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Growth of immune boosting herbs and spices during the pandemic
Wednesday, 14 October, 2020, 12 : 00 PM [IST]
Chef Karann Talwar
From cloves and ginger to turmeric and oregano, the products that help consumers take better care of themselves are getting a lift.

Amidst the pandemic and a plethora of theories, studies, researches, there stands one thing common. That is immunity. Immunity is going to be your rescuer during this entire period of combating with the virus globally. As, until a vaccine is available, “our immune systems will need to adapt unaided to Covid-19”, says the World Economic Forum.

Immunity cannot be built up in a day, but the good news is that eating a well-balanced diet and being physically and mentally active is usually enough to keep your immune system in good health. There are, however, several natural ingredients known to help boost your immunity.

Since ages, herbs and spices are popular for their medicinal properties, with over 80 spices grown in various parts of the world, particularly in Asia. India is abode to several herbs and spices that are used broadly in traditional medicine.

From the anti-inflammatory effects of garlic and turmeric to the innate health benefits of herbs, ingredients that help people take better care of themselves during the pandemic are getting a boost in demand. So here are some foods to explore in your endeavour to boost immunity, because no matter how many masks you change in a day or how well you wash your hands, a weak immunity is a gateway for every kind of infection.

Cloves are known mainly as a main ingredient of gingerbread baked goods and a staple in Indian cuisine. This sweet and aromatic spice is high in antioxidants and packed with important nutrients. Clove essential oil, on the other hand, has antibacterial properties and can relieve respiratory conditions such as asthma and cough, with the latter being a major coronavirus symptom. Also, you can use whole cloves to make a delicious immunity-boosting tea, especially when simmered with ginger roots.

Ginger may be usually associated with the prevalent holiday cookie, but the spice is often an addition to drinks, candy, bars, broths, tea and even cocktails. Also, it is renowned for its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antifungal properties. According to studies, it may also have antioxidant properties, which can help your body to strengthen battle capacity against bacteria when feeling weak and ill.  Also, it is widely used to cure cold and cough, asthma, nausea, travel sickness, gastrointestinal problems and even depression. Powdered ginger mixed with pulverised cloves, and cardamom has been used for digestive ailments since ages.

You may consider oregano of simply as one of the herbs you use to flavour your noodles and pizza sauce or marinated meat dishes, but do you have an idea that oregano is also a powerhouse immune booster?
This staple Italian cuisine is much advantageous and wholesome herb which is more potent in oil form, but is still delectable and nutritious as a cooking ingredient. Oregano adds strong flavour and brings warmth to the cuisine you make. Moreover, oregano contains several antioxidants, which is proven to minimise or reduce bacterial, fungal and viral infections.

It is a well-known herb in the Ayurvedic rollout medicine system, which acts a natural antioxidant and reinforces the immune system. It is not only used as a herb and vegetable, but also as a condiment in artificial flavouring of maple syrup or in the production of steroids. This immune-boosting herb is also full of antibacterial properties which can help prevent nausea. You can also add fenugreek seeds as preservatives in pickles as they are rich in vitamin E. Herbal tea made with fenugreek, honey and lemon is also the best remedy to treat fever.

Garlic is a packhorse in any home kitchen. It forms a strong base of flavour for many sauces, stir-fries and stews. Its biggest factor-it is a potent fighter for your immune system too. Garlic contains antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that garlic may help reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms, and may also energise the immune system, helping it produce more of the cells that combat infection and helps to invade viruses and bacteria.

The golden spice, which originates from the root of the curcuma longa plant, has long been said to have antioxidant agents and anti-inflammatory benefits due to its curcumin compound. Turmeric is commonly used in India for curries and other dishes, and can also be consumed as a decoction (kadha) to cure cold and boost immunity. It is made from grated ginger, tulsi and turmeric, which is to be drunk regularly for strengthening virus fighting capacity.

The key ingredient in snickerdoodle and your favourite Starbucks lattes, cinnamon has also been widely used for its medicinal properties for hundreds of years. Cinnamon fights inflammation and helps avert off infections and cure damaged tissue. This aromatic spice is a rich source of antioxidants like polyphenols and proanthocyanidins that give a boost to the immune system.

You can add these magic pills and kick of flavour to boost your immunity. Apart from including these herbs and spices in your diet, you must exercise both your body and your mind regularly, make essential lifestyle changes, and practice gratitude.

(The author is MD and gastronome chef, Kitchen Kraft Luxury Catering, New Delhi)
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