10 Ayurvedic Ways to Effectively Boost Immunity At Home
by Dr. Surya Bhagwati on Sep 30, 2019
Your immune system is your first line of defense against infections, so strengthening it should be a priority. A healthy immune system can protect against frequent infections, speed up recovery, and reduce the need for allopathic medications that can cause other side effects. Supporting healthy immune function requires a holistic approach, as this natural defense is influenced by various factors, including your diet, activity levels, lifestyle, stress levels, sleep, and more. Ayurved therefore offers some of the best strategies for boosting immunity at home. Aside from consulting an Ayurvedic physician to identify your prakriti or dosha type and get customized diet and lifestyle recommendations, you can also follow these Ayurvedic practices that are regarded as essential for strong immune function.
10 Ayurvedic Tips to Boost Immunity Naturally
Massages are often regarded as purely recreational and indulgent, but there’s growing evidence of massage’s therapeutic benefits. These health benefits have already been elaborated on in Ayurved, with abhyanga, a type of Ayurvedic massage, being used to treat various conditions. Its effectiveness at promoting relaxation and lowering stress, cleansing the body of toxins, and boosting immune function has made it increasingly popular. Some of these massage benefits are linked to bioactive compounds in Ayurvedic herbal oils such as sesame, ashwagandha, bhringraj, coconut, and castor oil.
2. Strengthen Agni
The role of digestion in immune function is critical and this requires a strong digestive fire or agni. With research into the human microbiome, this function of the digestive system in human immunity is only now being explored and understood by modern medicine. Agni can be impaired or weakened through dosha imbalances, which are connected to poor dietary and lifestyle choices. However, agni can be strengthened by adding supportive herbs to your diet or by consuming Ayurvedic herbal medications with ingredients such as shahjira, amla, elaichi, jaiphal, and ginger, among others.
This is probably the most notable of all Ayurvedic herbs for immunity, not in the least because of its high vitamin C content. It is also highly valued for its detoxifying effect and hepatoprotective properties, which can help to destroy ama and restore the natural balance of doshas. Studies have also confirmed the immunomodulatory effects of the herb, which is why it is often used as an ingredient in herbal medications for immunity.
You can’t be faulted for assuming that ashwagandha is meant primarily for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. It is one of the most sought after Ayurvedic ingredients for natural muscle growth and energy, but its benefits are much wider. Classified as an adaptogen, it helps reduce stress levels and has also been shown to support thyroid and adrenal gland activity, reinforcing immune function. Although more research is needed, there is some evidence that ashwagandha can provide a direct boost to immune function, increasing certain antibody responses.
Haldi or turmeric is widely used as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory to treat wounds and skin infections in Ayurved. While inflammation is part of the immune response, excessive inflammation can pose serious problems, even giving rise to chronic disease. Turmeric’s main bioactive ingredient, curcumin helps to regulate this response, reducing stress on the immune system and protecting against chronic inflammation. Turmeric can be added directly to your diet, but curcumin has poor bioavailability, so it may be more effective to consume supplements or Ayurvedic medications containing the ingredient.
Neem is one of the most valuable medicinal herbs in Ayurved and it has attracted considerable attention from researchers for various potential therapeutic applications. The herb contains organic compounds that exhibit strong antibacterial activity against common infections, including drug resistant strains of the staphylococcus aureus bacterium. Mouthwashes containing neem extracts and neem oil have also been found to protect against tooth decay and gum disease, while topical ointments containing the herb are effective against a variety of skin infections, including those caused by fungi.
Garlic is widely used as a flavoring or seasoning ingredient today in cuisine across the world, but it is highly recommended in Ayurved for its digestive and immune supporting benefits. Aside from strengthening agni, garlic contains strong antimicrobial properties that can help fight a number of infections. Not only does garlic protect against infections, but it can also lower the risk of heart disease and is now even recommended in conventional or allopathic medicine. These benefits are linked to the presence of compounds like allicin in the herb.
9. Nasya and Neti
Nasya and neti are traditional Ayurvedic practices that are used to support respiratory health. Neti is a cleansing or nasal hygiene technique in which the nostrils and sinus passages are cleansed with a saline solution, removing any accumulation of dust, dirt, pollen, or mucus. On the other hand, nasya involves the use of herbal oils that lubricate and moisturize the nasal passages. By using these methods on a regular basis, the risk of respiratory infections and allergic reactions can be significantly reduced, supporting immune function.
10. Exercise, Meditate, Rest
Physical activity has long been recognized as essential for healthy immune function in Ayurved. In keeping with its principles of moderation, it recommends mild to moderate intensity exercises such as yoga in addition to activities like walking and swimming. Yoga is the ideal choice because it also includes practices of pranayama and meditation, which are again supportive of strong immune function. Research has shown undeniable health benefits of both practices, with positive influences on circulation, metabolism, stress levels, and other factors that affect immunity.
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