5 Immunity boosting herbs in Ayurveda
Vital essence of all body tissues is called “Ojas.” According to principles of Ayurveda, Ojas is believed to be responsible for the overall health, well-being, intelligence, immunity and thought-process of humans. According to the concept of Immunity - Vyadhikshamatva or Bala or Ojas, the body’s resistance is not only important for disease prevention but also for speedy recovery from illness. [i],[ii]
Through ancient times, Acharyas promoted the use of Rasayana (Rejuvenation) to enhance the Ojas. Rasayanas are rejuvenating agents that produce resistance against diseases, both physically and mentally, thus improving overall health. The uses of different types of ojas-promoting herbs have been described in Ayurveda. These can be quite helpful in improving overall immunity.1
Herbs are known for their several health benefits. They are anti-oxidants, immunomodulators, anti-microbials, anti-inflammatory, aid in digestion and list can go on. However, one very important function of herbs is they help cleanse toxins and in-turn help boost our immunity.
Some of the commonly describe herbs described in Ayurvedic literature which help to boost our immunity are as follows: [iii], [iv]
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
All parts of the ashwagandha plant like leaves, roots, bark, fruit, and seeds are consumed for their medicinal properties but the root is most commonly used. This herb has traditionally been prescribed to strengthen immunity post an illness. Ashwagandha has strong anti-inflammatory action that helps in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases and certain skin diseases. This herb has proven its efficacy in nervous system disorders. It has shown to improve brain cell function, nervous exhaustion, anxiety and depression. It also refreshes the body by relieving fatigue. Researchers are exploring the role of ashwagandha in degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It is ideally recommended to be had with warm sweetened milk.[v]
- Mulethi (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Liquorice or yashtimadhu, also known commonly as mulethi is an excellent home remedy for a number of disorders like cough and cold. According to Ayurveda, mulethi is sweet to taste, it’s slimy and heavy, and is efficacious in treating vata disorders. Glycyrrhizin – a saponin found in mulethi is known for its anti-microbial action. The root is powdered and had with honey and ghee to improve immunity. It is believed to be a natural revitaliser and anti-ageing agent. Some studies have also shown positive effect of mulethi in relation to brain function.[vi]
- Amla (Emblica officinalis)
It is perhaps one of the richest sources of vitamin C and is perfect for the overall immunity, as it can rejuvenate and revitalise the body systems. Amla is cooling in nature and can help remove excess body heat, thus often recommended in pitta conditions. It is also helpful in in afflictions of the gastro-intestinal tract. Amla is also believed to stimulate regeneration of red blood cells and help improve haemoglobin content in body. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can help soothe joint pains. Amla is often used in powder form but is also available as tablets or liquid extracts. It is best to consume amla in raw form. Amla powder can be consumed by mixing with honey, twice a day. Chyawanprash is a well-known Ayurvedic formulation that can be taken to reduce mental and physical fatigue and boost immunity also contains amla.[vii]
- Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Ginger is hot in potency and thus aids in decreasing the aggravated vatta and kapha doshas. Ginger is very versatile – it can be had fresh, powdered or oil form or in dry candied/ juice form. Dry ginger powder mixed with sesame oil is used to relieve joint or muscle pains. It is also used for hot fomentation in gout, oedema, arthritis or other joint pains. Anti- microbial compounds in ginger helps fight infections, and boost immunity levels. Ginger is also recommended for many respiratory ailments like cold, cough, pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis.[viii]
- Tulsi (Ocimun sanctum)
Ocimum sanctum is the primary form of Tulsi used for its medicinal purposes, due to its anti-infective properties and its use in respiratory tract infections like cough, cold, sore throat, asthma etc. It helps remove excess kapha from lungs. This natural stimulant energizes our body, increases circulation, and has been proven to be beneficial in skin diseases and ulcers. Fresh tulsi juice taken twice a day may help to boost health. Adding a few drops of ginger and honey to tulsi juice may help further improve immunity.3
- Singh K et al. The concept of Vyadhikshamatva (Immunity) in Ayurveda. Ayurpharm Int J Ayur Alli Sci. 2012;1(5): 99-108
- Charak Samhita of Agnivesha. Vidhyotini Hindi Vyakhya- Sastry K & Chaturvedi G – Editors. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 221001. Reprint 2011.
- Das S. A Review on Immune Modulatory Effect of Some Traditional Medicinal Herbs. Journal of Pharmaceutical, Chemical and Biological Sciences (JPCBS), May 2014; 2(1): 33-42 Indian J Clin Biochem. 2013 Jul; 28(3): 213–214. Vitamin C Rich Fruits Can Prevent Heart Disease. Praveen Sharma
- SP Balasubramani et al. Plant-Based Rasayana Drugs from Ayurveda. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine 17(2):88-94 · February 2011
- J Ethnopharmacol. 2000 Jul;71(1-2):193-200. Immunomodulatory activity of Withania somnifera. Davis L1, Kuttan G.
- Anc Sci Life. 2013 Jan; 32(Suppl 2): S59. PA02.14. A review on immunomodulator activity of Yashtimadhu (Glycyrriza Glabra). Krishan Kumar,1 N Rakesh Kumar,1 and From the proceedings of Insight Ayurveda 2013, Coimbatore. 24th and 25th May 2013
- Dasaroju S. Current Trends in the Research of Emblica officinalis (Amla): A Pharmacological Perspective. Int. J. Pharm. Sci. Rev. Res., 24(2), Jan – Feb 2014; nᵒ 25, 150-159
- Shakya SR.Medicinal uses of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) improves growth and enhances immunity in aquaculture. International Journal of Chemical Studies 2015; 3(2): 83-87