In Ayurveda, health is much more than the absence of disease. It is about bringing our body and mind into balance, along with our senses and spirit. Herbs offer a gentle approach to support this and bring the doshas back into balance.
Take our dosha quiz first if you aren't sure of your mind-body type yet.
Vata: Warming, grounding and nourishing herbs that aid digestion and calm anxious minds, like ginger, fennel, chamomile and ashwagandha
Pitta: Cooling, soothing and calming herbs that can help alleviate inflammation and support detoxification, like coriander, mint, rose and shatavari
Kapha: Light, warming and aromatic herbs like turmeric, ginseng, triphala and black pepper
Composed of the space and air elements, the vata dosha is responsible for all movement in the body. When vata is out of balance, you might start to feel spaced out and ungrounded, with possible bouts of anxiety and insomnia, as well as a ‘nervous’ digestion. You can use grounding, warming and calming herbs as part of an overall vata-balancing diet and lifestyle:
Chamomile is renowned for relaxing the nervous system and chamomile tea is traditionally used to help calm and relax, often before bed. This herb does have other uses too – its mild and bitter flavour makes it perfect for digestion, helping to ease bloating and crams, which vata types can be prone to. It’s an easy plant to grow here in the UK, either in your garden, an allotment or a window box.
Ginger and it's warmth brings vata types back into balance and is a universal medicine for many people around the world. Those with bad circulation might want to drink ginger tea or chew on fresh ginger to bring some heat into the system and improve circulation. Ginger is also beneficial for vata-based digestive issues like bloating and constipation. It’s always best to get hold of fresh ginger if you can as it has a better flavour and greater levels of anti-inflammatory properties. However, if you only have dried ginger, it will still be effective.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps to calm and strengthen the nervous system and translates from Skanskrit as ‘smell of a horse’. While that might not sound appealing, the translation refers to the stamina, strength and grace of a horse. Its Latin name, Withania somnifera, also gives a clue to its function as 'somnus' meaning sleep. Its reputation for promoting inner calm and core vitality makes this the perfect herb for addressing today's lifestyle demands, which can increase vata in our system
Try Pukka's Relax tea blend, with soothing herbs like chamomile, fennel, licorice and marshmallow. Pukka's , and supplements are also vata favourites, keeping this dosha strong, calm and grounded.
Pitta represents the fire and water elements and is responsible for digestion and metabolism of both food and inflammation. When pitta becomes aggravated you may experience heart burn, skin rashes, hot flushes, inflammation or irritability. Soothing, cooling and calming herbs help balance this:
Mint is a key herb for balancing pitta. There are so many varieties including spearmint, field mint and peppermint. All these varieties have a sweet taste and help soothe inner hear. As well as suppressing aggravated pitta, there’s now evidence that suggest mint could improve digestion, enhance respiratory health and provide general health benefits as an antioxidant. Mint is perennial and very easy to grow in the UK. In fact, you’ll have trim regularly to ensure it doesn’t take over your garden – growing in a pot strong advised
Coriander pungent, sweet and slightly bitter, coriander is a wonderful remedy for clearing irritating heat from the body and helps to clear the digestive tract. The leaves can be made into delicious fresh chutneys or to accompany a curry
Shatavari belongs to the wild asparagus family and can reduce pitta and vata, but increase kapha. Its key uses are to rejuvenate and acts a female reproductive tonic
Pukka's Mint Refresh tea contains peppermint leaf, rose, coriander seed, hibiscus flower, fennel seed and licorice, which sooth and calm pitta types. Pukka's both calms and cools pitta and can help with inflammation and irritation.
Kapha represents water and earth and is responsible for maintaining the structure and lubrication of the mind-body physiology. When kapha becomes excessive, you might experience congestion, sinus problems, weight gain and tiredness.
You can use herbs that have light, heating and aromatic qualities to help keep kapha balanced:
Turmeric is a pharmacy unto itself. As a wealth of scientific studies has found, this golden spice contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are valuable in preventing and treating a variety of diseases. In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is an important detoxifying agent. Since it possesses the bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes and is mildly heating, it is useful in balancing excess Kapha in the mind-body system
Ginseng with it's heating qualities can help reduce kapha but increase pitta. Ginseng is a powerful herb and its Latin name, panax, comes from the Greek ‘panacea’ or ‘heal all’; it provides both a mental and physical boost, while building core energy levels within the adrenal glands. Ginseng gives kapha types boundless energy
Black pepper’s heating, light, drying and sharp properties helps to reduce kapha and vata and increase pitta. This herb is easy to throw into most recipes and is good at clearing fat from the digestive system and lungs. Kapha types can try a daily tonic by mixing a third of a teaspoon of pepper with a teaspoon of honey and allowing it to dissolve on the tongue. This is especially helpful when you’re eating foods that might aggravate kapha like cheese, wheat or potatoes
Pukka's Revitalise tea was blended with kapha in mind as it contains cinnamon, ginger, green tea, black pepper, elderflower and orange peel to energise. Alongside spicy, warming teas, can also balance excess kapha.
As a BSc qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher, Jo is passionate about bringing these two ancient sciences together to help people feel empowered about their health. Jo has put her post-graduate certificate in education to good use, co-founding the Ayurveda academy to help others learn of the wonders of Ayurveda. Jo has also earned a Masters degree in human sciences from Oxford University and has taught in several schools
BSc qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher
20 years as a Hatha yoga teacher/ayurvedic practitioner
Member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association