While we struggle with the Pandemic, most of us are working to increase our body immunity by consuming the best possible herbs, kadhas, magic pills and the most important of all : the Chyawanprash! We all know about the benefits of Chyawanprash which include building immunity, replenishing nutrients in the body and balancing the three doshas Vata, Pitta, Kapha.
The Ayush ministry has shared recommendations for keeping our immunity strong and Chyawanprash holds an important place in the guidelines. While we look for the most “healthy” and “sugar free” Chyawanprash, do we really have the finer details to make the best choice ?
There are different types of Chyawanprash available in the market. Some claim to be Sugar free, some claim to have 2X/3X immunity boosting powers, some are jaggery based, some Ghee based while some have fancy names like Chyawan-Fit, Chyawan-Amrut, Amlaprash, Amritprash and more.
How is Chyawanprash made ?
This magic recipe owes its name to Chyawan Rishi. The first documented formula for Chyawanprash appears in the Charaka Saṃhitā, one of the oldest Ayurvedic text books.
Amla is boiled in water and ground to paste.
This paste is then fried in Ghee/Oil.
A part of the herbs are ground and converted into a Herbal decoction (Kadha).
Sugar (Processed/Unprocessed/Desi Khand/Jaggery/Dhaga Mishri) is added to the decoction.
The resulting syrup (Chashni) is then mixed with the Halwa made in Step 2.
Part of the herbs are now added and cooked.
Remaining Saffron, Honey, Silver/Gold/Abhrak Bhasmas are added at the end.
Your Chyawanprash is ready! Easy, isn't it ?
If you are looking to buy the best Chyawanprash, what should you look for ?
Chyawanprash is an Ayurvedic medicine:
Whichever brand you buy from, ensure it has an Ayush license to manufacture Chyawanprash and is following GMP guidelines. You should find the license number printed on the jar.
Artificial preservatives :
Chyawanprash contains Sugar and Honey which in itself act as preservatives. Hence Chyawanprash does not need any artificial preservatives as long as someone is following the Charaka Saṃhitā. In ancient times, no artificial preservatives existed. So if an external preservative is added to the Chyawanprash, chances are high that the original recipe has been altered. I would not recommend to consume a Chyawanprash containing artificial preservatives.
Which Ghee or Oil should be used in Chyawanprash ?
Indigenous (Desi) cow bilona Ghee is best for our cooking and health. However, you may be consuming the oils you wanted to avoid with your Chyawanprash! Ayurveda asks to use “Go-Ghrita” - Indigenous Cow Bilona Ghee and Sesame oil. So turn your Chyawanprash pack around and look for the ingredients, hope it does not have vegetable or palm oils in it!
Which Sugar should go in the making of Chyawanprash ? Or is Sugar-free best ?
Ayurvedic text books mention "Matsyandika” to be used in Chyawanprash which is a Sanskrit word. There are many interpretaions of this term. Matsyandika is best translated to “Sugar Candy” as per the Arthaśāstra II.15.15 interpretation (reference : https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/matsyandika).
Best form of Sugar Candy which is not processed/raw is Dhaga Mishri which has coolant properties. Since ancient times, Mishri is being used post meals along with fennel seeds in India for aiding digestion. Original Mishri contains cotton threads, just the way it is made.
Note : Chyawanprash cannot be made without a type of Sugar/Sweetner as it needs sugar syrup (Chashni) to attain the jam like consistency it carries.
What are the different kinds of Sugar used in the market for making Chyawanprash ?
1) Processed White Sugar :We all are aware of the ill effects of the processed white Sugar. It is best avoided.
2) Jaggery : While Jaggery looks like one of the most healthy options, when it comes to Chyawanprash, it is not the case.
Many Chyawanprash herbs have Garam Taseer i.e. heat producing ingredients. Jaggery too produces heat in the body, the overall combination of Chyawanprash is not fit to be consumed during summers as it increases the Pittadosha (heat) of the body. During winters, you can still consume it but it is not a balanced formula. Chyawanprash is supposed to balance Vata, Pitta, Kapha of the body.
3) Stevia : It is a form of sweetener called “Sugar free” with no calories. Stevia is relatively a new form of sweetener and does not find mention in any of the Ayurvedic texts. Its yet to gain acceptance in Ayurveda. Stevia was banned for a very long time by the FDA and many countries.
4) Desi Khand :This is one form of raw and unprocessed sugar which has cooling properties.
5) Dhaga Mishri :This is the best form of raw unprocessed sugar for making Chyawanprash as per the interpretation of the term Matsyandika mentioned above. It has cooling properties (thandi taseer) so it can balance the hot ingredients (garam taseer) of the Chyawanprash. Chyawanprash containing Dhaga Mishri is fit to be consumed throughout the year including summers.
Does your Chyawanprash have Honey ?
Honey (Madhu) is one of the ingredients which go in the making of Chyawanprash as per Ayurveda. Honey has immense health benefits. However, do look for the type of Honey used in your Chyawanprash and at what stage it was added? Honey should not be heat treated as it denatures its structure. It should be added at the end once the Chyawanprash has cooled down. Chyawanprash which uses raw, unprocessed honey is best.
The magic of Herbs :
Some of Chyawanprash brands in the market hardly use 5 to 8 herbs while some use 55. A compilation of Chyawanprash recipe by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy mentions 48 ingredients. The number of ingredients vary based on the Ayurvedic texts. However, my pick would be the one which gives me the most benefits i.e. a minimum of 35 herbs or more. Chyawanprash with less than 10 herbs would not do justice to Chyawan Rishi’s recipe.
Chyawanprash can be termed as 100% organic when all its ingredients are organic. 40+ herbs go in the making of Chyawanprash. Many of the herbs grow on the mountains and while they may not have an organic certificate, they are generally chemical free. As long as they are original, sourced ethically, it is ok to use. You should though carefully look for the major ingredients like Indian Gooseberry (Amlas - which should preferably be produced organically), type of Sugar and which Ghee/Oil is used to make Chyawanprash.
So next time when you buy a pack of Chyawanprash, turn that jar around and do have a look at the ingredients list! Make sure it actually is a value add to your body!