Nourishing Shukra Part 1: Shukral Foods and Recipes
Ever since the BMJ published an article, almost twenty years ago, pointing to a fifty percent drop in sperm counts worldwide,1 controversy has raged regarding sperm count. Factors affecting sperm count include industrial and agricultural pollution,2 maternal smoking,3 fetal alcohol syndrome4 and obesity. About one in twenty five men in the US suffers from low sperm count or low quality of sperm, affecting a couple’s ability to conceive. Thus Ayurvedic methods of nourishing shukra dhatu are more important than ever. In this article, we will consider some foods and recipes for nourishing shukra.
“Well-ripened mango is sweet in taste followed by astringent, aphrodisiac, demulcent, general tonic.”7 The observation that mango is a reproductive tonic is borne out by the latest research by Leigh Simmons and associates. Although the research was done on crickets, it does point to an association between vitamin A and sperm quality. And a well-ripened, golden mango is a great source of vitamin A with 1584 IU of vitamin A. Similarly revered as aphrodisiac and building are apricots, also an excellent source of vitamin A.
“Almonds are hot in potency, highly demulcent, heavy, relieve vata, and promote semen.” Almonds are rich in zinc, an important nutrient for spermatogenesis, and also high in Vitamin E. In the above-mentioned article by Leigh Simmons, Vitamin E was found to be another crucial component in creating high quality sperm. Recipes such as almond and rice dessert and ojas drink should be included in the diet of a man seeking to improve sperm count.
Almond and Rice Dessert
For almond milk
- Blanched Almonds - 0.5 cup
- Boiling Water - 0.75 cup
- Rice flour - 5 Tablespoons (grind basmati rice in spice grinder to make this)
- Milk - 1.5 cups
- Coconut milk - 2 cups
- Turbinado Sugar - 10 Tablespoons
- Rose water - 2 teaspoons
- Chopped pistachio nuts - 1 Tablespoon
- Chopped almonds - 2 Tablespoons
- 2 pomegranates
- For almond milk, place blanched almonds in a small bowl, and pour the boiling water over them. Cover, and soak for at least 15 minutes.
- Blend the soaked almonds into a fine puree.
- Strain the almond milk through a double layer of fine muslin cloth into a small bowl, squeezing the cloth to extract as much almond milk as possible.
- Combine the milk, coconut milk, and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- As the milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat.
- Add rice flour as almond milk comes to a boil, and reduce the heat.
- Stir the rice flour and almond mixture, because rice flour has a tendency to separate from the liquid and settle at the bottom.
- Add it to the milk and coconut milk in the saucepan in a steady, slow stream, stirring rapidly with a wire whisk to prevent lumping.
- Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens and a thin custard is formed on the spoon.
- Continue cooking the custard, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes.
- The custard should be quite thin.
- As it chills, it will thicken considerably.
- Stir in the rose water, cover and cool.
- A skin may form on the custard .If so, stir it in with a wire whisk.
- To serve, pour into individual dessert dishes, sprinkle with chopped almonds and pistachios, and place a teaspoon of pomegranate seeds in the center.
Ojas Drink Almond Restorative Drink
- 10 raw almonds
- 1 cup pure water
- 1 cup milk (unhomogenized if possible) (milk is highly rejuvenative when digested)
- 1 Tablespoons organic rose petals (optional - rejuvenative)
- 1 teaspoon ghee (rejuvenative)
- 1 pinch saffron (increases digestion & rejuvenative)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (increases digestion)
- Pinch of black pepper (helps control the K)
- ½ tsp of sweetener (increases lactose digestion)
- Soak almonds and water together overnight
- In the morning, drain off the water and rub the skins off the almonds.
- Bring the milk to a boil
- Pour the milk in the blender with the peeled almonds
- Add rose petals, ghee, saffron, cardamom, black pepper, and sweetener
- Blend until smooth
- Drink 3-4 times a week as directed.
According to Ayurveda, rice is beneficial for semen production. The most beneficial is red rice,10 which makes sense because of the antioxidant anthocyanins found in red rice. However, basmati rice is also a beneficial food for shukra and can be enjoyed in the above almond-rice dessert recipe or in a delicious kitcheri recipe that features sweet potato, another great antioxidant food and source of Vitamin A.
Tridoshic ‘Yam’ Kitcheri
Pacifies vata, pitta and kapha
- 1 cup split hulled mung beans
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 3 Tablespoons ghee
- 1 and half inches minced fresh ginger
- 2 Tablespoons shredded coconut
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 handful cilantro leaves
- 8 green cardamom pods
- 8 whole cloves
- 11 black peppercorns
- 3 inch piece cinnamon stick
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt to taste
- 1 large ‘yam’, cubed (actually a golden sweet potato)
- Rinse mung beans well with cold water and soak for a few hours
- Rinse rice well and soak while beans are cooking
- Put ginger, coconut, turmeric, cilantro and some water in a blender or food processor and blend. Use enough water to blend well.
- In a large pot, melt ghee over medium heat and sauté cardamom pods (split open first), cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and bay leaves for a few minutes. Then add the blended spices and sauté for a few more minutes until lightly cooked.
- Next add beans and yams; cook for a couple more minutes. Add enough water to cover the beans with at least 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the beans are completely broken down. Then add the rice and cook until the rice is broken apart. Add more water as needed. Salt to taste and enjoy!
“Ghee improves memory, intelligence, complexion, voice, personal beauty, amiability of features and bodily ojas. It is vitalizing, rejuvenating, spermatopoietic and heavy.”11 Rich in vitamin E and antoxidants, ghee is an important nutrient for shukra vaha srotas. Ghee should be used as an anupan for herbs intended to improve sperm count and also used in cooking.
“Urad dal is heavy, sweet in post-digestive effect, demulcent, cherishable, reduces vata, laxative, nutritive, strengthening, promoter of semen and extremely nourishing.”11 It’s effectiveness as a shukral food is legendary and urad dal features significantly in the pharmacopoeia section of Ananga Ranga Sutra, a mediaeval sex manual.
- 1 cup Urad dal
- 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
- 1 green chili, chopped Cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- Pinch of Garam masala
- Red chili powder to taste
- 2 Tablespoons ghee
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Clean and wash the dal
- Boil dal in 5 cups of water until soft.
- Heat ghee in a wok or small frying pan and add cloves, bay leaves and cumin seeds, allow to splutter.
- Now add ginger and green chili and stir-fry till golden brown.
- Add tomato and fry till it softens. Add all dry masalas (turmeric powder, chili powder, salt) and fry for a moment.
- Now add dal and lemon juice, mix very gently.
- Sprinkle garam masala and garnish with cilantro.
- Serve hot
“Spinach is cooling, demulcent, enhances kapha and pacifies vata and pitta…it is unctuous, promotes sleep and semen and controls hemorrhages."12 The usefulness of spinach in promoting sperm production may be due to its high levels of zinc and folic acid. Folic acid improves sperm quality and motility while the combination of zinc and folic acid improves male fertility.13
Spiced Coconut Spinach
- 1 shallot
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon natural mineral salt
- 1 tablespoon ghee or sunflower oil
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 7 oz spinach, well washed, and chopped
- Squeeze of lemon
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted
- Place the shallot and garlic on a cutting board, sprinkle with the salt, and chop/mash everything into a paste.
- Heat the oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Add the seeds, cover with a lid, and let them toast a bit. Remove the lid, stir in the red pepper flakes and let cook for a minute.
- Stir in the garlic-shallot paste and all of the spinach. Keep stirring until the spinach starts collapsing a bit, and brightens up - barely any time at all - perhaps a minute. Finish with a bit of fresh lemon juice and the coconut.
- Serves 2-3.
Other foods motioned by Bhavprakash as being shukral or promoting semen include coconut water, wheat, waterfowl such as duck and goose, eggs and buffalo meat. Eggs are high in Vitamin E, one of the reasons why they are still highly regarded for increasing sperm count. Garlic finds mention as a vitalizer and aphrodisiac but not specifically as promoting semen.14
In the next article, we will look at herbs that enhance semen production.
- Carlsen E, Giwercman A, Keiding N, Skakkebaek NE. Evidence for decreasing quality of semen during past 50 years. BMJ. 1992;305:609–613.
- De-Kun Li,et al Urine bisphenol-A (BPA) level in relation to semen quality Fertility and Sterility Volume 95, Issue 2 , Pages 625-630.e4, February 2011
- Ramlau-Hansen CH, Thulstrup AM, Storgaard L, Toft G, Olsen J, Bonde JP. Is prenatal exposure to tobacco smoking a cause of poor semen quality? A follow-up study. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;165:1372–1379.
- Ramlau-Hansen CH, Toft G, Jensen MS, Strandberg-Larsen K, Hansen ML, Olsen J. Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and semen quality in the male offspring: two decades of follow-up. Hum Reprod. 2010;25:2340–2345.
- Jensen TK, Andersson AM, Jorgensen N, et al. Body mass index in relation to semen quality and reproductive hormones among 1,558 Danish men. Fertil Steril. 2004;82:863–870.
- Maria Almbro, Damian K. Dowling, Leigh W. Simmons Effects of vitamin E and beta-carotene on sperm competitiveness Ecology Letters Volume 14, Issue 9, pages 891–895, September 2011 Article first published online: 12 JUL 2011
- Bhavprakash ch 6 v5.
- Ibid ch 6 v
- Sushrut, su, xlv tr KL Bhisagratna
- Bhavprakash ch on cereals pulses and millets
- Bhavprakash Chapter on potherbs
- Wai Yee Wong, Hans M.W.M Merkus, Chris M.G Thomas et al Effects of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial Fertility and Sterility Volume 77, Issue 3 , Pages 491-498, March 2002
- Bhavprakash Haritakyadi varga