Ayurvedic Fall Cleanse

How Autumn Affects the Body

Pitta, one of the doshas, or fundamental energies, governs heat in the body. When pitta is in excess it creates problems like hyperthyroid, hypertension, hypermetabolism, and hyperacidity. It also increases the metabolic functions of the body causing the body to metabolize food too quickly so there isn’t enough time for the body to break food down and extract the nutrients.

During autumn, we normally see a decrease in pitta and increase in the vata dosha. To get rid of excess pitta and prepare for rising vata, a cleanse can help bring your doshas into equilibrium.

Detox – An Ayurvedic Approach

The idea of an Ayurvedic cleanse or detox therapy is not depletion, but rejuvenation. Many cleanses flush the system out but don’t help build and restore. A proper detox should last at least three weeks – a one week preparation period, a week cleansing, and a week rebuilding.

Ideally, we should choose to eat the most pranic rich foods – foods that possess a high nutritional value and that are fresh and local to your area. In the northeast, those foods are root vegetables, harvested whole grains, and sustainably sourced proteins or legumes.

Week One – Preparation

Preparing the body for a cleanse is just as important as the cleanse itself. During this week eat whole, unprocessed foods. Stay away from refined sugars and flours. Try to eat food as close to their original form as possible and eat small quantities.

Week Two – Cleanse

Kichari is a complete meal and provides everything the body needs to function effectively. The idea is to eat only kichari during this week. By eating the same simple meal over a stretch of time, we allow other processes that are normally engaged in breaking down different types of food to rest and we regain the energy to rejuvenate and heal.

Your meals should be fresh. The longer food is left hanging around, the fewer nutrients and vitamins it contains. The purpose of a cleanse is not only to eliminate harmful foods. To bring the body back into balance, it’s vital that food contains the maximum amount of nutritional value. If you can, prepare your meals every day. Preparing the food is part of the cleansing ritual and helps us be more conscious of the things we put into our bodies.

Below you’ll find several autumn detoxifying kichari recipes.

Week Three – Rebuilding

After the 7-10 day cleanse, it’s crucial to ease yourself back into a normal diet. If after a cleanse, you jump right back into eating harmful foods, you’re almost worse off than you were before. This is because, during a cleanse, everything is coming out of the deep tissue into the bloodstream then into the digestive system so it can be purged out through normal functioning. If you don’t pay attention to reversing that flow and slowly reintroducing other foods back into your diet so you can properly absorb nutrients through the digestive system, back into the bloodstream, the back into the tissue, you run the risk of being sicker than when you started.

In the rejuvenation period, you won’t have as much appetite. Make a soup version of the kichari and slowly add foods as you get hungry for them. Continue to abstain from eating processed and refined foods.

After a cleanse, you may find that refined or processed foods that were a normal part of your diet are no longer enjoyable. A cleanse is really an opportunity to reassess everything you ingest and see what’s useful to you and what’s not.

Closing Comments

We’re getting ourselves ready for winter — a quiet, introspective, deep, dark, cold time. In our society, we have to work and uphold our lives regardless of how the seasons affect us, but we feel it. If we equate food with rest, by the time spring comes around with the heaviness and dampness, we remain very lethargic. If we are light in the deepest dark parts of winter, we rest our digestion and as we go into the warmer season, we aren’t so burdened.

**These are general guidelines. Before embarking on a cleanse it’s best to consult an Ayurvedic counselor for the exact combination of herbs, spices, and practices best for your particular constitution.

Butternut Kichari by Kate O’Donnell from Everyday Ayurveda: Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind


1 small butternut squash
Coconut oil
4 cups water
1 can full-fat coconut milk
¾ split mung beans, soaked overnight or at least a few hours
¾ basmati rice
1 tbsp Sweet Spice Mix (below)
1 tsp ground turmeric
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 tsp salt
¼ cup coconut, large flakes for garnish

Sweet Spice Mix
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cardamom
1 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)

To roast the squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, rub a few drops of coconut oil onto the cut faces, and place face-up on a baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven.

In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups of the water and the coconut milk to a boil on high heat. Set the other cup of water aside to add during cooking as needed.

Rinse the mung beans and rice well. Add the rice, beans, spice mix, turmeric, and ginger to the boiling water. Keep on high heat until the liquid boils again. Turn the heat down to low.

Scoop the squash out of the skin with a large spoon and add, in chunks, to the pot. The chunks will break down as it cooks. Simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes or more, adding the reserved 1 cup of water as needed. It’s finished when the rice and mung beans are soft; the liquid is loose and soupy, and the butternut squash chunks have fallen apart. Turn off the heat, and stir in the salt. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

In a frying pan, toast the coconut flakes on medium heat, stirring until they begin to brown. Remove from the heat immediately. Spoon the kichari into individual bowls and garnish each bowl with 1 Tbsp coconut flakes.

Hearty French Lentil Kichari by Kate O’Donnell from Everyday Ayurveda: Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind

6 cups water
1 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 cup French (Le Puy) lentils, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 tbsp Sattvic Spice Mix (see below)
2 cups chopped kale, large stems removed
1 tbsp tamari
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
1-2 tbsp ghee
½ tsp ajwain (optional; if you can’t find it, replace with cumin seeds)
1 tsp mustard seeds

In a large saucepan, boil 5 cups of the water on high heat. Set the other cup aside to add during cooking as needed.

Rinse and drain the rice and lentils. Add the spice mix, rice, and lentils to the water. Keep on high heat until it boils again. Immediately turn the heat down and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Do not stir. Check after the first 20 minutes to see if the beans are submerged. If not, pour the other cup of water on top, and do not stir. Put the kale on top to steam. Cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes more. The texture should look loose, and the rice and lentils should be breaking down.

Warm the ghee in a small skillet on medium heat. Add the ajwain (if using) and mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, about 2-3 minutes, take off the heat, and pour into the kichari. Add the tamari and stir well. Let stand, covered, for a few minutes.

Served as a stew, kichari should have a soupy, soft consistency. Garnish with fresh cilantro if you have it.

Sattvic Spice Mix
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp hing (asafoetida)

Roast the coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in the same frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly for approximately 3-5 minutes, until you can smell them. Cool and then grind these spices together with the salt, ginger, turmeric, and hing powder to a uniform powder.

Grounding Kichari by Divya Alter from What to Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic

½ cup yellow split mung dal or red lentils
1 cup basmati rice
1 tbsp ghee, sesame oil, olive oil
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
6 curry leaves or 2 bay leaves
1 small green Thai chile, seeded and minced
2 ½ tsp Grounding Masala (see below)
2 tsps salt
2 cups diced vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, taro root, green beans, zucchini, celery root, beets, and/or leafy greens

Soak the dal and rice in a bowl together for 30 minutes. Rinse until the water runs clear and drain well.

Heat the ghee in a heavy 4-quart saucepan over low heat. Add the turmeric and toast for 10 seconds, then add the ginger, curry leaves, and chile and continue to toast until they crisp up, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and dal and stir frequently until the dal is almost dry. Add the masala, salt, vegetables, and 4 to 5 cups water. (Add quick-cooking vegetables such as zucchini, asparagus, or leafy greens 30 minutes into the cooking.) Bring to a full boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes, until the lentils begin to dissolve, the rice is soft, and the vegetables are cooked. If the kichari dries out too much and begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, add more water; you’re looking for a creamy moist consistency.

Garnish the kichari with olive oil, a few turns of cracked pepper, and the cilantro. Service hot with lime slices alongside.

Grounding Masala
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp powdered sunthi ginger (optional)
¾ tsp black peppercorn

Place all ingredients in an electric grinder or spice mill and grind to a fine powder.