The importance of healthy immune function is something we tend to neglect until it’s flu season or we are faced with a pandemic. With the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, you’re probably reaching for vitamin C capsules, but there’s a lot more you can do to strengthen immunity. Vitamin C supplementation is not the most effective immune-boosting strategy, as dietary intake of nutrients is more effective than supplementation. Moreover, there are other nutrients and natural therapeutic ingredients, diet, and lifestyle practices that are important for healthy immune function. Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of such practices at all times because of its focus on disease prevention. It makes sense for us to revisit some of the best Ayurvedic remedies for immunity at this time.
7 Ayurvedic Remedies to Boost Immunity
- Haridra: The best remedies are always the simplest ones and it doesn’t get simpler than this. Haridra, haldi, or turmeric is the most easily available ingredient that we use in every household. Just start adding it to more of your foods and make it a point to drink warm Haldi doodh or golden milk each morning and before bedtime. Studies show that curcumin, the primary organic compound in haridra, has a strong immunomodulatory effect. It enhances antibody responses, which are critical for fighting off pathogens to either prevent or overcome infections.
- Tulsi: Tulsi is ascribed with divine or spiritual significance in Indian culture and is also revered for its medicinal properties in Ayurveda. You will often find it as an ingredient in herbal Ayurvedic cough syrups and tonics, but it’s not just helpful for relieving colds and coughs. Some research shows that tulsi extracts exhibit immunomodulatory effects, raising lymphocyte levels and enhancing the immune response. This can significantly improve disease-fighting ability and reduce recovery times. Tulsi can be consumed in any form – steeped in water for herbal tea, or by combining the crushed leaves, flowers, and stem with honey and ghee. You can also use tulsi powder or supplements if you can’t get your hands on fresh tulsi.
- Sunth: Sunth, which is the dried form of ginger, is another effective Ayurvedic remedy for immune function. You can also use fresh ginger if you like as the immune-boosting effects are not very different. Ginger’s potent medicinal properties are attributed to gingerols, which have been found to exert anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is protective of lung function, reducing irritation and spasms, making you less vulnerable to respiratory infections. Ginger is also known to possess antimicrobial properties that can help your immune system fight infections. To get these benefits, you can chew on raw ginger slices, drink fresh ginger juice, and add ginger to your tea or meals.
- Jyeshtimadhu: Known in much of the western world as licorice, Jyesthimadhu is often used in Ayurvedic medicine and remedies to treat respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments. Because of its powerful therapeutic properties, the herb is classified as a rasayana in Ayurveda – the category of rejuvenative herbs. These therapeutic actions are linked to the specific polysaccharides in Jyesthimadhu. Studies suggest that the herb can significantly enhance immune function and antioxidant enzyme activity, providing stronger immune protection against viral and bacterial infections. To consume the herb, you can chew on the twigs known as mulethi sticks or add the herbal powder to ginger tea or juice.
- Eucalyptus Oil: Known as Nilgiri Taila in Ayurveda, eucalyptus oil is notable for its therapeutic properties, which have been well studied for decades. These benefits are linked to the high content of flavonoids and tannins in eucalyptus. The herbal oil has proven antimicrobial effects that can help fight a variety of infections. A study that appeared in BMC Immunology also indicated that eucalyptus oil could have an immune stimulatory effect, enhancing phagocytic response to better protect against pathogens like viruses and bacteria. You can use eucalyptus oil in your mouth wash or throat gargle or add a few drops to a bowl of steaming water for inhalation.
- Follow the Dinacharya: Dinacharya or daily routine is one of the fundamental concepts in Ayurveda. It outlines the ideal daily routine, with time scheduled for waking up, exercise, meditation, meals, sleep, and so on. This routine was formulated over thousands of years, based on, and meant to be in harmony with the natural ebb and flow of nature. Although this practice has largely been forgotten and ignored in recent decades, we are now learning about its importance through new scientific investigations of the circadian rhythm. It is clear now that such a routine is vital for the health of the circadian system, which in turn has a huge impact on immune function.
- Practice Pranayamas: While exercise in itself is important for healthy immunity and cardiorespiratory function, Pranaymas can be particularly helpful. An integral feature of yoga, these breathing exercises may seem pointless as they do not require any physical activity unlike asanas. However, they are known to strengthen lung function and can significantly lower the risk of respiratory disease, including airborne infections. Some pranayama exercises like kapalabhati, omkara, and brahmari are in fact so effective, that their practice is even recommended for patients who suffer from chronic respiratory conditions like asthma.
The above Ayurvedic remedies can give you added immune support during such times of crisis. However, they are not meant as a substitute for healthy living. Try to adopt diet and lifestyle practices on a long term basis for sustainable health and wellbeing so that you are better prepared for the next pandemic, as coronavirus is not the last, but just the latest pandemic to hit us.