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Giving plain water a herbal twist

Giving plain water a herbal twist

We can add a lot of healthy herbal value to the water we drink, cold or hot
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Maintaining adequate hydration is an important aspect of healthy living. Along with hydrating the body, water also serves as a medicine when infused with herbal ingredients that are readily available in homes and gardens.

Ayurveda suggests a few interesting yet simple water-based preparations that can boost immunity and rid us of common ailments: for example, cold, cough, indigestion, headache, sore throat, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, dry skin, joint pains, among others.

Read more about the ayurvedic way of drinking water here.

Happiest Health speaks with Ayurveda experts Dr Vinaykumar R Kadibagil, professor at Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara College of Ayurveda and Hospital, Hassan; and Dr Ravi Dhaliya, associate professor from Babe ke Ayurveda Medical College and Hospital, Dauhar, Punjab, to understand the goodness of medicated water.

Dr Kadibagil says herbs are readily soluble in water and easy to make. However, water-based preparations last only for a few hours and should be consumed immediately.

Different forms of preparations

Dr Dhaliya groups water-based medicines as cold and hot preparations. Cold preparations do not involve any boiling. Hot preparations are made either using boiled water, or the concoctions are made by adding herbs such as dry ginger, cumin seeds and caraway seeds (omum or ajwain) to boiling water.

Cold preparations

Cold water is used as a base only for herbs that are aromatic and have volatile or heat-sensitive principles. Here are a few of them.

Cold water: Ayurveda strictly says `no’ to cold water as it diminishes digestion. But consuming cold water has its benefits such as when one has excessive thirst, nausea, fatigue, giddiness, a burning sensation and bleeding disorders.

Cold infusion or cold tea: Dr Kadibagil explains how a cold infusion is prepared. The herbal ingredients are soaked overnight in cold water in a ratio of 1:6 to macerate or soften the mixture. In the morning this is filtered, and the liquid is consumed. This method lends the essence and the aroma of the herb to the concoction.

Cold drinks (panaka): Citrus fruits such as lemon and sour fruits like mango, tamarind and kokum are predominantly used in cold drinks. Dr Kadibagil says citrus fruit drinks help to restore micronutrients lost due to dehydration.

Hot preparations

Dr Dhaliya says preparations using hot water or a heating process are recommended mostly for digestive, respiratory and joint ailments. Dry herbs such as triphala and dry ginger are preferred.

Hot water: Dr Kadibagil says that boiled water is lighter than cold water and aids digestion and bowel movements. Hot water is preferred mostly at night for easing constipation or hard stools. Water is heated and reduced to different proportions as follows based on the seasons and the person’s health indications.

Water is boiled and reduced to:

  • 3/4th the measure to correct bowel disturbances and abdominal distention. It alleviates vata dosha or disturbances in the air element of the body.
  • Half to correct the disturbances in digestion; namely disturbances in pitta or the fire element.
  • 1/8th during Autumn.
  • 1/4th during early winters.
  • Half during summer and winter.

Hot infusion or herbal tea: Infusing herbal ingredients (they could be seeds, fruits, leaves, roots and shoots or herbal extracts) in hot water can boost immunity, relieve colds, coughs, fevers and improve gut health.

Decoctions are prepared by boiling multiple herbal ingredients in water. The proportions of ingredients and preparation methods differ based on the quality of the ingredients. Dr Kadibagil cautions that decoctions should be strictly used under a physician’s guidance.

“In general, decoctions are made by adding eight parts of water and one part of herbs and then reduced to half,” he says.

Some infusions and their uses

  • Coriander seed infusion for hyperacidity, burning sensation while urinating; and excessive sweating during summers.
  • Cold tamarind extract drink to beat excessive sweating, thirst and burning sensation in the body.
  • Cumin seed tea and Carom seed (ajwain or thymol seeds) tea can relieve bloating and spasmodic pain in the stomach.
  • Dry ginger tea can relieve digestive disturbances, cough, cold and loss of appetite during fevers. In winter it can keep cold at bay. It is also useful against motion sickness and nausea.
  • Clove tea can relieve bad breath.
  • Juice of a lemon squeezed into a glass of water and drunk with a pinch of salt and sugar can mitigate the effects of dehydration.
  • Fennel tea aids digestion.

Some precautions 

  • Not every herbal tea or decoction is suitable for everyone.
  • When using any ingredient other than those commonly used at home, available in it is best to ask the physician.
  • Long-term or over usage of any herb can affect the body adversely.
  • Before trying anything new, it helps to look up the herb’s scientific basis, benefits and possible side effects.

Read more about the limitations of home remedies here.

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