Awaken Your Agni

Awaken Your Agni

Have you ever given thought to the properties of fire? Primitive man discovered it to be a very potent, volatile and transformative element.Fire warms, energises moves, changes, refines, purifies, dries damp.In traditional Indian medicine , man is a composite mix of space, earth, air ,fire and water.None of your atoms and molecules please!We are within as is the planet without.As with that other great traditional medicine system TCM {traditional chinese mdicine},Ayurveda {Indian medicine}lays great store by one’s digestive fire.They refer to it as agni.
Agni means sunlight –all the hues of the rainbow. Sunlight poured on raindrops gives us prismic light.How does this tie in with digestion?India is the home of spices which have almost a rainbow of colour between them and hence a high level of agni or fire as one well knows if too many are consumed!These foods if eaten in small quantitities are stimulant and enable conversion in the body.In scientific parlance they enable conversion of food stuffs by enzymes and increase hydrochloric acid.Like fire they transform, refine and purify.Ginger for example assists with absorption of food by stimulating saliva, gastric secretions and bile.Cinnamon is a circulatory stimulant and is used in India for indigestion and nausea.It also increases gastric secretions, and helps with hyperacidity and flatulence.

Consuming more spices is just one way to increase our agni and is obviously unsuitable for someone experiencing acid reflux or the discomfort of an ulcer.In Ayurvedic medicine it’s all about balance.Bringing harmony to the body is a matter of changing perception as much as knowing what foods to eat or herbs to take.Digestion actually begins not in the mouth but in the brain.Hence an Ayurvedic practitioner will advise his or her patients to chew their food thoroughly and practise really tasting it .This has a twofold advantage 1. There is the sensory aspect which calms the mind and hence mentally prepares for the food to be received into a less hurried internal environment.2 Chewing encourages the production of more saliva which then travels to the stomach to assist in the digestion of carbohydrates.People are also advised to never eat and do something else at the same time like watch telly or work on the laptop!One should never eat when upset.Always eat sitting down and better to eat alone if one doesn’t like the company!

According to Drs. David Frawley and Vassant Lad, poor digestion is a major contributor in the disease process.Every cell has been created from food and hence properly digested food gives us the protein which is the builder and repairer in the body.There is a saying “If you could digest it well, poison would be good for you, while with poor digestion a person can die from drinking nectar”This leads on neatly to the modern day understanding of food intolerances.Many people subtly undermine their health through ingesting foods to which their bodies are producing IgG antibodies.Whilst not creating outright allergies, gluten in wheat and casein in milk are the big culprits in conditions like IBS, colitis, crohns disease, diverticulitis ,eczema ,psoriasis.There is a strong association between dairy and asthma Food intolerances also lead to vague yet often debilitating symptoms like headaches , fatigue, fuzzy thinking, joint and muscle pain.

How can we help our beleaguered agni along?By eating what agrees with us and listening to our bodies.Very often foods we crave may be the undoing of us.Hence that chocolate craving may be adding to our migraine or the bread craving worsening our IBS.Sometimes it’s wise to eliminate certain foodstuffs for a while and then reintroduce one at a time to see the effect or not as the case may be.

We can also dampen our agni by eating very heavy meals causing heartburn, acid reflux , nausea,flatulence , drowsiness.Blood sugars are raised, creating pressure on the pancreas.The gut needs more blood flow making the heart work faster and possibly elevating blood pressure..In ayurveda it is always advised when eating a meal to leave one third third to one quarter of the stomach empty for proper peristalsis.

Our pancreatic function declines with age .That burger we relished at twenty will probably putrefy in the gut by seventy.We should eat a little and often as we get older.Too many sugars will add to bacterial imbalances in the gut and hence disable the breakdown of our food in its entirety.This easily facilitates the disease process as we reach our declining years.In fact it would be a good idea for all of us to take a digeastive enzyme with a meal to assist our agni .

What food types can specifically help our digestive function.?A little bitter food will help stimulate digestive flow ,hence lemon juice on a green salad before a meal (Though ayurveda generally isn’t an advocate of raw food except in some cases} legumes, apple cider vinegar before a meal to raise HCL.Sour foods ie fermented foods will restore bacterial cultures to the gut .Saurkraut , kefir and probiotic yoghurt apply here .Again Ayurveda says use little.

Foods that restore alkalinity to the body will in general help agni, Plenty of fresh vegetables mainly leafy greens, fruits like appples cherries, pears, seeds and nuts, herbs and seasonings should feature prominently in our diet.We should aim for a 70/30 ratio between alkaline foods and acid forming foods like bread, milk, chicken, fish, eggs, red meat (No more than three times per week} sweet fruits, grains,legumes.We are what we eat and more importantly what we absorb.A juice fast periodically will reset our agni if out of balance.Our precious pancreas, the cradle of our digestion and internal transformation will thank us.


The Yoga of Herbs
Dr.David Frawley
Dr. Vassant Lad

Perfect Health
The complete mind body guide
Deepak Chopra

The desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine
Brigitte Mars AHG

Herbal Healing
Phyllis A Balch,CNC
Revised and updated by Stacey Bell DSC