We often are asked for recipes and food suggestions to give better hair growth. Hair vitamins are a major trend and every lifestyle magazine worth its salt , often lists 10 super foods or herbs you should be consuming for good health, skin, hair and nails.
We have said that Ayurveda is holistic and not reductionist in its approach. So while the dravyaguna texts analyse herbs, fruits, flowers, grains and herbs according to their rasas and gunas, the final analysis of what to eat and how much is not based on a simple formula of either calories or the protein-carbohydrate-vitamin route. Instead, a meal plan is supposed to be devised based on a few first principles:
- What grows naturally in your surroundings in this season
- How strong is your body’s capacity to digest and assimilate food
- Easy to digest strength giving food
- Follow the right combination of foods
- Avoid eating / restrict eating difficult to digest foods or improper food combinations
Having devised this meal plan, we are supposed to follow another set of principles so that the food is eaten harmoniously, digested and assimilated well. These eating rules include the following:
- Eating as per the movement of the sun
- Timing the largest meal at peak noon
- Eating only when hungry
- Eating slightly less than our peak capacity leaving room for the food to move and expand as it is digested
- Following our daily Dinacharya to ensure food is assimilated quickly
So if you think about the act of eating alone, Ayurveda is not just concerned about what you eat, but also how well your body can assimilate what you eat. So even if you are eating the best quality meal, if your body is imbalanced, sluggish and is storing a high amount of waste because of improper eating, living or sleeping patterns, then even the best food becomes “visha” (poison) in the body.
Even though Ayurveda does not mention the use of any special super foods for hair, there are several rasayana herbs mentioned in Ayurveda that give both vitality and good health. The texts also advise the use of these herbs in hair preparations to promote good hair growth, hair strength, youthfulness and to delay hair ageing and greying.
When these rasayana herbs are eaten as well as applied on hair, we are able to see excellent health benefits. So here is our list of 5 Rasayana herbs we add to Krya‘s hair care formulations that you can and SHOULD be eating regularly to boost hair health and well being.
- Amla (Phyllanthus emblica / Nellikkai / Indian gooseberry:
The Vamana Purana states that if we had absolutely nothing but the Amla to eat, we can survive by just drinking the fruit juice of Amla. The Amla is a special fruit in Ayurveda. It is revered as a rasayana (youth promoting) fruit that contains all 6 tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent). Because it contains all 6 tastes, the Amla can be used by any prakriti (any type of constitution) to balance the doshas in their body.
The Amla is referred to as the “Dhatri” in Ayurveda because it acts like a wet nurse and is next only to our own Mother in nourishing us and giving us life and health. In its action it rejuvenates the body, tones up all the tissues and strengthens the organs. It is believed to increase Prana Shakti (life energy) in the body and has a calming and soothing effect on the brain. It acts as a kaya kalpa for the body both when consumed and applied externally – it tones up skin , delays aging, delays premature greying of hair, imparts youthful vigour, balances all 3 doshas and acts as a blood purifier.
The Amla is an excellent source of Vitamin C, as it is only the only heat resistant source of Vitamin C. This means that it can be boiled and added to many Indian cooking preparations not just to add taste but to also impart anti oxidant and cell rejuvenative effects.
The nutritional importance of the Amla is no less than its cultural and spiritual significance. The tree is considered auspicious and brings good luck and prosperity. It is associated with Lord Kubera, the mythological Lord of Wealth. The Puranas called Amla, the adiroha or the first tree and believe it is the first tree to have manifested on Earth. The tree itself is said to represent Lord Vishnu.
Amla should be a part of everyone’s diet. It is an excellent cell repairing and rejuvenative herb and imparts all 6 tastes to the body balancing all 3 doshas. It is best ground and added to liquid preparations or eaten in the form of a chutney or with rice. We do not recommend non-traditional preparations like amla tea, etc.
When Pitta is imbalanced, we recommend completely substituting Tamarind, Amchur and Tomato in the diet with Amla. This helps quickly control imbalanced Pitta and improves health as well.
- Moringa (Moringa oleifera / murungai keerai)
Time Magazine called Moringa a “future superfood” in 2014 and since then publications around the world have been speaking about the nutritious benefits of eating Moringa leaf. It is a hot selling Indian export and is being sold variously as a herbal tea, vitamin supplement and freeze dried extract. Unfortunately in India, Moringa is still only fed to cattle, and only is extensively used in South Indian cuisine in its pod form (drumstick).
Virtually every part of the Moringa tree is rich in nutrients and has high medicinal value. A small serving of Moringa leaves have 7 times the Vitamin C content of an orange, 4 times the calcium content of a glass of Milk, and 4 times the beta carotene of a carrot! Externally, The Moringa leaf is excellent to bring down the occurrence of pimples and clear blackheads. It is a very good skin healer, and can help treat psoriasis and scabies on skin. It is a very good hair growth promoter and also helps soften and condition hair naturally.
All greens are considered slightly hard to digest in Ayurveda. So they need to be cooked in oily and moist condition to ensure their bio availability is high. We recommend sauteing your greens in ghee or unrefined vegetable oil with warming spices like hing, jeera and black pepper, with a sprinkles of water so that they are cooked in moist condition. Ayurveda does not recommend eating greens raw or as a smoothie added to other fruits, vegetables or dairy products.
- Kushmanda (Ash gourd / Benincasa hispada)
Kushmanda is a native gourd in India and has been documented from ancient times as a Pitta balancing, sweet, cooling and detoxifying vegetable. Traditional medicine considers Kushmanda as a rasayana herb, improving both physical and mental functioning of the body. It is useful in many ailments like asthma, diabetes, heart ailments, piles and other respiratory problems.
Externally Kushmanda is used by us in Krya for treating dandruff, scalp dryness and hair loss. It brings down body heat and balances pitta and delays greying. It also reduces vata based dryness of scalp and is very useful in bringing down scalp itching and irritation.
Ash gourd is an excellent vegetable to be added into soups, dals and Sambhar. It is especially useful in hot weather conditions and to balance sourness in meals. This is why it is traditionally added to Sambhar and to “mor kuzhambu” in south India.
- Methika (Methi / Fenugreek / Venthayam / Trigonella foenum-graecum
Originally from Eastern Europe, Methi found its way into Indian cuisine and Ayurveda for its high medicinal and nutritive properties. Bhavaprakasa wrote that Methi is very useful to balance vata dosha and as a jwara hara (reducer of fever).
Methi seeds soothe many vata based disorders like a persistent cough or a sore throat when used as a decoction. The seeds are extremely rich in iron and can be used to combat iron deficient anaemia. They help soothe inflammations especially of the gastrointestinal tract when taken internally and also shrink abscesses and external inflammations when applied as a poultice. Both leaves and seeds help balance excess pitta. Their bitter taste also helps cut down kapha, so it is very well used in traditional medicine to combat lifestyle related diabetes.
Methi seeds are an excellent hair herb. They naturally soften and condition hair and increase hair strength. Krya uses Methi seeds in good quantity across our range of hairwashes and in many of Krya’s hair oils. Methi seeds also relieve eye strain and eye burning which is relieved through frequent oil application. Krya also uses Methi in many of the hair mask preparations – Methi seeds are very useful in cases of high hairfall and to stimulate hair growth.
Add methi seeds in the form of dry roasted powder into all dal and Sambhar preparations to impart the bitter pitta reducing effect. Add the seeds at a roughly 10% level to idly and dosa batter to improve its bioavailability and reduce pitta properties slightly. Methi leaf can be cooked like any green and eaten regularly in the case of iron deficiency anaemia.
Warning: Pregnant women are advised to avoid Methi in their diet in traditional and folk medicine as it may lead to vaginal bleeding in certain cases.
- Curry Leaf (Murraya koenigii / Karevepillai / Kari patta)
We shared this yesterday in our little teaser to this post. Curry leaves in traditional medicine strengthen the body, improve appetite, and reduce body heat and fever. Because of the pitta reducing property, curry leaves are useful to delay premature greying and also bring lustre and brightness to the eyes.
Curry leaf is a very good addition to all preparations to reduce Pitta in them. This is especially useful in dishes that use a lot of red chillies or souring agents. We recommend buying only organic curry leaf and storing them after shade drying them so that they retain their green colour. Add this crumbled to your dishes so that they are not discarded.
There you have it. We listed and described 5 fabulous hair improving and health improving herbs in Ayurveda. As we had mentioned, eating right, eating the right quantity and at the right time forms the core of health in Ayurveda and every single disorder can be traced back to a weak, impaired digestive system or the introduction of faulty foods, faulty combination of foods into the body.
We are often asked by curious consumers just how safe our products are. We proudly tell them that we use ONLY edible grains, oils, herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables in our products and ABSOLUTELY no synthetics. In fact the 5 herbs we have mentioned in this post are used in very generous quantities across our hair care formulations.
To us, this is the true vindication of following Ayurveda to formulate our products. By using these wonderfully nutrient and potent herbs in our external applications, we not only ensure safety, but we also ensure our products are truly effective.
If the herbs we use are this effective when applied externally, just imagine the effect they could have if eaten regularly ! Happy thoughtful, ayurvedic eating to you from us at Krya.