Posted to Subscribers on 9 February 2010


Dear Subscribers,

I am still catching up from a weekend away from home and from my desk, but I do want to continue with the discussion of kaya kalpa and aging.

There have been a lot of subscribers to the new forum and some who registered have yet to complete the registration by supplying some missing pieces of information. Nudge, nudge.

The primary anti-aging preparation from India is a jam from from tropical gooseberries, herbs, spices, clarified butter, and usually jaggery for sweetening. Jaggery is made from raw cane sugar juice or occasionally from palm sap. In India,, jaggery is regarded as an important health food because it, like molasses, is high in minerals, minerals that are lost during the sugar refining process but that are found in organically grown cane sugar. It is usually particularly high in minerals that are beneficial to the nervous system, magnesium and potassium. The main reason for mentioning this is that over the years, people have expressed preferences for certain brands over others, usually based on ingredients rather than taste or texture. This is worthy of comment since most people could be expected to have a bias towards taste.

A large number of people have made their decisions based on the sweetener rather than other factors. In Ayurveda, honey is divided into eight different types based on the type of bee and flowers from which the honey is produced. It is respected for its medicinal value but it is regarded as a poison if heated. This precludes adding it to food that is very hot. In short, if it is added to a jam, it must be added after the jam has cooled significantly. Those who are substituting honey for jaggery are surely aware of these admonitions because they are articulated in the first year of any Ayurvedic training.

When honey is substituted for jaggery, the texture of the Chyawanprash is smoother because jaggery crystallizes and this often makes for little lumps but also much less smoothness. The arguments in favor of jaggery are mainly that it is absorbed at a more even pace into the bloodstream but if properly blended into the jam, both honey and jaggery can be suitable.

The second determining factor for many customers has been whether or not the ingredients are organic. While many exporters in India are striving to meet the demand for organic herbs, not all the Chyawanprash that is exported is organic. Banyan has produced a certified organic Chyawanprash and several other companies are close behind. Most herbs are wildcrafted so organic certification can mean omitting herbs that are not grown on farms.

The third issue is often price and Banyan's product is obviously more expensive whereas the Vadik Herbs brand has been the content for the price. It has tended to sell better until recently when the supplier ran out of stock and it has now been months since they have been able to fill orders.

Over the years there have been a few scandals with Chyawanprash, usually based on ingredient substitution, like pumpkin for amla. Unfortunately, this is not an acceptable practice, but the taste is, in this instance, a dead giveaway.

Now, why devote an entire email to Chyawanprash?

In India, everyone who can afford it begins taking Chyawanprash once or twice daily from about age 40 onwards. This is when the agni begins to dwindle so that digestion and assimilation are not as efficient as during the middle phase of life, which Ayurveda states is 16-40, the normal time of higher fire and more activity in the outer world. After that, we are trying to forestall the ravages the deranged vata, some of which arises simply because of indigestion, thus while a bit rude, it is very easy to understand if you consider what happens when eating beans that are either undercooked or underspiced.

So, Chyawanprash is the friend of the middle years and foe of aging. It got its name from a sage name Chyawan who rejuvenated himself so as to marry the king's daughter who had accidentally touched him while flailing about blindfolded. The renunciant requested permission from the king to be allowed a little time to restore his youth and virility. He prepared a jam, now named after him, and honored the king's request, but as a rejuvenated man, not a retired senior. His recipe was duly recorded so really, we are not left to speculate or guess. We have the list of herbs and spices so recently, I compared the "authentic" formula with the ones on the market. Obvious as this ought to be to everyone, I have to say that in the many, many years that Chyawanprash has been a best seller, not one customer has ever asked me which formula is most faithful to the original. In fact, I believe there are two questions that are more important than the jaggery-honey, conventional-organic, and price issues. These are authenticity and freshness of the herbs.

Today, I added a new product to the Ayurvedic Bazaar. It is called Praas and is made with fresh amla and the ingredients are closer to the original formula than any other I studied. Unlike other brands I have sampled over the years, this one tastes fruity and, of course, it is very gritty because of the jaggery.

However, I am not going to end here because I had a session with the animal communicator today to ask if any of my animals were interested in kaya kalpa. Okay, so I am a little different. Their answers were totally astonishing. I have four animal companions and each one got to ask questions and present preferences. I also gave each one a taste of Praas and this was totally fascinating. Savika loves it, but most of my dogs have liked the taste. Not all my friends like the taste, but when I got to the bottom of a jar in Santa Fe, I had to separate the dogs before giving one of them a chance to lick the inside of the empty one. They got into a big fight on a couple of occasions and a fight involving three white Akitas is usually more than one woman can handle. I was mopping blood off the ceiling, some of it my own.

Fiesta hates cinnamon and would not touch the Praas. I am going to try mixing it with sesame seeds or milk thistle seeds, but he has been consistent in telling the animal communicator that cinnamon is gross and there is no way he is going to eat it. He loves cardamom and this spice is one some people don't like. Go figure. Most of you have children so there is nothing odd about differences in taste preferences.

Praas is now online along with the other choices:

I was impressed with Praas. It definitely delivered a charge, like being hit with shakti! The texture is, however, a bit on the funky side. I doubt there is anything that can be done about this since jaggery behaves like jaggery and those of you who cook know that substitutions in any recipe affect the outcome.

The first thing I have always noticed with Chyawanprash is that hair ceases to fall out, usually within a week or so. If when you shampoo, the bottom of the shower is full of hair, I actually believe Chyawanprash works better than topical treatments. My theory is that nutritional deficiencies lead to cannabalization of the roots of the hair. Once the nutrients are provided and assimilated, there is no need to obtain the missing nutrients in this manner. On Ayurvedic web sites and in various texts, the hymns go on and on. Most agree that Chyawanprash is a superb antioxidant. It is very high in natural vitamin C and remarkably, this vitamin remains stable despite cooking and storage. Praas is labeled as antiaging and immune enhancing. Other sources refer to throat infections, skin, memory, vitality, As one would expect of a rejuvenative tonic, all organs benefit: heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, and brain. All systems also benefit: the digestive system, nervous system, immune system, etc.

It would not be correct to regard Chyawanprash as a medicine. Usually, I refer to it as a medicinal food. You can make jams with medicinal herbs and I want to begin sharing more ideas on this subject as you start growing your own herbs. Just as some people add citrus peel or ginger to marmalade or jalapenos to apricot jam, you can use medicinal herbs to address your own particular needs: stamina, libido, anxiety, circulation, immunity, memory, whatever you want. You just need some nice ingredients and good recipes.

My report on the coop meeting might take a couple more days. Hang in there.

Many blessings,


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2010


See Essay #1


Ayurvedic Herbs





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