari.
I hope this was insightful and I would love to hear from you with any comments or questions! 🙂
So what is Kitchari exactly? Kitchari is a traditional Indian dish with the main ingredients of mung dal and basmati rice that has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years. Mung dal is the green mung bean, sliced in half with the outer green skin removed, leaving a small yellow lentil. The process of this allows the bean to cook into a mushy state, making it much easier to digest. Since this is one of the main health benefits of Kitchari, mung dal is often preferred over the whole mung bean when making Kitchari.
Why is Kitchari a staple in Ayurveda? Kitchari is considered an Ayurvedic staple for several reasons. As mentioned above, the mushy state of the dal and basmati rice allows for easy digestion, even by many individuals that have a hard time digesting other beans. When eating meals such as this, the digestive fire (Agni) can reduce its work load and “take a break”. This (often much needed) break allows the digestion to strengthen and toxins to be flushed from the system.
Kitchari is also considered a “perfect protein” source, meaning it contains the nine essential amino acids that are needed in the body. However, Kitchari’s nutrient value goes much farther than protein. This hearty meal is a great source of numerous essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, folate, copper, zinc and various B vitamins. It is a great source of dietary fiber and contains a large amount of anti-aging, cancer-fighting antioxidants. Due to the high nutrition content of Kitchari, it is considered a healthy, nourishing, sustainable meal option to eat on a regular basis (I personally eat Kitchari at least once a week!).
Between these two essential factors, Kitchari is considered a great meal choice for the daily diet, but even more so during times of cold, flu, illness, digestive disorders, pregnancy and postpartum. It is the single food taken during most Ayurvedic mono-diet cleanses such as Panchakarma Therapy. Unlike many other cleanses and fasts, the regular intake of Kitchari allows the body to flush out the toxins while simultaneously providing enough nutrients to avoid extreme weakness and depletion.
Finally, Kitchari possesses an unlimited amount of variations to fit your personal needs. Although traditionally Kitchari is created from solely mung dal and basmati rice, many individuals choose to switch up the ingredients for health purposes, doshic needs, seasonal influence or simply taste preferences. I have several Kitchari variation recipes in the recipe section of my blog.
Health Benefits of Kitchari
Tri-doshic, meaning it is beneficial for all dosha types (aka Ayurvedic body-types)
Easy to digest
Strengthens the digestive fire and flushes toxins when eaten regularly
Due to the easy-to-digest quality, this is the most recommended meal during sickness, chronic illness, weakness, digestive issues, pregnancy, postpartum and detoxification
Perfect protein source (contains all 9 essential amino acids)
High in multiple nutrients such as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, folate, copper, zinc and various B vitamins
Great source of dietary fiber
High in cancer-fighting, anti-aging antioxidants
Nutrient dense, making it a healthy, sustainable routine meal option
Improves heart and colon health
Spices involved provide numerous health benefits such as reducing inflammation, flushing toxins, increasing circulation, boosting immunity, increasing the digestion and allowing better absorption of nutrients
Wide variety of recipe options to adhere to the individual’s healthcare needs
When is the best time to eat Kitchari? Kitchari is very versatile and can basically be eaten at any time. Kitchari is for suitable daily intake, as it is healthy, nourishing, energizing, great for the digestion, an excellent protein source and has many recipe variations to adhere to your current needs on any given day. Whether you choose to make Kitchari a routine staple in your diet or not, it should at least be a mandatory part of your treatment during times of sickness (fever, flu, cold, etc), chronic illness, digestive disorder, cleansing, pregnancy, and postpartum.
This is because during all of these stages of life the digestive fire becomes very weak and therefore only simple foods should be taken. But as mentioned above, Kitchari will not only give the digestion a rest due to its ability to breakdown and assimilate easily in the system, it will provide you with plenty of essential vitamins and nutrients that will strengthen, nourish and rejuvenate the body during these crucial times.
How do you make Kitchari? Kitchari is very simple to make. It generally requires the addition of the water, beans, rice, spices, oil and vegetables into one pan and cooked on a low simmer for long enough to make a mushy stew or soup of sorts. The cooking process generally will take about 30-45 minutes total.
There are several Kitchari recipe variations and therefore you can pick and choose the ones that will best suit your needs on any given day. Some may be a bit more involved and others will be easier depending on the ingredients and the chosen method for cooking. No matter what the recipe, Kitchari is fairly easy to make. Although the traditional Kitchari is made with mung dal and basmati rice, often you can use replacements such as using red lentils or whole mung beans rather than the mung dal. Generally Kapha types have issues with metabolizing refined grains and therefore may choose to use quinoa or millet in placement of the basmati rice.
During cleanses it is often recommended to avoid adding in veggies, keeping the recipe as simple as can be and using strictly the mung dal, basmati rice, digestive spices and lots of ghee. However, if this your first time cleansing or you need more substance than rice and dahl, a wide variety of vegetables can be used to make it more interesting, adjusting the selection to the season and your current healthcare needs (i.e. beets, carrots, kale and dandelion greens for liver support).
Following are instructions on making kitchari according to how I learned to make it for my Pancha Karma (cleanse program) clients:
1. I combine 1 part of each seed: cumin, fennel, & black mustard, in a spice jar so Im not having to measure out each one individually. Plus I use this seed mix for broths and other soups.
2. I prepare a batch of fresh ginger and garlic by blending it together in a food processor. It can be kept in the fridge up to a week and saves on prep time. 3. I recommend not chopping your veggies too far ahead of time. I do it fresh for every meal. It is more work but what I learned is that as soon as metal cuts through the vegetable, it starts to oxidize and lose it’s vitality and nutrition. (See my article on 12 ways to make your meals more amazing)
4. Always soak your legumes. I even soak my rice or quinoa with the legumes personally. Atleast overnight if not longer.
5. I add salt towards the end so as not to hinder the legumes from cooking.
6. If you cannot get yellow mung dal, red lentils would be the next best thing.
7. If you are not using ghee, coconut/sesame/sunflower oil would be the next best options.
Working from your recipe:
1. Begin to heat water 2. In a separate, thick bottom pot, add the ghee and spice seeds (black mustard, cumin, & fennel seeds). 3. Turn the heat on to med-hi 4. When the ghee heats up the seeds will begin to pop! This releases the flavor and prana of the seeds. (This happens fast so if you aren’t ready with the other ingredients, take it off the heat so the seeds don’t burn) 5. While the ghee is heating, strain and rinse your grains 6. When the seeds begin to pop, add your strained beans & grains, and measured Kitchari Spice Churna, and lightly ‘toast’ them with the ghee and seeds, about 30 seconds. (This also increases the digestibility of the grains)
7. Add the heated water and bring to a high simmer 8. Add your onions, ginger, & garlic if it is in your recipe (If you combined your ginger & garlic just add a spoonful to your onions) 9. Bring to a medium simmer and cover, yet remember to stir often. Every heat molecule needs to be distributed evenly to cook thoroughly. 10. Begin to prepare all the vegetables you would like to put in your Kitchari. 11. After about 20 minutes (if it looks like the grains are almost done) add the harder veggies (i.e. green beans, carrots, cauliflower). Continue to stir every few minutes 12. After about 30 Minutes of cooking I will add the softer vegetables like zucchini and greens, and turn heat to lowest setting. At this point adding salt and any additional flavor per your preference. Continue to stir as needed 13. After about 35-40 Minutes your Kitchari should be done 14. Garnish with fresh chopped Cilantro
Consider eating kitchari atleast one day a week, to give your body a mini cleanse and digestive reset. If you have any more questions about Ayurvedic cooking, cleanses, or anything else please reach out! Happy cooking 🙂
🦋1. Spring is a time of transition. In Ayurveda, Spring and Fall are known as “transitional seasons”, making them the ideal months to perform a cleanse and start anew. On a microcosmic level, a time of transition is considered a very special time for making positive changes in your life. Therefore, cleansing out our bodies and de-cluttering our minds is an essential way to blossom into a new time of year.
🏵2. Spring provides the perfect weather for a cleanse. During a cleanse our energy can be low, our senses heightened and our bodies more susceptible to imbalance. For these reasons, it is ideal to avoid extremes of any kind including the extreme heat and severe cold; making it a more balanced time to take advantage of a Springtime cleanse!
💐3. Allergies are in the air.
Common symptoms of allergies include congestion, inflammation, foggy mind, low immunity, sluggish digestion and high Kapha. For all of these reasons, a cleanse will be most beneficial in order to treat Springtime allergies. In fact, if you already know you are susceptible to allergies this time of year, it would be best to perform the cleanse BEFORE their onset, as prevention is always easier than treatment (when possible).
🍀4. Spring Cleanses help to remove the accumulated Kapha from the previous winter months.
Common Kapha symptoms such as winter weight gain, stagnation, low motivation, fatigue, foggy mind, congestion, allergies and overeating are all too common this time of year.
🌿5. Cleansing lightens our loads
Winter is the time of year for eating a bit more and moving a bit less. Although this is the way of nature, it is important to also realize that Spring is the time of year to eat a bit lighter and gearing up for a more active season. Performing a Spring cleanse is a great way to set the stage for readjusting the diet and lifestyle, paving the way for healthier food choices and increasing motivation for movement.
Abhyanga is also known as Ayurvedic Massage. The word ‘abhyanga’ is composed of two Sanskrit words, Abhi and Anga. Abhi means ‘towards’ and anga, in one of its meanings, refers to ‘movement’. It also means ‘oil massage’ or in sanskrit, ‘snehana’. Snehana means oil, but it also means love. So by receiving Abhyanga, we are oiling our bodies with love, comfort, and nourishment.
The sensation of Abhyanga is deeply nourishing to your brain, nervous system, mind, soul, skin and joints. The abundant coating of warm oil arouses a feeling of being wrapped in loving arms. It emulates warmth and makes a powerful difference in your feelings about yourself along with your how you feel about everything and everyone around you. It lovingly replaces your anxieties with a sense of calmness and contentment because the oils are warm, stable, and grounding.
Because of the abundant use of herbalized oil, Abhyanga can become a more clinical therapeutic procedure. The purpose of this oil is to be massaged into the skin in such a way that it can penetrate the deep tissue layers and bind to the toxins for elimination, as well as providing joint lubrication, nourishment, and moisture. The medicated oil also acts as a fat burner and if you make receiving regular Abhyanga a part of your wellness and/or weight loss program, you will definitely begin to experience surprising results without any side effects.
Abhyanga is a specific sequence of massaging the body in sections, part by part, to facilitate the proper flow of blood and lymph encouraging quick removal of metabolic wastes. Therefore massage is given with varying pressures. The Lymphatic system is the system the body uses to accumulate and expel toxins. It is lacking its own pump and therefore requires manual, hands on application to increase lymph flow towards the major lymph nodes, and then eliminated from the body. It is also an option to have two therapists giving a choreographed 4 handed tandem massage, where both sides of your body are being massaged at the same time. This is a highly recommended experience and very unique to Ayurvedic Massage.
Another important benefit of Abhyanga is its ability to stimulate and nourish internal organs. The massage helps in tuning up the functioning of the organs and optimizes the body’s ability to flush out toxins. It also revitalizes and energizes the self healing quality of cells in the body. Abhyanga stimulates the para-sympathetic nervous system and has physical, emotional and psychological effects towards well being.
One can notice elevated resistance to dryness, cracking, and even bruising, all thanks to the hydration and lubrication that the skin receives from Abhyanga. It also strengthens fragility and increases the skin’s natural vibrant beauty, helping the skin adapt to the aging process more gracefully.
Ayurvedic Massage Contraindications
Ayurvedic massage should not be done in the following conditions according to Ayurveda.
In any acute illness (unless permitted by your doctor)
Blood clots (like deep vein thrombosis) or bleeding disorders