by Ramesh Bjonnes
Now that summer is turning to fall and colder weather, the cold and flu season is also upon us. This is also the time when many people turn to natural supplements to help strengthen their immune systems. One of the most popular antiviral immune-boosting herbs is turmeric—often in the form of curcumin, turmeric’s supposed main health booster.
Studies have shown that turmeric can improve the immune system and fight infections. The immune system, which is mainly located in the digestive system, the spine, and in the blood stream, is made up of white blood cells, proteins and organs working in synergy to defend the body against invading armies of bacteria and viruses.
If the immune system functions optimally, it is often able to fight off any of these invaders. If, on the other hand, the immune system has been weakened due to stress, lack of exercise, poor eating habits, excessive alcohol consumption, or insomnia, then the invaders may make us fall sick. Therefore, having a robust immune system is vital to stay healthy throughout the cold season.
In Ayurveda, the natural health system of yoga, it is said that due to the poor lifestyle choices listed above, our vitality is first reduced and then our immunity. But it is naïve to think that only taking turmeric is all we need to save ourselves from getting sick during winter. Our best defense is a healthy lifestyle consisting of a whole, plant-based diet, exercise, and stress-reduction through yoga and meditation. There are also a few more ways to enhance the power of turmeric.
The multi-billion-dollar supplement industry often tries, through its ad campaigns, to make us believe that supplements like turmeric or curcumin are all we need in order to boost immunity and stay healthy. But that is a myth. Science, as well as natural health systems like Ayurveda and Naturopathy, have proven that it is the combination of healthy lifestyle changes combined with certain herbs that are most effective in boosting our immune system.
Here are five ways to maximize the health benefits of turmeric:
- Use only organic turmeric. None of the organic turmeric grown in the US have been found to contain harmful chemicals.
- Do not buy products that only contain curcumin. Studies have shown that it is the synergistic effect of all the phytochemicals in turmeric that is most effective in fighting disease.
- Intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to strengthen the immune system and enhance the absorption of turmeric’s power. (If you want to learn more about fasting, or find it difficult to fast alone, please check out one of Prama’s upcoming juice cleansing retreats.)
- Save money and improve immune power by buying fresh ground, organic turmeric powder in bulk.
- Boost your turmeric power by adding black pepper. Studies have shown that black pepper enhances the bioavailability of turmeric’s many powerful phytochemicals. Make a mixture of 1-part black pepper to 10-parts turmeric by weight. Use this mixture in smoothies, juices, cooking, or make your own supplement capsules.
Now that you know how to maximize the power of turmeric, you are better prepared for the flu and cold season. But if you still need some extra inspiration before you prepare your batch of turmeric-pepper capsules or add some black and yellow power to your morning juice, here are some final words from nutrition expert Dr. Michael Greger: “If there were ever such a thing as a magic pill, single-ingredient, ground turmeric root would probably come closest.”
- Zorofchian Moghadamtousi, Soheil, Habsah Abdul Kadir, Pouya Hassandarvish, Hassan Tajik, Sazaly Abubakar, and Keivan Zandi. 2014. “A Review On Antibacterial, Antiviral, And Antifungal Activity Of Curcumin”. Biomed Research International 2014: 1-12. doi:10.1155/2014/186864
- Michael Greger, M.D., How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease, Flatiron Books, 2015
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ramesh is the Director of the Prama Wellness Center where lifestyle is considered our best medicine. Ramesh is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He studied yoga therapy in Nepal and India, Ayurveda at California College of Ayurveda and is a certified yoga detox theraphist from the AM Wellness Center in Cebu, Philippines. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of four books, including Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra:The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India).