Winter Essentials: Balancing Kapha

by Jade Shutes


Winter through mid-Spring
Mid-November through Mid-March (spring)

The kapha dosha arises from the Earth (Prthvi) and Water (Ap or apas) elements. Kapha is stored in: the brain, joints, mouth, head and neck, stomach (the primary site), lymph, thorax including the lungs, heart and esophagus, and fat. The term kapha is derived from the root word shlish, which means ‘to embrace,’ referring to the greasy and oily qualities that together with Kapha’s natural solidity and substance bind tissues together.


Kapha holds the body together providing it with shape, form and cohesion. Kapha’s water element helps to nourish the body, tissues and skin, keeping them lubricated and moist. Kapha maintains immunity, supports the growth and creation of new cells throughout the body and helps wounds to heal. Kapha also produces mucus in the body, which in balance plays an important role in ridding the body of accumulated dirt and debris; as well as trapping and eliminating bacteria and other toxic waste internally. Mucus also performs a protective role in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract. However, excess mucus or excess Kapha according to Ayurveda, can lead to a host of imbalances.

According to Ayurveda, late winter and spring are the seasons of Kapha, reflecting the qualities of wet, cold, heavy, static, dull, smooth.

When Kapha is increased, you may experience:

  • excess mucous
  • very oily skin
  • weight gain/over indulging with sweets and heavy foods
  • poor circulation: cold hands and feet
  • water retention/edema
  • allergies
  • sluggish digestion
  • depression/melancholy
  • sluggishness
  • brain fog
  • lack of vitality
  • over attachment: unable to let go (mental/emotional constipation)
  • chest colds/sinus colds
  • swollen lymph glands
  • excessive sleeping


To balance and reduce excess kapha, we will use essential oils, herbs, vegetable/herbal oils and products that have the opposite quality of oily, cold and heavy. So we are looking for the qualities of: dry (e.g. the pines and the astringent e/o’s such as cypress, geranium, lemon), warm (black pepper, ginger, clove bud, cinnamon leaf, can add in mustard seed oil as base) and light (citrus oils, conifer oils, eucalyptus, rosemary). This is an excellent time to be diffusing the pine oils (Pinus pinaster, Pinus sylvestris (**the pine oils are ‘drying’ and hence are great when there is excess mucus in the respiratory system. Not recommended for those currently experiencing excess vata!)

Because Kapha is naturally more lethargic, heavy and slow, general lifestyle and essential oils will aim to energize, move and diffuse this natural inertia. Essential oils would include those that are energizing and inspiring like: Rosemary, ginger, cardamom, pine, spruce, sweet orange, eucalyptus radiata,bergamot, rose, mandarin, grapefruit, black pepper, and cinnamon leaf.

Recipes for Balancing Kapha

Stimulating/Detoxing Salt Scrub

  • 2 cups Sea salt
  • 20 drops Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
  • 10 drops Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
  • 10 drops Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus or E. radiata)
  • Sesame oil to desired texture.

Combine all ingredients together, stir until well combined. Use 3-5 times a week.

Kapha Massage Oil

  • 1 oz Mustard seed oil
  • 1 oz Sesame Oil
  • 10 drops Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata)
  • 15 drops Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
  • 7 drops Cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • 5 drops Fir (Abies alba)

Energizing/Detoxing Cleanser

  • 1.8 oz Liquid Castile Soap (can use Baby Dr Bronners)
  • 1 tbsp Glycerin (can use honey instead – add into hydrosol first then into castile soap)
  • 1-2 tbsp Laurel hydrosol or Eucalyptus hydrosol or Lemongrass hydrosol (or combine all three!)
  • 20 drops Eucalyptus radiata
  • 10 drops Rosemary ct. cineole (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • 7 drops Black pepper (Piper nigrum)
  • 5 drops Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquinervia)

Enhance Agni (digestive fire)

  • 1 ounce sesame oil
  • 10 drops Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce)
  • 12 drops Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • 3 drops Clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • 7 drops Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)

Clear Fog

Direct Palm Inhalation. 2-3 drops of Rosemary ct. cineole in the palm of your hand. Rub palms together and move towards nose holding palms open. Take a few deep inhalations. *Be sure to wash hands once you are complete, just in case! You don’t want to get the essential oil in your eyes.

Lifestyle Considerations

Qualities: Bring in warmth, lightness, energy, and movement.

  • Avoid sleeping past 7am.
  • Stay warm and yet avoid dampness.
  • Morning sun salutations (surya namaskar) help stimulate circulation and the digestive fires (agni).
  • Dry skin brushing.
  • Neti pot.
  • Avoid taking naps during the day as this can increase kapha during this season.
  • Spring cleaning ritual.
  • Regular exercise – Great sports to consider: running, swimming, hot yoga, vinyasa flow, cycling.
  • Colors: yellow, orange, red.
  • Breathing exercise (Pranayama): Kapalabhati “Breath of Fire”.
  • Challenge oneself: Try something new! Whether it be a new shirt, a new friend or a new form of exercise. Do something different each day or at least once a week.
  • Food should be more bitter, astringent and pungent in qualities.
  • Can add in warming stimulating spices such as black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and turmeric when cooking.
  • Avoid eating too much raw food. Less fats and animal proteins during this time. The largest meal should be at lunch time.