Healthy digestion is an elusive concept from an allopathic point-of-view. Issues with occasional bloating, discomfort, or sluggishness are usually seen as part of a larger diagnosable disease. If no diagnosable disease is found, then health care providers usually write these discomforts off and seek to just correct the symptom itself as an isolated concern.
However, this paradigm is slowly shifting. The greatest advancement in thinking comes from better understanding metabolic syndrome, a group of findings centered around glucose, triglyceride, blood pressure, and abdominal circumference. While not a disease, this conglomeration of findings all point to poor digestion. As we know, the digestive fire (agni) exists within the central gastrointestinal tract as well as peripherally in the tissues. While feeding the digestive fire of our gastrointestinal tract only what it can handle (eating less if you are prone to gaining weight) is certainly part of the equation, the other part is supporting the digestive fire itself.
The pathophysiology of metabolic syndrome centers around more fatty acids and sugar (unprocessed water and earth elements) in the circulation. Researchers find that these fatty acids accumulate in the fatty tissue (meda dhatu). With time, however, the fatty acids release back into the circulation and cause insulin resistance in the tissues, especially in the liver. We find that the liver slows down its processing ability of sugars and fatty acids, altering cholesterol components as well.1
In other words, by understanding this syndrome better, we understand that maintaining a healthy, robust digestion (important even in the healthiest of individuals) centers around first supporting the normal functions of the central digestive fire (jathara agni), liver digestive fire (bhuta agni), and pancreas digestive fire (kloma agni). Doing so will also support all seven tissue layers and their agni as a byproduct.
Maintaining these fires for optimal health, along with supporting a healthy appetite and digestive process, was the inspiration behind the new liquid extract, Easy Digest. Here is a closer look at the formula.
- Coriander. This herb, like several in the formulation, has the unique ability to help kindle the digestive fire (agni) and digest natural toxins (ama) without being too heating to the point that it affects pitta. It is “warming”, as opposed to being heating, in terms of its digestive energy. It is an excellent carminative, being particularly helpful in vata type of digestion when there is occasional bloating and gas.2
- Fennel. Fennel also will help with digestion without aggravating pitta because of its sweet post-digestive taste (vipaka). It also has an affinity to digestion within the plasma (rasa dhatu), helping with digestion within the circulation.3
- Anise. This seed is often found in Greek or Italian liquors made to help with digestion. This exotic spice has a characteristic sweet, aromatic flavor that will kick-start the appetite and freshen the breath! Additionally it helps with kindling the digestive fire.
- Licorice. Licorice has a very soothing effect on the digestive system, supporting the natural lubrication of the gastrointestinal tract, particularly when there is more pitta. It also supports balancing the liver's digestive fire.4
- Cardamom. Yet another fantastic herb that supports the digestive fire without aggravating pitta, cardamom also helps remove excess kapha from the stomach, relieving kapha type of agni. It also supports vata type of agni that needs a little extra help to keep the direction of digestion flowing downwards, and it soothes excess pitta.5
- Peppermint. Peppermint is a popular carminative herb used in India. It can help with occasional discomfort caused by poor digestion. Historically, people have used peppermint for a number of sites in the digestive tract, including the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and the intestines!6
- Celery. Also known as “ajamoda” in Sanskrit, celery is one of the best herbs for vata type of digestion as it stimulates low agni (including kapha type of agni) and helps with the downward flow of vata. It is slightly more heating than many of the above herbs, bringing a good balance to the overall formulation.7
- Gentian. One of the quintessential bitters in the western herbal apothecary, gentian is particularly good for the liver and for soothing the digestive system as a tonic. It helps stimulate a healthy appetite.
- Ginger. The base of the formula is ginger, which has an amazing ability to stimulate the digestive fire on all levels. It will dispel natural toxins, clear excess kapha, and ground vata. It supports the natural secretion of digestive enzymes.8
1 I Agnanovic and T Dusek, “Pathophysiology of Metabolic Syndrome,” accessed December 3, 2015, http://www.ifcc.org/ifccfiles/docs/Pathophysiology_of_Metabolic_Syndrome.pdf.
2 Sebastian Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice (London: Churchill Livingston, 2006), pg. 165
3 Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine, pg. 175
4 Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine, pg. 220
5 Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine, pg. 151
6 “Peppermint,” U.S. National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus, accessed December 9, 2015, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/705.html.
7 Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine, pg. 120
8 Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine, pg. 183