In the summer of 1991, I was traveling with my mom and brother to our native place by train. We offered a snack to a grandma who was traveling with us in the same cabin. Grandma politely refused it stating “ it is Ekadasi and I generally eat my own preparation and avoid outside food”. Ekadasi is the 11th day of waxing and waning moon. Not being mindful of the different menu followed at home for specific days of the moon position, this was my first registration in memory of the same. But yes, every new moon day was always special with rituals at home for the previous generations and a unique menu cooked as offering. So, I curiously inquired that grandma about Ekadasi and her practice for that day. She gave me this general gist on how some Hindu vegetarian South Indians have developed a food habit based on the moon position.
Keep it hot as I grow and cool it down as I diminish
For animals who base their circadian rhythms on the cycles of the moon, however, linked primarily to the presence of light at night, their evolution and survival would definitely be impacted if the moon were suddenly to disappear. Lions, bats, insects and countless other species throughout history have evolved certain behaviors in conjunction with the presence of the moon, such as mating, hunting, hibernation and aggression.
According to modern science, it is known that the air pressure on our planet varies to extreme limits on both the new moon (Amavasya) and the full moon (Purnima) day. This is because of the orbital path combination of the sun, moon and earth. This can be observed by the change in the nature of the tidal waves on the new moon and full moon days. The waves are very high and rough, but from the next day , the waves become calm, an indication that the pressure has also receded.
For humans, the cooling effect of Moon’s rays on our mind and body is the foundation for adopting a different meal plan during shukla paksham (waxing phase) and krishna paksham(waning phase). Thermogenic foods, or those that have warming properties such as pepper-corn, ginger, peanuts, mangoes, potato, carrots and sweet potatoes are recommended during the waxing phase with growing chillness from moon, as they provide internal thermostat to a higher setting. As you eat, your body burns calories to digest the food, and this creates heat. The final result is you get a temporary boost in body temperature. However, on Ekadasi (the 11th day of both the 15 day cycles) a preparation is done to the body towards the day of extreme air pressure difference on New moon or Full moon day which is on the 15th day. This 11th day is chosen as the day of rest for the digestive system avoiding heavy food like grains and pulses while some people do a complete fasting known as Ekadasi-vrata.
According to Hindu scriptures like Padma Purana, the Supreme being has recommended the 11th day of moon cycle as the most fitting day for fasting as it is believed that he takes the form of the moon on that particular day and provides blessings for his seekers who observe fasting in his honour. On the 12th day, Dwadeshi , the fast is broken with water and the menu includes a good supply of vitamin C to abosrb the iron in food in the form of gooseberry and a specific green called “agathi keerai” which has antacid properties. Another important berry that is consumed on this day of dwadeshi is turkeyberry or sundekkai which is a great natural de-worming agent too.
During the waning phase of the moon, the cooling effect fades and food that can naturally cool the body such as cucumber, melons, squash, fenugreek seeds and curd are recommended.
How moon affects our mental health?
A latin word ‘lunaticus’ , moonstruck which resulted in the common word lunatic that is used now to describe a person with a disturbed state of mind points us in the direction of mental health as influenced by the moon.
According to this study, the lunar cycle has high influence on insects and birds. However, a number of reports find no correlation between the lunar cycle and human reproduction and admittance to clinics and emergency units. A different paper has pointed us to the relationship between a sleep inducing hormone in humans - melatonin’s rhythm and the lunar cycle . It has been observed that, around full moon, the deep sleep time decreased by 30% and the time to fall asleep increased by 5 minutes. Sleep plays a vital role in brain function and systemic physiology across many body systems. So we can say, more studies and experiments can only help us decipher the influences of moon on human mental health.