March 19, 2016

Exposing the Biggest Myths in Ayurveda: Onion & Garlic Are Prohibited.


Click here to see the first article in this series. 

Those on the spiritual path, from Yogis to Brahmacharyas (which literally means, “going after Brahma/God”), avoid onion and garlic in their food.

“Garlic and onions are both rajasic and tamasic, and are forbidden to yogis because they root the consciousness more firmly in the body.” ~ Dr. Robert E. Svoboda: Prolific author and Ayurvedic doctor

There are three qualities in everything in the universe, including foods:

1. Sattva (purity)
2. Rajas (stimulation, passion)
3. Tamas (inertia)

Garlic and Onion are mostly Rajasic, but also contain some Tamasic action. Garlic and onion are avoided by spiritual adherents because they stimulate the central nervous system and can disturb vows of celibacy. This is especially so because garlic is a natural aphrodisiac.

People get surprised when Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe garlic and onion as medicine, or when I mention it in my recipes. Ayurveda prizes onion and garlic as powerful medicine. Nowhere in any of the ancient Ayurvedic texts is it said garlic should be avoided. The reason this confusion arises is because people are confusing Ayurveda and Yoga. While they are sister sciences they are driven by similar but different principles.

So, it is only recommended for those on the spiritual path—yogis—to avoid onion and garlic for extra support and purity.
Those on the path still may eat onion and garlic if you wish—it isn’t like it’s prohibited by a higher power. It’s important to note that it will only subtly obstruct your passage to enlightenment.

The good news is you can transcend some of the rajasic qualities of onion and garlic by using the purification methods mentioned below. These methods increase the sattvic quality of the foods. Even if you don’t purify garlic, its anti-aging (“Rasayana”) qualities are still in abundance.

Medicinal Benefits of Garlic.

Even in all allopathic medicine circles, garlic’s medicinal quality are well known.

It has a long list of benefits, so I will only mention the most impressive:

In India, garlic is known as “a poor mans gold” due to its vast medicinal qualities. Particularly the qualities that strengthen the body and boost immunity.

1. Excellent for Colds: Garlic is a great remedy for when you are sick and is known to help with a cough, fever, soar throat, asthma, and more.

2. Pain Killer: Ayurvedic treatments such as patra poultice use garlic by rubbing it on the body to reduce joint pain, muscle pain, stiffness, arthritis and to extract excess fatty tissue.

3. Cholesterol: Reduces the bad cholesterol (oxidised cholesterol particles), and supports the growth of good cholesterol.

4. Arthritis and Anti-Inflammatory: Also great for fractured bones.

5. Blood Purifier

“Lashuna (garlic)…good for the heart and hairs; aphrodisiac, unctuous, improves taste and digestion; helps unions of fractures, gives strength, vitiates blood and pitta, cures leucoderma, leprosy (and other skin diseases), abdominal tumours, haemorrhoids, diabetes, worms, disease caused by kapha and vata, hiccup, nasal catarrh, dyspnoea and cough. It is a rejuvenator of the body.” ~ Astanga Samgraha of Vaghbata, Sutra Sthana, ch. 7, (160-162)

Garlic has five different tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent). In Ayurveda everyone must eat all six tastes with every meal, and for a food to have five tastes is special. Garlic has a hot potency (“Virya”). This means it heats the body and mind when taken. It’s post-digestive effect (“Vipaka”) is pungent, meaning it can flush out toxins and dry up excess fluid. The qualities (“Gunas”) of garlic are oily, sharp, slimy and heavy. It pacifies the Vata dosha (very much) as well as kapha.

How to Purify Garlic:

1. Take out the inner, green sprout and discard—this is the most important step.
2. Fry the garlic in ghee
3. Soak it in plain Lassi. This is like a bonus purification.

After completing these steps, your garlic is now sattvic and highly medicinal to be eaten or used in cooking.

Medicinal Benefits of Onion:

1. Cooling: Onion is very cooling and pitta pacifying. Smell raw onions and place raw slices on the crown of your head in the very hot climates to avoid sunstroke. This will also give you energy in this draining climates.

2. Breast Milk Purifier: Increases and purifies lactation.

3. Healthy Reproductive Tissue: Increases semen and strength. Aphrodisiac.

4. Respiratory System: Good for congestion and coughs.

5. Nausea Remedy: 1 tsp of onion juice with 1/2 tsp of honey. Lick as needed.

6. Nose Bleed Remedy: Cut raw onion and sniff it.

Ayurvedic Properties:

Onion has a pungent taste when raw, and a sweet taste when cooked. It has a cooling potency (“Virya”) so cools down the body and mind. It’s post-digestive effect (“Vipaka”) is sweet, meaning it is anabolic and nourishing for the body. Onion’s main qualities (“Gunas”) are oily, sharp, slimy and heavy. It pacifies the Pitta dosha (very much) as well as Kapha.

To purify the onion, simply remove the skin from both sides of each layer.




Author: Dylan Smith

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr/Jon

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