It’s completely natural to feel overwhelmed by the current health crisis the world is experiencing. We are conscious, compassionate, interconnected beings who not only fear for our own health but also for our family and community – which now extends to the far corners of the globe.
It’s rare that the world as a whole experiences something of this scale together. Usually, outbreaks effect isolated groups or countries that can seem like a million miles away from home. Yet this time – we’re all in it together. No one is immune to what is happening right now and we have to come together to strengthen our collective consciousness and empower our fellow mankind to raise the vibration, boost our immune systems and rise about the mental vortex that is bringing us down so rapidly.
Without any vaccines, miracle cures or space in hospitals for treatment – the reality is, your immune system is the only thing that can protect you right now. Fortunately, Ayurveda has an abundance of foods, herbs, therapies and lifestyle practices that can empower your immune system to do what it was designed to do.
What is the immune system?
Technically speaking – the immune system is programmed to protect the body from almost all foreign invaders through the work of the lymphatic system – a network of cells, glands and organs that contain powerful tools for the destruction of foreign invaders through methods that are both innate (from birth) and acquired (developed over time). These systems contain millions of cells that actively seek out and destroy antigens while remembering how to repeat this process should they have contact again.
The relationship between the immune system and ‘Ojas’…
Ojas, which is a Sanskrit word that means ‘strength’ or ‘vitality’, can be envisioned as our innermost vital essence. According to Ayurveda, Ojas is the basis for clarity of perception, physical strength or energy and immunity. Ojas is a tangible liquid, a life-force energy surrounding every cell offering protection. Ojas is developed once all tissues (‘the seven dhatus’) are nourished including plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, grey matter and the reproductive organs.
Since your plasma cells are the first of the body to be nourished as food digests, the plasma is then responsible for providing nourishment to all other tissues. Plasma, being largely made up of lymph fluid (active white blood cells) is the majority of your immune system. Ayurveda believes plasma requires nourishment from food as well as ‘Rasa’ which refers to joy and happiness.
Given that our mental state plays such a strong role in the strength of our immune system, it’s equally as important to nurture our emotions as it is our physical body. Fear has one of the most destabilising effects on our psyche. Being in a state of fear activates the ‘fight or flight’ response which basically puts us in a constant state of stress.
Stress prevents our cardiovascular, digestive system, adrenals, heart and liver from functioning properly. Basically, our whole system is unable to perform its usual function when we are stressed.
This means that we must nurture all elements of the body, mind and spirit in order to develop Rasa and Ojas which represent immunity as a whole.
Sources of Rasa:
- Red grape juice
- Pomegranate juice
- Chyawanprash also known as ‘Yogi Jam’ (medicated herbal/fruit jam)
- Pranayama (especially between 6 – 10 am)
- Laughter, love, happiness.
The Ayurvedic diet provides nourishment to the entire body while working to extract what is not serving us. It consists of primarily whole or minimally processed foods, periods of fasting and practices mindful eating rituals.
Every bite you take either provides sustenance OR requires energy to eliminate. Processed foods that contain artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, bad sugar/salt, herbicides, pesticides, hormones and chemicals can remain in your body for months to come and overburden your digestive and immune systems.
Foods that help to both detoxify and boost your immune system include:
- Vegetables – cooked fresh & preferably separately.
- Fruit – the healthy sugars in fruit digest far quicker than any other food group so it must be eaten on its own. Ayurveda loves stewed fruits like currants, dates, apples, bananas and stone fruits with spices like cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.
- Beans & legumes – lentils, dahl, split peas, black beans, kidney beans, turtle beans etc are all amazing sources of dietary fibre, protein, B vitamins and many other important vitamins and minerals that strengthen immunity.
- Grains – unbleached, whole grains (amaranth, barley, rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, spelt, fresh pasta & noodles) have been consumed for centuries to provide nourishment, impart sattva and balance all doshas. Discover more about the myths around grains here.
- Nuts & seeds should be lightly toasted to aid digestion and provide a plethora of vitamins and minerals essential to immunity.
- Oils – almond, coconut, sesame, flaxseed, mustard seed, olive and ghee all provide lubrication to the digestive system as well as essential fats.
- Spices – nature’s medicine which is used in Ayurveda to both prevent and heal imbalances. Spices (such as black pepper, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, mint, lemongrass, turmeric etc) should be incorporated into each meal.
- Hot herbals teas – bacteria cannot survive in a hot environment so utilise fennel, turmeric, ginger, pepper, nettle, lemongrass, mint, dandelion teas etc
- Honey – always taken raw and uncooked. Avoid it in combination with anything heated (especially tea) as it becomes toxic.
*Each dosha has recommended varieties of the above. Please get in touch to establish your own specific meal-planner that is tailored to your dosha/imbalances.
Meals such as kitchari, dahl, vegetable curries, soups and light salads are all recommended to boost your immune system as they provide nourishment and are easy to digest.
Ayurveda also supports short periods of fasting so that the body has a chance to fully digest your previous meal and allow time to repair & remove toxins (the process known as ‘autophagy’) which it cannot do while digesting food.
Immune-boosting Lifestyle Practices:
- Thorough use of hygiene practices (washing hands, body, home, work etc regularly)
- 8 hours of deep, regenerative sleep.
- Time in nature, particularly in the sun as vitamin D is essential to the immune system.
- Meditation is the best way to calm the mind and relieve feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. A calm mind equates to a healthy being.
- The Gayatri Mantra has been sung for centuries for its supreme power to strengthen the immune system through stimulating the thymus gland and helping to activate divine intervention/protection, enlightening energy from the sun, and the transformation of negative energy into positive…
Immune-boosting Treatments & Therapies:
- Tongue scraping – done first thing in the morning to remove toxins (ama) expelled from your body overnight while you sleep.
- Neti – using a neti pot to cleanse the nasal passage with warm salty water to clear the sinuses and remove bacteria before from entering the system.
- Abhyanga (self-massage) – done every morning with herbal oil. When the body is stimulated through therapeutic touch or massage, the skin releases a pharmacy of healing chemicals that have health-promoting effects on our physiology. Regular massage detoxifies the body’s tissues, increases circulation, calms the mind, and boosts your immune system.
- Kunjala – induced vomiting of warm salty water which prevents bacteria from eventuating from the entry canals of the stomach into the gut. *Please get in touch for advice on how to practice this safely!
Herbs are used to support us on every level from the physical to the spiritual.
Here are Ayurveda’s top 3 herbs to boost the immune system:
Triphala (‘Tri’ – three, ‘phala’ – fruits) contains 3 dried fruits (Amalaki, Bibhitaki & Haritaki) which contain the highest concentration of Vitamin C in any plant, it also increases Ojas, strengthens the immune system and protects the respiratory system.
Guduchi (Heart-leaved moonseed) – an adaptogen that increases the body’s resistance to stress, anxiety, and illness. Also useful for allergies, inflammation, preventing the flu & strengthening immunity.
Ashwagandha – also an adaptogen which contains many useful medicinal compounds, fatty acids, amino acids, and a variety of properties which strengthen immunity and improve both energy and sleep.
*Please get in touch to find out which herbs are best suited to your constitution which I can then order for you.
A finishing thought…
In Ayurveda, we don’t believe in accidents. We believe in karma which resembles the theory that every action has a reaction. One energy feeds another and the cycle is self-perpetuating. The way in which humans have been abusing the planet over (particularly) the last 100 years has played its role in where we are today. Planet Earth was a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode and now that it has and we’ve all withdrawn, it’s only taken days to see the resurrection of Mother Nature’s finest work – dolphins and swans abound in the crystal clear waters of the once blackened canals of Venice, people in China are witnessing their first blue sky (of their lives!!!), veggie gardens are blooming and flowers are blossoming.
As horrific as it is, we must use these beacon’s of light to get us through the darkness of night. It’s with this knowledge that we can begin to make better choices in our daily lives.
- Growing and harvesting your own food
- Shopping locally / supporting farmers markets/local brands
- Rationing your supplies to get the most out of them
- Adopting a zero waste attitude where everything is sacred
- Preserving, pickling, canning anything that’s going off
- Avoiding driving and flying wherever possible
- Expressing compassion for your neighbours
- Protecting and cherishing the elderly and the vulnerable
- Reaching out and opening up lines of communication otherwise lost
- Staying home and finding time for creative projects, reading, writing, self-education and spending quality time with your loved ones.
This is the way we were intended to live.
This is the only way our species has a future on this planet.
Let’s ban together and make a promise, for all of those who have and will lose their lives to this great tragedy that from today on we understand that all of our actions have consequences and that those lives lost will not be in vain.
We commit to a conscious reawakening that will influence the decisions we make each and every day.
This is the breakthrough, after the breakdown.
Maybe in the midst of it all, we’ll hear the song our souls have been aching to sing throughout all of the years lost in fast cars, noisy rooms and complicated states of being.
The sun shines brightly on the other side of the breakdown, in the land of the breakthrough.
Where we watch the world unfurl into the majestic palace she once was before we all got lost in the fast-paced smog of capitalism & consumerism.
Somewhere, somehow, this just may be the biggest blessing of our time.
Now is the time for deep exploration of unchartered waters, into the depths of who we really are, what we really want to say and how we want to be remembered…