The cold season is upon us. Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the leaves are turning bright red and yellow. The winds are chilly. Smoke can be seen from early morning chimneys. This is the time for reduced immune systems; the time for chest colds and flu fevers. But these cold season maladies are not inevitable. Not if we take charge and build up a strong defense by bolstering our immune system.

Bala, or strength, is the Ayurvedic term for immunity. Not only physical strength, but also mental and spiritual. On the physical level, immunity is directly linked to digestion, our digestive fire. On the mental and emotional level, immunity is related to how well we handle stress. On the spiritual level, immunity comes from our deep connectedness to life, from our sense of sacred inspiration.

The Importance of Boosting Our Immunity

On the physical level, how can we boost our immunity? According to the yogi sages, we have three levels of immunity: hereditary, seasonal and balanced.  Our genes determine our hereditary immune system. The season of the year and our age determines our seasonal immunity. While a balanced and more permanent level of immunity can be achieved by following a balanced diet and lifestyle throughout life and according to the seasons. As we age, and during the cold season, we therefore need to supply our bodies with an extra level of immune boosting nourishment.

In the winter season, the digestive fire increases and we tend to eat more. If we eat healthy foods, our immune system will naturally improve, but if we stoke our digestive fire with junk food and hard-to-digest foods, then our immunity will suffer.  The fall and winter seasons are therefore a great time for easy-to-digest, warm foods, such as tea, compote, soups and stews.

While the warmth of spring and summer are the best times to detox and cleanse, the cold season is the best time to nourish and rejuvenate. To build our immunity.

Chai-tea to Prevent Bacterial Infections  

The foods that best nourish us in the cold season are sweet, sour and salty tastes. Two of my favorite rituals in the cold mornings are making chai and fruit compote, all from scratch. Chai contains warm and sweet spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, anise, ginger, and black pepper. These spices are all helpful in increasing the digestive fire and in boosting the immune system.

Black pepper, for example, helps to enhance the absorption of nutrients in the body, and cloves has the highest ORAC score (anti-oxidant level) of any food. In fact, cloves has over 28 times more antioxidants per gram than blue berries. We cannot consume large amounts of cloves, of course, but a tablespoon of cloves in a pot of chai goes a long way to enhance immunity.  Especially if you consume it on a daily basis.

Cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar and to reduce cholesterol, so does ginger. Studies have shown that cholesterol can be reduced between 10-29 percent by consuming these herbs daily. Cardamom and cloves, on the other hand, have great antibacterial properties. Does that chai tea smell even sweeter and more aromatic now?

Compote to Increase Antioxidants

One of my favorite breakfast meals in the cold season is fruit compote with nuts and seeds. As the seasons change, and as we age, we need to increase our body’s anti-oxidant content in order to fight free radicals. This can easily be achieved by consuming lots of fruits and berries in the cold season as they are full of anti-oxidants. By adding some of the spices above and steaming apples, berries, nuts and raisons in a little water, you will soon have an amazing compote that is exceptionally tasty, great for digestion and uplifting for the soul. I hope you enjoy these recipes and that you make them often for yourself and family during the upcoming cold and flu season.

Chai Recipe

  • 20 whole black peppercorns
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 2.5 cups (593 ml) water
  • 2.5 tablespoons (38 ml) loose-leaf black tea (if decaf is desired, use Roiboos or decaf black tea)
  • 4 inches (10 cm) of fresh ginger, sliced

Boil for 5-10 minutes. Add milk, coconut milk, or any of your favorite nut milks and honey to taste.

Compote Recipe

  • 2 whole apples, cut in small pieces
  • ¼ cup raisons
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup dried apricots
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • ½ tsp fennel powder
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  • ½ cup nuts and seeds

Steam all ingredients in a pot for about 10 minutes, or until compote is tender and thick like a stew.  Serve warm with milk yogurt, or cashew or coconut yogurt. Add 1-2 tbs of ground flax seed or chia seed for extra serving of heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory Omega3’s. Serves 2-4.

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Ramesh Bjonnes

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).

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