After a strict sixty days lockdown, India is moving towards easing the lockdown. That means people have to resume their activities under the looming threat of coronavirus. The virus is lurking out there with no cure in sight.
The protective measure of washing our hands and keeping a two-meter distance will help in reducing the spread of the virus.
But, the best protective measure against this virus is to strengthen our immune system by adding immunity boosting foods in our diet. A strong immune system acts as an impenetrable shield, protecting us from the virus attack.
The current situation demands that we do everything possible to fuel our immune system in upgrading its protective power.
I’m happy to tell you that there is an ancient solution for this modern pandemic. Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old medical system, can help us build a strong immune system.
Ayurveda says “First tend to the healthy and then treat the sick.” This is exactly what we need right now.
Swasthasya Swasthya Rakshanam Aaturasya Vik ara Prashamanam Cha
It means to rejuvenate and preserve the health of the healthy and then to alleviate diseases in the ill.
Ayurveda has identified many immunity boosting foods which can give us an added layer of protection.
Some of the most treasured ingredients of Ayurveda are at our fingertips without us knowing their significance.
We often forget the importance of things that we use regularly and these foods happen to be such.
In this article, let’s rediscover their importance and appreciate their worth. So here are the hidden ayurvedic secrets of 21 immunity boosting foods.
Table of Contents
Immunity boosting herbs and spices
1. Turmeric (Haldi)
Ayurveda explored the healing properties of turmeric 4000 years back. This golden spice is termed as the most powerful spice. It’s an integral part of Indian cuisines and no Indian kitchen is complete without it.
Turmeric milk is a go-to home remedy for treating many of the minor illnesses and boosting immunity.
Modern science agrees with its potent healing power. Turmeric’s healing properties range from antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral,
antifungal to anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory. Today turmeric, in the form of curcumin, is a top-selling supplement in the world.
2. Black Pepper (Kali Mirch)
Black pepper is an important healing spice in Ayurveda. It’s packed with nutrients like magnesium, calcium, chromium, potassium, manganese, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C. This gives it a strong antioxidant property.
It also helps in maintaining the health of your respiratory system. Black pepper is an important ingredient in Ayurvedic cough and cold tonic.
The outer layer of the peppercorn contains phytonutrient which helps in the breakdown of fat cells and prevents fat accumulation in the body.
3. Cumin (Jeera)
Ayurveda describes cumin as nature’s best overall tonic. In Sanskrit, it’s called jeerak which means “that which aids digestion.” It improves digestion and helps flush out toxins from the body.
Charaka Samhita includes cumin under shoola prashamana maha kashaya which are a group of herbs helpful in relieving pain.
According to the Dravyaguna Vijnana, boiled cumin water helps in detoxifying the blood.
4. Curry leaves (Kadi Patta)
The name comes from the Tamil word “Kari” meaning spicy. We can find the mention of curry leaves back in the 4th century Tamil scriptures for its amazing benefits and culinary significance.
Ayurveda has spotted several medicinal properties of curry leaves. They can control gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea, indigestion and excessive acid secretion.
Perhaps the biggest health benefits of curry leaves are its use in diabetes control.
5. Ginger (Adrak)
Ayurveda hailed ginger as vishwabheshaja, meaning “the universal medicine”.
An Ayurvedic sutra (verse) recommends that everyone should eat fresh ginger just before lunch and dinner to enhance digestion.
Ginger aids digestion by stimulating the hydrochloric acid in the stomach. It also enhances the secretion of the digestive enzymes, which helps in nutrient absorption.
Ginger can be helpful if you feel nauseous or you catch a common cold and cough. It can also ease constipation. Interesting fact, adding ginger to the meat increases the protein absorption from the meat.
6. Asafoetida (Hing)
Hingu is the Sanskrit synonym for hing, which means – effective in a thousand ways. It’s often referred to as ‘Food of the God’s’.
Ayurveda firmly recommends hing for improving digestive health. It reduces flatulence and helps with irritable bowel syndrome. Hing powder with buttermilk is a famous Indian home remedy for bloating.
Also, eating food containing Hing prevents stomach cramps and pain.
It helps in the digestion of fat by enhancing the activity of fat digestive enzymes. It also stimulates bile flow and boosts bile acid secretion, thus preventing the formation of Gallstones.
Hing may also help in relieving respiratory disorders like bronchitis, asthma, and dry cough, because of its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects.
7. Cinnamon (Dalchini)
Cinnamon is not only useful for its tantalizing aroma but also lauded for its therapeutic properties. Forty-one different protective compounds are present within cinnamon. The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of Herbs says it helps increase the metabolic fire.
A cup of cinnamon tea is phenomenal in improving appetite and treating gut anomalies.
Sprinkling it on everyday foods removes ama (digestive impurities) toxins from the body and increases nutrient absorption from food.
The penetrating quality (i.e. tikshna guna) of cinnamon liquefies and expels mucus from the body.
8. Cloves (Laung)
Ayurvedic literature describes the use of lavang (Sanskrit for laung) to increase Agni (digestive fire). A Kadha (decoction) of cloves and cinnamon can eliminate intestinal worms and reduce flatulence. Sucking on a few buds gives instant relief from cough and sore throat.
Also, it’s an excellent natural remedy for oral problems like bad breath and toothache.
Cloves are a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Its strong antioxidant property strengthens the immune system.
9. Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Ayurveda refers to tulsi or Holy Basil as “mother medicine of nature,” “the incomparable one,” and “the queen of herbs”. It is revered as an elixir of life for both its medicinal and spiritual properties.
We can call Tulsi tea as ‘liquid yoga’. Like yoga, tulsi also has a calming effect on the mind and the body.
The tulsi is one of the most potent antiviral herbs of Ayurveda.
A study by the defence research institute, Gwalior, India, showed a significant effect on the swine flu virus.
Daily consumption of tulsi is said to prevent disease, promote wellbeing and longevity.
10. Aloe Vera
The Sanskrit name of Aloe Vera is Ghrita-Kumari, which means “young girl”. This name represents its rejuvenating effect on the females.
In terms of taste, Ayurveda says the bitter taste has the most healing properties. Aloe is one of the few plants that have a pure bitter taste.
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of aloe vera help for treatment of various skin diseases, such as wounds, insect stings, bruises and eczema.
Aloe Vera is an excellent tonic for the liver, spleen, and the circulatory system. Its high enzyme contents make it priceless for people having digestive problems.
The aloe vera juice is an immune booster because the polysaccharides in the aloe juice stimulate the white blood cells that fight viruses.
11. Rock Salt (Sendha Namak)
Ayurvedic texts refer to rock salt as a superior salt. It is the purest form of salt – unprocessed, devoid of environmental pollutants. It contains 84 out of the 92 trace elements required by the body including potassium, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper which strengthens the immune system.
According to Ayurveda, Sendha Namak is ideal for daily use. It is best for overall digestion and metabolism.
Sendha Namak decreases the acid production in the stomach which prevents acid reflux (heartburn).
Gargling with Sendha Namak water helps to relieve a sore throat.
Immunity boosting fruits and nuts
12. Gooseberry (Amla)
The oldest medical textbook of the world, Charak Samhita, says “Amlaki (Sanskrit for amla) is the best amongst the rejuvenating herbs.”
In all the plant kingdom, the Amla is the most abundant source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for your health, especially respiratory health. 100gm of Amla contains around 600mg – 800mg of vitamin C. To put it into a perspective, 100gm orange contains 30mg of vitamin C.
Amla builds up Ojas, the essence of immunity and vitality.
Ojas is the force that keeps the tissues healthy. It is the subtle essence of all vital fluids, responsible for health, harmony and spiritual growth.
Amla is the primary ingredient of‘ ‘Chyawanprash’, an ayurvedic jam eaten primarily for its immune-boosting ability.
Amal is also an integral part of another ayurvedic formula known as ‘Triphala’.
Triphala meaning ‘three fruits’ include equal portions (by weight) of amla, bibhitaki, and haritaki. It is a very effective detoxifier.
13. Pomegranate (Anar)
Pomegranates or Dadim in Sanskrit is a popular Indian fruit known for its refreshing taste. It is amongst the rarest foods that can balance Tridosha–Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Ayurveda says it’s Trit Hara – thirst quencher and Balakara – immunity and strength booster.
Being alkaloid in nature, it’s effective in reducing acidity. It can also raise the haemoglobin level in a person suffering from anaemia.
14. Almonds (Badam)
Ayurveda praises almonds for their nutritional value. Almonds are the oldest and widely grown of all the nut crops.
They are rich in vitamin E and magnesium. They also contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Their rich nutritional profile makes them an exceptional blood tonic for anaemia and aids in improving bone strength.
Ayurveda says that they can improve brainpower. From ancient times, people use almonds for preserving intelligence.
But all these benefits come with a caveat. You should not eat their skin. The skin of almonds contains high amounts of phytic and tannic acid, which make it hard to digest.
Ayurveda advocates that the best way to improve its digestibility is by soaking them overnight and peeling the skin off in the morning.
15. Coconut (Nariyal)
In the Vedic tradition, a coconut tree is often called the Kalpavriksha or the tree that grants all blessings, and the coconut itself is mentioned as Shrifal or fruit of prosperity.
Whenever we perform a sacred ceremony like Puja or Yagya, a coconut must grace the occasion. Ayurveda considers coconut a natural stress-buster.
The three stages of coconut exhibit unique ayurvedic properties.
Baal – tender coconut: This type is 90 to 95 per cent water. The liquid from this coconut is at its purest and most healing. The tender coconut water repairs the gastrointestinal tract and lubricates the dryness caused by ama(toxins).
The tender coconut water is “the world’s safest natural soft drink” and a nutritious thirst-quencher.
Madhyam – middle-aged coconut: Besides water, the coconut at this stage has some soft pulp. The classical ayurvedic text called Raj Nighantus says that the middle-aged coconut is most nutritious. It helps in cleansing the urinary tract.
Pakva – mature coconut: This coconut has firm “meat” or pulp, and very little water. People who have low Agni (digestive power), should eat only small quantities of the mature coconut.
Immunity boosting dairy products
Ayurveda reverses ghee as one of the most precious oils as it enhances Ojas (life energy).
Ayurveda considers ghee to be a sattvic food. Sattvic foods promote positivity, good health, and personal growth.
Ghee aids in improving digestion by stimulating digestive enzymes. Vitamins A, E, D and K are some important vitamins found in ghee. It also harbours phenolic antioxidants, which revitalize the immune system.
Also, ghee is one of the best sources of butyric acid, which supports the health of the intestinal walls. The cells of the colon use butyric acid as their preferred energy source.
17. Butter (Makkhan)
Butter, the favourite food of Lord Krishna, is a culinary treasure that is as old as history. Identifying its health benefits, Ayurveda recommends daily consumption of butter.
Butter has a unique molecular structure. This structure helps increase the bioavailability of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin D.
Its potent antibacterial and anti-fungal properties makes it a great immunity booster.
Many ayurvedic practitioners prescribe white butter as a remedy for ailments such as ear problems, insomnia, upset tummy and even for mental illnesses.
18. Buttermilk (Chanch)
“He who uses takra daily does not suffer from diseases, and diseases cured by takra do not recur; just as amrita (divine nectar) is for the gods, takra is to humans.” Bhavaprakasha Chpt 6.7 (Ancient ayurvedic textbook)
Takra is the ayurvedic name for buttermilk. Takra or buttermilk, not the same as the buttermilk we get in a store or a dairy. Ayurvedic Buttermilk is made by continuously churning yoghurt in water.
Click here for ayurvedic buttermilk recipe.
Ayurveda says buttermilk is an elixir (param-amrutam) that keeps ‘Jara’ (old age) and ‘Vyadhi’ (disease) away.
There is no medicine better than buttermilk for the treatment of haemorrhoids caused by vata and kaph – Charaka Samhita CS. Chpt 14
Buttermilk is a rich source of probiotics. It restores the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract, thus improving gut health.
Ayurvedic buttermilk is a potent tool to fight acidity. It reduces the irritation in the stomach lining because of acid reflux, giving you relief from the discomfort.
For best effect, drink it at the end of your main meals.
Immunity boosting vegetables
19. Bitter Gourd (Karela)
Karela is a common Indian vegetable that may be bitter, but it offers a sweet contribution to enhancing your health.
Ayurveda recognizes many remarkable health benefits of karela. According to Dravyaguna Vijnana (Ayurvedic textbook), it is useful in purifying blood, relieving inflammation, and removing impurities from the body.
It is also helpful in liver problems and chronic respiratory problems.
Ayurveda has recommended karela as the best alternative treatment for sugar control. For its medicinal effect, drink its juice. Cooking reduces its medicinal properties as it destroys many beneficial nutrients.
It contains large amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamins B1, B2, and B3, and vitamin B9 (folate). It’s also rich in minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. Karela also possesses antiviral and antimicrobial properties.
20. Lemon (Nimbu)
Ayurvedic name of lemon is Jambir.
रोचनो दीपनस्तीक्ष्णः सुगन्धिर्मुखशोधनः|
जम्बीरः कफवातघ्नः क्रिमिघ्नो भक्तपाचनः||१६७||
rochano dīpanastīkṣṇaḥ sugandhirmukhaśodhanaḥ|
jambīraḥ kaphavātaghnaḥ krimighno bhaktapācanaḥ||167|| – Charaka Sutrasthana 27
- Rochana – appetizer
- Deepana – improves digestion strength
- Tikshna – Piercing
- Sugandhi – good smelling
- Mukha Shodhana – mouth-cleanser
- Krimighna – anti-infective
- Pachana – helps in digestion
Many Ayurvedic medicines use lemon for treating various types of digestive disorders. Lime juice enhances bile formation in the liver, which improves the digestion of fat.
Lime water is effective for the smooth functioning of the stomach and digestion process. Lemon Tea is also good to overcome acidity.
Lemon is among the essential ayurvedic foods used to treat oral illnesses like tooth pain, bleeding gums, and bad breath.
Lime water is nature’s energy drink. Ayurveda calls it a ‘Trishna Nivarana’– thirst quencher.
The antioxidants in lemon like vitamin C, citric acid, magnesium, calcium, pectin, bioflavonoids help stimulate the immune system.
The citric acid present in lemon hinders the formation of kidney stones by preventing the urine from becoming too acidic.
21. Ash gourd (Winter Melon or Petha in Hindi)
Yogic science regards ash gourd as one of the most naturally energizing foods for its high quotient of “prana”, or vital life energy.
In Indian tradition, it is considered a very auspicious vegetable. It oozes such powerful pranic energy that in various places people hang it at doorways to ward off negative energy.
Ancient Ayurvedic texts, such as Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita and Charaka Samhita, hail ash gourd for its many nutritional and medicinal properties.
Daily consumption of ash gourd increases intellectual capabilities. If you drink a glass of ash gourd juice on an empty stomach, you will experience an instant cooling effect and a heightened sense of alertness.
The Mizo community of North-East India uses the juice of raw ash gourd as a natural remedy to treat mild to severe dysentery. Also, ash gourd is a popular remedy for peptic ulcers.
Ash gourd creates too much Sheetal (coolness) in the system. So, people with asthma and sinusitis should always mix it with pepper. Pepper will neutralize its cooling effect to some extent.
Hope, this article makes you look at these foods in a different light.