"Ayurveda is a simple focus on breathing, water, fresh vegetables, the food we eat, massage, meditation and our relationship with nature. It is an observation and integration of that nature."
Inspired by John Gerard’s 1597 Generall Historie of Plantes, Michael Isted and The Herball, his passion project, are dedicated to sharing and presenting ways in which we can integrate the power, beauty and joy of the plants around us into our everyday lives. Michael is a fully qualified phytotherapist (BSc, Hons), nutritionist and aromatherapist. He integrates his passion and knowledge of herbal medicine with his background in consulting and creating beverage concepts for the luxury hotel, restaurant and spa sector to create dynamic ways for people to integrate and utilise the plants around us.
"So many of Ayurveda’s principles are about living as closely with nature as possible; it really is based on very basic naturopathic principles, the essentials of life."
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
It means everything, I’m not trained in Ayurveda — I’m a Western herbalist, but I’m very much inspired by Ayurvedic principles and the plants and processes used in Ayurveda. It just makes perfect sense to me; the more I read and trained, it just harmonised. Of all the principles, including Western and Chinese thinking, it's the one that resonated the most with me, as the building blocks and fundamentals of life.
When did you discover it?
It discovered me. So many of Ayurveda’s principles are about living as closely with nature as possible; it really is based on very basic naturopathic principles, the essentials of life. This has never, nor will it ever change, as these principles derive from nature itself. It is a simple focus on breathing, water, fresh vegetables, the food we eat, massage, meditation and our relationship with nature. It is an observation and integration of that nature.
What drew you to Ayurveda?
The plants that I was studying during my Western herbal medicine training — plants like andrographis, ashwagandha and more obvious companions like black pepper and cinnamon. I had a relationship with these plants but didn’t quite understand how important these relationships and plants were. Our relationship with black pepper is a perfect example: it is totally taken for granted. My training drew me closer to these plants, and they have since become closer companions and have taught me so much. Our dear friend Michaela Augustin at Science of Life also introduced us to the joys of Ayurveda; she’s a big inspiration and an amazing character.
How long have you been practising it?
I dont practise Ayurveda as such, just integrate some of the plants, food, principles and the way of life as much as possible.
Is it part of everyday life or merely part of your medicine cabinet/fall-back routine?
I’d like it to be more part of my everyday life. I must confess when I lived that lifestyle for a short time in India, it's the healthiest I have ever felt. That said, my medicine cabinet and perfume shelf is full of Indian/Ayurvedic herbs, spices, attars and preparations, it is very much an integral part of my life.
Top 3 Ayurveda tips that have worked for you?
- Be flexible. What works in India and the climate in India does not work so well in Europe, for example, so it's important to work with nature's rhythms, climate, foods and plants wherever you are in the world. The foundations of Ayurveda allow you to do this.
- Ahara, which means intake. It refers to the understanding of your food and dietary intake; much of disease can be controlled by adjusting and maintaining a diet that works for you. Practising herbal medicine, I can only do so much directly with herbs; you also need to be eating well and enjoying life, with as little stress as possible, integrating all that I have mentioned above, including air, food and water. It's about laying down the foundations, and Ayurveda itself is a great foundation.
- Massage and body work: I certainly do not do this enough, but the importance of regular body work and massage is key in Ayurvedic principles, and is something I’d like to integrate more into my life. I mean, who doesn’t like having plant-infused warm oil massaged into them on a daily or weekly basis?
Do you have a favourite Ayurvedic recipe or go-to ingredient?
I’m pretty keen on Trikatu, I love that combo of long pepper, black pepper and ginger, particularly with turmeric, which is super vital all year round, so good in the morning — particularly in winter — to fire things up. Just be careful not to add too much fire onto the burning oil…if you are a Pitta type.