I made Toasted Coconut Sleepy Time Milk! The toasted coconut flavor reminds me of warm, tropical beaches and the lull of ocean waves even though I’m stuck here in gray, rainy Seattle. I added ghee and cinnamon to help stabilize my blood sugar and nutmeg to calm my nervous system and help me sleep soundly all night long. Continue reading for the recipe and for some thoughts on the medicinal properties of culinary herbs and spices…

I often find myself reaching for a bottle of pills because I want to keep eating all the chocolate cake (I really have been eating way too much chocolate cake you guys) and at the same time I want my skin to clear up, my PMS to go away, and my energy to improve. I recently came across this Ayurvedic proverb on a friend’s website and it reminded me that no matter how many pills I take, nothing is going to change unless I change my diet too. It goes like this: “If diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. If diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” In Ayurveda, food is seen as medicine and is the first line of defense. Understanding the qualities of your food and eating for your constitution  is a great place to start. Specific herbs and spices can also  be incorporated to address imbalances and treat disease. My hope is that after reading this you’ll begin to see your spice drawer as a treasure chest full of healing potential. If you already use herbs and spices for their healing properties I’d love to hear about your experience. If you don’t know what I’m talking about or where to start, don’t worry. A lot of this is just a process of observation and trial and error. To help you get started, I’ve put together a list of the herbs and spices I use regularly in my kitchen. Under each, I’ve listed some of the properties and actions as well as some ideas on how to use them. The herbs and spices included in this list are mostly culinary, but many can also be used for decoctions, poultices, or oils. If you’re interested in learning more about herbs and their properties check out Sebastian Pole’s book, Ayurvedic Medicine. As always, hit me up with questions or comments.


Black Pepper

Stimulates digestion by increasing enzymatic secretions. Pacifies Vata and Kapha but can aggravate Pitta due to its heating nature. Decongests sinuses and lungs and improves circulation.This is a great spice for Vata and Kapha types to use to aid digestion, especially when eating out, since it’s so widely available. Put it on anything. I especially like it on honey butter popcorn…


Stimulates digestion without aggravating Pitta. Diuretic. I love putting cardamom on oatmeal, in rice pudding, or in warm milk or chai. I also use it obsessively in baking and love how it tastes with raspberries.


Aids relaxation and promotes sleep. Try steeping the flowers in milk for something extra luxurious.


Very cooling and Pitta pacifying. Great for skin. Cleanses the liver and is high in anti-oxidants. I add chopped cilantro to most of my meals. It’s also great in juices or as a chutney with coconut, curry leaves and lime.


Improves circulation and digestion. Stabilizes blood sugar. Pacifies Vata and Kapha, but can aggravate Pitta due to its heating quality. Anti-fungal. Great on oats, on toast with ghee and honey, in chai or warm milk, or in a lassi.


Analgesic/pain reliever. Improves digestion in all three doshas. Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Clears congestion and reduces nausea. The essential oil is great for toothaches.

Coriander Seeds

Cooling, digestive aid for Pitta. Diuretic. Reduces gas and bloating. For a powerful digestive tea, mix equal parts cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds in water and boil for five minutes before straining and drinking.


Aids absorption of nutrients. Cooling digestive aid. I love toasting cumin seeds in ghee and then adding them  to braised cabbage or rice. I also love adding cumin to refried beans.


Pacifies all three doshas. Improves digestion. Reduces gas, bloating, and cramps. Diuretic. Anti-spasmodic. Clears congestion of the lungs. Increases lactation. In India it’s traditional to chew on a few fennel seeds after each meal to aid with digestion. It’s also great in white bean soup.


Soothing digestive aid for Vata and Kapha digestive symptoms. Improves liver function. Reduces cholesterol.


Stimulates the liver. Digestive aid for Vata and Kapha. Anti-bacterial. Enhances immunity. Garlic’s anti-bacterial quality makes it great for yeast infections and ear infections.


Digestive aid for all three doshas but can aggravate Pitta due to its heating quality. Improves circulation and reduces nausea. Anti-inflammatory. Reduces cramping. Sip ginger tea during meals to improve digestion or carry ginger chews with you if you’re prone to motion sickness.


Great for reducing anxiety. Works well in teas, ice creams and baked goods. Apply a few drops of essential oil to each temple for headaches.


Cooling digestive aid for all three doshas but especially useful for Pitta. Anti-inflammatory. I love to use mint in the summer in hibiscus tea and in salads. Mint tea is also great for kids’ stomach aches since it is mild but effective.

Mustard seeds

Expectorant when used as a poultice to clear lung congestion (never apply directly to the skin as it can cause blisters). Heating and can aggravate Pitta. Fry the seeds and add to rice, curries or dahl.


Sedative. Calms the nervous system. Great for insomnia. Can aggravate Pitta. Great added to sleepy time milks before bed to ensure a restful night’s sleep.

Pippali (long pepper)

Aids digestions without over heating Pitta. Reproductive tonic. Increases the absorption of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric). I like to use pippali on my eggs in the morning instead of black pepper as it has the same digestive benefits without being too heating.


Calms and stills the mind. Cooling. Reduces anxiety and depression. Great for inflammatory skin issues. I add rose water to lots of my recipes and also spray rose water on my skin daily to calm and cool.


Reproductive tonic great for normalizing flow. Helps combat anemia. Aphrodisiac. Used externally it is great for skin conditions. Also builds Ojas. I love using saffron in soups and stews.


High in calcium. Great for dry skin and Vata type indigestion. Tahini dressing is a favorite around here. I also love tahini on toast with honey or in lattes.


Anti-inflammatory. Clears skin. Anti-bacterial and antibiotic. Golden milk of course.

*Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and tag my recipes #tendingthetable.

Toasted Coconut Sleepy Time Milk

Serves 2


1 cup almonds, soaked overnight

1 cup toasted coconut flakes

2 dates, pitted

2 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon ghee

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Combine the soaked almonds, coconut, dates and water in a high-speed blender and puree on high. Strain through cheesecloth set over a fine mesh sieve or through a nut milk bag. Discard the pulp. Add the toasted coconut almond milk to a medium pot with the ghee and spices. Bring to just under a simmer being careful not to let the milk boil. Transfer to a blender and blend on high until foamy. Serve warm.