As the weather is changing, cold and flu season is upon us in the northern hemisphere! As the temperature decreases, it can cause imbalances in our systems and weaken our immunity and resistance to certain viruses, colds, flu, sickness bugs and so on. At this time imbalances /aggravation in Vata and Kapha doshas are common.
The wisdom of Ayurveda supports us in flowing with the change in seasons and suggests an appropriate regime and diet for this time of year.
Some Ayurvedic herbs and remedies to keep your immunity boosted during this season are:-
- Amla (Indian Gooseberry) is a well known rich source of vitamin C, essential for increasing immunity. It is also beneficial for mental health and is also known for its skin and hair nourishing benefits. Amla is taken in many different forms here in India from fresh (super sour!), pickled, dried, in juice and is also widely available in powder/ supplement form.
- Chyavanprash is an ayurvedic rasayana (a rejuvenating blend of 40+ different herbs) preparation (of which the consistency is like a thick jam), which can be taken every morning with a glass of warm milk or water to help boost immunity and increase vitality.
- Jaggery –pure, raw, unrefined sugar made from cane or palm, is loaded with iron and other minerals and is considered beneficial for consumption in Ayurveda, especially in winter, due to its warming properties. Its regular consumption increases blood flow throughout the body and keeps it warm. It is also known in Ayurveda to aid in fighting flu like symptoms, helps to purify the blood and also support women in menstrual disorders. However, it should be noted that jaggery is still sugar and will affect blood sugar levels. It should therefore only be consumed in limited amounts each day, according to your own body type / constitution. It can be added to smoothies, teas, or a small amount taken at the end of the main meal at lunch time to ensure blood sugar levels are kept stable and also helps digestion.
- Tulsi (Holy Basil) is very high in antioxidant and antimicrobial properties which help to boost immunity and fight against infection due to its Rasayana (rejuvenating) property. It is also commonly used to reduce fever. It can also be taken to help prevent coughs and cold. A few leaves of the Tulsi plant can be taken each day, it can also be consumed in teas or tinctures or in supplement form.
- Turmeric is known for its anti inflammatory properties, it helps us to boost immunity and help alleviate the symptoms of colds of flu. It also helps to ease headaches as well as clear and reduce over production of mucus. In Ayurveda turmeric is also known for its heating properties and therefore recommended during colder weather. In Ayurvedic medicine turmeric is used to help balance kapha dosha, and is used in the treatment of various respiratory conditions.
- Ginger – The benefits of ginger are mainly due to the presence of gingerol. This chemical contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. – It benefits and medicinal uses are much the same as turmeric, having similar effects on the body.
Turmeric and ginger are often used together in cooking, when making nourishing wintertime soups, stews, curries, dals, teas and health elixirs.
Sharing with you here a couple of my comforting winter time hot drink recipes:-
Ayurvedic “Golden Milk” (recipe)
- 1 cup whole milk (or vegan alternative and for Kapha dosha’s– use almond milk instead) – if one whole cup of milk is too much you can use half water / half milk – adjust according to your requirements.
- Half cup of water.
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon raw honey (vegan alternatives –jaggery, coconut sugar, agave nectar.
- Pinch / few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch cinnamon (optional)
- Pinch ginger powder (optional)
- Small pinch cardamom powder or couple of ground pods (optional)
- Take a saucepan add the milk and water (if using) – bring to just below a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer and add the spices, stir in and cover the pan leaving a small gap.
- Let it simmer for 10 mins, stirring every few mins.
- Take off the heat, pour golden milk into your favourite cup or mug.
- Once cooled a little, add raw honey (or healthy alternative) to taste.
Enjoy the warming, golden nourishment. Best taken before bed for comforting, calming the mind and help promote a sound sleep.
A nourishing pick me up on a winter’s day, if feeling under the weather – it’s a perfect immunity boosting, warming, comforting drink.
Spiced Lemon Chai (tea)
Start the day with a hot ginger, lemon, cinnamon, black pepper, clove, tulsi (holy basil) and honey drink.
You can vary the ingredients depending on what you have and according to your personal taste. This helps to kick start the metabolism and has a cleansing effect on the liver, kidneys and intestines. These spices also have warming, anti bacterial, anti inflammatory and immune boosting properties.
Add a thumb sized amount of ginger (grated or finely chopped) to a pan with one & half cups of water, add cinnamon and other spices if desired and available, boil the water on the stove for a few minutes. Strain into your favourite cup and wait until it cools a little before adding the juice of half a lemon or 1 small lemon and a spoon full of honey or jaggery to taste.
You will feel refreshed, enlivened, rejuvenated and ready to start the day!