When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use, goes an old Ayurvedic proverb. “When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
It’s all about the ojas.
Your GP has probably never asked you, “How are your ojas?” but in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian medical system that predates western medicine by thousands of years, it’s a question that opens the diagnostic conversation. And by way of reply, you would offer your wrist because that is how your immune temperature is taken in Vedic medicine. (A little like sticking out your tongue and saying Ahh in our western allopathic tradition).
The radial pulse below the wrist is where a trained practitioner of Vedic pulse diagnosis can detect the level of working immunity.
Ojas (meaning ‘knowledge of life’) is a term describing what nourishes and maintains all the cells, tissues, and organ systems in the body, according to the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico: that which promotes good digestion and elimination, mental clarity and a sense of overall well being. Ojas might be thought of as general immunity or vitality. Or maybe it might another way of describing mojo. When our ojas is working, we feel good.
And what happens to lower your ojas? Mental, spiritual, or physical toxins of any kind – and that includes negative states of mind from anger, selfishness, and jealousy to physical indulgences in junk food, soda, non-essential drugs, alcohol, red meat, sugar. You know the drill.
A dead giveaway that your ojas needs some refreshing? Frequent infections, dry lifeless skin, anxiety, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, mood swings, and/or a lack of harmony in your life, says Christopher Clark, MD, the author of many books on Ayurvedic healing including the Coherence Effect: Tapping into the Laws of Nature That Give Health, Happiness and Higher Brain Functioning.
And what ups your ojas? First of all, get moving and drink up, advises Clark. Hydration (six to 8 glasses a day of filtered water) and exercise improve your circulation which in turn puts your white blood cells to work targeting those viruses and bacteria that make us sick. Ayurveda also advises a meditation practice in whatever size, style or shape works for you. Simple five-minute mindfulness breaks are a good start if you need to start somewhere.
And diet — above all, diet. Ayurveda recommends you follow the one that is best suited to your particular dosha (Sanskrit for body type or body energy). There are three doshas: Kapha represented by earth and water, Pitta (fire and water), and Vata (ether and air). While there are elements of all three doshas in each of us, one energy is thought to predominate.. But you don’t have to research your dosha to reap the benefits of the foods that are considered the best ojas enhancers in general. These include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Sweet juicy fruits, especially dates and figs
- Raw honey
- Rice and other whole grains
- Milk (for those whose diets allow it).
- Spices: Especially turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, ginger. Use them in cooking or sprinkle on finished dishes. They are all rich in anti-oxidants, fight toxins and in the case of cinnamon, help to regulate blood sugar.
- Ghee (or clarified butter) is free of milk solids, is shelf-stable, and supplies Vitamins A and K plus butyric acid for the digestive tract. Ghee is believed to be a digestive agent that lubricates connective tissue, transports nutrients throughout the body, and even improves memory (use moderately if you have cholesterol issues).
Classical Ayurvedic texts say it takes a month to build up your ojas focusing on the foods above. So knife, fork, spoon — and patience!
Whether you’re an Ayurvedic adherent or not, here’s how to get started training your ojas by making your own Ghee.
GHEE (clarified Butter) IN SIX STEPS
- Start with a pound of good quality unsalted butter. Place in a heavy bottomed saucepot over low heat.
- Let the butter simmer and melt until it begins to separate
- Keep skimming off the foam that forms on top and watch for the milk solids to collect on the bottom. Stir a few times. Don’t let the butter burn.
- Ghee should be ready in 25-30 minutes. It will give off a nice nutty aroma.
- Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes or longer.
- Strain through doubled-up cheesecloth or a tight-webbed sieve. Resulting liquid should be a light yellow. Keep in a glass storage container.
Note: Ghee will keep for months on the shelf, even longer if refrigerated. Use as you would any cooking oil. It has a high smoke point so is perfect for sautéing and frying.
-Ayurvedic medicine checks your ojas to see how your cells, tissues, and organs are faring – as well as your mental and spiritual state. It’s all blended together.
-According to Ayurveda, diet is the most important health ingredient. Dark greens, raw honey, and bananas are some top nourishers. And lots of water!
-There are three body “types” in Ayurveda: Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. We generally have a combination.