Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine offers extensive insights about food and covers an array of themes on food ranging from the diversity of natural sources to their properties concerning the environment. Principles are focused on balancing different types of energy within the body, which is said to improve overall health, boost immunity, and help maintain hemostasis.
The food we take plays a major role in not just rendering the energy that our body requires but also functions as medicine like the most popular saying goes, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" - Hippocrates. Ayurveda explains various types of food categorized based on different factors such as taste, five elements of the Universe, qualities of energy, etc.
Here is a list of easily available food items which boosts immunity.
Of all the herbs mentioned in Ayurveda, 'Tulsi' is preeminent, and research studies have proved its efficacy. Tulsi is rich in antioxidants, which is why it helps improve the immune system. Other properties include anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, etc. In a custom-rich nation like India, the use of tulsi is not just restricted to practical significance, but rather holds spiritual value too which is a testament to Ayurvedic wisdom
Uses: Leaves and seeds(sabja seeds)
Leaves can be eaten raw or used in tea.
Tulsi drops are available in the market and need to be added to warm water.
Tulsi seeds/Sabja seeds soaked in water overnight can be taken in the morning.
Haldi is a powerful herb with over 300 nutrients including beta-carotene, Vit C, Calcium, Flavanoids, Iron, Potassium, and Zinc., with the active component 'Curcumin' boosts immunity and fosters warmth in the body. The raw form is packed with immune-modulatory effects.
The root of turmeric is powdered, added to milk, and boiled for 5 minutes turns out to be a magic elixir to ward off the common cold, flu-like symptoms.
Haridra Khanda - Combination of other potent herbs such as ginger, pepper, long pepper, elaichi, cinnamon bark, ghee, milk, sugar candy( for sweet taste), etc., with the main ingredient being 'turmeric', serves as the best available Ayurvedic medicine which is multifunctional mainly used in allergies, skin diseases and in kids to boost immunity.
Ginger belongs to the same family as turmeric (Zingiberaceae). It is diaphoretic and hence justifies the fact that it induces perspiration and provides warmth. It contains high levels of antioxidants and phenolic compounds such as Gingerols, Shogaols, and Paradols, responsible for alleviating inflammation and has significantly shown a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Uses: Root (Fresh/Dry)
The most common use is in tea, where shreds of ginger are boiled in water with a piece of cinnamon stick, clove, elaichi, and tsp of tea leaves.
Ginger is used majorly in most Indian cuisines to enhance taste and flavor.
Cumin seeds harbor anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as manganese, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc., and other phenolic compounds where manganese participates in the anti-oxidative process. Cumin seed aids in the digestive process as it stimulates gastric enzymes.
Used as a major component in some Ayurvedic medicines.
Jeera seeds boiled in water alleviate inflammation in the stomach and are carminative.
Clarified butter/ Ghee contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids along with vitamins A, D, K, and E. It nourishes our immune system arming it with the right defense mechanism. In addition, ghee improves the metabolism which in turn aids weight loss. This 'liquid gold' is now considered a nutritional powerhouse.
Ghee is used as a base ingredient in most ayurvedic preparation such as in Lehya (Chyavanaprash).
Solitary use in detoxifying treatments such as Virechana.
From the time of birth of almost all mammals, milk has been an indispensable food. It is a fine blend of all the nutrients and hence serves as wholesome food, it is also rich in proteins (casein, whey.,)fat, sugar (lactose), minerals, and immunomodulators.
Probiotics in curd provide various benefits to human health. One of the most probable mechanisms of action is the modulation of immune responses via the mucosal immune system of the gut.
An ancient oil full of benefits loaded with Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA), Alpha linoleic acid which has anti-inflammatory properties. This oil is hot and hence helps keep the body warm. A versatile oil used internally as well as externally.
The richest available source of Vitamin C is Amla. The immunomodulatory effects are due to the presence of a high amount of antioxidants which not only support the immune system but also create an anti-apoptotic effect that protects against cell damage and oxidative stress. It is commonly used to increase the Ojas (one of the vital essence) that promotes vitality and overall health.
Uses: Fruit of amla is used.
In the form of juice with a pinch of pink salt/black salt
Guduchi is abundant in antioxidants which help remove toxins from our body. The plant is reported to have active compounds in the form of alkaloids, glycosides, steroids, and lactones. In ayurveda, it is termed as 'Amrita' or 'Amritavalli' which means 'Root of immortality' owing to its versatile abundant medicinal property.
Uses: All parts of the plant are used
Used in the form of juice
Raw solitary use
Various ayurvedic preparation
In addition to the above-listed food articles, the Ministry of Ayush has recommended a set of guidelines to boost immunity which is supported by Ayurvedic literature and scientific publication;
Drink warm water and herbal tea (cinnamon/clove/tulsi/ Black pepper etc.)
Daily practice of Yogasana, Pranayama, and meditation for at least 30 minutes.
Use spices like turmeric, jeera, coriander, and garlic in cooking.