Ayurveda is one of the oldest and most widely-practiced forms of alternative medicine. It places an emphasis on prevention, helping the body restore balance and harmony before disease and other forms of unrest can settle in. If you’re seeking to explore the world of Ayurveda to boost your immunity, there are many techniques to try. Here are five Ayurvedic practices known to supercharge your system against illness and disease.
Stock up on herbs
Herbs can pack a powerful punch when it comes to preventing illness. Turmeric, for example, is a healing root that helps supercharge the immune system against common ailments. It is particularly helpful for warding off the common cold, soothing itchy, dry skin, and reducing joint pains and swelling. Since Turmeric has a pleasant flavor, it is often added to dinners and dishes to improve both taste and nutrition. It can also be ground and added to smoothies, tea, or milk.
Ginger is another common herb that can boost immunity and fight germs, especially those related to the cold or flu. The hot and spicy nature of ginger makes it delicious as a tea or in Thai or Indian dishes. It has also been known to reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, gout, edema, and other forms of joint and muscle pain.
Another herb that’s less common in the western world is black elderberry. The berries of this leafy bush are often used for making pies, jams and wine — but it’s high time we use it for immunity, too. Black elderberries have a naturally high concentration of anthocyanins, which offer antioxidants to support both immunity and longevity. Reaping the benefits of berries is easy and effective because they’re readily available. Plus, elderberries are affordable (if not free), have no side effects, and can be added to meals or consumed in extract form.
Arm your immunity with ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb — meaning it helps normalize the body under stress and bring harmony to its natural rhythms. It hails from North Africa, the Middle East, and India and has been used as a healing herb in the eastern world for many centuries. Taking this superpower herb, which comes in the form of a small, woody plant, is known to have many positive impacts on the entire body. For one, it can soothe the immune system, promote more restful sleep and regulate thyroid function in people with underactive or overactive glands.
Even better, ashwagandha is known to prevent damage from free radicals — one of the primary causes of illness in our society. It has also been attributed with increased white blood cell count, regulated blood pressure and diabetes prevention. The high number of antioxidants in ashwagandha makes it effective at reducing cancer risk, too. This is especially true when it is accompanied by a healthy diet and exercise. Ashwagandha can be found in multiple forms for ingestion. One simple way to take it is in powder form, where it can be added to smoothies, drinks, and other foods. It can also be taken as a supplement found in pill form. The amount of ashwagandha you consume will determine which benefits it has on the body, since it can have many different healing effects. To reap the benefits of decreased inflammation and a heightened immune system, consider supplements containing at least 250 mg of ashwagandha, or 12 ml of ashwagandha extract.
Give yourself a massage
When a cold hits hard or you’re just not feeling yourself, consider the benefits of self-massage. In addition to feeling wonderful, giving yourself a massage can be an effective way to boost immunity. This works primarily because it reduces inflammation and chronic stress. It also has the ability to increase circulation throughout the body. This, in turn, helps stimulate the body’s immune and endocrine systems, making it easier to fight infections without feeling fatigued.
So what makes an Ayurvedic self-massage different from other massage styles? Classic Ayurveda outlines a technique called dry brushing. Using a coarse hair brush, dry brushing involves moving over the skin in circular motions to promote lymphatic drainage and flush toxins from the body. When brushing the legs, try to start at the ankles and move steadily upward. When brushing the arms, start at the hands and work your way toward the armpits.
Another easy self-massage idea is to place a tennis ball or small exercise ball beneath the armpit. Then, simply pump your arm up and down to stimulate the lymph nodes under the arm. This releases lymph into the body while also promoting increased circulation and blood flow to the glands.
Sip hot beverages
Slurping up icy beverages on a hot summer day is a surefire way to cool down — but it isn’t doing your body any favors. In fact, Ayurvedic healing principles state to avoid iced beverages because they’re difficult to digest — especially when the immune system is already low. In contrast, sipping on hot beverages throughout the day helps hydrate and decongest the body the way it needs in time of distress. Hot beverages also have the benefit of boosting digestive fires. Increasing the body’s ability to digest food only aids in elimination so that it can purge unwanted germs and pathogens.
To make these immune-boosting benefits part of your daily life, consider carrying tea or hot water in a thermos to work. This is a simple way to make sure you always have the option to sip something warm. At home, having a cup of tea or hot water with lemon can make you feel relaxed and comfortable. In addition to lubricating the body, this process helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety — two of the biggest contributors to weakened immunity.
Practice nasal cleansing
Many Ayurvedic practices are focused on cleansing the mind and body. Ayurvedic cleansing helps rid the body of toxins and restore balance and harmony within our natural systems. In turn, this helps boost the body’s ability to repair and renew, making it easier to ward off illnesses.
Nasal cleansing is perhaps the most common and helpful cleansing practice for flushing out germs from the nasal cavity and preventing pathogens from accumulating in the throat and glands.
Neti pots are the most commonly used tool for nasal cleansing. These can be purchased at a drug or health food store, but it’s important they be used correctly. Always use distilled water in your neti pot to avoid contamination, or boil water from your tap. Regardless of how you source the water, make sure that it is body temperature before using it to flush your nose. Detoxifying herbal nose drops or essential oils can also be added to the water to aid in the body’s immunity-building process.
Another way to cleanse the nasal passages is through yogic breathwork. Alternate nostril breathing is a practice which forces the air through one nostril at a time, helping clear blockages throughout the nasal passages. This breathing exercise helps balance the body and cleanse the nose to ensure that healthy, immunity-boosting oxygen is continuing to reach the body.
There are many healthy Ayurvedic practices one can follow, but these five tips are especially known to prevent illness by supercharging the immune system.