The fall and winter months are festive and full of aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves – but it’s also when those pesky colds, coughs and flus seem to hit out of nowhere.
In Ayurveda, this time of year is governed by Vata dosha. The qualities of vata dosha are light, cold, hard, dry, rough and changing. Therefore, best things we can do for our health during the cooler months are to engage in warm, nourishing practices and keep regular routines for Ayurveda flu prevention.
When we get sick, our immune system gets compromised. It’s important to remember that the digestive system is directly connected to our immune health. Therefore, supporting digestion with a vata-pacifying diet, which includes more warm, cooked foods and beverages is helpful. If digestion is impaired, nutrients can’t be properly assimilated and toxins can’t be properly eliminated. This causes ama to build up in the body which will lead to weakened immunity and make the body more susceptible to viruses.
If you feel a cold or cough coming on, there are a few Ayurvedic tips to reduce your chances of being laid up in bed for days.
1. Gargle with salt water
If you feel that itch in your throat and some congestion coming on, dissolve ½ tsp sea salt in a cup of warm water and gargle it 2-3 times a day. The salt helps to break up mucus and also remove bacteria from the throat.
2. Sip hot water
One of the simplest yet most effective Ayurvedic remedies to support digestion and dissolve ama is to sip hot water every 20 minutes until about 6pm. Supporting digestion helps to bolster the immune system get you feeling better faster.
Kashayam refers to a water decoction of a single herb or group of herbs. It is extremely popular in the Ayurvedic tradition for its benefits for colds and coughs. Here is the recipe for 1 serving. It is best to make this fresh each time, but you can make 2-3 servings if you wish as you should drink it throughout the day.
• 12 oz water
• 1 tsp jaggery (optional)
• ⅛ tsp turmeric
• 1 tsp grated ginger
• ½ tsp lime juice
• ¼ tsp Himalayan pink sea salt
• 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
• ¼ tsp cloves
• 5 whole cardamom pods
1. Put water in a sauce pan and bring to a slow boil.
2. Add jaggery if using and cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add turmeric and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add ginger and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add lime juice and cook for 2 minutes.
6. Add Himalayan sea salt and cook for 2 minutes.
7. Add 1 teaspoon of peppercorns and cook for 2 minutes.
8. Add ¼ teaspoon of cloves and heat up for 2 minutes.
9. Add cardamom pods and cook for 2 minutes.
10. Stir mixture and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off heat, strain mixture and drink hot.
4. Eat a light, nourishing diet
When the immune system is compromised, the last thing you want to do is overload it with food. It’s best to stick to a warm, light diet with mainly clear liquids and foods. Broth based soups are ideal when you’re not feeling well. Avoid processed foods, dairy, alcohol, fried food and cold foods.
5. Turmeric honey paste
Another helpful remedy when your throat is itching or sore is to make a paste from ground turmeric, ground ginger and manuka honey (raw honey is an ok substitution.) Simply add ¼ tsp each of turmeric and ginger into a small plate or bowl. Add in a spoonful of honey and mix to form a paste. Lick this mixture slowly and allow the honey to coat the throat. You can also try our turmeric tea recipe.
6. Get your Vitamin C with Chyawanprash
Of course one of the best things you can do to survive cold and flu season is to boost your immune system. Taking a teaspoon of Authentic Chyawanprash with its high Vitamin C content is an excellent way to support your health all vata season long!
Getting adequate sleep is always important but even more so when you are under the weather. Make sure you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep during this time to allow your body the rest it needs to recover and rejuvenate.
8. Use a humidifier
Fall and winter are particularly dry so using a humidifier can help keep your respiratory channels clear, skin moisturized and your environment free of allergens, dust and harmful bacteria.