Top 10 Ayurvedic Herbs You Must Be Taking This New Year To Boost Immunity
Supporting your immune system has never been more important and it is essential to take care of your health from the inside out in these challenging times.
Issues arise when our immune system doesn’t have enough nutrients in its support to function optimally.
Herbs can have a profound effect on the immune system. The phytochemicals inside the herbs work their way to improving your health and help you avoid acute illness and infection.
Here are ten herbs that one can take to improve immune health this year.
- Indian Gooseberry/Amla ( Emblica officinalis)
One of Ayurveda’s most essential plants is Emblica officinalis, also known as amla. Amla is a Rasayana (body rejuvenator) and immunomodulator that can help to slow down the aging process and promote longevity. Amla is used to treat a variety of ailments, including cough, fever, asthma, eye diseases, hair loss, and mental health. 1
Scientific research has shown that Amla can have anti-aging effects that can help with age-related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, immunological suppression, arthritis, cataracts, and skin wrinkling. 2
According to studies, amla has 600mg-700mg of Vitamin C per fruit which is responsible for its antioxidant benefits. 3
The easiest and most effective way to consume amla is to consume Chyavanprash which contains a high percentage of the fruit or to consume its juice or candies.
- Turmeric/Haridra (Curcuma longa)
It is a spice that has been in use in Indian cuisine for thousands of years and is also an Ayurveda medicinal plant. One of the most scientifically studied herbs, turmeric has compounds called curcuminoids of which the most important one is curcumin.
It turns out that turmeric is an amazingly effective anti-inflammatory, and the bioactive substance curcumin fights inflammation at a molecular level.4. This in turn protects the body from various diseases caused due to inflammation like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and various degenerative conditions. It also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes and protects against oxidative damage. 5.
While a pinch of turmeric is a part of Indian cooking, turmeric can be consumed in the form of golden lattes or curcumin-rich supplements.
- Moringa/Shigru (Moringa oleifera)
Known as Shigru in Ayurveda, Moringa leaves are considered Chakshushya(good for eyes). The herb is a powerhouse of proteins and many essential vitamins and minerals. The leaves are exceptionally rich in Vitamin C and the leaves are a good source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, and magnesium. 6
Studies show that the plant possesses antioxidant properties that can prevent oxidative damage which can help in the prevention of cardiovascular disorders and the phytochemicals quercetin and chlorogenic acid can help control the blood sugar spike following meals. 7
Leaves can be added to lentils to make a dal or a soup and the boiled fruits to many dishes. Dry powder can be added to turmeric lattes to make a revitalizing drink or supplements containing the extract of moringa can be taken.
- Indian winter cherry/Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
The herb Ashwagandha is referred to in Ayurveda as a herb that can give you the strength of a stallion due to its ability to give strength and revive the immune system from a variety of illnesses. The herb has been traditionally used for aphrodisiac, anti-aging, anti-asthma, and rejuvenating purposes.
Ashwagandha is a nootropic and adaptogen known for its ability to boost cognition and support mental health. There is strong clinical evidence regarding Ashwagandha’s ability to regulate cortisol levels to control anxiety and calm the nervous system. 8
The withanolides derived from this plant exhibit remarkable biological activity across complex disease processes with minimal side effects. 13
The powder of Ashwagandha can be added to golden milk for a comforting sleep or Ashwagandha can be taken in the form of pills and capsules. Being a herb that majorly acts on the brain it is essential to take it in a fat medium like milk for better absorption.
- Holy basil/Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum)
A herb that is commonly present in every Indian household, Tulasi is said to prevent disease, and promote health, and wellbeing. It is a plant high in antioxidants and can help your body detox because of the high content of phenolic compounds.14. The herb also shows efficacy in managing the symptoms associated with diabetes like weight gain, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance. 15
It is also used in infection protection due to its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. 16
The psychotherapeutic properties of Tulasi in various animal experiments revealed that tulsi has anti‑anxiety and anti‑depressant properties indicating that Tulasi is a potent adaptogen.17
Tulasi leaves can be a part of regular routine by consuming Tulasi-based herbal tea along with other herbs. Tulasi dry extracts are also available in the form of a pill or a capsule. Many people also prefer to consume fresh leaves in raw form.
- Triphala (Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellirica, Emblica officinalis)
Triphala is a well-revered polyherbal composition in Ayurveda that consists of the dried fruits of three myrobalans. It is not just a drug of choice for the treatment of many diseases but an inexpensive herbal composition with a broad antimicrobial spectrum.
The presence of numerous polyphenols empowers it with a wide range of therapeutic potential for various health concerns.
Triphala is also referred to as a tridoshic rasayana for its ability to manage all three doshas of vata pitta and kapha. 18
There are many potential uses of Triphala like free radical scavenging activity, anti-inflammatory, wound healing, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective, and appetite stimulation to name a few. 19
This laxative and digestive tonic is usually taken in powder form with hot water/honey or a capsule/tablet containing the extract is also available.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Called “Mahaushadhi” (great medicine) in Ayurveda, for its immense phytotherapeutic properties, ginger is a herb that has a wide array of health benefits. It is a spice that is consumed worldwide in both wet and dry forms in various cuisines.
Ginger possesses antibiotic, anti-microbial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties 20 that act against a variety of infections. Ginger is also an excellent carminative (a herb that promotes the elimination of intestinal gases) and reduces abdominal cramps and spasms.
Gingerols and shogaols present in ginger help in relieving the congestion of airways and help fight the common cold and flu.
Ginger also prevents oxidative cell death offering protection in the management of Alzheimer’s disease. 21
Ginger can be taken in a lot of ways like spicing up your morning tea, ginger biscuits, using in it your cooking to add aroma to your dishes, and adding it to a warm cup of turmeric ginger latte.
- Giloy/Heart-leaved moonseed (Tinospora cordifolia)
The Sanskrit word Guduchi means ‘that which protects the body from diseases and is also called Amrita which means elixir. The herb has been mentioned in Ayurvedic literature as a constituent of several formulations used for debility, fever, skin infections, liver ailments, diabetes, and eye conditions. 22.
The plant compounds of Guduchi/Giloy like terpenoids, alkaloids, steroids, lignans have various properties like antihyperglycemic, anti-cancer, antioxidant, and anti-stress. 23
Guduchi can help protect the immune system against allergies and helps manage runny and stuffy nose. 24
Several studies showed that Giloy can also protect from metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases.25 It is also an excellent adaptogen that helps the body maintain homeostasis during stressful situations. 26
Guduchi is available in the form of a pill or capsule. The powder of the stem or the ‘sattva’ is usually taken with water and the fresh juice of the leaves is good for memory and cognition.
- Neem (Azadirachta indica)
Neem is popularly called ‘nature’s gift to humankind’ and ‘nature’s bitter boon’ as all its parts are useful for medicinal benefits. The whole plant is extensively used in Ayurvedic System Medicine for various skin disorders because of its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties.
Neem is also used in diabetes because of its property in reducing blood glucose levels and its ability to revive the cells that produce insulin.27.
Hailed as one of the best herbs for improving oral health, neem has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-boosting properties to help relieve gingivitis, toothache, and many more oral disorders. 28
Neem can also improve hair and skin health because of the presence of a phytochemical called azadirachtin which disrupts parasite growth. 29
The effects of neem are innumerable and taking neem capsules as a supplement is the best way to take neem into your body. Powder, oil, tincture, cream, or mouthwash are many other ways to use neem for your everyday wellness.
- Pepper (Piper nigrum)
Black pepper is considered the king of spices due to its pungent taste, aroma, and its medicinal value in a wide range of diseases. Pepper has been in use in Ayurveda medicine for a very long time. Ayurveda recommends pepper for various health concerns like indigestion, respiratory disorders, fevers, cholera, and as an anti-colic.
Piperine, found in Piper nigrum can enhance the absorption and increase the bioavailability of the other drugs in a formulation. 30
Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, pepper is useful in diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
A dash of this spice can be a tasty addition to your salads, and soups and pepper can add a great flavor to your turmeric latte while improving the bioavailability of the herbs in it. 31
- Harshith P. Bhat, Ramakrishna Pai Jakribettu, Rekha Boloor, Raja Fayad, Manjeshwar Shrinath Baliga, Chapter 15 – Use of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants as Immunomodulators in Geriatrics: Preclinical Studies https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124186804000154