This article was originally published on the Kottakkal Shop blog. Use the code NAOMI for a 10% discount on all Kottakkal products.
It’s that time of year again! It seems that people all around us are coughing, sniffling, and sneezing– a sure sign that the cold and flu season is here. While the winter holiday is a time of joy and happiness, it can also be a stressful time for many. Buying gifts, preparing for family visits or travel and dealing with cold, damp weather can add to our stress levels. And, as many of us are aware, stress can weaken our immune systems. Washing hands often, avoiding direct contact with others who are sick, getting adequate rest, and keeping warm, well-nourished and hydrated are all healthy practices. But even the most conscientious among us know that these aren’t always enough to ward off sickness.
What does Ayurveda offer for building our immune systems so that we can protect ourselves during vulnerable times?
In Ayurveda the concept of immunity can be correlated to ojas, or our body’s vital essence. Ojas not only builds immunity, energy, and vitality, it also creates positive emotions like love, joy and happiness. A person with healthy ojas is easy to spot– they have a naturally radiant glow and complexion. While there is no official modern scientific correlation to ojas, some say it is oxytocin, the bliss hormone that is released during times of intimacy and bonding, like when a mother breastfeeds her newborn baby or during lovemaking.
When we have strong ojas, all of our seven tissue layers, or dhatus, are functioning with full integrity. Having strong ojas begins with good rasa, the first tissue layer, which is roughly correlated with blood plasma in modern physiology. The quality of our rasa is determined directly by the foods, substances and liquids we put into our bodies. So YES, what we consume matters! In fact, it may be the single most important factor in health, strength, immunity and disease prevention.
Start building your ojas and immunity today with the following time-tested Ayurvedic approaches:
- Ojas Drink: A quick and delicious way to build ojas is to make a morning drink with these ojas boosting foods. Blend the following in 8-12 ounces of milk (organic, non-homogenized or raw), or almond milk:
- 1 tsp ghee
- 1.5 tbsps blanched almonds
- 2-3 dates
- 3-4 strands saffron
- 1 tbsp shredded coconut
- 1 tsp raw honey
- Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is one of the most commonly recommended Ayurvedic herbs for strength and immunity. Literally translated from Sanskrit as “smell of a horse,” its name implies the strength, power and virility of a horse. Ashwagandha is a rejuvenative herb that nourishes the tissues, reduces anxiety, increases libido and fertility, and balances the nervous system. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Ashwagandha Arishtamis a fast-acting nerve tonic for reducing stress and building a strong immune system.
- Chyavanprash: Perhaps the most common of all of the Ayurvedic leyhams, or specially formulated herbal jams, Chyavanprash has long been used to support a strong and healthy immune system. This “miracle” anti-aging jam is pertinently named after the great sage Chyawan, who lived to be over 100 years old as a result of eating this jam everyday. Made up of dozens of herbs and other natural ingredients, Chyavanprash penetrates deep into the tissue layers to boost the immune system. It is also a rejuvenative for the heart, respiratory and reproductive systems. Amalaki is the main herb in this concoction, which is a fruit that contains among the highest levels of Vitamin C and antioxidants in the world. Take it everyday and you will definitely develop that healthy ojas glow!
- Oil pulling: Move over Listerine, here’s an all-natural and effective way to give your oral health care routine a makeover while boosting your entire body’s immunity in the process! Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that has gained great popularity these days, and rightly so. Simply by taking about a teaspoon or two of coconut or sesame oil and swishing it around in your mouth for 15-20 minutes per day will produce amazing health benefits like improving complexion, gums, heart, digestion and vision, while decreasing inflammation by removing bacteria, viruses, fungi and debris from the mouth and body. While regular coconut or sesame oil can be used, Arimedadi is a specially formulated mouth wash oil for added benefits.
- Abhyanga (Self-massage) is one of the best practices for balancing the nervous system and reducing stress, which in turn strengthens the immune system. Regular self-massage increases ojas and nourishes the tissues, while relieving insomnia and pain. The oil creates a protective layer that shields the body from both physical and energetic toxins. A sesame-based oil like Mahanarayan is ideal for its warm and nourishing qualities. Before bathing spend about 10-15 minutes massaging the warm oil all over your body. Use a straight motion for the long bones and a circular motion for the joints.
Along with the above recommendations, to support a healthy immune system make sure to prioritize adequate sleep, maintain a consistent daily routine by eating, exercising and sleeping at optimal times, and eating a diet of warm, nourishing plant-based foods and grains. Drink warm water throughout the day and make sure that you have regular bowel movements with complete elimination. If necessary, support your bowels with Triphala or other digestive herbs. Taking these precautions can help you navigate through this winter’s cold and flu season in good health so that you can fully enjoy this special time with family and loved ones!
Namaste and happy holidays!
For a more individualized approach to building your immune system or addressing a specific health condition, contact me today to book an in-person or online consultation.