Onion and garlic, both are considered superfoods due to their numerous proven health benefits. They add distinct flavours to the food and are inseparable parts of Indian cuisine. Whether you are preparing curry, stew or soup, onion and garlic are important ingredients in it.
In a historical milieu
Onion and garlic are contemptible items as food in Indian tradition not by science but by history! Onion and garlic are known as potent substances in Ayurveda with many-many active components and a multitude of physiological effects! Both agents are known today as anti-cancer agents, anti-oxidants, carminative and other many effects but both items are not used as eatables especially by civilized and Dharmic or religious Indians! Why?
Because onion mainly and also garlic, was a palate diet of the asuras or mlecchas who were enemies of Bharatvarsh for many years! Onion along with meat and alcohol was the chief diet of the Shakas(Scythians) and the related tribes like Parad(Parthians), Pahlavi, Huns (Hephthalites), Parseek (Persians) etc who all hailed from the middle and central Asian region! These were the ferocious enemies of India for many-many years and in a way, they still are! Indians prohibited meat, alcohol, onion in their food items which was as detestable as excrement and that practice is still prevalent in rest of India, except the regions of influence of the asuras! Onions are also known to act as an aphrodisiac and that’s why the asuras used that!
Why does Ayurveda suggest food without these two basic ingredients?
Ever wondered why Ayurveda recommends a no garlic and onion diet? While there are numerous health benefits of both onion and garlic, why does Ayurveda suggest food without these two basic ingredients? In Ayurveda, onion and garlic are more like medicine than food items. Ayurveda categorizes food based on rasas (taste) and gunas. It defines nutritional properties of food based on six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent and gunas or qualities, which are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Onions and garlic are considered to be Tamasic and Rajasic respectively, which means they are pungent and result in an increase of bile and heat in the body.
There are three qualities in everything in the universe, including foods:
Ayurveda specialists suggest that consumption of onion and garlic results in some negative feelings and emotions like anger, aggression, ignorance, overstimulation of the senses, lethargy, anxiety, and increase in sexual desire. Hence, those who practice meditation or choose to follow the spiritual path, live in complete avoidance of consumption of onion and garlic.
The medicinal properties
As mentioned above, Ayurveda recognizes onions and garlic medicines more than food. Hence, onions and garlic are recognized as blood purifiers in Ayurveda. While garlic has healing properties, onions are cooling energetics and are a great summer food. Onions are sweet and facilitate proper digestion. Onion is known to reduce the burning sensations in the body by cooling the digestive tract.
Our body indeed needs some heat, but excessive heat may increase the risk of other health problems. Ayurveda recommends having onion and garlic in low quantities. Ayurveda principles are mostly confused with spirituality and yoga that recommends avoiding both the ingredients as both are believed to distract a person’s focus and attention. These two ingredients are even avoided by people practising meditation or following a spiritual path, as consumptions of onion and garlic are known to increase anger, aggression, ignorance, anxiety, and increase in sexual desire.
Health benefits of onion and garlic
Due to its anti-bacterial, antifungal and anti-viral properties, garlic is known to reduce inflammation and lower high blood pressure. It is even recommended for people trying to lose weight. Onions, on the other hand, remove toxins from the body, normalise digestion and are excellent to treat cold and cough.
Owing to the healing benefits, onion and garlic are more of a medicine than food in Ayurveda. It is recommended to avoid onion and garlic for those who are practising meditation and individuals who are Pitta Prakruti (Bio-energy) or have Pitta dosha or the heating element in the body. You can also try these herbs to balance the Pitta dosha. While there is no particular rule regarding eating or not eating particular food but the gunas and doshas help in keeping you healthy.