Chawanprash: The Progenitor of Jams

The older generation usually has advice for all manner of things. Having life troubles at a young age? Remember that every bad storm ends with a calm sunrise. Worries about money? Well, don’t be. Money is less important than the experiences you’ll be missing out on if you decide to chase it. Facing health issues? Have a spoon of Chawanprash twice a day and you’ll be fit as a fiddle. And as far we are concerned, our elders have hit the proverbial nail right on the head when it comes to Chawanprash.

What is Chawanprash?

We must first take a look at how it is made and its main ingredients to truly understand what makes Chawanprash special. In scientific terms, Chawanprash is an Ayurvedic supplement that aims to preserve and replenish strength, stamina and vitality (a de-aging recipe, if you will). We prepare the Ayurvedic jam by processing a variety of different ingredients. Amalaki or the Indian Gooseberry is the primary ingredient that acts as the base for the recipe. Gambhari, Anjeer, Jaiphal and Gokharu are some of the other ingredients.

One may notice a slightly sweet taste to the jam. However, the recipe contains no traces of refined sugar and we sweeten it using jaggery or honey. The making of the recipe is a long and detailed process. It involves processing the raw materials, cooking them (some separately and others together), evaporating any moisture content, adding taste enhancers (honey or jaggery) and finally blending it into a jam-like state.

The story behind the naming of the formulation lends even more credibility to the nature of Chawanprash. According to ancient texts, the recipe was created by the joined efforts of two renowned vaidyas. They concocted the formulation to revitalize and ‘restore youth’ to an older rishi known as Chawan. This lead to the creation and widespread use of the potent Ayurvedic jam, Chawanprash (‘prash’ is Sanskrit for specially prepared food). For more information, you can check out our other articles on the same. (Ayurveda’s Elixir Formula For Healthy Life: Chyawanprash or अमृतम च्यवनप्राश – उम्ररोधी (एंटीएजिंग) एक प्राचीन हर्बल मेडिसिन)

Ayurvedic Nature and Properties of Chawanprash

Ayurvedic texts attribute a wide range of Ayurvedic natures like Amahara (treats indigestion), Kasahara (Relieves cough), Deepana (enhances stomach fire) and Rochana (stimulates appetite) to Chawanprash. The ghee and the sweetener used in the preparation of the formulation acts as yogavahis (catalytic agents). These catalytic agents transport the herbs and active ingredients to the target locations. Perhaps most important, however, is the rasayanic nature of the recipe. It helps in rejuvenating the mind and body, while also maintaining the appropriate doshic balances. Additionally, people also recognize Chawanprash for its general applicability to almost any situation.

The wide array of herbs used while creating the formulation is responsible for these benefits. The recipe for Chawanprash varies depending on the source (as does its name!). Amalaki, however, is a permanent inclusion in all versions of the recipe. In addition to acting as the base for the formulation, Amalaki is also a rich source of vitamin C.  The mere presence of Amla in the recipe aids in promoting hair growth, supporting a healthy digestive system, purifying the bloodstream, etc.

Additionally, the formulation also helps in improving the immune system, enhancing overall strength, aiding in male and female reproductive health and rejuvenates the body. Enhanced cardiac functioning, bolstering libido, boosting digestion and weight management are less known, but significant effects of Chawanprash.

Major Ingredients in Chawanprash

In addition to having Amla as the base for the recipe, Chawanprash contains a wide range of herbs and spices. We have mentioned some of these here, along with the health benefits they contribute.

  1. Anjeer/Fig: Figs are rich sources of vitamins A, C and K, in addition to other minerals and nutrients. They also provide a substantial amount of dietary fiber which has a positive effect on the digestive system. The various minerals, nutrients and antioxidants in the fruit helps in improving skin health, strengthen bones, regulating blood pressure and promoting reproductive health.
  1. Gokharu: A classic example of a tridosha balancing herb, vaidyas have used Gokharu in various Ayurvedic recipes for ages. The herb contains large stores of Saponins, which aids in the transportation of oxygen via the blood. The presence of these compounds enables the body to absorb a greater amount of nutrients from the food and also helps in keeping the skin healthy and younger looking.
  2. Safed Chandan/White Sandalwood: The oil extracted from the white sandalwood tree is used to treat respiratory conditions like common cold, cough, bronchitis, etc. The extract also contains active compounds which help in treating skin conditions like eczema and acne. Outside the medical sphere, many producers and companies add Safed Chandan to soaps, perfumes and candles due to its fragrant and calming scent.
  3. Jaiphal/Nutmeg: Jaiphal has a plethora of nutrients and antioxidants giving it wide medical scope. It has been known to stimulate the brain, alleviate stress and anxiety, aid in digestion, prevent inflammation of the skin and fight off bacterial infections. Jaiphal is also a very popular spice. Both chefs and moms use it in a variety of dishes and beverages to impart a warm and exotic flavor to them.

How to Use It?

The range of tastes Chawanprash encompasses works to greatly enhance the benefits of the recipe. Ayurvedic texts recommend a diet that includes all the six basic tastes; sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Chawanprash combines five of these six tastes (all except for salty) to create a unique flavor.

One can consume this Ayurvedic jam either on its own or dissolve it in a glass of warm milk or water. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can spread the Chawanprash over bread or toast, as one would with jam. Personally, we recommend consuming it along with warm milk on an empty stomach or before meals. This allows the body to efficiently absorb and distribute the formulation. Early mornings and late afternoons-evenings are the ideal time frames to consume this rasayanic formulation. Chawanprash is even more effective during the winter season. The nature of the recipe is such that it imparts a warming effect on the body when consumed.

Reference: Chyawanprash A Traditional Indian Bioactive Health Supplement

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