10 Ayurvedic Stocking Stuffers for a Happy, Healthy Holiday

The holidays are here, and what could be better than giving the folks on your list gifts that inspire wellness? In the spirit of the season, Erin Casperson, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, shares her favorite Ayurvedic stocking stuffers—10 items that make for a thoughtful self-care package guaranteed to keep your loved ones well-nourished all winter long.

1. Nasya oil. One of the greatest gifts I received from Ayurveda was learning to use nasya oil. Winter in New England is drying, thanks in part to all that indoor heating, and oiling my nose helps prevent colds. I love oils made with soothing, stimulating herbs, such as Banyan Botanicals' nasya oil, blended with eucalyptus and brahmi (which is excellent for mental clarity). Nasya is also great for your holiday travels—I never go on a plane without my nasya oil to prevent dryness. Just insert one to two drops of nasya oil into the nostrils in the morning and before bed. Massage the inner nostrils with your fingers, then sniff the oil into the nasal passages.

2. Tongue scraper. This was my “gateway drug” into Ayurveda. I received my first tongue scraper in college, while studying to be a dental hygienist. Scraping removes the bacterial plaque from the top surface of the tongue. It only takes three to five gentle swipes, which can be done before brushing your teeth in the morning and before bed (more how-tos on tongue scraping here). It’s great for keeping your breath fresh and removing impurities from the tongue, the top of the gastrointestinal tract. There are a ton of options on Amazon, so what to choose? I would go for a metal tongue scraper instead of plastic. Want to go traditional Ayurveda? Use copper, which, unlike plastic, doesn’t harbor bacterial growth.

3. Ghee. If you want to keep your skin and digestive system glowing all winter long, give the gift of ghee. Ghee is clarified butter, cooked down until all the water has been evaporated and the milk solidified and strained off. It is shelf stable, kindles the digestive fire, has a high smoke point, and is great for sautéing and roasting. The ghee-producing companies I love are Farmtrue (a company started by two women who make ghee using milk from local cows), Full Moon, and Pure Indian Foods. They all make amazing flavored options, like maple chai, garlic scape, turmeric, and coffee creamer.

4. Garshana gloves. These gloves, made of raw silk, are an exfoliation dream. Use them before doing a self-massage to remove dead skin cells and stimulate the lymphatic system. As with abhyanga, perform long strokes on the long bones and make circles on the joints. This only takes about five minutes. Skip garshana if you are feeling ungrounded or overstimulated, as it can exacerbate an excited nervous system.

5. CCF tea. If you find yourself experiencing digestive distress during the holidays, reach for the CCF tea, which is brewed from cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds (hence its name). You can buy the individual seeds and mix in equal proportions in a mason jar or travel baggie, or purchase them premixed from Banyan Botanicals. To make CCF tea, place a quart of water in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, add 1–2 tablespoons of the mixed seeds into the water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain into mugs and enjoy! (Makes 2–4 servings.)

6. Abhyanga oil. Dry skin is a bane of wintertime. Many people use lotion, but I prefer oil. Abhyanga is self-massage with oil, and the winter months call for this relaxing, moisturizing treatment. A 32-ounce bottle of oil can last you all winter and costs a fraction of a spa treatment. Take 15–45 minutes to rub your entire body with warm oil, making circles on the joints and long strokes on the long bones. Abhyanga lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin, soothes the nervous system, and nourishes all the tissues. Life hack: Keep a small squeeze bottle of oil in the shower and do a quick moisturizing washing. This will leave you skin glowing and soft all winter. (Check out more Ayurveda life hacks here.)

7. Insulated water bottle. Ayurveda is all about opposites; so when it’s cold out, consume foods and beverages that are cooked and hot. I always keep a bottle of hot water around, and I know I can also have my CCF tea on the run to warm me up from the inside out. Next time you visit us in the Berkshires, pick up a Kripalu-branded insulated water bottle—which also has a tea strainer in it.

8. Rosewater. My morning routine is not complete without an enlivening spritz of organic rosewater; I do 3–5 sprays on my face and eyes. Rosewater refreshes those overworked, over-screened organs of vision; I always keep a bottle at my desk. I really like Solavedi, which supplies the Kripalu-branded rosewater we carry at the Kripalu Shop. Pick up a bottle next time you’re here—your eyes will thank you!

9. Oil for pulling: Even though my background is in dental hygiene, it took me a long time to get into oil pulling. But when I did, I was hooked. Tooth sensitivity, buh-bye. I had tried all the different toothpastes for sensitive teeth but didn’t find relief in any of them, but after just one week of daily oil pulling, I could finally eat on my left side again. You only need about 2 teaspoons of oil, and you need to swish for about 10 minutes to get results. When you’re done, spit it out in the trash, as septic systems don’t like oil as much as your teeth do. You can use sesame oil or melted coconut oil. Banyan Botanicals makes a Daily Swish oil, or try one from Farmtrue.

10. Digestive herbal tablets. The holidays sometimes call for a little extra digestive support. Once Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe’s hit the shelves, I am all done. There are three digestive aids I keep on hand that you might want to gift your loved ones, all from my friends at Banyan Botanicals: Vata Digest, which, taken after a meal, can combat gas and bloating; Pitta Digest, which, taken after a spicy meal or drinking alcohol, may reduce sour belly and excess heat; and Kapha Digest, which will heat up your digestion if taken before a rich, heavy meal.

Happy holidays!