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Preventive Medicine - Role of Traditional Medicines in Building Immunity

Traditional Medicines also known as folk medicine have been used in many countries throughout the world over many centuries. It comprises medical aspects of traditional knowledge that developed over generations within the folk beliefs of various societies, before the era of modern medicine. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that as many as 80% of the world's more than six billion people rely primarily on animal and plant-based medicines.

History has evidence that medicinal plants have been the treatment regimen to cure a variety of diseases, including diseases caused by insects, fungi, bacteria and viruses. The effects shown by the plants are due to the chemicals present in them and they work in the same manner as the conventional drugs. Many plants and herbs have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. They aid in detoxification and boosting of the immune system.

Some examples of traditional medicines are Chinese Medicine which focuses on maintenance and restoration of Yin and Yang in the body, Kampa Medicine which is the Japanese traditional medicine, Unani which has Arab origins, Korean Medicine, African Traditional Medicine, etc.

India is known for its traditional medicinal systems—Ayurveda and Siddha. Ayurveda is considered as one of the oldest of the traditional systems of medicine accepted worldwide. Immunity is natural resistance to diseases and in ancient vedic science, Ayurveda talks about this as Vyadhikshamatva. It denotes the resistance power of the body or defence of the body against the first occurrence of any disease.

Higher immunity improves the quality of life by keeping an individual safe and protected from diseases, ailments, and illnesses. Global and national markets have been growing for medicinal herbs, and significant economic gains are being realised through the sale of medicinal plant products. Some of the common herbs described in Ayurvedic literature which help to boost overall immunity are as follows:

  • Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing. It is valued for its thyroid-modulating, neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can reduce the body’s stress hormones, help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation within the body.

  • Tulsi herb is rich in antioxidants and helps detox the body and protect against infections. It is useful in conditions like anxiety, stress, and fatigue. Tulasi aids in providing relief from chest congestion, helps suppress cough and in the mobilisation of mucus.

  • Amla is perhaps one of the richest sources of vitamin C and is perfect for overall immunity. It can rejuvenate and revitalise the body systems.

  • Ginger, which is loaded with antioxidants, is also recommended for many respiratory ailments like cold, cough, pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis.

  • Moringa is also known as drumstick. Many parts of the drumstick tree like leaves, fruit (drumsticks), oil, have immense health benefits targeted towards many systems like the digestive, heart and the circulatory systems.

Chyawanprash and Kadha are also commonly used in Ayurvedic rasayanas (therapy). Chyawanprash is used to build immunity and prevent infections and inflammation of body cells. It helps to purify blood and is beneficial for our respiratory system.

Kadha or herbal tea made from basil (tulsi), cinnamon (dalchini), black pepper (kali mirch), dry ginger (shunthi) and raisin (munakka), is known to boost immunity.

Note of Caution:

  • Inappropriate use of traditional medicines or practices can have negative or dangerous effects.

  • Any medication (herbal or otherwise) should be taken under the supervision of a knowledgeable and qualified practitioner.

  • Some herbs can interact with other pharmaceutical medications. If you are on any other medications, consult your doctor before taking any of the traditional medicines.

The first step towards fighting infections is practising preventive care and building your wellness quotient. If you want to boost your body’s immunity, it is most important to eat the right foods and make adequate lifestyle changes in addition to including any immunity boosters in your daily regimen.

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