Dengue, cholera, and now coronavirus (COVID-19); with so many deadly diseases on the rise, keeping oneself and one’s friends and family safe and healthy is a priority. Coronavirus has spread across the world with the WHO officially declaring it a pandemic. To protect oneself from the widespread threat of COVID-19 and to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus to others, maintaining a strong immune system, establishing good hygiene, and ensuring social distancing remain the top three tactics.
Coronavirus is spread when an individual sneezes or coughs within six feet distance of another individual or when an individual who is infected sneezes or coughs into their hand, then touches a door handle, light switch and other similar surfaces. Influenza viruses and common cold viruses are also spread this way and some precautionary measures include:
Frequently washing hands with an alcohol-based hand wash or warm water and soap
Covering the mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
Avoiding close contact with any individual who has a fever or cough
Seeking early medical help and assistance if experiencing symptoms such as cold or fever
When it comes to COVID-19, anyone can contract the infection, although certain groups of individuals have a higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus and may also require hospitalization. These individuals include older adults, pregnant women, people with asthma and HIV, and those with underlying diseases, including heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes.
The most important factor in keeping coronavirus at bay is by keeping oneself and those around healthy by boosting the immune system. The immune system is essential for an individual's survival without which the body would be open to attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. It is the immune system that keeps the body healthy either through the activities of specialized blood cells or antibodies produced in response to an external threat. When the immune system functions normally, it fights off infections and keeps the body healthy. But, when the immune system is compromised, germs and other abnormal cells in the body can easily enter the system. This is why strengthening one’s immune system should and can be the first and foremost infection prevention priority. This strengthening of the immune system can be achieved through a combination of various cell-mediated mechanisms that Ayurveda refers to as 'Vyadhiprathirodham'.
In the wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine, the concept of good health is not relegated to just ‘not being unwell.’ An individual's entire constitution is in a state of complete balance and is thoroughly invigorated when they experience ‘good health’. Aside from balancing the doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, as well as making sure the digestive fire, called Agni, is working to its best, an individual can take efforts that will help boost immunity. According to Ayurveda, strong immunity is a product of good digestion, strong Agni (the metabolic fire), balanced doshas (biological humor), good liver function and a balanced endocrine system (which includes appropriately balanced hormones).
In Ayurveda, there exists a concept called 'Ojas' in Sanskrit which literally translates to 'vigor'. It is the positive subtle essence of Kapha, the dosha which gives the body strength, vigor, vitality, and immunity. Healthy Ojas fosters a state of bliss whereas if Ojas become diminished and dried up then an individual becomes prone to illness and disease.
Lifestyle and diet can go a long way in balancing this ‘fighting response’ or the immune system within the body. By absorbing the right nutrients and eliminating the toxins that are accumulated in the body, the immune system can operate at its peak and keep away external threats. Immunity is heavily influenced by the power of Agni, ie. the ability to digest, assimilate, and absorb nutrients in the body. If Agni is impaired by an imbalance within the Tridosha, metabolism is affected and the immune response and natural resistance become compromised. When an individual consumes food and drinks that harm the digestive fire, then this leads to a toxin build-up within the body, also known as Ama formation. This interferes with the natural intelligence of each cell which is encoded with a will to live, be healthy, and work together as a whole, communicating with the other cells of the body. Ayurveda always strives to restore this intelligence and even a simple thing like sipping ginger tea throughout the day can boost Agni.
The immunity of the body can be improved and strengthened by using Ayurvedic herbs, such as:
Also known as Indian gooseberry, amla is a rich source of the immune-boosting vitamin C. It is used in various Ayurvedic immunity boosters, including Chyavanprash.
This herb is very effective in boosting strength and rejuvenating the body. It provides necessary nourishment to the body, increases energy levels, reduces stress and depression, improves sleep, and balances hormones – all of which boost immunity.
Turmeric is among the best Ayurvedic medicines for strengthening the immune system as it fights inflammation in the body.
Additionally, prioritizing self-care, proper rest and recovery, establishing a daily routine and nourishing practices like tongue scraping, gharshana, and abhyanga, as well as stress management practices like daily pranayama, meditation, and yoga, can all be helpful lifestyle strategies to protect and promote proper immune system functioning and healthy living.