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Ayurveda and Immunity: Arm Yourself in the Battle with Coronavirus

Boosting your defences can go a long way to keep you safe.

Honey, lemon and ginger are known for their immunity boosting properties. Photo by 8photo/ Freepik
Honey, lemon and ginger are known for their immunity boosting properties. Photo by 8photo/ Freepik

As Prime Minister Modi announced on Tuesday morning an extension of the country’s lockdown until 3 May 2020, the question remains; what can we, as ordinary citizens, do to stay healthy in the midst of the exposure to airborne pathogens? 

Enhancing the body’s natural defense system plays an important role in maintaining optimum health and while there is no medicine for COVID-19 as of now, taking preventive measures to boost our immunity is what is called for in these times.

Ayurvedic Medicine, our 5,000 year-old approach to health, which addresses both pathology and prevention, says it starts in the gut. Without a strong and healthy digestive system, with balanced flora and the necessary enzymes to help break down pathogens, our first line of defence is compromised.

Ayurveda has a number of immune building formulas which are recommended to support the immune system. It is important to note, however, Ayurveda’s fundamental approach in using plants as medicine is that the individual person as a whole is who advocates the use of herbs instead of isolating, extracting, and administering active ingredients. Ayurveda supports the synergistic approach as opposed to the reductionist approach of each plant.

Before we get to the considerations of the intake of any formula or supplement capable of increasing immunity or fighting disease, we must stress the importance of starting with supporting a weak digestion. Without this step, the efficacy of the remedies will remain low, and the body will not be able to fully breakdown the needed nutrients.

Photo by JComp/ Freepik

One of the methods of diagnosis by Ayurveda is to determine its weakness by looking at the tongue. If there is a white coating or film, we recommend the following pre-emptive steps:

  • Sip hot water frequently throughout the day 
  • Lemon-honey water in the morning
  • Use of digestive spices, like Ginger, black pepper, cumin and turmeric while cooking.
  • Ginger-lime pickle before meals
  • Digestive tea: Boil one quart of water with 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, and 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, two pinches of black pepper and two pinches of rock salt (if available)

These actions over a period of a couple of days will help to increase digestion and help the body begin its ability to receive therapeutic remedies for building the immune system and fighting pathogens. Without this step, the efficacy of the remedies will remain low, and the body will not be able to fully breakdown the needed nutrients.

The second stage of building immunity is to ensure that you are avoiding all causative factors. Studies show that reducing stress through meditation, staying active, yoga and breathing exercises can significantly reduce inflammation in the body and therefore increase the body’s resistance to pathogens and disease.  Healthy eating and getting an adequate amount of sleep is also imperative for the body’s natural resistance to be sustained. 

In addition to the recommended guidelines for minimising exposure, Ayurveda offers help in protecting the nose, mouth or eyes, the first entry points of the COVID-19 virus. It is recommended to follow these simple procedures that can be practised on a daily basis.

  • Nasal: Coat the interior of both nostrils with a dab of sesame oil/coconut oil or ghee in the morning and evening. 
  • Oral: 1 tablespoon sesame or coconut oil in the mouth. Do not drink, Swish in the mouth for two to three minutes and spit it out followed by warm or regular water rinse. This can be done once or twice a day.
  • Larynx: Steam inhalation with fresh mint leaves. Also, equal proportions of clove, cinnamon and cardamom powder mixed with honey or maple syrup can be taken two to three times a day in case of cough or throat irritation.

And finally, once the digestion is strong, causative factors are eliminated and preventative measures are in place, we can start recommending herbal formulas.

The classic Ayurvedic formula called Chywanprash, serves as a general tonic to increase what Ayurveda calls “Ojas” or immune building substance in the body. The formula is broken down into about 50 ingredients that work synergistically. It’s primary ingredient is the Amla Berry, or Emblica officinalis, which supports antioxidant activity via the encouragement of collagen and elastic production. This formula is available everywhere online in Ayurvedic stores, in both a fresh and dried form, depending on the health needs of the patient.

In this way, amla (Indian gooseberry) supports both the health of the outer skin and the inner skin that lines the gut, respiratory tract, and all mucus membranes of the body. Amla is also well-known as a source for natural Vitamin C. Along with other immuno-modulating active plant ingredients like ashwagandha, guduchi and holy basil, this formula works synergistically to promote health.

Founding professor of John Hopkins University Sir William Oslar said it best, “Let us not treat the disease, but let us treat the patient who has the disease.”

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