5 Herbs to Balance Kapha and Support Your Winter Wellness
Long nights, short days, a crisp chilly bite in the air. Winter is a time to heed the call inward—to cozy up by a crackling fire, break out that novel you’ve been meaning to read, cook your favorite soups, and find comfort in the warm company of those you love.
Depending on where you live, winter may bring blankets of quiet snow, sleeting rain, or grey and cloudy days. Ayurveda recognizes these influences as having similar qualities to kapha dosha—cool, moist, heavy, cloudy, soft, slow. As such, the winter and early spring is considered kapha season.
For many of us, this time can be an important and deeply nourishing opportunity to receive some much-deserved respite from the ongoing busyness of life. A time to grant ourselves permission to pause, rejuvenate, and rest.
But it’s also important to be mindful. If we embrace kapha in excess, that same soft cozy slowness can accumulate and leave us feeling stagnant, heavy, lethargic, and stuck by the arrival of spring.
As a basic principle, Ayurveda teaches that when one of the doshas is out of balance, we can always find our way back to wellness by bringing opposite qualities into the mix. So, to balance the cool, sticky, heavy qualities of kapha, we turn to the foods, lifestyle practices, and herbs that are warm, stimulating, and light.
Thankfully, Ayurveda’s pharmacopeia is rich in warming herbs and spices to keep kapha happy and balanced through the wintertime and into the spring.
Warming Herbs to Balance Kapha in Winter
When kapha accumulates to a point of excess, you may notice a feeling of heaviness in body and mind, an overabundance of fluids in your body, or a lethargy and lack of motivation that keeps you glued to the couch.
If you are feeling any of these uncomfortable signs of excess kapha, these five warming herbs are excellent allies to incorporate into your diet and lifestyle. They will help you enjoy everything that winter has to offer while you stay balanced, healthy, and energized.
1. Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
- Other Names: Holy basil, “the incomparable one”
- Taste Profile: pungent
- Dosha Effects: Best for vata and kapha, it may increase pitta
Tulsi is revered for its benefits for both body and mind and considered to be a sacred plant across many cultures. It has a warm, light, clarifying quality and imparts the energy of sattva, or awareness.
Physiologically, tulsi is excellent for supporting a healthy immune system and promoting the health of the lungs and respiratory tract.
- Take it in a powder or tablet form to support healthy immune function and promote a healthy respiratory system.
- Put it on your body! Kapha Massage Oil is an invigorating herbal oil which features tulsi as an ingredient. Use it for your abhyanga (self-massage) throughout the winter months.
2. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Other Names: Vishwabhesaj or “the universal medicine” in Sanskrit
- Taste Profile: pungent, sweet
- Dosha Effects: Balancing for for vata and kapha, aggravates pitta in excess
Ginger has a sweet and spicy kick that is just the thing for bringing warmth and stimulation in the wintertime. Well-known for its ability to kindle agni and support healthy digestion, ginger also supports healthy circulation, promotes expectoration, and breaks up excess kapha in the lungs.
A staple in the kitchen as well as in any herbalist’s medicine cabinet, ginger is endlessly versatile and can be used in several different ways to support the body.
- Treat yourself to a self-massage with Mahanarayan Oil. This luxurious oil is based on a traditional Ayurvedic formula that blends ginger with several other powerful herbs to bring warmth and nourishment to the tissues.
- Nourish your kidneys and adrenal glands with a warm ginger compress.
- Cook with it. Add fresh ginger or dry ginger powder to your meals. Thanks to its sweet and pungent taste, ginger is one of those spices that works great in savory dishes and sweet treats alike.
3. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
- Other Names: Indian saffron, yellow root, haridra in Sanskrit
- Taste Profile: pungent, bitter, astringent
- Dosha Effects: Balancing for all doshas but can increase vata and pitta in excess
Bright, golden-colored turmeric is a time-tested herbal ally for supporting overall health. While it has become well-known for supporting the joints in recent years, its benefits extend throughout the entire body.
Use this brilliant golden root to support the immune system, cleanse the blood, promote healthy digestion, nourish the nervous system, bring a glow to your skin, and more!
- Cook with it. Add turmeric powder to your curries, soups, veggies, and stir-fries or enjoy it in Banyan's pre-blended Kitchari Spice Mix to make your kitchen experience easy, nourishing, and delicious.
- Enjoy a mug of creamy, satisfying golden milk. Add Turmeric Milk to your milk of choice, warm it up, and blend well. The perfect way to indulge in some serious comfort while also supporting your health.
- Keep it simple. Incorporate turmeric powder or tablets into your daily routine for convenient and consistent support.
4. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia)
- Other Names: In Sanskrit, cinnamon is known as twak, meaning “skin” or “bark”
- Taste Profile: Pungent, sweet, astringent
- Dosha Effects: Balancing for vata and kapha, may increase pitta
Oh sweet cinnamon! This aromatic kitchen spice is well-known and loved for its use in the culinary realm, but it’s also rich in physical health benefits. Heating and spicy-sweet, cinnamon is excellent at enkindling agni, helping to eliminate toxins, and reducing kapha in the head and chest.
Cinnamon’s warmth is also wonderfully supportive of healthy circulation in the extremities—perfect for those who experience chilly fingers and toes in the winter months.
- Cook with it! Sprinkle cinnamon powder on your oatmeal, add it to your baked goods, use it in savory curries, or brew up a big pot of warming herbal chai.
- Try Ashwagandha Latte, a nourishing blend of herbal adaptogens mixed with cinnamon and cardamom that may just be your new favorite cozy winter drink ritual.
- Sip on Detox Digest, a cleansing and detoxifying herbal tea that will kindle digestion and move out excess kapha dosha. It includes ginger and turmeric too!
5. Pippali (Piper longum)
- Other Names: Long pepper
- Taste Profile: pungent
- Dosha Effects: Best for vata and kapha, okay for pitta in moderation
Pippali is a member of the pepper family and a relative of black pepper. A rejuvenating herb, it nourishes the tissues of the blood, nerves, and reproductive system. It also has an affinity for the lungs and respiratory system and supports clear and comfortable breathing.
Pippali is wonderful for supporting strong digestion without being too overheating for the system. When combined with ginger and black pepper, it creates the traditional digestive formula trikatu, used in Ayurveda to kick-start a sluggish digestive system.
- Replenish your lungs and rejuvenate your respiratory pathways with Lung Revive liquid extract, a fast-acting formula to support you through the winter season.
- Add a pinch of pippali powder to your meals, either while cooking or simply sprinkled on top to rev up your digestion and support healthy assimilation of nutrients.
- Bake a sweet treat for yourself and your loved ones. These pippali gingersnaps are the perfect winter indulgence, offering warmth and comfort without aggravating kapha.