During the winter season, when the days are shorter, the air is colder, and the earth is wetter, kapha dosha tends to increase and accumulate in the body. Kapha’s nature tends to be cool, wet and dense, and when these qualities are also reflected in our environment, kapha naturally increases.
In winter, the body needs more fuel to keep itself warm, it’s true, but the universal truth of “eat what you can digest” holds true as well. If we increase our warming grains (such as millet and barley), eat dairy products moderately, and include digestive spices in our cooking, we can keep kapha content. If on the other hand, we overindulge in cooling, moist and heavy foods (think pizza and ice cream), the body can become heavy and sluggish; the mind can feel lethargic and depressed.
To help keep the body strong and fit through the winter months, here’s a recipe for “Immunity Soup.” While definitely not recommended for monks (due to the garlic and onions), for most modern yogis this soup will offer a boost to the immune system that will gently help ward off colds and flu.
Several ingredients help make this soup so powerful. Shitake mushrooms are well known for boosting immunity and have an anti-viral effect as well. Many of us know garlic to be a natural antibiotic, and of course our dear friend ginger provides an anti-inflammatory effect.
Astragalus root, a Chinese herb with powerful immune-enhancing properties, adds a pleasant sweet taste when simmered in soup. Astragalus root is available in Chinese herb stores, or several places on-line. Pregnant or nursing women should not use astragalus root. Nor should those diagnosed with an “autoimmune disease” (such as MS, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis). Also, avoid using astragalus if you are taking immune-suppressing drugs.
Makes about 6 cups (3 servings)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, mashed
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 oz shitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced diagonally
- 2-3 pieces astragalus root (about 7-8 inches total)
- 5 cups mushroom (or vegetable) stock
- 1 tablespoon tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
- Salt (optional)
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger; sauté until soft and translucent. Add the shitakes, carrots, astragalus root, and mushroom stock. Bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add the tamari and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. (Kale is another lovely addition to this soup.)
- Remove the astragalus root pieces. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the scallions before serving.
Plenty of fun physical activity also helps keeps kapha content. Be sure to include ice skating, skiing, laughing and dancing as part of your wintertime routine as well!
May all be happy, healthy and holy!
– Pratibha (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: email@example.com.