by Sheyna Haisman-Holmes
In Ayurveda there are herbs, foods and practices that are agni deepanas (strengthen digestive fire) and ama pachanas (burn toxins). Agni deepanas stimulate agni through jatharagni (the main digestive fire in the stomach). Ama pachanas increase stomach secretions and burn ama (toxins) in the small intestine and the colon. Deepanas are used before pachanas to strengthen the digestive fire to break down the toxins that get released. Many toxins get pulled from the cells into the alimentary tract to be expelled, so it is important that the digestive fires are capable.
Agni is the key to our overall health and vitality. We need our digestive fires to break down, assimilate and absorb nutrients we consume in order to nourish our tissues. In Hinduism, Agni is a multi-headed fire god that carries messages from the humans to the gods. This god is behind the power of the sun, lightning and all fire. Agni is also the element of fire within the Pancha Mahabhutas (5 elements) that represents transformation and cellular communication. Agni is a sacred element and is the first thing to address internally during an imbalance.
There are many causes of ama in the system that can be addressed. One main cause is a poor diet, which may include overeating, heavy & oily foods, fried food, excess raw food and excess sugar & salt. Other factors may be stress, poor sleep, lack of exercise, sleeping on a full stomach, holding unresolved emotions and a weakened digestive fire. Undigested food particles and improper physical stimulation or rest can cause ama to build. More toxins are created and leads to excess dosha in a site of the body that starts to create issues. For example, excess vata and ama in a site may create pain in the joints or arthritis.
Tastes that stimulate agni (deepana effect): salty, bitter and spicy
Herbs: Dill seeds, fennel, ajwan, coriander, clove, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, turmeric, pippali, black pepper, ginger, asafoetida, honey, trikatu, chilies, garlic
Others: buttermilk, hot water, coconut water, ghee
Tastes that help burn toxins (pachana effect): bitter, pungent, astringent and spicy
Qualities: hot & dry
Herbs: Citrus, asafoetida, musta, turmeric, ajwan, cumin, fenugreek, black pepper, cinnamon, mustard seed, mint, garlic, ginger, coriander, neem, trikatu
Others: buttermilk, lime juice, citrus juice, rock salt
Other than consuming herbs and spices, there are many things we can do to strengthen our digestion and burn toxins. We can have a good diet, eat big meals earlier in the day, get enough sleep, exercise, practice yoga & pranayama, sweat, sun bathe and practice intermittent fasting. We can pay attention to the state of our agni and remember that it is the point of origin to return to for health and healing 🙂