Have you ever given someone an herbal remedy or food that you were so sure would work, only to have it backfire and either not work or worst…make the condition worst?
I have! It was one of the most discouraging parts as I began my on my plant path. Every time I would have a success with plant medicine, I’d soar. When it didn’t work, I’d spiral into confusion and disillusionment. I started working with herbs the way that most do, I would listen to a family/friend’s complaint and pull out a book of symptoms with herbs that “work for that”. I’d do some rather through reading and pick out what seemed to be the most appropriate herbs for their symptom, and it would work…half of the time.
Once I was able to understand that we must work with people in their whole-ness and didn’t want to begin with symptoms. How could we not start with symptoms? Don’t worry, we don’t ignore them by any stretch of the imagination. First we have to know someone’s Dosha or innate constitution. The human body is a deeply intelligent organism that prioritizes healing itself. Dis-ease and illness run rampant in the body when the innate vitality and intelligence are not able to function properly enough to heal itself. When we balance the constitution, we set the body back on track to it’s best functioning & self repair. If we don’t work with constitution we can do more harm than good.
Let’s dive into the 3 Dosha’s or constitution types:
The vata dosha corresponds to the elements of air & ether (space), the mercury principal, and the mutable mode.
Vata people tend to be floating around somewhere outside their bodies lost in thought. These mercurial people are prone to ever changing and hard to pin down illnesses. Digestive disorders that fluctuate from one extreme to the other (diarrhea to constipation for example) without any real pattern are quite common. Vata types are also more naturally prone to anxiety and nervousness than other types, preferring to think through their emotions than feeling them and releasing them. Since they are so frequently stuck in their mental selves eating foods and doing activities that bring them back to earth, and back into their bodies are deeply healing. More than anything these types frequently are completely dry and need to be moistened. Our tissues, especially our mucus membranes cannot function properly when dry. This is especially true of the digestive tract, without proper moisture it can not assimilate nutrients and as such many vata’s are undernourished. Eating heavy, dense, and rich can be particularly healing for a Vata.
Keywords for Vata: Delicate, spiritual, sensitive, shifting, flighty, disorienting, austere, changeable, aware.
Vata people tend to be either quite tall or short. They are most noted by their long and slender extremities that lack large amounts of tissue (muscle or fat). They frequently have thin and dry hair and nails. They correspond to Air elemental types.
Vata Tissue States: Dry/Atrophy ; Wind/Tension
Planets: Mercury, Uranus, Saturn
Inherent tastes: (increases vata) Bitter, Astringent, pungent
Counter tastes: (reduces vata) Sweet, Salty, Sour
Vata corresponds to the season of Fall, when the dry, light, and crunchy leaves are quite symbolic of the Vata constitution. It is during the fall that Vata people are most vulnerable to having an imbalance or dis-ease take hold. Vata hours are 2-6 and many Vata people find themselves awake in the early morning hours. People of all constitutions should rise before 6am during Vata time.
Vata’s are nourished by: Moist, heavy, smooth, and hot foods. Self-acceptance.
The pitta dosha of ayurveda corresponds to the fire element (alongside the oil quality of water), the sulfur principal, and the cardinal mode.
Pitta people have a tendency towards being too hot! Disorders of pitta include gastritis, sleep disorders, being unable to relax, burn out, skin disorders, sensitivities, ulcers, heart issues, and inflammation. These types are also prone to letting their anger get the best of them which can wreak havoc on their interpersonal relationships both at home and in the work place. Fire absolutely has it’s place, its what motivates and initiates us, but not at the expense of our hearts. When we find ourselves burning for personal gain only, the inner fire is out of balance.
Keywords for Pitta: Ambitious, powerful, purpose, individuality, leadership, competitive, pioneering
Pitta people are of medium build, athletic, bursting with energy, and typically have some red features (skin tone, hair, freckles ect). They correspond to the fire elemental type.
Pitta Tissue States: Heat/Excitation.
Planets: Mars & Sun
Inherent tastes: Pungent, Salty, Sour (which is aggravating to a pitta person so they should avoid)
Counter Tastes: Sweet, Astringent, Bitter (these cooling tastes should be enjoyed by someone with a fire, pitta, or cardinal constitution)
Pitta corresponds to the Summer season and this is their most vulnerable time, where they need to pay extra attention to caring for their health and wellbeing. Pitta hours are from 10-2 and it is important for them to stay cool during these hours.
Pitta’s are nourished by: Substantial, Aromatic, calming, cool, and the aforementioned tastes sweet, astringent, and bitter.
The Kapha dosha of Ayurveda corresponds to the earth & water elements, the salt principal, and the Fixed mode.
Kapha people can be just a little too sweet. Quite literally, as bacterial infections and candida are one of the more common issues in Kapha people. They love their sweet, heavy, rich foods and because of that have a tendency for putting on too much weight. Kapha’s tend to have too much mucus or ama, which clogs up the lungs and severely damages the digestive fire. They are prone to bacterial and viral infections simply because nothing is flowing the way it is supposed to. Too much food, that can’t be broken down, and becomes a feast for all kinds of nasty parasites. Prone to colds, flus, bronchitis, and all manner of chronic illnesses Kapha’s benefit most from reducing the sweet & salty tastes and eating foods that kindle the digestive fire. Kapha’s can become lethargic and need to rise early (before 6am) and sweat daily to maintain proper function.
Keywords for Kapha: sustaining, nourishing, loving, stable, dense, heavy, helpful
Kapha people are of stocky build, frequently with extra adipose (fat)tissue, with thick hair, skin, and nails. Their bodies are curvy, soft, rounded, with decent muscle mass. They typically are dense, heavy, slow moving, and loving.
Kapha tissue states: Cold/depression ; Damp/stagnation ; Damp/relaxation
Planet: Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn,
Inherent tastes: (increase Kapha) Sweet, Salty, Sour
Counter tastes: (decrease Kapha) Bitter, Astringent, Pungent
Kapha season is late winter into the spring. This season represents the most vulnerable time for Kapha individuals and it is important for them to keep moving and not submit to the heaviness and lethargy that feels natural during this season change. Specifically Pisces into Aries season. Kapha hours are from 6-10 in both morning and evening, which is why it is important for Kapha people to wake up and get moving before 6am or be stuck feeling lazy the whole day.
Kapha’s are nourished by: dry, warm, light, and moderate foods.
How to use this information
Lets say we have someone with symptoms of digestive issues, they have a thin frame without a lot of tissue on them, muscle or fat. You can see they have dry and cracked skin around their nails and their hair is dry, split, and frizzy. They tell you that their digestive issues always seem to be changing, and right now they’ve got nausea and gas. In the old way of thinking you might tell them to take a heavy dose of fennel & ginger tincture to help reduce the nausea & move the gas. With those you run the risk of making their digestive issues worst! How could that be possible when almost every herb book on the market would tell you to use those herbs for those symptoms. Let’s take the new approach considering their constitution.
This person is a Vata Dosha, (we can tell by their lack of fat & muscle, their torn up cuticles, and tendency towards dryness) Vata is characterized in part by their ever changing symptoms, particularly digestive issues. As Vata is a combination of the Air & Ether element they always tend to by dry, most especially in their delicate mucus membranes in the lining of their intestines, respiratory track, and bladder. This dryness of the mucosal membranes leads to all sorts of changing symptoms. Fennel & Ginger are both hot/dry herbs. Only further drying out a person that so desperately needs moisture. By having the medicine in the tincture form we are again denying the person the desperately needed moisture. Instead of treating the symptoms we need to treat the whole person, and the best way to do this is by determining the imbalance in their tissues.
I was years onto my plant path before I learned to apply this holistic method that took into consideration not only the whole-ness of the person in dis-ease but also the whole-ness of the plants. My world came back to life, and my success rate with herbs soared! The foundation of this new (but totally ancient) system began with the elements.
Build a foundation of success as a healer with the Elements of Astro-Herbalism mini-course: It’s Free!
Learn the foundations of Astro-Herbalism through the four elements of Astrology and traditional western medicine.
What you’ll learn
- The Elements and what they represent in the chart as well as the personality and physical body of a person.
- The Energetics & Tissue states that the elements produce and organ Affinity
- How the Elements present when in and out of balance
- The lesson the element has to teach each of us
- How to increase and decrease the element in a person
- The elements in plants
- The physical characteristics of plants of that element
- Taste correspondence
- Herbal Action correspondence
- Tissue states they typically treat
- The spiritual message and medicine plants of each element.