By Dr. Amy Shah
Turmeric, ginger, coconut oil: these are versatile superfoods that have become immensely popular in the past few years within the wellness and beauty community. But their results aren’t new developments—in Ayurdevic medicine, these ingredients have been used and known for their healing properties for thousands of years. Physician Amy Shah, MD, is launching a new wellness program and supplement in hopes of recapturing the benefits of a South Asian-inspired diet rich in spices that aid digestion.
“I was always really fascinated by nutrition and how the body works through food,” she tells us. Shah studied nutrition at Cornell, one of the top programs in the country, before pursuing medical school in New York City. After doing her internal medicine residency at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and working at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, she realized that Western medicine was not inclusive of nutrition and preventative, integrative care. “I felt almost trapped,” she says. “I loved healing people and I loved working at these amazing institutions, but I felt like, we were missing the boat—we’re helping people once the damage is already done.” She moved to Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband and started her own private practice of Western medicine while pursuing her passion for Ayurvedic medicine during her off-hours. In 2012, Shah began writing about nutrition for MindyBodyGreen. “As I started to do that, I found my voice,” she says. “All that time, I felt like I was keeping it in medical school.”
Jennifer Bowen Photography
The problem with Western medicine, Shah says, is that it is very reliant on medical studies—which sounds like a good thing, and is most of the time. But it can also be a hindrance when it comes to proving the efficacy of alternative medicines. Take turmeric, for example. Turmeric is a plant related to ginger that has been used in South Asian cuisine and medicine for centuries. Lately, it’s been making strides in the United States as a “superfood” (and skincare ingredient), and there are, indeed, a few medical studies nowadays that support its anti-inflammatory benefits. But there not enough studies to make turmeric into a mainstay of Western medicine. “They don’t have studies on turmeric because turmeric doesn’t make anyone money,” Shah explains. “There’s no funding. And yet, this is something that has worked for thousands of years.”
Consequently, Shah is coming out with a supplement called the Balance and Restore ($48 for 30 days), a vegetarian capsule that contains Ashwagandha (an Ayurvedic herb) Vitamin D, and adaptogenic herbs (“Herbs that adapt to your hormonal needs,” Shah says). In addition to these supplements, Shah is launching Balance and Restore packages, consisting of healthy South Asian-inspired meal plans, hormone guides, live webinars, and private consultations. “When people eat South Asian food in the modern sense, they don’t think of it as healthy because of all the carbohydrates and sugars that have been added to modern cuisine,” she says. “But the spices are good for you. I’m taking from my roots and making it healthy again.”
If you’re interested in adding some Ayurveda into your routine, start with your kitchen cabinet:
- “Use turmeric in raw or powder form—add it to your green tea or stews and soups. It’s almost flavorless, so you can put it in almost anything,” Shah says. A 2013 study of turmeric found that curcumin, a component of the plant, has been shown to be effective in the treatment of many inflammatory diseases.
- “Ginger is great for food and teas,” Shah adds. Not only is it used to treat inflammations (it’s related to turmeric, after all), but also it’s well documented for helping with digestion issues and stomach irritation.
- “Change your oil,” Shah advises. “Inexpensive oils like corn or canola oils are the top killers for people with inflammation.” Instead, she recommends using olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.