"Summertime, and the living is easy..."

Cooling off Pitta the Ayurveda Way

by John Peterson, M.D.

Do you remember what it was like the day after school ended and the glorious days of summer stretched before you? Maharishi Ayurveda offers timeless wisdom to recapture that laid-back summer feeling, even though we no longer have three-month vacations. So take a break from your computer, make yourself a cup of Organic Cooling Pitta Tea and imagine settling into a hammock under a shady tree.

Don't be a mad dog!

The refrain for a famous Noel Coward song is that only "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!" Athletes, runners and outdoor enthusiasts should back off and practice their routines in the early morning or early evening, when things cool off. Pitta time of day is 11:00 to 3:00 in the summer. This is NOT the time of day to run marathons. Take a walk at dawn and breathe in the cooler air. Or take a stroll at twilight. Enjoy the cooling rays of the moon as it is waxing towards full.

People who are Pitta have sensitive skin that sunburns easily and can develop heat-related rashes. Use calming Rose Herbal Soap to cleanse and nourish your skin. For a morning massage use coconut oil or Soothing Herbal Massage Oil. If you do go out during Pitta time, be sure to cover up and wear a hat. Seek natural shade. Trees and vine-covered arbors create their own air-conditioned environment--the air under trees can be more than 10 degrees cooler.

Satisfy your thirst!

In the morning, on an empty stomach, drink water left overnight in a copper cup, and the water will help sweeten digestion. You can make a pot of Organic Cooling Pitta Tea in the morning, let it cool down and sip on it during the day. Enjoy freshly made sweet fruit juices: Dark grapes, apples, pear, mango, papaya, and especially pomegranate are all good choices.

Get sweet!

Cool Pitta down with the sweet things in life: affection, playfulness, humor, sweet-smelling flowers and juicy fruit, moonlight and roses and (yes!) sugar! Organic cane sugar, to be exact. Take it in the form of MAPI's Organic Rose Petal Spread, a classic Ayurvedic preparation to cool Pitta. Sweet lassi made with Organic Rose Petal Spread is tasty and cooling for Pitta. Mix one part yogurt with four parts pure water. Blend with a heaping spoonful of Organic Rose Petal Spread and a pinch of cardamom powder. Milk, ghee, rice, wheat and barley also have the sweet taste.

The other cooling tastes are bitter and astringent. Green leafy vegetables provide the bitter taste. Legumes and some specific fruit, like pomegranate, provide astringent taste. Cooling spices include cardamom, coriander, fennel and turmeric. Cooling herbs include cilantro, mint and dill. Aloe Vera is very cooling, both taken internally and on the skin.

Make it easy on yourself and use only Organic Pitta Churna to spice your rice or vegetables. Try a wilted lettuce salad: Foam up a spoonful of Organic Pitta Churna in a teaspoon of olive oil and briefly sauté romaine or fresh leaf lettuce from the garden.

Go lighter.

Just as we don't want to overheat the kitchen in the summer by using the oven too much, it's natural to eat lighter in the summer. Lunch should be the big meal of the day; breakfast and supper should be light and easily digested. Eat in a settled environment and at a moderate pace, not too fast or too slow. Sip on room temperature water instead of ice water. It's important to go to the bathroom when necessary before meals, and to sit down to eat. Avoid mental worries and tensions during meals (there's a negative interaction between the stomach and the brain through the vagus nerve).

Avoid hot, sour and salty foods.

Pitta tendencies towards heartburn and gastric hyperacidity can increase in the summer. Hot, spicy, sour and salty foods, more easily tolerated in the winter, can aggravate all of these symptoms. Some of the causes for heartburn and acid reflux include stress, cold drinks, alcohol, eating or drinking while standing, walking or driving, physical exertion after a meal, excessive traveling, eating out all the time and frequent changes of types of food and water.

Avoid alcohol, red meat, fermented food, greasy and spicy food, vinegar, tea and coffee. Other foods to reduce include raw salad, yogurt, aged cheese, salted butter, heavy food, spicy food, red or green chili, paprika, oily or fried food, meat, fish, leftover food, canned food, food with preservatives, nut butters, soy sauce, citrus fruits, tamarind, vinegar, yeast, ketchup, pickles or other fermented foods. Avoid taking fruits or anything sour for breakfast.

Foods to favor include old rice (you can buy aged rice at an Indian grocery store), mung dal, whole wheat, arrowroot powder, bottle gourd, pumpkin, squash, bitter gourd, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, tender radish, fennel root, and coriander leaves.

Emotional heat

As the heat of the summer accumulates in the physiology, the natural focus and energy of Pitta types can go into overdrive. They can become irritable, obsessive and controlling. If you and your spouse are both Pitta types, it's a good idea to give each other plenty of space and cool off with swims and evening walks.

If you need help cooling down emotionally, take Stress Free Emotions, which balances Sadhaka Pitta, the subdosha of Pitta that governs emotional health. Since aromas can directly influence emotions, you can also try Blissful Heart Aroma Oil or Cooling Pitta Aroma Oil. Women going through menopause are grateful for Hot Flash Relief tablets.

What's summer without ice cream?

On a hot summer afternoon, go for it! Enjoy ice cream by itself instead of after a meal. Savor every spoonful and let it melt in your mouth.

Sleep well!

Going to bed before Pitta time begins at 11:00pm will help you fall asleep more easily and have more rejuvenating sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, you may have a Pitta imbalance. Taking Deep Rest tablets an hour before bedtime will help you sleep through the night and help the body gradually repair any damage caused by previous lack of sleep. The herbs in Deep Rest improve the overall quality of your sleep, while balancing the mind, body and emotions.

Here are some other tips to help you sleep more deeply in the summer: Avoid taking caffeine in the afternoon or evening. Keep your bedroom reserved just for sleep. It should be well ventilated, cool, and as dark and quiet as possible. Before bed, massage your feet with ghee or Soothing Herbal Massage Oil. If you wake up in the night, you can have a snack of half a cup of warm milk with 1 teaspoon Organic Rose Petal Spread.


The classic ayurvedic advice to avoid over-heating in the summer is to avoid "hurry, worry and curry." Cooling down means slowing down to enjoy family and friends. Take a vacation from pressured deadlines and long workdays. You can cut down on stress and mental tension with regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation® program. Leave the office for a relaxed lunch away from anything that reminds you of work. After supper just relax and enjoy your family. You can take an evening walk and watch the sunset and the stars and fireflies come out. Go to bed early so you can get up in the cool of the morning.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.