Unlike modern Western medicine, ayurvedic medicine emphasizes that we must take an active role in our own healing process. Natural remedies that harmonize with the body and promote the body's own healing abilities are central to the ancient practice of ayurveda. Happily, many of these remedies are easily and inexpensively made at home.

Here we list the five most important herbs and foods to have on hand. With these, you can create quick and effective remedies.

Cautionary Note: It is important to remember that if you suffer from a serious ailment you should seek the advice of a trained physician.

Black Pepper

Excellent for sparking the digestive fire, increasing appetite and cleansing the liver, black pepper promotes hydrochloric acid secretions (which help digest proteins). It stimulates the nervous system and increases circulation to all parts of the body. It also increases sweating (to burn out fevers) and helps expel parasites. Black pepper helps relieve anorexia, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, cholera, common cold, diarrhea, eye diseases, fevers, frostbite, fungal infections, nervous disorders, painful menstruation, poor circulation, rheumatic conditions, ringworms, skin abscesses, sluggish liver, syphilis, toothaches and upper respiratory infections.

Dosage: 500-1000 mg eaten two to three times per day. This can be boiled in one cup of water, covered to steep, and taken as a tea sweetened with a taste of raw honey. This tea helps relieve the symptoms of cold, flu and painful menstruation. Black pepper powder can be sprinkled on food or mixed with a teaspoon of raw honey and eaten from the spoon.

Precautions: Pitta people and those with ulcers should be careful when taking black pepper. It can aggravate ulcers, inflammation and other pitta conditions. It decreases vata and kapha and increases pitta.

Garlic & Onion

Garlic and onion have been used for centuries as both food and medicine. They help increase digestive secretions, promote proper fat metabolism, and aid in liver detoxification. Though they have similar action, garlic is much more potent than onion. They can be eaten either raw or cooked. Garlic and onion help relieve abscesses, asthma, atherosclerosis, coughs, diabetes, digestive disorders, dysentery, earaches, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hysteria, inflammation and parasitic conditions.

Dosage: A medium sized raw onion can be chopped and eaten as a salad with lemon juice. 10-30 cc of raw onion juice can be mixed with honey. This is an especially helpful remedy for asthma. Onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon twice a day, can also be taken. Onions and garlic can be used in cooking and stir frying for their many therapeutic effects. Cooked onion is particularly good for vata people. 1-2 cloves of raw garlic can be eaten once or twice a day. 500 mg of garlic powder or 1-2 drops of garlic oil can be taken one to three times a day.

Precautions: Neither onions nor garlic should be consumed by those with gallbladder problems or kidney stones. These foods have a contracting action and could increase the pain caused by such conditions. Also, pitta people should be very cautious with garlic as it can aggravate gastritis and other pitta disorders. Garlic and onion decrease vata and kapha and increase pitta.


In ayurvedic medicine, ginger is used to increase the digestive fire-the key to radiant health. It contains enzymes and encourages the body to produce enzymes that help digest fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Ginger decreases discomfort during pregnancy and is also wonderful for postpartem care. In general, it helps alleviate nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, chest pain, cholera, dizziness, headaches, joint aches and pains, motion sickness, rheumatism and stomach aches. Taken orally, ginger provides excellent treatment for colds and fever, water retention, elevated cholesterol and liver damage. It is especially useful for stimulating kapha and for aiding vata's poor digestion and aches and pains.

Dosage: A tea of 1/4 tsp. dried ginger root powder or 1/2 to 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger root in warm water can be consumed up to three times per day. You can also sprinkle the above amount of ginger directly onto your food to aid digestion. Externally, ginger powder can be mixed with water and used as a poultice to stimulate circulation, relieve muscle and joint aches and pains, eliminate headaches and chest pain and regulate bowel movements. To make a poultice, simply mix 1/2-1 tsp. of dried ginger root powder with enough warm water to form a paste. Spread this onto the affected area.


When using a poultice, take care to avoid the eyes and mucous membranes. The poultice, as well as any ginger residue left on your hands, can burn these sensitive areas. Other than this, ginger has no dangerous side effects. Its dosha action is to decrease vata and kapha and increase pitta.


Also known as trifala (three fruits), this ancient ayurvedic herbal combination is revered for its many therapeutic effects. It is a rasayana, a formula which constantly rejuvenates and balances the body. Trifal is a wonderful preventive remedy that can be eaten daily. It is an intestinal cleanser which gently promotes regularity without irritating the bowels. It first helps digest food, then aids in elimination. It helps relieve anemia, bowel toxicity and irregularity, carbohydrate intolerance, chronic lung diseases, constipation, diabetes, eye diseases, high cholesterol, hypertension, indigestion, skin disorders and yeast infections.

Dosage: Dry powder: 3000- 6000 mg one to three times per day. Extract: 500 mg one to three times per day.

Precautions: Trifal has no known harmful side effects. It balances vata, pitta and kapha.


Turmeric is known as the king of spices in ayurvedic medicine. A bitter spice, it helps cleanse the liver, purify the blood and promote good digestion and elimination. It also has a powerful anti-inflammatory action without the unpleasant side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. Turmeric is very helpful for all doshas. It has been used for thousands of years in India for its many healing and cleansing properties. It is a wonderful skin cleanser, color enhancer and food preservative and is widely used for ritual purification. Also, recent studies show that turmeric is effective against cancerous tumors and HIV. It helps relieve acne, allergies, ascites, autoimmune disorders, burns, chicken pox, diabetes, digestive disorders, gallbladder problems, liver disorders and damage due to toxic chemical exposure and drug use, skin rashes, smallpox and ulcers.

Dosage: Dry powder: 1/2-11/2 tsp. two to three times per day. Extract (8:1): 250 mg three times per day.

Precautions: Turmeric has no known harmful side effects and is safe for everyday use. Its balances vata, pitta and kapha.