Stopping Sickness with Ayurveda

Cold and flu season is in full swing. There are a lot of things we have all most likely resorted to doing in the fall and winter to prevent sickness like taking vitamins, getting enough sleep, and getting the flu shot. However, have you ever thought about how ayurveda, a practice we know and love, can help prevent getting a cold or the flu? Read up on the six tips in this article and try them yourself!

The key to true mind-body balance? Understanding your body’s natural needs—how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal—through each season. In our upcoming online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Carlson, former dean of Kripalu’s School of Ayurveda, and John Douillard, founder of and best-selling author, demystify yoga’s elemental sister science. Sign up now—winter session begins Dec. 5th!

Cold and flu season is here, but in addition to eating a balancing, seasonal diet, there are many Ayurvedic practices that can help you stay healthy throughout the winter months, says John Douillard, founder of and the co-leader of Yoga Journal’s upcoming online course, Ayurveda 101. The best part? Several of these quick and easy techniques can be done in the shower, so they don’t make a big mess. Here are his 6 best tips for avoiding bugs and feeling your best this winter.

1. Make a turmeric paste.

Turmeric, which is harvested in the fall for the winter, is an immune-boosting spice. Just take equal parts organic turmeric powder and raw honey and mix it into a paste. At the first hint of a cold, take 1 tsp of the paste every two hours until you’re feeling better. To make the formula more potent, mix 16 parts turmeric to 1 part black pepper and make a paste with equal parts ghee and honey, and you’ve got a pretty amazing cold remedy.

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has many studies showing its immune-boosting properties. Adaptogens help people cope with stress, and since holiday stress can be immune-compromising, [taking Ashwagandha] is a good strategy for staving off colds and flu. Take 500 mg of the whole organic root three times a day after meals when under stress or to prevent winter colds and flu, Douillard recommends. (Editor’s note: consult your doctor before taking any supplements.)

3. Give yourself an Ayurvedic self-massage every day.

The skin has millions of sensory neurons on it, so the nervous system is exposed. You can calm and de-stress the nervous system by using your skin as therapeutic access to the nervous system. Self-massage with immunity-boosting oils like sesame oil dampens and calms the nervous system on your skin and allows you to handle stress better, which directly relates to immunity. Plus, the oil helps prevent eczema and rashes, and it’s great for skin health and radiance. Learn how to do abhyanga.

4. Start a neti + nasya routine.

Using a neti pot with a saline or saltwater solution cleans out the sinuses, but the saltwater can leave the skin on the dry side. When the skin gets dry, it reacts by producing mucus, which is a breeding ground for bad bacteria. Doing nasya can help. Nasya is a nasal-lubricating technique that involves sniffing herbalized oils in the nose to moisturize the sinuses and thus prevent dryness and any reactive mucus production. Two to four drops sniffed into each nostril 2–3 times a day during the winter works wonders. I recommend doing both—neti should always be followed by nasya—but if you’re going to do one or the other, nasya is the better choice. Learn how to do nasya.

5. Put oil in your ear.

Putting a few drops of warm oil in your ear at night—sesame oil, mustard seed oil, or ear oil—lubricates the upper Eustachian tube and the cervical lymph nodes in the neck. Your lymphatic system carries your immune system. If the cervical lymph nodes get dry, you get swollen glands, which means the immune system is stuck in traffic. You want to keep the nodes lubricated so the glands are more effective at getting rid of any bad bacteria that might accumulate.

6. Start oil pulling or swishing.

Your mouth is your first line of defense against a cold. Oil pulling or swishing with herbalized oils takes away bad bacteria and boosts good immune-boosting bacteria in your mouth. Learn more about oil pulling.