Since the advent of Covid-19, many WhatsApp groups that I am part of have been inundated with forwards, articles and videos on all possible home remedies and self-created immunity boosters to strengthen our system. While this annoys me to no end, my father is extremely happy. He gets to add to his ever-growing repertoire of home-brewed concoctions, yet another recipe for “blooming” health.
But this really worries me. Not only because there goes very little research into how authentic and effective these WhatsApp, YouTube and other social media concoctions are, but also because many middle-aged and gullible senior citizens are using this in a desperate attempt to build immunity. As if building immunity is like a switch that you can turn on and off easily and quickly. As if all these home remedies that are labelled “Ayurvedic” or “herbal” will undo years of lifestyle issues and dietary habits within a matter of weeks.
Several people are currently operating on a psychological panic mode. Unfortunately, in addition to such random shares, for every such panic stricken individual, we have scores of big and small businesses that are eager to swoop in with a “cure-all” tonic that will drive the virus away for good.
We need to be careful and discriminating with regards to this bombardment of information and products. Authentic yogic and Ayurvedic practices recommend long term consistency and balance in whatever is undertaken or consumed as a preventive therapy. Anything overdone or used excessively will create an imbalance. This needs to be remembered as a thumb rule while attempting to acquire a realistic idea of genuine home remedies.
Undoubtedly, wet and dry spices such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, fenugreek, cinnamon and others offer a variety of health benefits. But they are to be consumed in specific quantities daily for optimal health. A fine balance of spices and condiments not only enhances the flavour of food we consume but bring several benefits such as better digestion, regular elimination, reduced inflammation and increase in anti-oxidants.
But how much is too much?
Let us look at a few of the most commonly used spices – their qualities, benefits and what may be a healthy usage for daily consumption as per Ayurveda.
● Ginger: It is also known as Vishwa-bheshaja in Sanskrit meaning “universal medicine” and has been used since ancient times to aid digestion and improve assimilation of nutrients. It is well known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Ayurveda also recommends ginger for joint discomfort as well as for motion/air sickness. Yet it is important to note that both Western medicine and Ayurveda recommend an ideal daily dosage owing to its hot potency. And especially if you suffer from ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or gall bladder stones, one needs to be careful of the quantity consumed.
Recommended daily dose: Ideally just a little less than a teaspoon of powdered ginger is recommended as a daily dose or a few thinly sliced pieces eaten raw with some salt and lime juice or cooked with a meal. In case you suffer from heartburn or diarrhea or excessive Pitta (heat) in the body, an even smaller dosage is recommended.
● Garlic: This is another super food that has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. It is known to be effective in dealing with common colds, cholesterol, heart disease, blood pressure and Ayurveda recommends it as a digestive aid, a blood purifier as well as for balancing Vata imbalances in the body.
Recommended daily dose: According to Ayurveda Pharmacopoeia of India, 3g to 6g (1 to 1.5 teaspoons) of peeled garlic paste can be taken twice a day if you have no major health issues. However, one must be careful of its hot potency and maybe go for a reduced dose especially if you suffer from acid reflux, ulcers, colitis, heartburn, intestinal inflammation, skin rashes or redness, etc. Garlic can aggravate Pitta (heat) at physical as well as emotional levels and is known to cause irritation, anger and disturbed sleep.
Tip: Remove the green shoot within a garlic pod as it can cause extra pungency and sharpness in taste.
● Turmeric (Haldi): – As per Ayurveda, turmeric is a broad spectrum herb having various therapeutic benefits and is known to balance all three doshas (imbalances) within the body – Vata, Kapha, Pitta. It has a hot potency which is considered to be very effective in releasing toxins as well as having anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. There is also growing research supporting its role in preventing certain types of cancers, particularly colon and pancreatic cancers. However, it has strong qualities and should be used judiciously.
Recommended daily dose: According to Ayurveda Pharmacopoeia of India, 1g to 3g (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons) can be consumed daily either by adding to food while cooking or by drinking it with a glass of warm or moderately hot milk. Turmeric is a blood thinner and is known to stimulate uterine contraction and bleeding if taken in high amounts. Hence pregnant women as well as anyone undergoing surgery or suffering from bleeding disorders must be extra careful while using this spice. It must also be taken with caution if you suffer from low blood pressure.
● Fenugreek (Methi): Methi seeds are very popular in all Indian households. Not only are packed with flavour, they also have many medicinal uses and have been used for generations to treat bloating, digestive disorders, diabetes, cholesterol and several other ailments. Methi powder also has many external applications for skin and hair. However, here too, it must be noted that methi has a hot potency as per Ayurveda and consumption must be monitored.
Recommended daily dose: Limit your daily intake to 3g to 6g (1 teaspoon max) of methi powder. Owing to its hot potency, it may not work well with people having bleeding disorders, heavy menstruation or diarrhoea. Also pregnant women must exercise extra caution while consuming this and ensure dosage is very limited.
● Black Pepper: Originally known as the king of spices, black pepper has been widely used world over to treat common cold, digestive issues, weight issues, toothaches and many other ailments. Once again like all of the above spices, it is well known to have a hot potency and can be quite fiery if had in large doses.
Recommended daily dose: – 2g per day (less than ½ teaspoon). Since it is known to increase Pitta element within the body, it must be taken with caution by those suffering from gastritis or have a sensitive stomach. Excess consumption may cause abdominal pain, vomiting or burning sensation while urinating.
All of the above spices are most commonly used across a majority of Indian households and its crucial to note that all of them have a hot potency and are known to increase heat in the body. And yet many people are not only ingesting them in inappropriate doses but also combining all of them to make brews and concoctions without fully understanding their inherent properties.
This can be fairly dangerous, especially within the segment of population who have underlying health issues and are on medications. I suggest exercising caution, doing due research by consulting authentic ayurvedic specialists or doctors for legitimate home remedies and more importantly ensuring you maintain consistency in the following three aspects of life to build immunity in the long run:
● Eat nutritious, fresh, balanced and prana rich meals.
● Keep your body and mind active with at least a mild to moderate daily exercise regimen.
● Ensure you get adequate rest – ideally 7 to 8 hours of good sleep.
This quote I came across sums it up nicely, “The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’ve lost it.”