The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on communities across the world and India is now reeling under a second wave. Management of the disease and prevention of severe COVID infection still remains a challenge because of problems with vaccine availability in most parts of the country. This is why preventive measures that are recommended by national and local health authorities, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and maintenance of hand hygiene are so important. In addition to these measures, Ayurveda also has a major role to play in supporting Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) guidelines as pointed out by the Ministry of AYUSH.
Pandemics are not a new phenomenon, but have also been described in ancient Ayurvedic texts like the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. They are referred to as Janapadoddhvansa and these early Ayurvedic texts provide insights into the causes and management of pandemics. The role of immunity was regarded as critical in preventing and lowering the risk of severe infection and this also holds true in the current scenario of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In classical texts of Ayurveda, immunity is described as Vyadhikshamatva. It was known to help promote health and protect against infections in two ways – by preventing the onset of a disease and by helping the body resist and recover from the disease. More importantly, Ayurvedic texts provide us with a wealth of information on modifiable factors that can boost immunity, including through diet, the use of herbs, yoga and other lifestyle modifications to balance doshas and ensure proper modulation of Prana.
Based on classical Ayurvedic texts, modern clinical research, and recommendations from the Ministry of AYUSH, here are some of the best Ayurvedic strategies to lower your risk of severe COVID infection.
Use warm salt water gargling with a pinch of turmeric powder added or use boiled water with Triphala for gargling. This helps to cleanse the upper respiratory tract and lowers the risk of infection. Triphala is a traditional Ayurvedic formula that contains extracts from Amla, Haritaki and Bibhitaki. Studies have shown that polyphenols in the formulation exhibit powerful immunomodulating, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Taila Nasya or nasal instillation with medicated oils like Anu Taila, Shadbindu Taila, virgin coconut oil, or Goghrita (cow’s ghee) can also help protect against severe COVID-19 infection and is recommended once or twice a day, especially after returning home. The efficacy of Nasya in the treatment of conditions that affect the upper respiratory tract has already been established with some research showing that it can even help treat nasal polyps.
Steam inhalation with the addition of herbs like pudina, eucalyptus, or ajwain is also recommended as a COVID-19 prevention strategy as all of these herbs are known to exert antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects. The efficacy of steam inhalation as a means of preventing severe COVID-19 infection has also been validated with a study suggesting that the practice may reduce or block replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the upper airways.
Adequate sleep of roughly 6 to 8 hours is another essential strategy to boost immunity as sleep is known to play a vital role in the regulation of immune response. Research shows that individuals who sleep for less than 6 hours a night or suffer from poor quality sleep are more susceptible to infections and also have longer recovery times.
Physical activity is known to stimulate the regeneration of immune cells and helps regulate the inflammatory response, making it important for healthy immune function and protection against the risk of severe COVID-19 infection. As per the recommendations of the Ministry of AYUSH and Ayurvedic experts, it would be best to adopt a daily yoga routine, including asanas like Tadasana, Ardha Chakraasana, Trikonasana, Marjariasana, Bhujangasana, Setubandhasana and Shavasana, among others.
As per the guidelines provided by the Ministry of AYUSH, Ayurvedic immunity boosters including Ayush Kadha or Kwath, Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Chyawanaprash, Pippali, and Ayush64 may also be used to strengthen or support and strengthen immunity. Ayush Kadha or Kwath are made with ingredients of Tulsi, Dalchini, Sunthi, and Marich, with studies showing that the formula can help increase the immune response, protecting against infection and also aiding recovery. Similarly, research suggests that Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha, Guduchi and Tulsi can also play a pivotal role in the prevention of severe COVID-19 infection.
In addition to the strategies mentioned above, it is also advisable to eat a balanced diet with fresh and well-cooked foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds, as well as seasoning herbs like ginger, coriander, basil, turmeric, and cumin.