Journal of Renal Nutrition and Metabolism

: 2020  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 35--37

Immunity boosters: Solutions from nature – Herbs and spices

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

Correspondence Address:
Ms. Renuraj Shrivastava
Dietician, Department of Nephrology, SGPGIMS, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava R. Immunity boosters: Solutions from nature – Herbs and spices.J Renal Nutr Metab 2020;6:35-37

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Shrivastava R. Immunity boosters: Solutions from nature – Herbs and spices. J Renal Nutr Metab [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Dec 5 ];6:35-37
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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.

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