Springtime and Dandelions
In the northern hemisphere, we are enjoying this beautiful time of year - when the cold of winter has transitioned into spring and soon the heat of summer will be upon us. This is my favorite time of year in Switzerland, when the ice caps are melting and the waterfalls and rivers are gushing, the trees are turning green while the blossoms and wildflowers are sprinkling the earth.
Ayurveda divides the year into three seasons: vata season, which flows from late autumn into early winter; kapha season, from the coldest, darkest part of winter into spring; and pitta season, the hottest time of year from late spring to early autumn.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha are made up of a combination of energies or substances connected to the five elements. Ether, air, fire, water and earth. These elements are the building blocks of our constitution and when they combine, they form these three unique forces or doshas. Ayurveda describes how the quantity and quality of these three energies fluctuates in the body according to the seasons, time of day, diet, and several other factors.
Vata is characterized by the properties of dry, cold, light and movement. Pitta is characterized by heat, moistness, liquidity, sharpness and sourness. Its main quality is heat. Kapha is characterized by heaviness, coldness, tenderness, softness, slowness and lubrication.
Just as the ice caps are melting, so our bodies are letting go of the heavier qualities of winter and with it the need to release the extra fat and weight which gave us comfort, contentment, and stability during the cold months. Balancing Kapha during this time of year is important, as an accumulation of these heavier qualities during winter can cause an imbalance that may lead to feelings of lethargy, mental dullness, body density, seasonal colds and allergies. We all have elements of Kapha in our bodies, the percentage and effects differ depending on our independent constitutions.
Spring is a good time for a detox. Spring is a time to lighten up. Get the body moving, eat lighter meals over the heavier - gone are the dense stews, pastas and root vegetables we needed during the colder months. You can support your body’s natural desire to detox and renew by just adjusting your diet and following Ayurvedic guidelines.
In Spring, pungent, bitter and astringent tastes are best. Meals structures need to be warm with light foods, that are easier to digest. Lots of fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits and a variety of legumes. Almost all vegetables work to reduce Kapha, with the exceptions of heavy and watery veggies - avo, sweet potato, olives, cucumber, squash and zucchini among these.
The beauty of Ayurveda and the magic of aligning yourself with nature was fully experienced a few days ago when my family and I went for a hike in the valley. Scattered all along the grass, pathways and river banks were spring flowers and dandelions. We watched the cows, goats and horses all munching on them.
Dandelions are a perfect spring tonic that the earth has gifted us, it’s properties cleanses the liver and helps to keep us cooler as we adjust to the rising warmer temperatures.
Dandelions are rich in potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin A and C. The plant has a bitter taste, and is balancing to both the pitta and kapha doshas. It is an easy way to give our systems the cleansing boost it needs, especially in the spring time when they grow in plenty.
The plant is edible and the nutritious leaves, flowers and shoots can be steamed or sautéed or a little chopped leaf can be added to salads. Dandelion Tea is wonderful to sip all through the day.
Dandelion has a cooling effect on the body system and is also drying. If you have high Vata constitution then moderate your intake and add some ginger to your tea to balance the cooling effect.
Dandelion clears the liver and gallbladder while removing cholesterol from the blood. It regulates blood sugar levels and it’s high potassium content makes it a strong diuretic, relieving high blood pressure and reduces water retention that causes spring sluggishness.
So perhaps a stroll outdoors to collect some dandelions is in order.