ayurveda: cooling herbal oils


summer joy

As the starlight sky dances above and we lie in bed resting peacefully, the first morning rays begin to permeate through our east-facing open window. The radiant sun and warm breeze awaken us to the start of a new day filled with light, warmth and fresh growth. As the sun rises in the sky, its penetrating and extreme heat during the long day makes it evident that summer has arrived.

Creating our homes and synchronizing them with our environment enhances well-being in all areas of our lives. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch play a powerful role in defining our experience and how well we perform within it. Simple architecture, along with elemental surroundings, establish poise and create an atmosphere that balances the qualities of the season, bringing equilibrium to our internal being. The colors with which we choose to surround ourselves affect us profoundly. In the heat of summer, walls painted with cool colors such as deep blues, greens, and pastels evoke the vast sky and rolling hills filled with fragrant wildflowers. Textures from smooth slate, cedar wood, bamboo furniture and silk fabrics naturally set the tone of our home with a sense of true relaxation. 

The summer and the sun are the external macrocosmic expression of agni (fire) and pitta. Pitta is composed of the elements of fire and water. It is dominant at noon and midnight from July through October and it governs metabolism, digestion, and the enzymatic and endocrine systems. Pitta is agneya, permeated with the qualities of agni: hot, sharp, and penetrating. The state of agni in an individual may be evaluated by looking at the brilliance of the eyes, color of complexion, radiance, vitality and dynamism, sharpness of mind, pureness of feelings and the natural rhythm and hunger for food. 

Both agni and pitta are located in the amashaya – the stomach and small intestines. Biochemical and physiological property within food is digested, transformed and assimilated by the fire of agni. If the fire quality is too high, sour and pungent attributes are produced, which burn our essential nutrients. Similarly, when the agni, as the sun in the sky, is scorching hot, it too will cause the burning and drying of our skin. Planting cooling culinary and medicinal herbs in our garden, with bitter and sweet properties, offers us immediate remedies to reduce our internal heat. Some choice plants would be mint, coriander, cilantro, dill, parsley, chrysanthemum, peppermint, fennel, dandelion, burdock and aloe vera. Ayurveda recommends the application of cooling herbal oils – in a base of coconut, sunflower and neem – to protect our skin and allow us to utilize the rays of the sun properly by balancing its heating quality and thereby reducing pitta.

Enhancing our home and environment with flowing water, elegant fountains, crystals, soft, melodic bamboo flutes and charms generate a distinct impression of relaxation and deep serenity. Developing a simple sanctuary outside our home with aromatic flowers and images that remind us of our inherent divinity, gives us a place to quiet the mind and brings composure and grace – a refuge for meditation and yoga. Full moon salutations and cooling breath pranayama help us balance the heat of the summer and fill us with nectar. The practice of relating to and tuning into nature cultivates an immense appreciation and inspiration for life. 

One ancient Ayurvedic text declares that inside the umbilicus there is a circle of Soma (moon). Inside the circle of Soma, there is a circle of Surya (Sun). In human beings, inside the circle of Surya, agni is present in the shape of a lamp. The agni, in the form of a lamp, is covered with a shell of glass just as an embryo is covered with amniotic membrane. The sun absorbs and transforms water with the help of its hot rays as agni transforms our food through digestion to give us vital nutrition. Both express the fundamental importance of balancing the qualities of fire and water within our microcosm and macrocosmic world. To know and understand the potential of fire, both within and outside of ourselves, not only gives us a healthy metabolism but a strong exuberance to live our life with radiance.

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