Whenever our body encounters a virus or any other infection, the best weapon to fight it off is through our immune system. Immunity is the ability of an organism to resist a particular infection or toxin by the action of specific antibodies or sensitised white blood cells. People who have weakened immune systems are at most risk and the best way for them to combat infections is to boost their immune system.
Viruses aren’t like bacteria, so we can’t simply take an antibiotic to get over them. Bacteria stick to the outside of our cells, while viruses inject themselves inside our cells, using our own cells as a layer of protection. This makes it difficult to develop medications that stop viruses without injuring our own cells. This is why we look to natural alternatives that help boost our immune systems so they can fight off foreign invaders more quickly, and also help to strengthen cell membranes so that the viruses can’t get in to begin with.
Here are some natural remedies to boost our immune system:
1. Honey (‘Maach’ in Kashmiri)
Honey is the greatest gift of nature that has been used by humans since the beginning of civilisation and has been used as an important anti-bacterial agent for treating wounds and cuts. The antioxidants and anti-microbial properties of honey helps in soothing cough and it helps in treating night-time cough in infants and promotes undisturbed sleep.
2. Garlic (‘Ruhan’ in Kashmiri)
Garlic is a food that everyone should keep in their kitchen at all times. It is by far one of the most useful and versatile remedies in the natural world. Among its abundant health benefits, garlic has both the ability to reduce risk of contracting a viral cold by up to 64% when eaten regularly, as well as the effect of shortening the duration of a person’s symptoms by up to 70% if consumed post-infection. This antiviral activity is the result of garlic’s high concentration of allicin – the organosulfur compound which gives freshly cut garlic its pungent odour.
3. Turmeric (‘Laederr’ in Kashmiri)
Turmeric has been found effective against a number of life-threatening viral infections like HIV-AIDS, Herpes, Influenza, Hepatitis, Ebola, Human Papillomavirus and Rift Valley Fever Virus, etc. It produces anti-viral activity by inhibiting the interaction of viral proteins with cellular receptors on host cells. It can be taken with warm milk, added with foods, etc.
Chilies make you sweat and your nose run every time you have too much of them. The pepper will help you produce more mucus and clear out all kinds of blockages and help you breathe easy. So, increase your chilli intake a little and get rid of the mucus to breathe easy.
5. Olive (‘zayatoon’)
Olive leaf extract has been shown in studies to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Not only is it antiviral, but also lowers blood pressure, balances blood sugars in diabetics, increases metabolism. As antiviral herbs, olive leaf is used to treat the flu, common cold and herpes. Olive leaf can be taken as a tincture, capsule or tea mixed with mint. Avoid during pregnancy.
6. Ginger (‘Adrakh’ in Kashmiri)
Ginger is another herb known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It is used to prevent and decrease duration of the common cold. Ginger can be taken as a tea, in capsule form, or added to meals.
7. Liquorice Root
(‘Shanger’ in Kashmiri)
Liquorice root extract (also known as glycyrrhizin or glycyrrhizic acid) is a powerful anti-viral compound which has been tested and found effective against SARS, HIV and AIDS, as well as both acute and chronic viral hepatitis. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid glycyrrhizin entirely. Liquorice Root extract is taken as a tea which is very popular in Kashmir.
8. Coconut Oil
(‘Khupere teel’ in Kashmiri).
Taking coconut oil is highly beneficial for viral infection due to presence of Monolaurin (a fat found in coconut oil) which has strong protective effects against viruses. Many viruses, including the Wuhan coronavirus, are enveloped in a protective layer of fat, shielding it from the immune system. Monolaurin dissolves the lipids in this fatty envelope, stripping the virus of its protective layer, allowing it to be destroyed by the immune system. It isn’t enough to ingest coconut oil, you must take the more concentrated form. 1500 milligrams twice daily in capsule form is recommended.
9. Vinegar (‘Sirkhae’ in Kashmiri)
Vinegar is known to help in cases of flu as it is alkaline in nature and balances the body’s alkaline levels, and alkaline is not the best environment in the body for viruses to grow. So, having apple cider vinegar is a great to cure flu. The way to have the apple cider vinegar is simple. Add a spoon to a glass of water and have directly. Have it a couple of times a day to fight flu and get rid of the viral infection.
10. Mushroom (‘Hedder’ in Kashmiri)
All forms of edible mushrooms contain anti-viral compounds. Scientific studies have identified at least 11 different chemicals in shiitake mushrooms which inhibit viral replication, stimulate the host’s immune system or, in some cases, completely envelop viral particles and carry them harmlessly out of the body. Mushrooms also promote alkalinity which creates an inhospitable environment for viruses to inhabit, further lowering the chance of infection.
11. Black Pepper
(‘Marech’ in Kashmiri)
Black pepper helps to cure cold and cough. A teaspoon of honey with freshly crushed pepper does the trick. It also helps to alleviate chest congestion, often caused due to pollution, flu, or a viral infection. You can add it to hot water and eucalyptus oil and take steam. Given that black pepper is rich in Vitamin C, it also works as a good antibiotic.
12. Vitamin C
Citrus fruits like lemon, orange, amla, etc, contain abundant Vitamin C, a potent nutrient with many positive effects to help boost the immune system. It starts outside the cell by strengthening the collagen matrix, which helps limit the damage a virus can do to your tissues. Once inside the cell, Vitamin C enters the virus and stimulates a reaction that kills the virus. Not many nutrients can help to strengthen your immunity and repair cells like this vitamin does.
—The writer is HOD at KTC Hospital & Research Centre, Kashmir. [email protected]