What foods to avoid, and which to eat when preparing for plant-medicine ceremonies. Whether it's quitting caffeine or alcohol before your trip, or continuing the dieta afterward, timing is important for making gentle transitions.
Chayawanprash is a word I think I finally know how to pronounce after having eaten the ayurvedic jam (that’s basically what it is) off and on for years.
Medicinal jam is the simplest description for the thousands-of-years-old recipe of black-ish paste that in some preparations contains up to 80 different herbs.
I first discovered chayawanprash in one of my super geeky health-food-store-trend scours where I read the fine print on the weirdest looking jars and bars I can find. The huge list of herbs on the label sold me, despite that I couldn’t see inside the container (that jar was plastic). Then, I popped the top and discovered it was black. (So fun.) Better yet, it tasted great.
I liked the jam and took about a tablespoon a day as directed. But, at the time, I didn’t know what I do now about adaptogenic herbs, and the importance of using them consistently (daily) for a long period of time in order to really feel the effects.
Recently, chayawanprash re-entered my life, this time with a much more memorable name: HANAH. (Reminds me of "Her," heh.) One of the most health-aware people I know lead me to the company and I was able to test some of the first ONE on the market. (I even took the travel-sized packets on a hike in Colombia.)
This jam looked similar (black, basically, with tiny, sparkling bits of crystalized honey and creamy ghee) but I could taste the quality difference. And while it’s full of herbs, the ingredients are more focused than the old chaya recipe. They're also very intentional. (See the honey point, below.)
Here, I’m looking at some of the foundational ingredients in the mix. Because exotic is fun, but knowing our basics first is better. If you're more curious about bhakhdi and shalparni than, say, cinnamon, HANAH lists all of ONE's ingredients on their site, along with the herbs' benefits.
Ghee: I go in and out of ghee-eating phases, generally dependent on my vegan strictness. If it’s ethically acceptable for you to eat ghee, it’s definitely good for your health. The clarified butter is pure butter fat, without the water and milk proteins found in typical butter. That means lots of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid known to be protective against carcinogens, artery plaque and diabetes. CLA may also expedite weight loss. Ghee is also high in butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that is great for intestinal cells (gut health!). HANAH’s Ghee, is the best ghee I have ever tasted by a long shot. In the ONE, it’s less pronounced, but provides the good benefit of healthy saturated fat and energy-dense calories. (If you're worried about saturated fat, don't be. There's more info about that in one of my recent newsletters.)
Honey: Initially, this turned me off. Enough so that I contemplated not using the ONE anymore. (I eat almost no sugar, so every gram counts.) After a conversation with the team, I learned that the honey makes the herbal benefits more bioavailable and without it, HANAH ONE would be less effective. Bioavailability is something anyone taking supplements or superfoods should be aware of. (We waste a lot of money on vitamins that we can’t absorb.) As a sugar, honey is also relatively low GI and healthy in enough other ways that I can do with a little bit every day. (I do use it on my face …)
Cinnamon: This may be the earliest health culinary+medicinal herb I started using. I grew up loving it on toast or in oatmeal. I moved on to making flaxseed-berry-yogurts full of it, and then started adding it to savory foods as well (goes really well with salt, pepper, and baked squashes!). It’s high in chromium, helps balance blood sugar, and as a kid I watched my diabetic grandpa add a heaping tablespoon to his breakfast every day. Cinnamon is powerful, common, and commonly overlooked. In ONE it strengthens digestion, eliminates many disease-causing fungi and viruses, and clears urinary tract infections.
Ashwagandha: This may be the herb of the year. Ashwagandha is one of the most common herbs I prescribe to clients, and I take it daily in addition to eating the HANAH ONE. (Read more about ashwagandha and other herbs I recommend regularly in this piece for Well+Good.) It’s an adaptogen, which means it helps your body adapt to stress (of all sorts) over time. And, it’s best used daily, for weeks, months, or years. Often benefits are felt later-on, though some can happen immediately. I consider ashwagandha a foundational root that’s generally well tolerated, tastes like toasty oatmeal, is easily grown, and immensely beneficial.
Turmeric: What isn’t turmeric good for? Number one: it’s anti-inflammatory. And, inflammation may be the root of so much more disease than we realize. It's an antioxidant, which basically means "anti-aging" and increases a type of growth hormone that works in our brains, possibly improving depression/mood and preventing neurodegenerative diseases. Note that curcumin (the magic in turmeric) is hugely more bioavailable (absorbable) when combined with black pepper, so add a tiny pinch of pepper to any turmeric or ONE recipes for even more goodness. We can all afford more turmeric in our lives, and the quality/source of HANAH’s is awesome - it's all hand picked in Kerala, India, which also means each batch of HANAH ONE is unique.
How's that for plant medicine?