Tasty road to immunity
With the ministry of AYUSH recommending alternative medicine for better immunity, India's Ayurvedic practitioners discuss why the ancient healing discipline can be tailored to every meal and every person's prakriti
In 2017, Anuraj Jain, alumnus of IIM Lucknow, began scrambling for an alternative line of treatment when he realised that radiation and chemotherapy weren't effective in his mother's battle with ovarian cancer. She had experienced two relapses. "Doctors had given her six months," he says. Through a common friend, the family was introduced to an Ayurvedic ashram in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. "The herbs and quality of food that she was offered improved the quality and longevity of her life, and made me realise the power of Ayurveda."
Vazha koomb thoran (banana blossom stir fry), pineapple pachadi kootu curry, muringa parippu curry (drumstick and dal ), naranga achar (lemon pickle) chammandi Pappadam and ada pradaman (payasam) prepared by Marina Balakrishnan
Usha Jain went on to live for three years. Her son now wants to help others. His new venture, HealWithFood, which he launched with Bhanu Ravichettu, a graduate of Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad, aims to empower people to live disease-free by eating right. "The information I've had access to in the last three years isn't available to everyone. There is a dearth of credible practitioners and the quality of food you need to heal is hard to find," he says. The duo has got certified and experienced Ayurvedic practitioners, Dr Arati A from Alva's Ayurveda Medical College, Mangaluru, and Dr Amala Jyothi, a sixth generation Vaidya and post-graduate from SDM College of Ayurveda with 10 international papers on the subject, to recommend easy diet changes. The health conditions that the products target range from cholesterol and diabetes to allergies and psoriasis. And, the supplies are sourced from Ravichettu's four-acre organic farm in Telangana. "For each disease, we have herbs mixed into a superpowder. Let's take PCOD. For it, there is a pomegranate peel powder that boosts your cardiovascular health, improves dental hygiene and also helps maintain youthful skin. It can be consumed with water or in your smoothie," Ravichettu says. The diet plans are curated taking into account each person's body (or prakriti), food preferences and family history.
The timing of their venture has coincided with the rapid strides that the ancient Indian cure system is making in the mainstream healthcare arena. The Ministry of AYUSH is exploring the therapeutic potential of Ayurveda in treating COVID-19 and has released an advisory on the use of several well-known Ayurveda formulations to improve the immune system. For independent entrepreneurs in the field, the efficacy of Ayurveda, is not just a wellness trend.
Energy bars from HealWithFood with high concentration of dates and raisins meant for low bleeding
Chef Marina Balakrishnan runs a home kitchen named Oottupura, which means eating place in Malayalam, and is often used to describe not just a restaurant, but any space that serves a traditional home-style Keralite meal. A certified plant-based chef from the Natural Gourmet Institute, New York, her culinary philosophy lies in connecting her technical training with family recipes from her Thalassery home in Malabar. There's not a single non-stick pan or pressure cooker in her kitchen. She prefers to slow cook using traditional earthen pots called manchattis, soapstone vessels called kalchattis and cast iron pans to retain the authenticity of the flavours. "My grandmother used to say that there's so much hype about ashwagandha and shatavari as heroes of Ayurveda, that we rarely look beyond it. Take the Dashapushpam, for instance. It's a group of flowers that are found almost everywhere in the state, especially in the Western Ghats and are remarkable for their therapeutic properties. In ancient times, people foraged what was around them, so, Ayurveda had a very practical and day-to-day approach. It was a way of life." Balakrishnan says the more she cooks, the more she has begun to realise how Keralite food is aligned with the principles of Ayurveda.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, there are three types of dosha or energy elements in the body: vata (space and air), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water). Each person is composed of a unique combination of these energies based on their physical, mental, and emotional attributes and one type of energy is typically more dominant than the other. That's why knowing your dosha—and understanding how to balance it—is important, suggests Balakrishnan. "In Kerala, eateries serve sambaram or spiced butter milk spiked with shallots and ginger and green chillies on a hot summer day. Sometimes, people feel queasy after having it. It's not the fault of sambaram. The reason for the unease is because you have not observed or listened to the workings of your gut. In this case, it means excess pitta or acidity. So your samabaran also changes as per your dosha. Ayurveda says if your gut is good, then everything else will fall in place," she says.
Ravichettu believes no 'one size fits all diet' formula in Ayurveda. "The foods to treat somebody with low bleeding will be different from the one you'd administer to somebody with heavy bleeding. In the first case, we try to improve the condition by improving their blood count. We do this by giving them an energy bar with high concentration of dates and raisins. Sesame seeds and jaggery also help in this case." She cautions that there are guidelines, when it comes to application and ingestion. "We have a herb-spiked hair oil, which is one of the fast moving items. You're supposed to apply it on the scalp, leave it for 10 minutes and rinse it off with cold water. But people, hungry for results, keep it overnight. What happens is that it blocks the pores and doesn't yield results."
On May 28, recognised as Menstrual Hygiene Day, food blogger and certified Ayurveda nutrition consultant Amrita Kaur, put up a post about a ginger tea that is perfect for mahino ke un din. "This trusted ginger tea recipe is an age-old remedy and works like a charm for period cramps," she wrote. Kaur has been trying to cull nuskas that are relevant to people in their daily lives in order to make Ayurveda more accessible. In her post on #everydayayurveda, she suggests you always start the day with cleaning the tongue, ideally with a copper scraper, or, with oil pulling, where you just swish a spoonful of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth for a minute. "It's great for the gums, teeth and gut."
Balakrishnan finds it amusing that the ancient technique of dental care became popular only after the West christened it oil pulling. "When it comes to Ayurveda, I think we've only about scratched the surface."
Amrita Kaur's ginger tea
1 1/2 water
1 knob of ginger
1 tiny cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp haldi (turmeric)
1 -2 tsp jaggery
Bring water to the boil. Grate in the ginger and add the turmeric and cinnamon stick. Let this summer for 8-10 min. Add jaggery to sweeten it. And drink it warm.
Get in touch
Anuraj Jain and Bhanu Ravichettu's HealWithFood
Marina Balakrishnan's Oottupura cloud kitchen
Follow on @amritaoflife, Instagram
Catch up on all the latest Mumbai news, crime news, current affairs, and a complete guide from food to things to do and events across Mumbai. Also download the new mid-day Android and iOS apps to get latest updates.
Mid-Day is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@middayinfomedialtd) and stay updated with the latest news
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe