[Editor’s Note: This is an old article and appears to contain some unsubstantiated and inprecise information. “Chai” means “tea” – the author is obviously referring to a version of tea that has spices added to it and is more correctly called “masala chai” or “spiced tea.”]
Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your physician for your particular needs.
One of the most popular teas in the U.S. today is Chai. There’s just something about its fragrant and rich mixture of spices that relieves bodily tensions, lifts our spirits, and sets minds at ease. This makes sense, seeing as how the roots of Chai can be found in an ancient and influential form of medicine stressing just that: the collective well-being of the mind, body and spirit. It’s called Ayurveda, has been practiced on the Indian Subcontinent for thousands of years, and is often used as a form of alternative medicine in the West.
In Sanskrit, the term “Ayurveda” is made up of the word for “life,” āyus, and the word for “related to knowledge” or “science,” veda, making Ayurveda the “Science of Life.” Now I don’t know about you, but it makes perfect sense to me that Chai, along with tea in general, should be a part of the Science of Life. For what is the act of enjoying a warm cup of Chai if not a sweet science? Even its preparation, if done by traditional means, could be considered something of a science. Maybe even an art.
Those that practice Ayurveda believe that a balance between the bodily Humors or Energies – ata (wind/air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm) – is important to one’s overall health. In order to achieve this balance, ancient practitioners of Ayurveda developed a vast array of surgical procedures and medicinal preparations. These medicinal preparations are thought by many to contain the roots of Chai. Others say Chai was created by a royal king in the ancient courts of India, but this is probably not true.
Along with surgical procedures and medicinal preparations, Ayurveda promotes exercise, yoga, meditation and massage as ways of balancing the bodily Humors or Energies. Practitioners also stress the building of a healthy metabolic system, the attainment of a healthy digestive system and proper excretion, as they believe these things lead to vitality. Anyone that drinks Chai on a regular basis knows first-hand that it can be of some aid when it comes to being, shall we say, “backed up,” and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it promotes a healthy metabolic system as well. After all, Chai is good for so many things!
The God of Ayurveda is named Dhanvantari. It is said that Dhanvantari was an early practitioner of medicine and the world’s first surgeon. Dhanvantari, who is regarded as being the source of Ayurveda, brought many herbal-based cures and natural remedies to perfection. Who knows? Maybe Chai was one of them. He is also credited with discovering the antiseptic properties of turmeric and the preservative properties of salt, which he incorporated into his cures.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ayurveda, there’s more information available of the Internet than one could ever read in a lifetime. So get yourself a nice hot cup of Chai, sit down in front of the computer, and have at it! If you learn anything that might of interest to rest of us, especially if it concerns the origins of our beloved Chai, please let me know!
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