• Users Online: 72
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 35-37

Immunity boosters: Solutions from nature – Herbs and spices

Department of Nephrology, SGPGIMS, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission16-Aug-2020
Date of Acceptance17-Aug-2020
Date of Web Publication01-Sep-2020

Correspondence Address:
Ms. Renuraj Shrivastava
Dietician, Department of Nephrology, SGPGIMS, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jrnm.jrnm_20_20

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava R. Immunity boosters: Solutions from nature – Herbs and spices. J Renal Nutr Metab 2020;6:35-7

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava R. Immunity boosters: Solutions from nature – Herbs and spices. J Renal Nutr Metab [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Dec 5];6:35-7. Available from: http://www.jrnm.in/text.asp?2020/6/2/35/294186

  Introduction Top

Most of the external agents that cause damage to the human system enter through either the lung or gastrointestinal tract. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to take extra care to enhance immunity. The first and the foremost step is to stay away from any kind of infection, be that viral, bacterial, or fungal. Coronaviruses have an outer envelope made of lipids which are fatty organic molecules. Keeping good hand hygiene is the first step in keeping safety. Washing hands regularly with soap can dissolve the outer fatty envelope of the virus and destroy the core of the virus particle, its genome.

Rich protein diet can boost immunity to combat coronavirus. Lysine plays an important role in boosting immunity. It is known to ameliorate the symptoms of cough and cold. Lysine (alpha – amino acid), an essential amino acid, is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. Good sources of lysine include foods that are rich in protein such as meat poultry, cheese, yogurt, certain fish, cod, sardine, and eggs. Some vegetarian sources of foods rich in lysine are soyabean (tofu) isolated soya protein, soyabean flour, spirulina, and fenugreek seeds. Pistachios are a rich source of lysine. Mangoes, pears, apricots, and cucumber are good sources of boosting immunity.[1]

In the recent years, based on leads from Ayurvedic system and other traditional medicine system, several antiviral agents have been isolated from plants. These agents include a variety of polyphenols, flavonoids, saponins, glucosides, and alkaloids. Some traditional Indian spices and herbs, given below, are energy and immunity boosters and prepare the body to fight infection.

Omum (Trachyspermum ammi),[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7] commonly known as ajwain, caraway, Bishop's weed, or carom, is an annual herb of the family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae). It is cultivated in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Both the leaves and the seeds of the plant are consumed and used in cooking. Medicinally, it is proven to possess various pharmacological activities such as antifungal, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antinociceptive, cytotoxic, hypolipidemic, antihypertensive, antispasmodic, broncho-dilating actions, antilithiasis, diuretic, abortifacient, antitussive, nematicidal, anthelmintic, and antifilarial. Ajwain is a traditional Indian home remedy for cold and cough as the expectorant properties of Ajwain help with decongestion and removal of mucous, cure the nasal passage, and help getting relief from sneezing and coughing. The seeds of T. ammi contain 2%–4.4% oil known as ajwain oil. The main component of this oil is thymol, which is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal ailments, lack of appetite, and bronchial problems. The oil exhibits fungicidal, antimicrobial, and anti-aggregatory effects on humans.[4]

Asafoetida (Indian name, Heeng),[8],[9] agum resin, is used as a folk remedy for a wide variety of purposes, including carminative, antispasmodic, expectorant (is used for treating chronic bronchitis and whooping cough), sedative diuretic, anthelminthic, aphrodisiac, and emmenagogue. The common name “asafoetida” is derived from the Farsi word aza (resin) and the Latin foetidus (smelling, fetid). The medical claims that have been made for the resin stem from the belief that its fetid odor acts as a deterrent to germs. Taiwan Medical University has reported that the roots of asafoetida produce natural antiviral compounds. Its antiviral activity has been demonstrated in vitro against the influenza A virus (H1N1). Asafoetida has antiflatulent qualities, and therefore it is added to dishes containing large quantities of pulses such as beans or lentils.[10],[11]

Basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn; Indian name, Tulsi), an aromatic shrub in the basil family Lamiaceae (tribe ocimeae), is an ayurvedic herb, known for its beneficial effects. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is known as “The Incomparable One,” “Mother Medicine of Nature,” and “The Queen of Herbs,” and is revered as an “elixir of life.” Research has confirmed evidence that basil has antimicrobial (including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiprotozoal, antimalarial, anthelmintic), antidiarrheal, antioxidant, anticataract, anti-inflammatory, chemopreventive, radioprotective, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, antidiabetic (normalizes blood glucose), antihypercholesterolemia (normalizes blood pressure and lipid levels), antihypertensive, anticarcinogenic, analgesic, antipyretic, anti-allergic, immunomodulatory, central nervous system depressant, memory enhancement, anti-asthmatic, anti-tussive, diaphoretic, anti-thyroid, anti-ulcer, anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic, anti-arthritic, adaptogenic, anti-stress, and anti-coagulant activities.[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16] Its concentrated extracts made of its leaves with black peppercorn, cinnamon, and ginger give excellent relief to symptoms of cold and flu (terpenoid isolated from the leaves has virucidal activity), Basil's broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity makes it appropriate as a hand sanitizer, mouthwash, and water and air purifier and for wound healing. Basil leaves are known to increase the levels of helper “T” cells and natural killer cells to fight viral infection.

Garlic (Allium sativum; Indian name, Lahsan): The combination of a variety of biologically active substances renders curative effect. Garlic enhances immune system response by stimulating and protecting immune cells which safeguard against viral infection. In vitro studies have shown that the active ingredients of garlic, the enzyme alliinase and sulfur-containing compound allicin, confer it antiviral activity against several types of viruses such as Cytomegalovirus, influenza B virus, herpes simplex virus Type 1 and Type 2, parainfluenza virus Type 3, and human rhinovirus Type 2 (which causes the common cold and viral pneumonia). It is also effective in treating fungal and parasitic infections.[17],[18],[19],[20],[21],[22],[23],[24] Fresh, crushed (crushing activates the compound allicin), raw garlic (1–2 cloves a day) is cardioprotective and prevents the development of atherosclerosis. Its consumption helps not only in lowering blood pressure, but also in lowering blood cholesterol levels (increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides).

Peppermint (Mentha piperita L M. piperita essential oil [MPE]., Indian name, pudina): Pharmacologic studies also have shown that M. piperita L. possesses antioxidant, cytotoxic, antiallergenic, antiviral, and antibacterial activities with few side effects.[25] MPE suppresses nitric oxide, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interluekin-6, and prostaglandin E2 production in macrophages, suggesting a linked pathway in viral infections. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections are known to induce TNF-α secretion, which can exacerbate illness and cause significant weight loss).[26] It is thought that M. piperita L. can possibly enhance innate immunity, which can be beneficial in counteracting RSV infection in addition to directly interfering with viral entry without exacerbating the illness during the management of RSV infection. The antioxidant activity of MPE can also reduce cellular damage that causes lipid peroxidation and inflammation and may have a positive effect in preventing the progression of many human diseases caused by oxidative stress. Peppermint is known to clear congestion of the nose, throat bronchitis, and lungs. To detoxify the respiratory system, inhale steam with a few drops of peppermint oil. Hot cup of peppermint tea made with fresh peppermint leaves or one teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves is helpful in clearing congestion.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe), a root used in cooking, has been shown to have antiviral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV). Fresh ginger, and not the dried ginger, inhibits HRSV-induced plaque formation on airway epithelium by blocking viral attachment and internalization in both HEp-2 and A549 cell lines.[27] Specific compounds in ginger such as gingerols and zingerone have been found to inhibit viral replication and prevent viruses from entering host cells. Fresh ginger of high concentration could stimulate mucosal cells to secrete interferon-beta that possibly contributes to counteracting viral infection.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum; Indian name, Dalchini): Studies have shown therapeutic effects of cinnamon including its antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, antitumor, antihypertensive, antilipemic, antidiabetic, gastroprotective, and immunomodulatory effects. Regular use of cinnamon prevents throat infections.[28]

Honey (Shahad) is an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent with antiviral properties, which helps relieve symptoms of cough and cold. It is also believed to boost the immunity level. It has soothing effect on the throat and the respiratory passage if a mixture of half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder with one teaspoon of honey is taken before bedtime. Hot fresh ginger paste made with honey and clarified butter settles sore throat and cough.

Black pepper (Piper longum Linn. and Piper nigrum Linn; Indian name, Kali mirch) is a traditional Indian spice used as an immune enhancer for treating cold and cough. Black pepper also provides relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion. Its natural expectoration properties help break up the mucus and phlegm deposition in the respiratory tract.[29] Quercetin found in pepper is known to improve the body's immunity through its antiviral and antibacterial properties. The antioxidative, anti-apoptotic, and chemoprotective ability of piperine in blastogenesis, cytokine release, and restoration of splenic cell population is suggestive of its therapeutic usefulness in immunocompromised situations.[30],[31]

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is commonly known in India as haldi. Curcumin, a polyphenol, possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties of curcuminoids. Human trials using up to 8000 to 2500 mg of curcumin per day for 3 months found no toxicity from curcumin. It is a potent antiviral and can reduce replication of viruses. Curcumin has been shown to have reno-protective and cardioprotective properties. However, it has poor bioavailability, which is primarily due to its poor absorption and metabolic instability. One teaspoon full of turmeric powder mixed in hot milk two to three times a day boosts immunity in viral infection.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest

  References Top

Bakhru HK. Healing Through Natural Foods Kindle Edition. Jaico Publishing House; 1 edition (4 February 2013).  Back to cited text no. 1
Gopalan F. Nutritive value of Indian Food. ICMR India: NIN, ICMR; 2017.  Back to cited text no. 2
Singh I, Singh VP. Antifungal properties of aqueous and organic extracts of seed plants against Aspergillus flavus and A. Niger. Phytomorphology 2000;20:151-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Sivropoulou A, Papanikolaou E, Nilolaou C, Kokkini S, Lanaras T, Arsenakis M. Antimicrobial and cytotoxic activities of Origanum essential oils. J Agric Food Chem 1996;44:1202-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Srivastava KC. Extract of a spice-omum (Trachyspermum ammi)-shows antiaggregatory effects and alters arachidonic acid metabolism in human platelets. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1988;33:1-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
Bairwa R, Sodha RS, Rajawat BS. Trachyspermum ammi. Pharmacogn Rev 2012;6:56-60.  Back to cited text no. 6
Lakshmi P, SuttonJ, Kalustyan K. The encyclopedia of spices and herbs: An essential guide to the Flavors of the world an Esse. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY;First edition 2016.  Back to cited text no. 7
Lee CL, Chiang LC, Cheng LH, Liaw CC, Abd El-Razek MH, Chang FR, et al. Influenza A (H (1) N (1)) antiviral and cytotoxic agents from Ferula assa-foetida. J Nat Prod 2009;72:1568-72.  Back to cited text no. 8
Fatehi M, Farifteh F, Fatehi-Hassanabad Z. Antispasmodic and hypotensive effects of Ferula assa-foetida gum extract. J Ethnopharmacol 2004;91:321-4.  Back to cited text no. 9
Eigner D, Scholz D. Ferula asa-foetida and Curcuma longa in traditional medical treatment and diet in Nepal. J Ethnopharmacol 1999;67:1-6.  Back to cited text no. 10
Marc Maurice Cohen Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons J Ayurveda Integr Med 2014;5:251-9.  Back to cited text no. 11
Mahajan N, Rawal S, Verma M, Poddar M, Alok S. A phytopharmacological overview on Ocimum species with special emphasis on Ocimum sanctum. Biomed Prev Nutr 2013;3:185-92.  Back to cited text no. 12
Mohan L, Amberkar MV, Kumari M. Ocimum sanctum Linn. (TULSI)-an overview. Int J Pharm Sci Rev Res 2011;7:51-3.  Back to cited text no. 13
Pattanayak P, Behera P, Das D, Panda SK. Ocimum sanctum Linn. A reservoir plant for therapeutic applications: An overview. Pharmacogn Rev 2010;4:95-105.  Back to cited text no. 14
Mondal S, Mirdha BR, Mahapatra SC. The science behind sacredness of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.). Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2009;53:291-306.  Back to cited text no. 15
Kandeler R, Ullrich WR. Symbolism of plants: Examples from European-Mediterranean culture presented with biology and history of art. J Exp Bot 2009;60:715-9.  Back to cited text no. 16
Michał Majewski Allium sativum: Facts and myths regarding human health. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig 2014;65:1-8.  Back to cited text no. 17
Fashner J, Ericson K, Werner S. Treatment of the common cold in children and adults. Am Fam Physician 2012;86:153-9.  Back to cited text no. 18
Goncagul G, Ayaz E. Antimicrobial effect of garlic (Allium sativum). Recent Pat Antiinfect Drug Discov 2010;5:91-3.  Back to cited text no. 19
Khatua TN, Adela R, Banerjee SK. Garlic and cardioprotection: Insights into the molecular mechanisms. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 2013;91:448-58.  Back to cited text no. 20
Petrovska BB, Cekovska S. Extracts from the history and medical properties of garlic. Pharmacogn Rev 2010;4:106-10.  Back to cited text no. 21
Reinhart KM, Coleman CI, Teevan C, Vachhani P, White CM. Effects of garlic on blood pressure in patients with and without systolic hypertension: A meta-analysis. Ann Pharmacother 2008;42:1766-71.  Back to cited text no. 22
Takechi R, Pallebage-Gamarallage MM, Lam V, Giles C, Mamo JC. Nutraceutical agents with anti-inflammatory properties prevent dietary saturated-fat induced disturbances in blood-brain barrier function in wild-type mice. J Neuroinflammation 2013;10:73.  Back to cited text no. 23
Arora R, Chawla R, Marwah R, Arora P, Sharma RK, Kaushik V, et al. Potential of complementary and alternative medicine in preventive management of Novel H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) pandemic: Thwarting potential disasters in the Bud. Evid Based Compl Alternat Med 2011;2011:586-06.  Back to cited text no. 24
Li YX, Liu YB, Ma AQ, Bao Y, Wang M, Sun ZL.In vitro antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities of the ethanol extract of Mentha piperita L. Food Sci Biotechnol 2017;26:1675-83.  Back to cited text no. 25
Choi J, Callaway Z, Kim HB, Fujisawa T, Kim CK. The role of TNF-α in eosinophilic inflammation associated with RSV bronchiolitis. Pediat Allerg Imm 2010;21:474-9.  Back to cited text no. 26
Chang JS, Wang KC, Yeh CF, Shieh DE, Chiang LC. Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. J Ethnopharmacol 2013;145:146-51.  Back to cited text no. 27
Hajimonfarednejad M, Ostovar M, Raee MJ, Hashempur MH, Mayer JG, Heydari M. Cinnamon: A systematic review of adverse events. Clin Nutr 2019;38:594-602.  Back to cited text no. 28
Pathak N. Khandelwal S. Cytoprotective and immunomodulating properties of piperine on murine splenocytes: An in vitro study. Eur J Pharmacol 2007;576:160-70.  Back to cited text no. 29
Li H, Zhong C, Wang Q, Chen W, Yuan Y. Curcumin is an APE1 redox inhibitor and exhibits an antiviral activity against KSHV replication and pathogenesis. Antiviral Res 2019;167:98-103.  Back to cited text no. 30
Chainani-Wu N. Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: A component of tumeric (Curcuma longa). J Altern Complement Med 2003;9:161-8.  Back to cited text no. 31

This article has been cited by
1 Spices and herbs: Potential antiviral preventives and immunity boosters during COVID -19
Namita Ashish Singh,Pradeep Kumar,Pradeep Jyoti,Naresh Kumar
Phytotherapy Research. 2021;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded403    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal