How to boost immunity during COVID-19, recipe of immunity boosting Amla subzi

Immunity boost

Immunity and healing isn’t optional for anyone but a lot of people have illnesses and underlying health issues that compromise the immunity and healing processes for a short while and sometimes even for lifetime. In the times of a pandemic COVID-19 caused by Coronavirus, we have to boost up the immunity for everyone, the healthy individuals as well as the ones who have had health issues that compromises their immunity

The question is, how do we boost the immunity? Let’s understand how our immunity works, in layman terms.

Yes, our immune system is complex and it will be good to understand that we have two broad types of immunity, innate immunityand acquired immunity. The acquired immunity can be further divided into generic immunity for all pathogens while specific immunity protects from a newly encountered pathogen. 

There are different types of specific cells and antibodies that are made by our immune system for generic (natural or innate) and specific immunity for a new pathogen being encountered. The first line of defence being the generic immunity that we can cultivate by following a healthy lifestyle and immunity boosting foods. It will be good to understand that innate or generic immunity is fast acting, it is effective to kill most pathogens but it is short lived and the specific immunity is supposed to develop in the meantime. The specific immunity for a newly encountered pathogen takes its time to develop (while the innate immunity is at work) but the immune system becomes equipped to deal with the new pathogen for life.

It will be good to know that if one encounters very few numbers of a specific pathogen, it is easier to fight it with the first line of defence, the generic immunity, successfully while the antibodies responsible for specific immunity are generated in the body. So if the pathogen load is too heavy, for example you have spent several hours with someone infected with COVID-19, in an closed space the pathogen (virus) load is heavier and the generic immunity may fail to fight with the pathogen. So prevention is important and quarantine measures should be taken seriously. Please note, quarantine doesn’t mean lockdown, it means keeping an ill person away from contact of others in the family and neighbourhood, but let’s talk about that later. 

While there is no pill for immunity that takes care of the issue and prevents one from diseases, there are a few methods that one can bring in their lifestyle and develop a broad spectrum immunity from generic pathogens.

One thing we need to understand that sterilising every surface isn’t the solution to save ourselves from pathogens because by doing so, we are eliminating our chances to develop and sustain the natural or innate immunity towards generic pathogens around us and acts like the first line of defence. Second important thing to understand is that a healthy body will be better equipped to develop the specific immunity for a new pathogen as well, so working on one’s health and protecting our own innate immunity is the best way to deal with any new pathogens that one might encounter. 

Both modern medicine and Ayurveda have recommended several ways to boost our immunity. I am enlisting some practical ways to boost immunity here.

1.     Maintain your circadian rhythm, this is the prerequisite. Waking up and sleeping on time, eating meals on specific time and only when you are hungry, doing some physical workout during the day and resting and sleeping well during night will ensure your circadian rhythm is in good shape. 
2.     Start your day with warm water and then have some herb tea that suits your body constitution and season. For example in fairly cold Dehradun I am still having my herb tea/tisane that has fresh turmeric, fresh ginger, pepper and tulsi or lemongrass. In hotter places you can have mango ginger, lemongrass and hint of pepper or even mint, lemongrass and a hint of ginger. If you have chronic hypertension you should have a tea made of hibiscus, lemongrass and mint and the tea can be repeated a few times during the day. A decoction made of cumin, fennel and ajwain (carom seeds) will be great if you have chronic digestive distress. The idea is to keep your generic immunity robust
3.     Keep including some fermented foods in your everyday food. It can be some winter style pickles, sauerkraut, carrot kanji, kimchi or even buttermilk or home made dahi. Gut health is the key to a robust immunity. 
4.     Eat freshly cooked real foods. You can of course refrigerate foods and ingredients but eating warm nourishing food cooked at home will ensure better nutrition and minimal contamination. 
5.     Ensure there is enough protein in your everyday food because a robust immune system build up with proteins. Nuts and seeds, lentils, eggs, paneer and cheeses can be included easily on an everyday basis. For immune-compromised individuals it is essential to supplement proteins either though food or through supplements
6.     Keep adding the spices and herbs to your food everyday. The turmeric, pepper, cumin, fennel, cloves, cardamoms and all the fresh or dried herbs you have access to, will ensure a robust immunity everyday. 
7.     Start doing a simple Nasya practice every day after brushing your teeth and blowing your sinuses clean. To do the simple Nasya, you need to smear a little bit of oil in your nostrils and inhale deeply. You can so about ten rounds of kapalbhati kriya after nasya to clean up the sinuses and make the mucous membranes robust. I use mustard oil because I have seen this being used since childhood, you can use any cold pressed oil you have. Dip the tip of your little fingers of both handsin oil, smear both nostrils and take deep breaths. Then follow the kapalbgati kriya for better results. That’s it. 
8.     Keep your stress level in check. Stress compromises your immunity response and makes you susceptible for allergies and infections. Listen to music, meditate, go for walks, do gardening, cook or do some crafts to engage your mind creatively and I could be a switch to a stress free life for ever. 
9.     Do not consume too much caffeine and nicotine to beat boredom or stress. While caffeine is good in a little amount according to many studies, caffeine or nicotine dependence compromises immunity greatly. 
10.  Keep eating immunity boosting foods consciously. All antioxidant rich foods, good fats, mustard family vegetables, citrusfruits, berries are great for this purpose. India has the cheapest immunity booster available almost all through the year and that’s Amla. Use Amla, turmeric, ginger, pepper etc in your foods. Spices like fenugreek, nigella, mustard apart from the ones mentioned in point 5, are really good for boosting immunity. 
11.  Hydrate yourself well. Water is essential for all metabolic reactions so ensure clean drinking water. Store filtered water in copper jugs and bottles as copper  Improves immunity as per studies.
12.  Keep taking your prescription medicines and supplements on time. 
13.  Maintain hygiene but don’t become paranoid about hygiene. Give your immune system a boost and trust your body well. It won’t break your trust.

I am sharing the recipe of Amla subzi that I had shared on my Instagram couple of weeks ago and a lot of people made it and shared pictures with me. A good portion of this subzi everyday will be great to include in everyday meals. If you don’t have access to fresh Amla, you can get Amla pickle, chuawanprash or even dry Amla powder for yourself. The dry Amla powder can be added to chutneys easily or can be made into Amla rasam etc. 

Amla subzi recipe

This Amla subzi is supplemented with spices that enhance the immunity boosting property of Amla, so follow the recipe. The subzi is similar to many achari preparations and can be made like a dry achari subzi or a soupy curry to be consumed like a soup. 

Ingredients for Amla subzi

2 cups of Amla, chopped into segments or whole if chopping is a limitation
1 tbsp nigella seeds 
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds 
1 tbsp fennel seeds 
1 tbsp ajwain seeds 
1 tbsp turmeric powder 
A paste made of 3 inch piece of ginger, one bulb of garlic and 20 dry red chillies 
1 tbsp salt 
3 tbsp mustard oil 


Powder the spices coarsely

Heat the mustard oil, tip in the ginger-garlic-chilli paste and the coarse powder of spices. Let them sizzle and cook for a minute or two. Do not let them burn. 
Tip in the chopped Amla, add slag and mix well. Cover and cook for ten minutes on very low flame. The subzi is ready. 

If you want to make the subzi soupy, add 2 cups of water and cook till Amla is soft. This can be done in pressure cooker as well. 

Served with any meal of the day, this subzi will help boost immunity greatly.