Summer is approaching and it's time to think about adjusting the oils we use to be in tune with the season.
Here are some suggestions for Ayurvedic herbs for summer
In summer, it is best to use lighter, less heating oils for self-massage. Coconut or sunflower oils are good choices, as they have a cooling quality. Better still, we can use oils that are medicated with herbs suited to the season and our dosha. Sesame oil deeply nourishes all seven layers of our skin, is heavy and very vata soothing. However, it is also very heating. By using sesame oil medicated with Bhringaraj, a tridoshic herb that is very calming to pitta, vata can continue to enjoy using sesame oil even in the summer season. Pitta can gain relief in the summer heat by using brahmi oil in a coconut base, the most cooling and calming of all oils. If your head feels hot during the summer nights, scalp massage with brahmi coconut oil can be helpful. If you feel stressed out and have difficulty falling asleep, try massaging the soles of your feet with this calming oil. Kapha can switch from castor oil--used for cool weather-- to a mixture of equal parts of castor, coconut and flax oil.
External oils can also be helpful for some of the conditions that bother us in the summer. For rashes, bites and stings, try neem oil, which is cooling, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal. The bitter taste of neem oil can also be useful to repel mosquitoes and deer fly. For mild sunstroke, apply brahmi coconut oil to the scalp. If you are sensitive to the chemicals in commercial sunscreen, you can obtain a mild sun-protective effect from brahmi coconut oil This oil also contains herbs that help heal sun-damaged skin.
Summer is also the season of salads. Which oil is best to use on your salad? In general, salads are tricky for vata because they contain a predominance of the astringent taste, which is drying and vata aggravating. In addition, they are rough and cold, vata-provoking factors. So vata needs to balance their salad by using a good amount of sesame or olive oil, along with some balsamic vinegar or lemon for the vata-soothing sour taste. Remember, though, that no amount of oil will make it possible for vata to eat raw cauliflower, broccoli or cabbage, so limit your salads to tender leafy greens with a good dressing. Pitta can use olive or sunflower oil on salad, accompanied by a minimal amount of lime or lemon. In our home , it is instructive to watch the vata tipping large quantities of oil and vinegar into his salad bowl while the resident pitta (me) carefully dribbles on a minimum amount, since pitta cannot tolerate much oil or sour items. For kapha, flax oil is the ideal salad oil, as it will help thin the blood and make it less sticky.
In the Ayurvedic classic texts, it is explained that sesame oil, being hot and heavy, is the ideal remedy for vata; ghee, being cool and sweet is ideal for pitta and honey, which is hot and astringent is ideal for kapha. Hence in the summer season--pitta season--it is best to use ghee to sauté when cooking and to drizzle on your steamed vegetables or basmati rice. Ghee is also a good summer skin emollient and can be used on chapped lips, dry nostrils or as a vehicle for applying herbs to the skin. Coconut oil is also very cooling and can be used as cooking oil in summer.
Remember to store all your oils, for external or internal use in a cool dark place, to prevent rancidity, and discard them when they go out of date. The best storage temperature for most oils is about fifty degrees Fahrenheit, so a cold cupboard is better than a refrigerator. And because pesticides are oil-soluble, it is essential that all oils you use on or in your body are organic. So, change your oil and have a good summer!
Alakananda Ma M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is an Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.
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