Herbsplaining Part 1: a guide into three immune boosting ayurvedic herbs
As the number of those affected by COVID-19 continues to increase, each of us must be wondering what we can do at home to help protect us better protect our families. For many, natural and holistic treatments are preferred or used as adjuncts to traditional allopathic treatment. While we protect ourselves by staying home, we can consider many modalities such as nutrition, yoga, massage, and meditation to improve our health and boost our immune system. This article will discuss the importance of Ayurvedic herbal supplements and how it can help keep us in our best health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond. Please note that the following herbs are not treatments or supplements to prevent or cure the Coronavirus.
Over the past several years, turmeric has gone from a little-known spice to being one of the most highly researched. This spice is not only used in cooking but is now proven to play many roles in keeping the body healthy. Turmeric is commonly known to prevent inflammation, be an affective topical disinfectant, relieve pain, reduce symptoms of depression, improve memory and even help fight cancer. Who knew?! Turmeric has also become quite popular for its ability to boost the immune system. It contains a special compound called curcumin which improves the antibodies response in the body. Curcumin activates certain white blood cells such as T cells, dendritic cells, and natural killer cells. Once the white blood cells are ready to go, the body can better fight off any invaders or pathogens (bacteria and viruses) in the body that can harm the body. Curcumin assists in this process by increasing mucous production which expels microbes and bacteria out from the respiratory tract. This helps reduce the symptoms of cough and cold.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the qualities of turmeric, including its bitter taste and warm potency, helps to normalize metabolic activity and aid in the removal of undigested toxins throughout the body, especially in the fat tissue. Turmeric is also commonly used in cases of blood toxicity, skin diseases, and rashes due its characteristics of being able to thin the blood, activate the liver (which regulates and cleans the blood), and expel out the toxins through the bowels. For maintaining good immunity, it is very important to have good bowel regularity. Keep in mind, turmeric is contraindicated for those taking certain blood thinners.
Apart from taking supplements and using turmeric in daily cooking, a great way to incorporate turmeric into your daily diet is by making haldi dudh. Also called turmeric milk or golden milk, it is one of the most common medicinal drinks in India. This drink has two simple ingredients: milk and dry turmeric powder which is boiled. There are many varieties to this special drink. It can be replaced with water or additional spices can be added such as black pepper, cardamom or honey. However, the main ingredient in this drink is turmeric, which has healing properties for the body.
Commonly known as tulsi, holy basil is the “The queen of all herbs” as it has many benefits for the body. If you were brought up in a traditional Indian household, this leafy plant was typically found in your curry. Not only does this herb add taste to Indian cuisine, but it provides health benefits ranging from regulating digestion to preventing eye diseases. Due to its high nutritional value, every part of the plant is used, and nothing is wasted as it is rich in vitamin A and C, calcium, zinc, iron and chlorophyll. Tulsi also has many shown benefits to the body such as reducing stress and anxiety, detoxification, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, reducing joint pain, and protecting the stomach.
Every part of holy basil, including the stem, acts as an adaptogen. What exactly is an adaptogen? Adaptogens are plants that help the body fight off any physical, chemical, or biological stress in the body. Holy basil works directly with the respiratory system to supplement the immune system. This herb contains essential components such as camphene and eugenol to relieve congestion and soothe the airways for easy breathing. From an Ayurvedic perspective, tulsi’s bitter quality and warm potency helps to expand the chest, and thus can help release phlegm and lung disorders such as cough, asthma, and allergic bronchitis. This medicinal herb has properties to mobilize mucous and remove phlegm in the airways to reduce bronchitis and colds.
This adaptogenic herb has the ability to increase resistance in the body to fight off disease and stress. Tulsi can protect from infection and has been shown to be antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal in addition to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Holy basil is possibly unsafe for those who are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant. It is also not for those who are breastfeeding.
In Sanskrit, the neem tree is Arista; something that is perfect, imperishable, and complete. Every part of the neem tree contains compounds that can be used medicinally. Neem is widely used as a bug repellent and in skincare.
Neem also helps support your immune system. It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties. The leaves are known to kill bacteria and stimulate the immune system to promote rapid healing. This powerful herb is an immunomodulator, meaning that it supports the immune system to self-regulate when the body needs to defend itself. As the body defends itself, neem will cool down the body internally to boost the immune system. Neem’s extremely bitter taste will also purify the blood by removing toxins and impurities to make the immune system stronger.
We are fortunate to have access to traditional Ayurvedic herbs to nourish our body, mind, and spirit during the pandemic. These herbs are an excellent way to promote a healthy lifestyle while managing our day to day schedules. Akshar Ayurveda provides herbal supplements for the herbs described above, plus many more. Now that we have gained a better insight of immunity boosting herbs, let’s begin to face the pandemic with a new perspective by staying safe and healthy.