It bases this advice on an understanding of the constitution of the individual. As witches, we are aware that most of us have one element or another that is stronger in our makeup than the others, and some of us have one element or another that is lacking. Ayurveda defines this in terms of a PRAKRUTI or constitution. Determination of one's constitution takes into account physical attributes, patterns of thought, emotions, and dreams.
In Ayurveda, the constitutional types are based on three elements or DOSHAS. These are VATTA, composed of air and ether, PITA, composed of fire, and KAPHA, composed of earth and water. If the three doshas are well balanced in an individual, and if the processes of digestion and elimination work well, this person is likely to be and stay healthy. If one or more doshas is clearly in excess, disease processes characteristic of that dosha can develop. Hence, one of the underlying principles of Ayurvedic health-care is to bring the doshas into as even a balance as possible. This is generally done by avoiding foods, herbs, states of mind, and activities that will increase that dosha, and incorporating habits and foods that will decrease it.
Vatta, the dosha of air and ether, is light, dry and cool; it can be increased or aggravated by cool dry weather and winds, and any foods or herbs whose nature is predominantly light, dry or cool. Pita, the dosha of fire, is hot, heavy, and wet in terms of oily; it is aggravated by hot weather, particularly if it is hot and humid. Kapha, the dosha of earth and water, is heavy, cold, and wet; it can be alleviated by warm, dry weather, particularly if it is also breezy. These properties are shown in the diagram below.
Much more detailed information on the three constitutional types can be seen in the table below, which is designed to let you determine your own prakruti.
The major point of offering this information here is that I have found that if one is looking for a particular type of remedy, it is often useful to try to find one that will tend to balance your constitution rather than one that will put it further out of balance. For example, Vata, the airy type, can often feel anxious and might need something to help with sleep on occasion. If they use a remedy that is cooling, they may make their airiness more pronounced, and require more and more sedative to achieve the desired relaxation; if they use a warming nervine like Valerian, they may settle the airiness that makes their minds race, and get to sleep without the same danger of dependence. On the other hand, if a fiery person uses the Valerian, it might actually make him more anxious...I have seen it happen.
Sometimes, symptoms may be superficially similar for people of all three dosha types, but they should be treated very differently. For example, all three doshas can cause joint pain if they are present in excess. In Vata excess, the joints will be dry and lacking lubrication; in Pita excess they may be inflamed; in Kapha excess they may be loose and have an excess of water. So a demulcent remedy, which moistens, may help a Vata person, but would make the condition worse for a Kapha. Similarly an anti-inflammatory, which cools and dries, will help the burning joints of a Pita person, but might make the condition worse for a Vata person.
Go through this questionnaire as honestly as you can. If more than one answer applies to any given question, check both. Add up the checks for each dosha.
|difficult to gain||hard to gain||gains easily|
|Skin||dry, cold||oily, warm||oily, cool|
|Hair||dry dandruff||oily, thin||slightly oily|
|kinky, curly||blond, straight||thick, wavy|
|Teeth||crooked||gums bleed easily||strong|
|Lips||thin, small, dry||medium, soft, red||full, smooth||Eyes||small, active||sharp, penetrating||large|
|Eyebrows||thin, dry, scaly||moderate||thick|
|Hands||small, thin||moderate||large, thick|
|dry, rough||pink, moist||oily, firm|
|low blood sugar||feed me now||can go without|
|Hunger every||two hours||four hours||six hours|
|Medication||side effects||sensitive to ASA||need high dose|
|Stool||dry hard||soft||thick, oily|
|every 1-2 days||2-3 daily||1 a day|
|Menstruation||scanty, painful||moderate to heavy||regular|
|Activity level||very busy||moderate||little|
|Sleep||restless||little but sound||deep, prolonged|
|Prefered climate||warm, wet||cold||warm, dry|
|Mind||restless, active||intense||calm, slow|
|easily influenced||influential||hard to influence|
|long term poor||selective||prolonged|
|Speech||quick, talkative||sharp, convincing||slow, definite|
|Sex drive||mental||active||slow to arouse|
It is beyond my purpose here to give detailed diet advice based on constitution. In general, each of the six tastes recognised by Ayurveda will increase one or two of the doshas and decrease the others. Sweet foods include grains and some fruits. Salty foods are those high in salt. Sour foods include citrus fruits, cheeses, and fermented foods. Pungent foods are those that taste hot and spicy, like garlic or cayenne. Astringent foods are those that make one's mouth feel dry. Bitter foods include certain bitter vegetables such as endive, dandelion, etc
|Increased by||Decreased by|
dry, cool, light
hot, light, wet
heavy, wet, cool
For more information on how foods fit into these six tastes, and how they affect the doshas, see the references at the bottom of the page.
In the herb pages, I give information on the taste of the herb, whether it is warming or cooling, it's effect on each of the three doshas, and another piece of information called VIPAKA, which is the post-digestive taste. The sweet and salty tastes become sweet, the pungent, bitter, and astringent become pungent, and the sour stays sour...in general this seems to have much less effect on the doshas than the initial tastes.
In general, if a herb increases a dosha that is already in excess in your system, you might do best to avoid it and try to find one in the same category that will help balance your system. For example, Marshmallow is often added to pulmonary formulas to soothe irritated tissues, but for a Kapha person, it just might increase their mucus and make the situation worse. Mullein might be a better demulcent to use in this case.
This information adds a dimension to herbalism that can allow one to tailor remedies to the individual in a way that will increase overall health while treating a given problem. It also provides useful information for those who are suggesting herbal formulas to support a system that is still healthy but under stress.
Chopra, Deepak, Perfect Health
Frawley, David, and Lad, Vasant, The Yoga of Herbs
Lad, Vasant, Ayurveda, the Science of Self-Healing
Svoboda, Robert, Prakruti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution