I want to share a little background of why this warming, healing tea – in conjunction with yoga practice (and even without!) can be used to soothe even the most disgruntled tummy.
Digestive aliments are epidemic today. This is pretty bad news considering that over 80% of our immune system is housed in our gut, and that digestive health shapes every aspect of our emotional and physical well-being. But the good news is that both yoga and herbs have been shown to be effective in helping manage everything from irritable bowel syndrome to heartburn, to our ability to digest and detoxify.
In yoga, certain postures and breathing techniques work to stimulate the fiery metabolic energy of digestion (agni). By massaging, compressing and opening the abdominal area they assist the body to assimilate food while eliminating wastes and toxins (ama).
Similarly certain medicinal herbs assist in these processes. From promoting bile flow in the body, increasing fat digestion and protecting the intestinal mucosa, they cleanse and support the digestive organs. Some contain anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and mucilaginous qualities that calm indigestion and digestive spasms, coating and soothing the digestive tract. Others can calm the nervous system which aids in easing tummies afflicted by anxiety and stress.
Many of these herbs are easily accessible, in fact many probably are growing in your backyard. Consuming herbs like Dandelion, Wild Fennel, Chamomile, Lemon Balm even Wild Violets (all of which are known to support the digestive organs, aid metabolic processes and the elimination of waste products) can help to increase the thoroughness of digestion, reduce bloating, gas, and the symptoms of food allergies.
Chamomile and Lemon Balm are also known to calm the nervous system, which helps when digestion is adversely affected by stress. And used in tandem with restorative yoga and meditative practices they help reduce nervous agitation and cool-down an overactive parasympathetic nervous system.
In yoga, the digestive system is under the dominion of the third chakra, the centre of command and control. This is the home of our gut feelings, and it not only gives us the will power and strength to carry out our intentions – it helps us fully digest the physical and emotional experiences of life.
And in astrological herbalism, herbs are used in harmony with seasonal and astrological cycles. Early herbalists observed the connection between time of year, celestial cycles and cycles of plant growth. They believed that the same cycles that affect plant growth affect our bodies as well, so they correlated systems of the body with certain planets, which governed specific medicinal herbs.
This month is Virgo (August 23rd to Sept 22nd) which governs our abdomen, intestinal track and digestive organs, so using Fennel ( A Virgo ruled herb) long renowned for it’s tummy soothing abilities is one obvious choice.(For more info on Fennel click here). Using Dandelions,Plantain and Yellow Dock in salads and pestos, will further help cleanse the body and remove toxins from the internal organs.
So in tandem with the celestial and seasonal cycles of the natural world – I offer you an autumnal recipe for a digestion enhancing tea. It utilizes the plants growing around you right now under the auspices of Virgo – which of course governs the entire digestive process.
So get in touch with power of your third chakra – and the energy of the season. This month, drink this tea before a practice of digestion enhancing postures like Pawanmuktasana (knees to belly) and gentle twists (like Bharadvaja) which compress and massage the abdominal area. Belly opening postures like Bridge and Bow pose can be used to help bring blood flow to the internal organs. And if your’e looking to fire up the empowering energy of the solar chakra, try Boat or Breath of Fire.
Autumn Herbal Tea For Digestion
Note: This is a list of local herbs and wild plants that promote good digestion (besides many other good things). You may not find all of the ingredients nearby, so just use the plants from the list that are growing near you. This will help bring you into harmony with the seasonal and energetic forces of your local landscape.
Ingredients (To make a one pot or about 16 ounces of tea)
About a tablespoon of:
-Fennel fronds, blossoms and seeds
–Mint (Wild if you can find it)
–Lemon Balm leaves
–Queen Anne Lace blossoms
–Chrysanthemum and/or Sea Aster blossoms
-2 cups of boiling water
– Muddle your plants (meaning gently crush them with a mortal and pestle or the back of a wooden spoon)
– Boil water
– Remove water from heat then place your herbs in the hot water
– Let infuse for 10 -15 minutes
– Strain and drink
Note: Starting this October I’ll be offering a series of yoga classes that will utilize locally growing common plants and herbs. If you live in Victoria and are interested in participating or learning more – send me an email here.