Jaggery is extensively used in many Indian cuisine and in various Ayurvedic medicines. It is a good substitute for sugar. Not only that, it comes with a bunch of its own unique health benefits. Jaggery forms the backbone of Asavas and Arishtas – fermented liquid Ayurvedic medicines.
What is jaggery? How to prepare it?
It is a type of unrefined sugar, prepared from sugarcane or date juice. The juice is concentrated by heating and molasses is not removed while concentrating it. The end product is brownish yellow coloured solid jaggery blocks. It is also available in semisolid form.
Jaggery is called as Guda, Gud, Gula, Gulam in Ayurveda. Ayurveda explains two types of jaggery.
Dhauta – washed / semi-refined
Adhauta – unrefined, unwashed.
(Reference: Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 5/47-48)
Guda (jaggery, molasses), washed well (made white and purified)-
Natishleshma kara – does not increase Kapha to a large extent
Srushtamutrashakrut – increases volume of urine and faeces
If it is not prepared properly, it causes intestinal worms, increases chances of Kapha disorder in marrow, blood, fat tissue and muscles.
Old jaggery is good for heart, and should be consumed. So, jaggery should be at least one year old for its usage.
Freshly prepared jaggery increases Kapha and causes indigestion. 47-48.
unrefined or unwashed jaggery is
Sakshara – slightly alkaline
Natisheeta – not very coolant
Snigdha – oily, unctuous
Mutrashodhaka – cleanses bladder and urine
Raktashodhaka – cleanses and purifies blood
Vataghna – balances Vata
Na ati pittajit – decreases Pitta slightly
Medakara – increases body fat
Kurmikara – causes intestinal worm infestation
Balya – increases strength
Vrushya – aphrodisiac
Dhauta guda or washed jaggery is
Madhura – sweet
Vatapittaghna – balances Vata and Pitta
Asruk prasadana – cleanses and detoxifies blood
It has a more Pitta balancing action compared to Adhauta (unwashed)
Purana Guda – old jaggery:
Svadutara – much more sweeter than the fresh
Snigdha – oily, unctuous
Laghu – lighter to digest, than fresh
Agnideepana – promotes digestion strength
Vitshodhaka – cleanses intestines and feaces
Mutrashodhaka- cleanses urinary bladder and urine
Amashayashodhaka – cleanses stomach
Ruchya – promotes taste
Hrudya – good for heart, cardiac tonic
Pittaghna – balances Pitta
Vataghna – balances Vata
Tridoshaghna – Generally good for all the three Doshas
Jwarahara – Good for fever (in small quantities only)
Santapa shantiprada – releives excess body heat
Shramahara- releives tiredness
Panduhara – useful in anemia
Pramehantaka- useful in urinary tract diseases
Use of jaggery in Ayurvedic medicines:
Jaggery in Asava and Arishta:
Asava and Arishta are the fermented Ayurvedic products. They contain natural self generated alcohol, ranging from 5 – 12 %. Dasamoolarishtam and Ashokarishta - are two good examples of Arishta and
Kumaryasava is an example for Asava.
In these Asava and Arishta preparation, jaggery is used as a source of sugar. With the help of natural yeast, sugar in the jaggery is converted into alcohol with the help of natural yeast (present in some herbs, used in the medicines). During the process of this conversion, the water soluble and alcohol soluble active principles get dissolved into the liquid medium, and thus the medicine gets prepared in about 1 – 2 months of time.
In these asava and arishta preparations, jaggery was made into a paste with lime powder, applied over a long strip of cloth. This was used to seal the cap of vessels. This was useful to prevent entry of air inside the arishta vessel, helping in anaerobic fermentation.
Jaggery is used as a the sugar base in some syrups. Example: Raktansoo syrup
In some herbal water decoctions, the decotion is traditionally advised to be taken along with jaggery. Example: Pathyaksha Dhatryadi kashayam
Guda varti is ancient equivalent to modern rectal suppositories. They are administered through rectal route to relieve constipation and for other therapeutic effects. For Varti, usually jaggery is used as the base. Jaggery starts melting in a little above room temperature. Rectal temperature is quite sufficient to melt the jaggery. So, while it melts, it releases the other herbs in the Varti into the rectal area, thereby, it acts as a carrier for other herbal powders.
Jaggery home remedies
If you visit any Indian village in the afternoon, especially in summer, soon after you enter in, you will be given a small piece of jaggery and cold water to drink. This is to cool you down and to energize you instantly. Try it after coming home in the afternoon.
Various sweet drinks are prepared with jaggery, called as Guda Panaka, used extensively in Ayurveda to restore energy and for aphrodisiac effect.
I already have covered a couple of home remedies, where we used jaggery. Missed them? Here are they -
Guda sharkara - The next step in processing of jaggery, where they get coarse granules. This is used in treating injured patients, people with emaciation and for aphrodisiac purposes.
Use by Sushruta:
Sushruta used to use jaggery in “dahakarma’ – heating process. Because jaggery can hold heat for a long period of time.
Reference: Dahakarmani upayukta: | Sutrasthana 12/4
Use in leech therapy -
In leech therapy, after the leech is applied and vitiated blood is let out, if still some more vitiated blood is remaining in the affected area, then a paste of jaggery, honey and turmeric is applied to the spot. This causes further letting out of impure blood. Read more about leech therapy – Jalauka (reference: Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana 26/46
Precautions and side effects:
Long term use, in high dose may cause weight gain,
Not recommended in diabetes.
Jaggery use, continuously for a long period of time may cause intestinal worm infestation.
Jaggery is contra indicated if you have ulcerative colitis.
Taking radish and jaggery along with fish is contra indicated in Ayurveda.
Unique use of jaggery in intestinal worms:
Jaggery – if used for long time may cause intestinal worms. But in some Ayurvedic medicines, used in treating intestinal worm infestation, like Manibhadra Guda, jaggery is used as ingredient. This will help in attracting the worms into the intestines and to kill them with the other herbs in the medicine.