The Fire in Your Belly: Herbs, Digestion & Agni

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Digestion is the foundation of our health. Often, we don’t even consider our digestive process until it is not working properly. As children – little balls of spinning energy – we learn to take it for granted. It’s just there. It happens. As adults, with various habits and dis-ease, we've come to realize our fires need rekindling.

Did you know that 70% percent of the body’s immune system dwells in the digestive tract? This is why many practitioners theorize that poor digestion is the root cause of many disorders.

The symptoms of poor digestion include excessive gas, constipation, diarrhea, burning, vomiting, indigestion, bloating, and pain, and if left untreated can over time transform into diseases caused by the inability of the body to absorb nutrition properly. In various forms, Western medicine has given them names such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis, and pancreatitis among many others. Through the eyes of Ayurveda, the practitioner comes to an understanding of its cause by examining a patient’s lifestyle. Faulty eating practices are usually the number one culprit, which includes poor food choices and poor food combination practices. 

HANAH ONE is made up of 30 herbsand 10 of them support digestion. These tried-and-true herbs each have their own long list of benefits along with a lengthy history of usage to support health. The digestive herbs in HANAH ONE include:

Mung bean is cooling and easy to digest. It is considered a sattvic food. Sattvic is understood as not heating or cooling, not energizing or dulling… balanced. Likened to the story of the 3 bears, the one that is just right.

Calamus is a root used to expel gas and relieve discomfort. Calamus awakens the digestive fire. Interestingly, its sanskrit name, vacha, means speech, and it is known to encourage you to speak from your highest consciousness.

Bael is a wood apple. Bael contains phenolic compounds filled with antioxidants which can cure gastric ulcers caused due to the imbalance of mucous levels in the gastric tract. It is used for all digestive issues and is known to relieve constipation and diarrhea.

Shatavari is translated as “having 100 roots” and also “she who possesses 100 husbands” (for its reputation for supporting reproductive health). The root is soothing to the digestive tract and has long been used as a digestive tonic. It is in the same family as asparagus.

Cinnamon bark is a highly regarded ancient spice that was once more valuable than gold. (When gold was abundant and cinnamon was not.) A carminative, it can either prevent formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract or facilitate the expulsion of said gas and combat flatulence. It improves digestion, absorption of nutrients and improves elimination overall.  

Nutsedge is a common weed! The root is used is used traditionally in Ayurveda to stimulate appetite, to soothe the stomach, and to kill digestive parasites.

Amla (in Hindi or it’s sanskrit name:  amalaki) means “sour” and carries also the nicknames “mother”, “nurse” and “immortality”, and simply known as the Indian gooseberry. It is cooling and cleansing to the digestive tract and reduces the incidence of constipation.

Long pepper or Pippali, which literally means to “drink and digest”, increases digestion and reduces gas and bloating. It also increases nutrient absorption by as much as 30 percent and enhances the actions of other herbs when taken together (like in HANAH!)  

Chebulic myrobalan also known as Haritaki, and is called the “king of medicines”. Internally it is a rejuvenative, astringent, purgative, stomachic and laxative, and is said to purge impurities from the body and improve overall digestion. It includes all six tastes except salty. This fruit rind is included in the well known formula Triphala.  

Indian trumpet flower is also known as Midnight horror (because it blooms at night, and is pollinated by bats) and broken bones plant (because when its large leaf stalks wither and fall off the tree and collect near the base of the trunk, it appears  to look like a pile of broken bones). It’s bark and roots strengthen digestion.

8 tips for you to improve your digestive agni and keep your home fire burning:

  1. Enjoy HANAH ONE between meals
  2. Meditate. If you are new to meditation, begin with 20 minutes upon waking.  Simply sit tall with a straight spine, close your eyes and breath long and slow deep breaths through your nose. When your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath. Release expectations. You are doing it right.  With time, you will see subtle results, but don’t expect samadhi (meditative state of bliss or oneness with the universe) overnight, or ever, for that matter.  Just sit.
  3. Move. Take a walk, practice yoga, jump on a trampoline with your children, toss a frisbee around with a friend, whatever gets you moving.
  4. Hot water. Drink hot plain water between meals. A sip every fifteen minutes is ideal. This stimulates your digestion. Cold, iced water, on the other hand, slows your digestion.
  5. Eat your largest meal of the day at lunch. Chew slowly and completely. Put your phone down or shut your computer, and focus only on your meal. Be grateful.
  6. Don’t overeat. Stop when you’re 80-percent full. Cup your hands as if you were filling them with water, don’t eat more than 3 hands full.
  7. Choose fermented and cultured food and drinks as often as possible. Delicious examples are raw sauerkrauts and kombucha or kefir drinks.
  8. Reset with a semi-annual cleanse, detox or fast. Ayurvedic cleanses are readily accessible via the various practitioners located near you or online.

Megan Henderson is a mom, yoga teacher, former organic farmer, and a writer living in Boulder, Colorado, where she grows nightshades and 3 children while drinking homemade kombucha under the suburban starlight.

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