Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old “science of life” approach to health, is steeped in practical applications based on three human and seasonal constitutional types reflecting the natural elements: air (Vata), fire (Pitta) and water/earth (Kapha).
The approach has been my saving grace, offering remedies, comfort and a richer awareness of the subtlety of balanced healing.
This spring, I was working long hours in the intense Hawaiian sun doing ocean conservation work, eating highly detoxifying (heating) foods and making very little time for my creative outlets, let alone yoga, meditation or even swimming. Suddenly it was summer, and I was fried—literally! I had developed a severe Pitta (fire) imbalance which showed up on my face as an awful rash twice in one month. Knowing that the mind-body-spirit connection is the foundation of health, I had to pause, put projects on hold and take a real inventory of what was at the causal level of this disease. I immediately turned to my trusted ally, Ayurveda, which I’ve successfully used to heal from every previous malady I’ve experienced.
What I discovered was eye-opening.
With many self-imposed personal demands, plus trying to save the environment and extreme exposure to rising island temperatures, my body was literally sounding the alarm to cool down. It’s miraculous how the body will manifest something as wild as a rash to get our attention. Upon researching Pitta (fire) pacifying remedies, I found the simplest approaches: such as drinking cool water, plunging in the river, staying out of direct sun and eating cooling foods, and foods like cucumber, cilantro and coconut.
I tried all of these, along with rest, gentle prayers of acceptance for my condition, and gratitude—it all helped to heal me. I was soothed by the river and my internal temperature was moderated by the cooling foods I switched to. When the rash made a second appearance after an upsetting situation, coupled with the outside temperature soaring to new heights, I reached for a more potent topical solution. Amazingly, the cure was so effective, it felt nothing short of miraculous. I immediately began healing.
I did this with only two ingredients: turmeric and organic half and half milk. I applied the mixture to my face throughout the day, and all I can say is that it worked.
Turmeric has long been used in India as a culinary staple with numerous healing benefits. There, it is so highly regarded, it is generously anointed on brides-to-be in pre-marital ceremonies. I combined this ritual with a little research I found on Cleopatra’s beauty secrets involving milk bathing and found my cure.
After I healed, I couldn’t help but wonder why my problem had cropped up in the place it had, and decided to investigate. I researched facial mapping, which led me to discover that both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda reveal patterns of discord in one part of the body, reflected in another. And that these “wounded areas of origin” had something of a central nervous system of their own. Mine was sourced in the liver and gallbladder, places where it is believed we house the emotions of frustration and perfectionism.
I have to admit, it was true. I had sacrificed too much of my personal serenity, nourishment and happiness to get a charitable project off the ground and my well had become dry.
Ayurveda describes a Pitta imbalance like this: it’s like having a kettle over a flame on high heat, with no water inside. I realized then, just how true this is.
Our own cup must be full before we can ever offer a drink to another.
Here are my flexible recipes and tips to stay cool when heat hits:
How to make a Turmeric Healing Face Mask
- 1 cup raw, organic: milk, half & half (pasture raised), or coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons of powdered turmeric
Combine ingredients in a blender and briefly mix on high, then refrigerate in a glass container. Throughout the day, or once in the morning and once in the evening, rinse a clean, gently (no harsh chemicals) washed face with cool water, gently pat dry and apply the turmeric milk to your face with an organic cotton ball. Allow to dry. I also recommend this for people dealing with eczema.
Note: I do not recommend omitting the dairy or coconut milk for any nut or seed milk, as they are heating to the body.
How to make Golden Milk
This is a classic Ayurvedic remedy and there are many variations of this recipe. For Pitta balancing, however, I opt to keep it very simple. Golden milk is helpful for cooling and grounding the body. It can help heal internal bacterial imbalances, calm rheumatoid arthritis, acne, rashes and the aid the digestive tract. It is also a potent liver cleanser. I can attest, that after a week of drinking this, the whites of my eyes were noticeably very bright and my skin clear and calm.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups raw, organic: milk, half & half (pasture raised), coconut milk or coconut water
- 2 tablespoons of ground organic turmeric
- optional: a dash of Ceylon Cinnamon
Add all ingredients to blender and briefly mix on high. Drink before the turmeric settles. I do recommend taking breaks on drinking dairy, by alternating between the coconut milk and water. It is easier on digestion, prevents a Kapha (water/earth) imbalance and imparts a wonderful variety of vital nutrients.
How to make Mint Cucumber Mineral Water
- 1/2 liter cold mineral water
- squeeze of fresh lime
- 6 mint leaves
- 2-5 pieces of cucumber rounds, sliced
Add all ingredients to blender and mix on high. Strain with a fine mesh strainer, to separate pulp and leaves. Pour into a glass and top with more mineral water as desired.
Cucumber, cilantro, mint and coconut: flesh, milk and water are all exceptional. Melon, strawberries, dandelion greens, kale, bananas, red grapes and for salads; a squeeze of lime with olive oil instead of dressings, are all beneficial. Anything hot, fermented, alcoholic, sour, spicy, sugary, salty or oily, can cause inflammation, especially during Pitta (fire) season. Instead; bitter flavors, sweet fleshy fruits, white rice, coconut and mineral water, and raw or gently cooked organic vegetables are ideal.
Forgiveness, compassion, surrender and acceptance. Not to be mistaken for excusing and/or enabling abusive behavior, but recognizing (facing) what is necessary, accepting it, correcting what we can; to bring it into greater harmony in our lives and moving on. Being gentle with others and ourselves, while we process, is paramount. Keeping our expectations in check is also healing and helpful in prevent victimization and martyrdom. Celebrating incremental successes is one way I’ve facilitated peace in my own life. It helps compartmentalize things and makes space for gratitude by acknowledging what has been achieved.
Moonbathing, or taking leisurely walks under the moonlight will help cool the internal fire, while connecting us with our celestial Mother. During the day, the Sun’s rays govern over everything that is outwardly active. During the evening, a different light is reflected upon earth; this one governing over the cycles of restoration, meditation and the entire subconscious realm. It is during our sleep cycle that much of the body repairs itself. I believe there is much magic in consciously basking in this light which rises in tandem with these restorative and psychic cycles. Yin yoga is also one of my favorite practices, as it offers a deep stretching of the often over looked subtle body, joints and ligaments.
Color Therapy & Clothing
When we are on fire internally, soothing hues of aquamarine blues, whites, pale greens, silver, lavender and navy blue in breathable and gentle fabrics, can be quite cooling, both to the psyche and physical body. I do believe it benefits us to harmonize our outer adornments as much as possible, with our most desired inner reflections.
Naturally, please listen to and trust your intuition first and foremost and experiment with what works best for you.
Author: Aubrie Murphy
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Renée Picard