Jaggery is extensively used in many Indian cuisines and in various Ayurvedic medicines. It is a good substitute for sugar. Not only that, it comes with a bunch of its own unique health benefits. Jaggery forms the backbone of Asavas and Arishtas – fermented liquid Ayurvedic medicines.
It is a type of unrefined sugar, prepared from sugarcane or date juice. The juice is concentrated by heating and molasses is not removed while concentrating it. The end product is brownish yellow coloured solid jaggery blocks. It is also available in semisolid form.
Jaggery is called Guda, Gud, Gula, Gulam in Ayurveda. Ayurveda explains two types of jaggery.
Dhauta – washed / semi-refined
Adhauta – unrefined, unwashed.
Kannada-Bella (solid jaggery), Joni bella (the semisolid jaggery)
Qualities of jaggery and health benefits
नातिश्लेष्मकरो धौत: सृष्टमूत्रशकृत् गुड: ॥ ४७ ॥
प्रभूतकृमि मज्जासृक् मेदोमांस कफोऽपर: ।
हृद्य: पुराण: पथ्यश्च, नव: श्लेष्म अग्निसादकृत् ॥ ४८ ॥
(Reference: Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 5/47-48)
Guda (jaggery, molasses), washed well (made white and purified)-
Natishleshma kara – does not increase Kapha to a large extent
Srushtamutrashakrut – increases volume of urine and faeces
If it is not prepared properly, it causes intestinal worms, increases chances of Kapha disorder in marrow, blood, fat tissue and muscles.
Old jaggery is good for heart, and should be consumed. So, jaggery should be at least one year old for its usage.
Freshly prepared jaggery increases Kapha and causes indigestion. 47-48.
Unrefined or unwashed jaggery is
Sakshara – slightly alkaline
Natisheeta – not very coolant
Snigdha – oily, unctuous
Mutrashodhaka – cleanses bladder and urine
Raktashodhaka – cleanses and purifies blood
Vataghna – balances Vata
Na ati pittajit – decreases Pitta slightly
Medakara – increases body fat
Krumikara – causes intestinal worm infestation
Balya – increases strength
Vrushya – aphrodisiac
Jaggery for splenomegaly
For the treatment of splenomegaly (Plihodara), Haritaki – Terminalia chebula, in a dose of 3 – 5 grams once or twice a day, is administered along with 2- 3 grams of jaggery. (Charaka Samhita Chikitsa Sthana 13)
Dhauta guda or washed jaggery is
Madhura – sweet
Vatapittaghna – balances Vata and Pitta
Asruk prasadana – cleanses and detoxifies blood
It has a more Pitta balancing action compared to Adhauta (unwashed) guda.
Purana Guda – old jaggery
Svadutara – much more sweeter than the fresh
Snigdha – oily, unctuous
Laghu – lighter to digest, than fresh
Agnideepana – promotes digestion strength
Vitshodhaka – cleanses intestines and feces
Mutrashodhaka- cleanses urinary bladder and urine
Amashayashodhaka – cleanses stomach
Ruchya – promotes taste
Hrudya – good for heart, cardiac tonic
Pittaghna – balances Pitta
Vataghna – balances Vata
Tridoshaghna – Generally good for all the three Doshas
Jwarahara – Good for fever (in small quantities only)
Santapa shantiprada – relieves excess body heat
Shramahara- relieves tiredness
Panduhara – useful in anaemia
Pramehantaka- useful in urinary tract diseases
Treacle / jaggery (Guda) causes increased parasitic infection.
Majjakara – It increases the quantity of marrow,
Asruk kara – improves blood,
Medo Mamsakara – increases fat and muscles.
Before its formation as treacle (guda) the sugar cane juice undergoes four stages viz.
Ardhavasheshita ( when only ½ of the juice remains in the process of boiling),
Tribhaga avaseshishita (when 1/3 rd remains),
Chaturbhag Avasheshita (when ¼ th remains) and
Kshudra Guda or Phanita (Inspissated juice black in color).
The juice undergoing transformation through all these four stages is progressively heaviest.
That is to say the Phanita (inspissated juicepnidium) is the heaviest.
Dhauta is that variety of treacle which is cleaned and which contains increase in parasite etc. Matsyandika (crude sugar when the juice is inspissated so as to take the shape of eggs of fish), Khanda ( sugar candy ) and Sarkara (sugar) are all progressively better refined and cooler in relation to Dhauta Guda.
That is to say, sugar represents the best refined stage of juice. It is also the coldest of all varieties.
Jaggery Vs Sugar
Gur is healthier than sugar because unlike sugar, jaggery is made with natural processes without chemicals. (Of course, some low quality jaggeries are sold in the market which are processed with chemicals).
Jaggery can be used as replacement in coffee, tea and fruit juices. It entirely changes the consistency and taste of the beverage for the better.
Rather than comparing it with sugar, it is better to compare it with candy sugar (Mishri, Khadi sakhar), which is unprocessed version of sugar.
Jaggery can increase Kapha Dosha, hence not very ideal during cold, cough, asthma, bronchitis, whereas candy sugar is fine to take during cold and cough.
Jaggery is heavy to digest, hence not ideal when a person’s digestion strength is weak. Whereas, sugar candy is relatively easier to digest.
Use of jaggery in Ayurveda medicines
Jaggery in Asava and Arishta
Asava and Arishta are the fermented Ayurveda products. They contain natural self generated alcohol, ranging from 5 – 12 %. Dasamoolarishtam and Ashokarishta – are two good examples of Arishta and
Kumaryasava is an example for Asava.
In these Asava and Arishta preparation, jaggery is used as a source of sugar. With the help of natural yeast, sugar in the jaggery is converted into alcohol with the help of natural yeast (present in some herbs, used in the medicines). During the process of this conversion, the water soluble and alcohol soluble active principles get dissolved into the liquid medium, and thus the medicine gets prepared in about 1 – 2 months of time.
In these asava and arishta preparations, jaggery was made into a paste with lime powder, applied over a long strip of cloth. This was used to seal the cap of vessels. This was useful to prevent entry of air inside the arishta vessel, helping in anaerobic fermentation.
Jaggery is used as a the sugar base in some syrups. Example: Raktansoo syrup
Herbal jams – Lehyam
In some herbal water decoctions, the decoction is traditionally advised to be taken along with jaggery. Example: Pathyaksha Dhatryadi kashayam
Guda varti is ancient equivalent to modern rectal suppositories. They are administered through rectal route to relieve constipation and for other therapeutic effects. For Varti, usually jaggery is used as the base. Jaggery starts melting a little above room temperature. Rectal temperature is quite sufficient to melt the jaggery. So, while it melts, it releases the other herbs in the Varti into the rectal area, thereby, it acts as a carrier for other herbal powders.
Jaggery home remedies
If you visit any Indian village in the afternoon, especially in summer, soon after you enter in, you will be given a small piece of jaggery and cold water to drink. This is to cool you down and to energize you instantly. Try it after coming home in the afternoon.
Various sweet drinks are prepared with jaggery, called as Guda Panaka, used extensively in Ayurveda to restore energy and for aphrodisiac effect.
I already have covered a couple of home remedies, where we used jaggery. Missed them? Here they are –
Guda sharkara – The next step in processing of jaggery, is where they get the form of coarse granules. This is used in treating injured patients, people with emaciation and for aphrodisiac purposes.
Use by Sushruta:
Sushruta made use of jaggery in “dahakarma’ – heating process, because jaggery can retain heat for a long period of time.
Reference: Dahakarmani upayukta: | Sutrasthana 12/4
Use in leech therapy
In leech therapy, after the leech is applied and vitiated blood is let out, if still more vitiated blood is remaining in the affected area, then a paste of jaggery, honey and turmeric is applied to the spot. This causes further letting out of impure blood. Read more about leech therapy – Jalauka (reference: Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana 26/46
Precautions, side effects
Long term use, in high dose may cause weight gain.
Not recommended in diabetes.
Jaggery used, continuously for a long period of time may cause intestinal worm infestation.
Jaggery is contra indicated if you have ulcerative colitis.
Taking radish and jaggery along with fish is contra indicated in Ayurveda.
In case of Shotha – swelling, inflammation disorders, taking jaggery products is contra indicated. Reference – Charaka Samhita, Chikitsa Sthana 12/20
Jaggery shouldn’t be consumed in cold or cold weather. Gur, being a natural coolant, can increase the cold qualities in the body and worsen respiratory symptoms.
It is best to avoid jaggery while having fever, cold and cough, for the same reason.
Jaggery in diabetes
Is there any benefit of using jaggery in diabetes?
Jaggery contains sugar hence is not recommended in diabetes. However, the amount of sugar per gram of jaggery is lesser than that of one gram of white sugar. Hence, if your diabetes is under good control and if you are using sugar in your diet (say, in coffee or tea), it is best for you to replace white sugar with jaggery.
Jaggery for intestinal worms
Unique use of jaggery in intestinal worms:
Jaggery – if used for long time may cause intestinal worms. But in some Ayurveda medicines, used in treating intestinal worm infestation, like Manibhadra Guda, jaggery is used as an ingredient. This will help in attracting the worms into the intestines and to kill them with the other herbs in the medicine.
Jaggery for hemorrhoids
The powder of Harad fruit is made into paste with equal amount of jaggery. This is administered before food to reduce pain, itching and size of hemorrhoids. (Charaka Chikitsa Sthana 14th chapter).