Staying healthy in our bodies and minds sometimes requires hitting the “reset” button! When one or two doshas become aggravated, and we experience toxic buildup, it can be difficult for our bodies to return to a state of balance or homeostasis. That’s when it can be useful to detoxify and get rid of the ama.
What is ama?
Ama is the undigested food mass that accumulates in the digestive tract. It can become toxic to our own body and is usually involved with the accumulation of the doshas at their respective sites (colon for Vata, small intestine for Pitta and stomach for Kapha) and kickstarts the disease process.
Ama is very much like Kapha: it is cold, damp, heavy, thick and tends to clog and ferment. In other words, in the digestive system, it contributes to the suppression of the digestive fire – Agni.
Whenever you experience sticky phlegm, bad breath, lack of taste and appetite, thick tongue coating, general feeling of heaviness, lack of strength, prolonged fatigue, or dullness of the mind and senses; it is usually a good indicator of high ama.
If the doshas have started accumulating, the first thing to do is to clear ama; then follow a detoxification process. You can use tonification or rejuvenation therapies to further strengthen your body.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Detoxification
According to Ayurveda, some of the best detoxifying herbs are:
- Diaphoretic herbs (that make sweat)
- Carminative herbs (that expel air)
- Expectorant herbs (that get rid of phlegm)
- Diuretic herbs (that eliminate through urine)
- Laxative herbs (that increase bowel movement)
- Emmenagogues (that relieve congestion of blood)
And generally speaking, bitter, astringent and pungent herbs that clean the blood, lymph and bile.
Here are my favorite Ayurvedic herbs for detoxification:
Triphala is actually a blend of three fruits: Amalaki (which is a powerful antioxidant super high in Vitamin C and one of the main ingredients of Chyawanprash), Bibhitaki and Haritaki. Triphala supports the whole GI tract. Both Bibhitaki and Haritaki have a laxative effect and support gut health and amalaki is a powerful rejuvenative that supports longevity.
The rasa or taste of Triphala is sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent; the only taste not contained within the formula is salty. Its taste is not particularly pleasant, but it is really effective!
It is usually taken right before bed or first thing in the morning. Even if it is particularly recommended for Kapha, it brings all doshas back to balance thanks to its powerful detoxification powers.
How to take triphala? Triphala can be taken in a powder form in warm water, milk or non-dairy milk, mixed with honey, in capsules or liquid extract.
Manjistha is an effective herb to promote healthy liver function. It strengthens agni, the digestive fire, and reduces the load on the liver. It is probably the best blood and lymph purifying herb. It cools and detoxifies the blood, dissolves obstructions in the blood flow and removes stagnant blood. It is very effective for toxic blood conditions, and cleanses and regulates the liver, spleen and kidney function. It is great to balance Pitta and Kapha but can be too drying to Vata if used in excess.
How to take manjishta? Powder (250mg to 1g), paste, medicated ghee.
Guggul is a resin that is bitter, pungent and astringent and that balances Kapha and Vata. It may increase Pitta if taken in excess. Guggul is the most important resin used in Ayurvedic medicine. Similar to myrrh, it possesses strong purifying and rejuvenating powers. Guggul is fantastic taken in the mouth and chewed in case of mouth ulcers, because it heals the skin and mucous membranes. It also helps the regeneration of nerve tissue. It is also recommended for arthritic conditions.
How to take guggul? Capsules, powder (250 to 500mg) or paste or gum
Neem bark and leaves are bitter, cooling and pungent. Neem cleanses the blood. It cools fever and clears the toxins involved in most inflammatory skin diseases or ulcerated mucous membranes. It can be taken internally whenever a purification is needed since it clears away excessive tissue, is very astringent and promotes healing. Taken externally, in the form of medicated oil, it is a great healing and disinfectant agent for skin diseases and an anti-inflammatory agent for joint and muscle pain. It is great for Pitta and Kapha but can be aggravating for Vata is taken in excess.
How to take neem? Infusion, powder (250 to 500mg), paste, medicated ghee, medicated oil.
When choosing Ayurvedic herbs to use for your detoxification, be sure to pay attention to your dosha imbalance and the time of year you are detoxing! For Pitta imbalances and ama accumulation in summer, you might want to incorporate cooling herbs, like aloe vera, burdock, dandelion and echinacea. Coriander, turmeric, fennel, and chamomile are also great allies in the detoxification process, and are so easy to incorporate in your meals or teas! Chyawanprash can be beneficial for gentle detoxing and immune support in the fall and winter.
Questions? Message me at @cecileantoine_!
Cécile Antoine Alfonzo
Certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant