Our Favorite Winter Spices for Staying Warm

For all of us who are in the Northern Hemisphere, we are in the thick of winter! Depending on where we live, that looks different for each of us, but we all still encounter seasonal cycles and changes and sometimes this can create an imbalance in our bodies, minds, and emotions. Fortunately, there exists a beautiful and intricate science that helps us to make sense of and balance the external and internal changes of life.

A Brief Lesson in Ayurveda

Ayurveda is an ancient healing practice from India (literally translated to the science of life) and is considered the sister science of Yoga. Ayurveda recognizes that we are all born with a unique blueprint, or constitution (Prakriti), that informs how we relate to and experience ourselves, each other, and nature. Since everything is nature, and nature is ever-changing, we are bound to experience imbalance from time to time.

Ayurveda offers us self-healing modalities and natural medicines to stay centered, balanced, and in harmony with ourselves and the world. While the actual practice of Ayurveda is highly individualized and therefore complex, one of its universal principles is very basic: Like increases like, and opposites balance.

For example, if you tend to have a lot of fire in your constitution, eating spicy food in the height of summer might aggravate some of those fiery qualities, such as increased irritability or skin rash. On the other hand, eating some cucumbers and watermelon full of water and crispy coolness might help to balance and cool you down so as to not get overheated by the nature of the season.

As you might gather from my example, one of the best ways we can apply this principle is through our food.

Ayurveda and Winter Foods

Food is a very big part of Ayurvedic medicine and treatment. And while we can get into some really deep rabbit holes of Ayurvedic recipes and medicine (nerd alert on HIGH!), let’s start with something a little more accessible and approachable: spices.

Oh, how I love my spice cabinet.

Before we can get down with this spice party, we need to understand the elements and qualities of winter so we know how to balance them.

As nature provides the basis for all understanding within Ayurveda, we can look at how the elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) of the season are showing up and what qualities they bring with them.

The dominant elements during winter are air and ether (or space) which primarily produce a physical and mental feeling of being cold, dry, hard, rough, and erratic. As we get closer to spring, we will also start to feel some heaviness and sluggishness setting in.

As we look to our spice racks this winter, we want to look for spices that are warming, grounding, stabilizing, and mobilizing (for late winter) to bring balance to the predominant qualities of the season.