WHAT IS AYURVEDA?
Ayurveda is a practice of healing and medicine from ancient India, estimated to be about 5,000 years old. Even though it has an ancient root, it is a very fresh, relevant, and important part of contemporary alternative medicine today. Using a holistic approach, it takes into account the entire body, not only physical health, but also that of mind, spirit, and emotions, as a connected network to be healed. As my clients and many others claim, “It makes sense and works.”
This article will introduce you to basic concepts of Ayurveda which will be of help to enhance your wellness.
Tea and Ayurveda:
Teas have been part of many healing practices and have benefitted the wellness of humans for millennia. Learning a new advantageous lifestyle, which we call “sadhanas (practices),” and placing them into action is powerful. Creating a sadhana of regularly drinking tea and using valuable products made from high quality producers is a way of ‘living Ayurveda’ and enriching our lives.
HOW EACH TASTE BENEFITS YOU
According to Ayurvedic author and teacher Maya Tiwari, “Taste plays a critical role in nurturing, nourishing, and healing the body.”
“Rasa,” is a Sanskrit word that means taste. It is also translated to essence, experience, enthusiasm, appreciation, as well as love.
As we have the expression in English, “a bitter sweet moment,” our sense of “rasa” allows us to ‘taste’ the entire world. Tastes give reference to all impressions experienced by our five senses – the nose, eyes, ears, skin, and tongue. We may even have emotions or memories that we ‘taste’–which we call ‘music’ – a form of sonic taste that reaches profound depths of our being.
The principle of “rasa (taste)” includes six essential natural tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. And each one of them is necessary for our immunologic, digestive and spiritual functions. The roots of rasa originate from the five elements: space, air, fire, water, earth. Each taste contains 2 out of 5 elements.
The five elements also make up our seven main “dhatus (tissues)” of the body. Therefore, the tastes of foods we choose to eat can have a critical impact on our cells, tissues, consciousness, and wellness.
Ayurveda recommends 2 main dietary suggestions related to tastes as a guide to optimal nutrition:
1. Include all six tastes in each meal (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent)
2. Eat to your true nature, “prakriti” or constitution (“vata,” “pitta,” “kapha”), which we will discuss later on.
WHICH RASA (TASTES) DOES GREEN TEA OFFER YOU?
When you taste quality green tea, it takes you on a taste journey. Green tea includes 3 out of 6 tastes: Sweet, Bitter, and Astringent.
Amazingly, those three tastes of green tea can create digestive stimulation to organs connected through tastes and tissues located in stomach, small intestine and large intestine.
Let’s swim deeper into the Rasa of green tea, shall we?
• Associated with: thyroid, upper lungs and 1st stage of digestion in stomach.
• Elements: earth + water
• Qualities: oily, cold, heavy
* Excellent for building the body’s seven vital tissues of plasma, blood, fat, muscles, bones, marrow and reproductive.
* Increases saliva
* Soothes mucous membranes and burning sensation
* Relieves thirst
* Gives beneficial effects to skin and hair, and a melodious voice
• Additional Notes: Sweet is the most dominant, universal taste that nurtures, builds, sustains nature, and calms nerves. After the transformations of digestion, Sweet remains sweet. Carbohydrates, sugars, fats, and amino acids are formed by water and earth elements that produce sweet taste. Lastly, love is associated with the taste of sweet and enhances the vital essence of life.
• Associated with: pancreas, liver, spleen and 5th stage of digestion in the ileum portion of the small intestine.
• Elements: air + space
• Qualities: Rough, cold, light
* Detoxifies blood
* Cleansing to the liver
* Controls skin ailments
* Tones organs
• Additional Notes: After the transformations of digestion, ‘Bitter’ becomes ‘Pungent.’ Bitter taste improves all other tastes, and is intended to be used by everyone in small quantity. The cleansing nature of ‘bitter’ is called “lekhana”, which means scraping of fat and toxins. It is helpful in reducing weight, water retention, skin rashes, fever, burning sensations and nausea.
• Associated with: The large intestine, the 6th and final stage of digestion.
• Elements: air + earth
• Qualities: rough, cold, light
* Lekhana (scraping of fats and toxins)
* Improves absorption
* Creates binding of the stool and can correct diarrhea.
* Fundamental to medicines
• Additional notes: After the transformations of digestion, ‘Astringent’ becomes ‘Pungent.’
Reminder: Balanced tastes brings balance to whole system
Now you understand each taste, sweet, bitter, & astringent, creates its own positive impacts. It doesn’t mean you can gorge on one taste. Why?
Because it is important to remember:
balance, moderation, and variety.
“Each taste used collectively or individually in the appropriate dose brings about balance of all bodily systems and yields happiness and good health to all living beings. If used improperly, much harm can result.”
For example, when tastes such as sweet are used in excess we can see negative side effects such as cold, cough, congestion, heaviness, loss of appetite, laziness, and obesity.
Now you may be wondering what is the best balance for YOU. We’ll talk about it at the end of this article.
INCLUDE RASA PRINCIPLES INTO YOUR DIET EASILY USING GREEN TEA:
You can see green tea is not only an antioxidant-rich food, but is a convenient food to add three functional flavors to your diet: sweet, bitter, and astringent. Having a warm cup of tea or a refreshing glass of cold tea along with a meal is always a delightful addition. Or, simply sprinkle green tea powder into recipes, such as:
* Hot breakfast cereals
* Soups, especially Asian soups such as egg drop or miso
* Scrambled eggs
* Dips and dipping sauces
* Salad dressings
* Be creative!
4 AYURVEDIC PRINCIPLES YOU GAIN USING GREEN TEA
1) Taking in stable energy or Qi, PRANA
Green tea has a quality of plant-based “prana” and ground green tea aids the absorption of all goodies from the plant. Also, Green tea supports gut health by its strong connection to digestion and acts like pre-biotic fertilizers that stimulates growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Ayurvedic wisdom explains this fact with “prana.” Prana is seen as a universal energy which flows in currents in and around the body.
Quality plant based-foods which are high in prana, such as quality green tea, can bring natural balance and stability from Mother Nature to you.
Myth or Fact? Quality of matcha pertains only to color…Myth. There’s much more to it.
High quality “prana,” Qi or energy, typically comes from clean natural sources. The camellia sinesis plant used to make green tea soaks up the quality of energy where it is planted, what soil it’s planted in, how much solar energy (light) and shade (darkness) that it is exposed to. The energy of the farmer, the attention paid to management of soil quality, the local environment, the quality of the seed planted, all of these contribute to making the difference of a high-quality product for consumers. Therefore, quality companies like Sei Mee Tea mindfully choose where and from whom the green tea product is sourced.
When all the elements are there, the green tea plant receives high quality “prana” from nature and gives it to us. Earth energy is filled with grounding, nourishing, stable, sweet qualities and when we take in those qualities, we become them!
2) Becoming part of dynamic action, PRABHAVA
Green Tea benefits make a long list. The following is just the beginning:
* Is packed with antioxidants including the powerful EGCG
* Boosts metabolism and burns calories
* Detoxifies effectively and naturally
* Calms the mind and relaxes the body
* Is rich in fiber, chlorophyll and vitamins
* Enhances mood and aids in concentration
* Provides vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium
* Prevents disease
* Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar
It may sound too good to be true–to the mind used to “western medicine,” which targets specific symptoms and side effects are expected. However, more and more scientific studies are showing these benefits from green tea. But still science hasn’t yet found a way to explain exactly how every wonderful detail works in a holistic way, including the miraculous phenomena of superfoods. It’s a dynamic event, in which 1 + 1 makes more than 2.
Ayurveda recognizes this important phenomena: It is called, “Prabhava.”
“Prabhava is the specific, dynamic, hidden action of awareness present in a substance.” (Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume 1. Pg 250)
Green tea’s long list of benefits makes sense with the explanation of prabhava. When you take in green tea, as beverage or food, you become part of prabhava–borderless dynamic action.
3) Promoting your inner purity, SATTVA
Ayurveda determines our behavior, appearance, habits, desires, attitude, and general disposition using three qualities of nature: sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious), rajas (active, confused), and tamas (darkness, destructive).
Sattva means purity. It is a divine quality which manifests in you as physical vigor and mental brilliance. For example, when we make a clear, intelligent choice to intake food or drink from a specific source of high quality, we are using “sattva.”
Quality plants offer “sattva,’ which is a significant reason why plant-based foods are important for our human diets. Purest and highest quality plant-based foods with high nourishing value, or nutrient density, are considered sattvic in Ayurveda.
Matcha Green Tea Powder: Source of powerful prana, prabhava, and sattva
To demonstrate how much more nutrients matcha ground green tea has compared to other foods, check out the following examples:
4) Mastering a calming ritual, SADHANA
Is making a cup of tea a way to slow you down? Feeling the warmth of the cup in your palm and inhaling warm steem and comforting aroma, you feel your stress dissolving away. This moment brings simple luxury into our daily life. And, Ayurveda recognizes this effect is not just in your head.
Everytime you use quality Green tea, you are connecting to sattva, or purity. When you make a cup of quality tea with sattva each day, you are upgrading this routine to sadhana, a healthy, rejuvenating ritual.
Slow, deep breathing, faint but soothing sound, visually pleasant colors & shapes, warmth in your palm, and round richness of flavor…each one of five senses is a subtle yet potent avenue for healing and nourishing our body, mind, spirit, and emotions.
We all have had such experience. But when is the last time we have given an acknowledgement to this “common sense”? Let’s bring this wisdom, our medicinal and powerful sadhana, into our consciousness. It may open the door to the further sattva for your deeper healing.
KNOW YOURSELF AND USE GREEN TEA MOST EFFECTIVELY
Knowing how your body and mind are made up with will help to increase the effectiveness of your wellness effort. Ayurveda uses “Dosha” to understand the biological energy of the human body and mind. Dosha has three types: Kapha, Vata, and Pitta.
Kapha dosha is made with water and earth. Kapha dosha qualities are heavy, cool, moist and are linked to excess fat in the bodily tissues. Therefore, kapha aggravations and imbalances related to excess kapha are connected to being overweight and obese. Green tea can reduce the sluggish nature of kapha and provide stimulation necessary for reduction of weight and blood lipids.
Vata represents air and ether. Vata people can be thin, small-boned, and have a low body mass index. The positive characteristics of Vata type are sensitive, spiritual, and creative. Their not so attractive characteristics include nervousness, worrying, forgetful, and not being present in the moment. Creating their own “tea ceremony” and making it a ritual with consciousness of sadhana will bring more balance into their lives.
Pitta is associated mostly with the element of fire. Pitta people are medium-framed, muscular, and well-proportioned. They are focused, sharp, organized, and enthusiastic. They are also easily agitated under stress. Pitta types are easily overheated and dislike hot, humid climates. It’s important for Pitta types to be engaged in calm, peaceful relationships, including foods. Higher quality Green tea, such as Gyokuro, and quality ceremonial grade matcha use lower temperature water, around 140 to 160 F, to make a cup. For this reason, these selections make a better choice of green tea for Pitta people rather than hot brewing tea such as black tea. Cold brew Gyokuro or Karigane using room temperature is also a great option for Pitta type. Traditionally, cold brew takes a chilling process. Ayurveda suggests not having ice-cold drinks even on very hot days to maintain digestive strength.
What is your dosha?
Do any of the characteristics apply to you? Most people are a mixture of the three doshas with one being more prominent than the others. Learning about your dosha and adopting best foods and life style help you to achieve the optimal balance.
Now it’s time for you to discover. Receive a simple & free quiz in your email to find what doshas you are made of.
QUESTIONS FOR YOUR WELLNESS? ASK MALIA!
In this article, you’ve touched Ayurveda’s wisdom using Green Tea’s example and learned the most effective way for you to use Green Tea. I hope you will expand this knowledge to the other aspects of your healthy lifestyle and empower your wellness. I welcome your questions and thoughts.
In the meantime…
May we ENJOY a sattvic sadhana of drinking delicious teas.
May we mindfully include and use all six tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent in our diet.
May we be aware of the quality of prana in our green tea products and diet.
In loving service,
Degreed Nutritionist, Certified Ayurveda Wellness Counselor (AWC), Certified Yoga Teacher (RYT500)
Please note contraindications and disclaimer related to green tea and Ayurveda:
Caffeine – Vata/Air aggravations; High doses not recommended for persons with elevated anxiety, nervousness and insomnia issues.
Anemia – Limit/Avoid green tea, especially 1 to 2 hours just before or right after meals. Pregnancy – Limit/Avoid green tea that contains high caffeine; For example, one may consider a decaf version or Sencha instead of matcha.
Ayurvedic books, websites, and relevant education programs used –
- Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda Fundamental Principles, Volume 1. 2002.
- Yarema, Thomas. Rhoda, Daniel. Brannigan, Johnny. Eat, Taste, Heal. 2006.
- Tiwari, Maya. Wise Earth School of Ayurveda.
- Is Matcha Good For You? https://chopra.com/articles/is-matcha-good-for-you Health Benefits of Green tea
- https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea – 2
- Matcha Green Tea Powder Benefits and Side Effects https://www.ayurtimes.com