The importance attached to the concept of immunity has never been greater. The current pandemic has forced people to think about their actions and how these actions have an impact on their health.
Your immunity can be compromised in a number of ways including, but not limited to, an imbalanced diet, irregular sleep, high stress levels, over dependency on pharmaceuticals, excessive alcohol intake, obesity etc.
Ayurveda has referred to immunity under numerous topics, the main one being Ojas (Resilience) – the ability of the immune system to fight disease causing pathogens. Below we list 06 Herbs and Spices used within Ayurveda to boost your immunity, together with their benefits and how best to incorporate them into your diet.
Turmeric. Image courtesy of the Times of India.
What is it: Widely used for cooking in Sri Lanka, India and other South Asian countries to give a characteristic yellow colour, Turmeric is also a popular spice used in many Ayurveda remedies. Turmeric milk is commonly used by households throughout Sri Lanka and India.
The benefits : Turmeric is a natural Antioxidant and contains anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used to ward off Heart disease as it is considered to increase blood flow, an important factor in reducing the risk of Heart attacks and Strokes.
How to ingest it : Turmeric is now a staple in many households, and is used in a variety of different ways : adding it to Rice, Soups, Tea, Smoothies, curries and tossing it with vegetables etc.
What is it : A small woody plant, whose roots and berries are highly valued for their anti inflammatory and immunity boosting qualities.
The benefits : Ashwagandha is useful for people suffering from Diabetes due to its impact on reducing blood sugar levels. Recent studies have also suggested that it can help the body manage Stress through its effectiveness in reducing the levels of Cortisol (the Hormone your body produces in response to Stress).
How to ingest it: Traditionally it is used in powder form by mixing it with warm milk and honey before bedtime.
Neem Leaves. Image courtesy of Food NDTV
What is it : Mainly cultivated in the Indian subcontinent, the Neem tree is a highly versatile plant. Its bark, leaves, seeds and less commonly its root and flower are also used to make medicine.
The benefits : Prized for its detoxifying, blood purifying and anti-bacterial qualities, t is used in Ayurvedic remedies for Eczema, Psoriasis, Joint and muscle pain. It is more commercially used as an ingredient in Shampoo and Soap due to its positive effect on healthy hair.
How to ingest it : s mentioned earlier it is commonly used as a Shampoo and Soap, however in Ayurveda it is used mainly as an oil to be applied directly on to the skin.
What is it : Gotu kola is an often overlooked herb in the Western world, whose round green leaves are used extensively in Sri Lanka. It is often referred to as the ‘Herb of Longevity’ in China.
The benefits : Gotu Kola is highly regarded as an antioxidant, and therefore has a beneficial effect the Liver and Kidneys. Recent studies have also shown that it has a positive effect on Cognitive function and as an Antidepressant and Stress reliever.
How to ingest it : It is mainly used in Sri Lanka as the main ingredient in Herbal Porridge (Kola Kanda) at Breakfast. It can also be used in Teas and as a replacement for Spinach in veggie smoothies.
Gotu Kola. Image courtesy of Gotukolausa.
What is it : Cardamom is a highly valued spice, used extensively in Asia and the Middle East. A lesser known fact is that Cardamom has been used to make Ayurvedic remedies for centuries.
The benefits : Cardamom is used to treat people who are suffering from Gastric problems such as Stomach Ulcers, due to its healing effect and its effectiveness against Helicobacter pylori Bacteria. It has also proven to help reduce Blood Pressure in people who have demonstrated elevated levels.
How to ingest it : It is used extensively in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking (curries and baked goods mostly), as well as mixed with Tea, Coffee and Milk.
What is it : Triphala is a commonly used Ayurvedic herb remedy utilising the following three medicinal plants – Amla (Gooseberry), Haritaki and Bibhitaki
The benefits : It is commonly used by people with Vata disorders, as it functions as a natural laxative, reducing constipation, stomach pain and flatulence by improving bowel movements and factors which cause gut disorders. It is also known to have anti-inflammatory qualities, and therefore used to treat people who suffer from Arthritis.
How to ingest it : Triphala is now widely available in pill form. It is suggested to take it in between meals on an empty stomach.
For more information on the medicines used at Surya Lanka, and the ingredients used to make them, click on the highlighted link.