5 Immune Boosting Ayurveda Herbs
5 Immune Boosting Ayurveda Herbs & Spices For Your Home Store Cupboard
I was amazed to find the other day that our local Waitrose was out of both ginger and turmeric. Besides being disappointed that I was without two of my home essentials for a day or two, It was also a happy moment. “Wow, its great” I thought to myself, “people are really taking care of their immunity right now”. The know-how is so much more widespread now isn’t it? We are reclaiming the wisdom of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers who would have readily turned to natural remedies to heal family members. Here are five herbs and spices you might like to keep in your cupboard at home and enjoy, especially over the next weeks.
Ginger is known as the “universal spice” in Ayurveda and I would recommend favouring the fresh root over the dried powder form, unless you specifically want to bring more heat and a drying effect into the body, for example in cases of excess Kapha dosha. The fresh root is tri-doshic, which means it is balancing to all Ayurvedic constitutional types. Ginger is immune boosting being loaded with nutrients including vitamin B6, and minerals like magnesium and manganese. It is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial which makes it a great aid in the fight against infections. In Ayurveda we say it kindles the “Jathar Agni”, the digestive fire, supporting thereby our first line off immune defence in the gut. Ginger also contains many phenolic compounds such as gingerol, shogaol and paradol which have antioxidant, anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory properties.
Sip fresh ginger tea daily to kindle agni and help flush toxins from your system.
Turmeric is also tri-doshic and can be added to the ginger tea. If you make a litre of the tea, add 1 level small teaspoon of turmeric powder to the fresh cooked infusion and let it steep for 15 minutes before drinking. As my supermarket visit confirmed, we are becoming aware of the wonderful benefits of turmeric. Ayurveda would recommend it in its whole form, rather than the extract form often contained in supplements. If you can get the fresh root, that’s fantastic: or try buying your supply from an organic herbs specialist. This is likely to give you a turmeric powder with more therapeutic value. (My trip to the supermarket was for a temporary emergency supply whilst I waited for my turmeric delivery to arrive). Turmeric is also loaded with antioxidants and has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Ayurveda has known this for thousands of years and more recent scientific studies are confirming it. You can enjoy turmeric in a soothing Golden Milk drink as well as in ginger tea. To make Golden Milk simply warm a cup of dairy or non dairy milk with a good pinch of cinnamon, turmeric and a few cardamom pods: strain and drink to replace an afternoon snack or as a night-time drink. My cousin drank it whilst recovering from an infection at home recently and compared it’s delicious taste and soothing effect to a Turmeric Latte. Please don’t forget to add a small pinch of warming black pepper which will also help to activate the therapeutic properties of turmeric.
Cinnamon is added to ginger tea recipes in Ayurveda as well as being an ingredient in Golden Milk. It also has anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties, as well as large amounts of antioxidant polyphenols. It can ease digestion too and is said to have a prebiotic effect, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Cinnamon is stimulating and can help to move prana (energy) around the body. And it is gently warming which is wonderful for Vata dosha and Kapha dosha types, but means that whilst Pitta types can enjoy it’s sweet taste they should consume less.
Tulsi or Holy Basil is a dried leaf to add to your herb and spice cabinet and is especially relevant in these COVID times. It is quite pleasant to consume as an infusion. Tulsi is a sacred plant for Hindus and is seen as an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi, the deity of material and spiritual abundance. It grows in the gardens and near the doors of many homes in India and has long been recognised for its medicinal properties in Ayurveda. Tulsi is an adaptogenic herb meaning it can help the body combat the effects of stress, which we know only too well weakens our resistance to infection and disease. Again it contains anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and also anti-ageing phenols. It also contains apigenin which is a flavonoid that helps to remove waste at a cellular level. Perhaps most importantly for these times, Tulsi is one of the most potent anti-viral herbs of Ayurveda and specifically targets the respiratory system to reduce symptoms of cough, cold and bronchitis. It helps to clear the lungs. It is beneficial to Vata and Kapha dosha types, but Pitta types or those with Pitta type symptoms should take it cautiously.
Moringa leaves combine nicely in an infusion with Tulsi. This is another herb that can be seen growing in plenty gardens in India. It is recognised as a superfood due to its super nutritional properties. Moringa is said to penetrate deeply into the body tissues for cleansing and yet at the same time it has strengthening, rejuvenating properties. It is slightly heating so will reduce Vata and Kapha but Vata types need to be cautious due to its light, sharp and dry qualities. Taking the powder form with a little ghee may be a good alternative for vata types: the ghee will antidote the vata aggravating qualities of the herb. Again, Pitta types need to take Moringa more sparingly due to its heating properties.
Nature has given us so many wonderful healing plants, hasn’t it? And it’s fantastic that they are becoming more widely known and available. However. Ayurveda is clear that nothing beats a balanced lifestyle for our health and well-being. Regularity in eating and sleeping routines are essential, regular daily exercise and meditation or relaxation, walking in nature, and eating a wholefood, seasonal diet are all Ayurveda prescriptions for sustained health in body and mind. This kind of lifestyle will add power to any herbs you might chose to take.
Stress-resilience is also crucial for our immunity, right? Yet sometimes overwhelming events happen, life can pull the rug from under our feet and we need some extra support. Ayurveda herbs have much to offer here also. Please do look out for my blog next month: Five Ayurveda Herbs for Stressful Times.
Stay well and stay strong please with the self-care you deserve.
Sara Palmer (Shama)
NOTE: Please check with your doctor before using any of these substances for therapeutic purpose if you have a medical condition. The herbs are not meant to replace but add to professional medical care any time you become ill.
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