Herbs are revered in Ayurveda, and have been used around the world for thousands of years. They have tremendous healing capacity—providing phytonutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
If you are seeking to strengthen your immune system, protect yourself from virus or the flu or support your loved ones, especially those with a weaker immune system, this two-part series is for you.
In Part One, I shared seven diet and lifestyle habits known to help boost immunity. If you missed that episode, be sure to check it out here.
In this episode, Part Two, learn essential Ayurvedic herbs known to provide powerful immune support. By supporting the immune system, these Ayurvedic herbs can help you to prevent a virus, flu or common cold and help you stay healthy and well.
Welcome back to The Ayurveda Glow Podcast, a place to discuss how the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda can be applied to your modern, everyday life to help you feel vibrant in mind, body and spirit, enjoy optimal health, and glow from the inside out.
I’m your host, Katrina, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor & plant-based nutrition advocate based in Santa Monica, California. Through this podcast, I’ll be sharing with you what I’m learning in the areas of plant-based nutrition and holistic mind-body approaches to optimal health. I aim to explore each of these areas through the lens of Ayurveda.
Immunity is top of mind for many of us at this time. Many of us are seeking to strengthen our immune system to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially those with a weak immune system, from a virus or the flu and stay healthy.
In this episode, Part Two of a two-part series, I want to share with you essential Ayurvedic herbs that can boost your immune system. Before we begin, I want to thank Dr Mark Halpern, founder of the California College of Ayurveda, where I have been studying Ayurveda. I gathered a lot of the resources I’m about to share with you from a message that Dr Halpern recently shared on the topic of immunity. So thank you, Dr. Halpern.
Let’s dive in!
Part One – Overview:
In Part One, I shared seven practical, everyday steps you can take to keep your immune system strong so it can do its job and fight off bacteria, infection or viruses.
In that episode, we covered some basics – a sound night’s sleep, eating nutrient-dense food, mild to moderate exercise, sunlight, avoiding sugary or processed food and the immune boosting power of a positive, peaceful state of mind.
I also shared how Ayurveda and modern science both emphasize the strong mind-body connection. Our thoughts and emotions strongly influence our immunity and our body’s ability to stay healthy.
If you ever doubt this mind-body connection, just think about a time when you felt fearful or nervous. Maybe you had to speak in public or you had an important interview or even a date.
Whatever situation you may have been in, you may recall having shallow breath or sweating, or feeling your heart beat faster. We’ve all experienced this strong mind-body connection at one time or another.
Modern science and the science of epigenetics show that there’s a strong mind-body connection. In addition, we now know that an ongoing state of fear weakens our immune system.
Meanwhile, science also shows that we can boost our immune system by focusing on things that calm our nervous system. Focusing on gratitude and appreciation, listening to calming music, spending time in nature, practicing meditation – all of these practices elevate our emotions which in turn boost our immune system.
So this is a quick summary of Part One. Listen to the full episode here.
Ayurvedic Herbs To Boost Immunity
Let’s switch gears now and discuss Ayurvedic herbs that can also help to support your immune system.
Dr Halpern suggests that you consider taking these if you are well or if you have a weaker immune system. It’s best if these herbs are prescribed and in a formula designed for you personally. However, if you’re not able to meet with an Ayurvedic Practitioner, just knowing about these herbs as a way to support your immunity is a starting point. (1)
As always, be sure to consider your individual needs and any conditions you may have and research these herbs further to see how you may need to adjust based on your personal case or condition.
Okay, so these herbs are known to build immunity or ojas, as it’s called in Ayurveda.
As a side note, I get most of my Ayurvedic herbs and supplements at Banyan Botanicals. You may also find these herbs online or at Whole Foods or your local health food store.
First up is Guduchi, also known as Giloy.
Guduchi or Giloy plant is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used and advocated in Indian medicine for ages. It’s highly valued in Ayurveda for its detoxifying, rejuvenating, immune-boosting properties.
Guduchi provides a powerhouse of antioxidants which fight free-radicals, keep your cells healthy and help get rid of diseases. In addition to boosting immunity and removing toxins, guduchi (giloy) purifies the blood, fights bacteria that cause diseases and combats liver diseases and urinary tract infections. Giloy can be consumed in the form of juice, powder or capsules. (2) (3) (4)
Amalaki, also known as Indian Gooseberry, is next. Amalaki is one of the most potent herbal rejuvenatives used in Ayuveda. It’s rich in both Vitamin C and powerful antioxidants.
Amalaki is known to have an incredible ability to support gut health and is considered a powerful tonic due to its ability to rejuvenate and regenerate all seven vital tissues of the body. Studies show that Amalaki can also increasing energy, vitality and immunity. You can add it in powder form to soups, smoothies or vegetable juices. Or, you can take it as a tincture, tablet or tea. (5) (6)
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, is another immune boosting Ayurvedic herb. In addition to boosting the immune system, Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen and provides excellent adrenal support. Ashwagandha is known to have a rejuvenating effect on the human body. It provides stress relief and helps the body to fight diseases.
Ashwagandha is commonly ingested in powdered form and can also be consumed in liquid form or as tea.
One thing I want to note is that Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb. It’s considered to be safe for most people but should not be taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women and people with autoimmune conditions. Also – if you’re on medication, be sure to consult with your medical team. It’s important not to overdo it when taking Ashwagandha but to take it in recommended, moderate amounts. (7) (8)
Shatavari is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic medicine.
A study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease showed that Shatavari strengthens the immune system by enhancing the functioning of macrophages―which are the immune cells responsible for digesting potentially destructive organisms and cancer cells. (9) (10)
Finally, there’s Astragalus.
Astralagus is an antiviral herb that also boosts the immune system. You can take it as a capsule, tincture, in tea or by adding it to soup. Astragalus root is best used as prevention and before going to places with a large crowd of people. If you already have a fever, it’s best to avoid it. (11)
So, those are five recommended Ayurvedic herbs for boosting immunity.
The next question is:
What herbs, supplements and vitamins can support your immunity if you don’t feel well and you actually get sick?
Here are several suggestions:
Zinc is a key mineral for immune health. Zinc Picolinate, specifically, is a form of zinc that is more readily absorbed by the body, so is suggested.
Studies show that zinc functions as a general immune booster and can also help the body to rid itself of many types of toxins. Some studies show that zinc may also reduce the intensity and duration of a virus by up to 50 percent.
When it comes to zinc in food, you can get zinc from foods like oysters, nuts and seeds, unsweetened chocolate (cacao) and animal products.
Many people these days are deficient in zinc as a result of mineral-depleted soil. And, if you eat a plant-based diet, it’s common to be deficient in zinc as well.
So, if you’re not getting enough zinc or if you’re vegetarian, it’s a good idea to take a supplement. To boost your immunity, Zinc Picolinate each day can help to protect against virus and keep the respiratory system moist. (12)
Next is Vitamin C, another fantastic support for the immune system.
Expert Nutritionist, Ann Louise Gittleman says this about Vitamin C:
“Vitamin C is a potent nutrient with many positive effects to help boost the immune system. It starts outside the cell by strengthening the collagen matrix, which helps limit the damage a virus can do to your tissues. Once inside the cell, vitamin C enters the virus and stimulates a reaction that kills the virus. Not many nutrients can help to strengthen your immunity and repair cells like this vitamin does.”
Antimicrobial or Antiviral Herbs
Finally – antimicrobial and antiviral herbs fight a wide variety of viruses, bacteria, fungi and microbes and are known to boost your immune system. So, you may also want to consider incorporating antimicrobial and antiviral herbs into your diet as well.
You can consume these herbs as teas, spices in food, supplements or tinctures. Several well-known antimicrobial herbs to consider include:
Turmeric, Echinacea, Neem, Goldenseal, and Ginger
Turmeric, by the way, in addition to being an antiviral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory herb, is also known as a vasodilatador – it widens the blood vessels which helps the immune system travel freely.
Finally, at the onset of a cold or flu symptoms, Elderberry is reported to help relieve and shorten the duration of flu symptoms. Elderberry has a long history of medicinal use. “Its healing abilities trace back to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the “father of medicine,” who described the plant as his “medicine chest” because of the wide array of health concerns it seemed to cure.” (13)
Dr. Josh Axe, certified doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist, shares that “Elderberry contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that can help prevent cell damage, and anthocyanidins, which are chemical compounds that are known to have immune-boosting properties …. When it comes to colds, flu and upper respiratory issues, elderberry syrup is very popular. Elderberry tea is another great option, especially if you use elderberry for flu and cold symptoms. You can either buy teabags or purchase dried berries or flowers and make a tea by combining one tablespoon of berries or flowers with eight ounces of water.” (14)
Warning: Elderberries are not recommended for COVID-19 Coronavirus
Elderberry may be helpful for colds and the flu, however, experts recommend NOT using elderberry for Coronavirus COVID19. Elderberry increases cytokine production which “may not be so good when one of the complications of pandemic influenza is cytokine storm.”. “In most moribund [dying] patients, 2019-nCoV infection is also associated with a cytokine storm.”
So, these are a number of herbs and vitamins known to be beneficial, especially at the first sign of not feeling well. Remember, it’s important to take action at the onset of feeling unwell because it’s much easier to manage a virus, flu or cold in the beginning.
Rest and Hydrate
In addition to Ayurvedic herbs and immune boosting vitamins, stay hydrated with filtered water and give your body the rest it needs. Practicing ongoing self-care is always one of the best things to support optimal health. Through diet, lifestyle, and a calm state of mind, you can strengthen your immune system.
Soothing Herbs That Provide Cough Relief
It’s common when you get sick with a virus to also get a bad cough. Let’s review some soothing herbs that can help expel mucus from the respiratory tract and help you feel more comfortable.
Licorice has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s also a useful cough remedy and acts as an expectorant, which is an herb that helps to loosen and expel mucus from the respiratory tract. Studies show it also has a soothing effect on irritated mucous membranes.
Kantakari & Mullein
I had never heard of Mullein before so I researched it and learned that mullein has been used medicinally since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Mullein is another powerful herb that helps to rid the body of mucus and soothe inflamed tracts of your system.
You can buy mullein tea prepackaged or you can make homemade mullein tea with some fresh or dried mullein leaves and/or flowers. Mullein can be found in dried, powdered, tea, tincture and oil formulations at your local health store or online. (15)
Herbs That Support Your Lungs
In any condition, it’s a good idea to seek out a health practitioner for guidance. That said, if you develop a bad cough or a respiratory condition, it’s also important to support your lungs by staying warm and dry and by staying hydrated by drinking plenty of warm liquids.
The lungs love heat and dryness and don’t like coldness or dampness. So in addition to staying warm by wearing a sweater and drinking warm tea or water, you may want to consider herbs known as bronchodilators that open up the bronchial tubes and warm up the lungs.
A few bronchodilating herbs to consider include:
These are all lung-loving herbs – they are very supportive for the lungs, as they are known to warm up the lungs.
So this brings us to the end of this episode. I’ll share more ways you can boost your immunity and support your overall health in future episodes.
Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed this episode and learned practical immune-boosting actions you can take to optimize your wellbeing and stay healthy not just at certain times or seasons of the year, but every day, all the time.
We all know that our health is our most valuable asset. Without it, we cannot enjoy our best life or realize our full potential.
As a special bonus for this episode, I created a free Immunity Boosting Recipes E-Book with some of my favorite go-to recipes that support immune health. My hope is that the delicious ingredients and herbs in these recipes nourish your mind, body and spirit. You can get this free Immunity Boosting Recipes E-Book by going to: https://katrinah.com/immunity.
I look forward to sharing more practical tips, knowledge and ancient wisdom from the rich world of Ayurveda with you, as well as other holistic health practices as I learn more.
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Thank you for joining me today. I appreciate you so much. Wishing you health, happiness and a gorgeous day.
p.s. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. It’s not a substitute for professional care by a doctor and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For personalized support, please seek out the advice of a qualified healthcare professional for your specific health concerns. Thank you. Stay healthy.