Immunity is the ability of your body to wade off disease-causing pathogens that have entered our body and destroy those pathogens which are already present in our body. Both processes are carried out by the body’s amazing immune system. Immunity in Ayurveda is a by-product of a properly functioning metabolism and digestion. Responsible for this is what we call Agni, roughly translated as “digestive fire” (read: digestive processes or metabolism). Agni is the key factor when it comes to creating a strong immunity, a well-balanced physiology, a clear mind and balanced emotional & psychological states. We can say that Agni is the foundation for excellent health. Whether Agni is working well or not can be recognized and measured through the presence of Ojas, which is the essence of Kapha dosha in our body. Ojas is mainly the result of effective tissue metabolism. This means, when bodily tissues are nourished properly due to a correctly functioning cell metabolism (for which a type of Agni is responsible), Ojas is produced. Signs of strong and abundant Ojas are a healthy, strong body with clear, radiant eyes, lustrous hair, glowing skin, and a strong immune system and a mind that is clear, balanced emotional states, a predominantly positive outlook on life and good resilience against stress.
Food that is sattvic by nature increases Ojas. Sattvic foods are young coconut, almonds, dates, ghee, avocados, mung beans and most fruits and most vegetables (ideally organically grown). When these foods are prepared correctly, consumed at the right time, digested and absorbed well due to a well-functioning Agni, our body tissues will produce Ojas as the final result. In this way, Ojas can be defined as the essence of digestion while proper digestion is the result of a well-functioning Agni and a strong Agni ultimately is the cause for good immunity. However, Agni can be easily disturbed and weakened, resulting in impaired digestion, absorption, tissue nutrition, elimination and ultimately reduced immunity. This process does usually develop slowly over time and is thus not initially visible. The main causative factors that disturb and impinge on the proper workings of Agni are:
wrong diet (wrong food, wrong time, wrong combinations, unhealthy food)
wrong lifestyle (wrong sleep rhythm, wrong physical activities, sensory overload)
destructive mental and emotional patterns (fear, anxiety, stress, anger, envy, guilt, hatred)
environmental causes (pollution, drastic climatic and seasonal changes, contagious diseases)
metabolic disorders (for example: obesity, anorexia, diabetes, cholesterol)
Most of us have heard of the saying that “food is medicine” but what food is actually medicine? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this, because according to Ayurveda, we all have a very unique constitution and our constitution will determine how we react to a stimulus from the environment. A stimulus can be for instance a food item, stress, heat or cold, physical activities and emotions, to name a few. Simply put, whether broccoli, a raw food diet or a steak is good for you depends on your individual constitution, your current imbalances and to a degree also on the way the food item is cooked, how it is combined with other food items and how and when it is eaten. With that said, Here the key tips:
To sum up: the ideal diet for each person varies depending on his or her unique constitution and his or her current (mental, physiological and emotional) imbalances. In Ayurveda, we call the constitution Prakruti and the imbalances Vikruti.
A sattvic lifestyle includes waking up before or around sunrise, praying and practicing yoga or similar exercises, as well as breathing exercises and meditation. You should also set aside daily some time for studies to enrich your understanding, ignite your curiosity and inspire growth. A short evening reflection can be used to review your day, reflect on what you have done well and where you have gone wrong and setting intentions for the coming day just before you fall asleep is a powerful tool to bring on behavioural changes. As you develop these routines you will not only be able to deal with stress and other external forces much better but also significantly increase your health and immunity. We recommend that you create a personal routine that works for you and fits your individual beliefs and other requirements. Here the key tips:
There are many herbs, fruits, spices and herbal preparations that have immune boosting qualities. Depending on where you live, some will be more easily available than others.
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Amalaki, the Indian gooseberry, is called “the Mother” in Ayurveda because like a mother to a child, it supports the entire body, mind and immune system. It is known as the ultimate healer due to its immune-restorative properties. Its rejuvenating qualities are thought to be one of the most potent and nourishing amongst all the Rasayanas (rejuvenating therapies and herbs that support anti-ageing and longevity). Some of the innumerable qualities of Amalaki include:
Ginger is an important ingredient in the Asian kitchen and it is beginning to take a similar role outside of Asia as well due to its medicinal qualities and culinary importance in bringing flavour to food. In Ayurveda, Ginger is mainly used to increase Agni and for its anti-inflammatory qualities. Ginger improves digestion, absorption and elimination. Due to its heating qualities, it improves circulation and removes accumulated toxins (ama), hence it plays a very important role in reducing inflammation and increasing immunity. It is a widely used ingredient in various Ayurvedic medicine preparations. A very well know preparation is called Trikatu. A word of caution: the use of ginger has to be monitored and regulated, since its heating qualities can negatively affect people, especially those with pitta constitution and those who suffer from acidity and increased internal heat. Here it might be better to use ginger in its dry, powdered form rather than in its raw form. Many people enjoy ginger tea with honey and lemon on cold winter days and as digestive aid, for example in the form of ginger chutney.
This bright yellow, almost golden coloured root, is an amazing herb. According to Ayurveda, its drying, warming, bitter and astringent qualities are very good for skin, blood and liver. Curcumin found in turmeric is a potent medicine against arthritis, skin diastase and a great tonic for your liver. It is anti-bacterial, anti-septic and an effective blood purifier. It can also be applied externally on wounds or to treat eczema and acne. There are many types of turmeric, but the most commonly used variety is a bright yellow root called Curcuma Longa. Just like with any other medicine, turmeric should be carefully used, in proper dosage and at the right time. It can be harmful if used excessively, mainly due to its drying qualities and liver stimulating effects. Over-usage might dry your body and cause indigestion. It can also make you feel nauseous. A small quantity of ½ tsp mixed with honey and dash of black pepper can enhance its bioavailability, and taken in the morning with some warm water is the best way to support oxygen intake into your cells and increase immunity.
Tulasi, or Tulsi, is a sacred plant in India. More commonly known as holy basil, it is an age old ingredient in a large number of Ayurvedic medicinal preparations and it is often used to support the immune system and to improve problems of the respiratory system, such as cold, fever, cough, flu and sinus infection. The herb comes in 3 varieties: black Tulasi, white Tulasi and Rama Tulasi. All 3 types have very similar medicinal properties, however black Tulasi, also know as Krishna Tulasi, is considered to have the strongest medicinal properties. It is very pungent and hot in nature and makes an excellent herb to control Kapha dosha. All varieties have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which make this herb an excellent choice when it comes to preventing or healing infections. On top of that, Tulasi works as an adaptogenic, increasing the body’s resistance to stress and providing support for the nervous system. Tulasi tea or Tulasi juice is one of the easiest and best ways to use this plant to get its medicinal benefits. Tulasi juice is safe to be given to children above 1 year of age. Mixing the herb with honey for respiratory problems, Tulasi has cleansing and drying properties on a lung that is burdened with phlegm.
A popular herb in Ayurveda and Western herbalism, Ashwagandha is also known as Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng. Like Tulasi, it is an adaptogen that helps to normalize physiological functions. It is often administered to calm the nervous system and for stress relief. Ashwagandha is sweet in taste and has cooling qualities which make this herb a very good Rasayana or rejuvenation herb. One of its other key qualities is that it enhances energy and stamina. The name Ashwagandha is derived from the Sanskrit words “Ashwa”, which means “horse” and “Gandha”, which means “odour”. Charaka (between 100 B.C. – 150 A.D.), the author of one of the first systematically edited Ayurvedic medical texts wrote about Ashwagandha in his text Charaka Samhita: “One obtains longevity, regains youth, gets a sharp memory and intellect and freedom from diseases, gets a lustrous complexion, and strength of a horse.”
Please note that you should have a purified body and a well functioning Agni when taking Ashwagandha to get its full benefit. It is also important to understand that the key medicinal properties are in the root. If you see a light green coloured powder named Ashwagandha, you know now that its leaves are used entirely or at least mixed into the powdered root. This reduces the potency or medicinal qualities. Ashwagandha should have a light beige colour.
At AmrtaSiddhi, we apply the immense wisdom and empiric knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine to improve your health and well-being. One of the main focus areas of authentic Ayurveda has always been the immune system and the understanding of the interaction between digestion, Ojas and immunity.
If you want to learn more about Ayurvedic immune boosters and how to improve or maintain your health, book an Ayurvedic consultation with one of our physicians. Our experts will be able to determine your constitution from an Ayurvedic perspective together with your current imbalances, develop strategies and give you practical, easy to follow advice on how to improve your health and well-being permanently and effectively, ideally without the use of prescription drugs. Consultations can be held either directly at our centre or online.
We look forward to meeting you and supporting you along your way towards better health, with abundant energy to become your best you!