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Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurveda’s 10 Best Flu Survival Tips for a Speedy Recovery

Got the flu? Start stealing the best get-well-soon tips your mom and Western medicine never told you now.

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Flu season is in full force this year, and for many it’s too late to talk about prevention. But Ayurveda has some time-tested tips and tricks to get you well sooner. Here, Larissa Hall Carlson and John Douillard, co-leaders of our Ayurveda 101 course, share their best advice for combating the virus.

1. Reduce fever and congestion with tulsi tea.

cleanse, tea, sip

Tulsi is considered one of the most purifying Ayurvedic herbs. When it comes to colds and flus, tulsi can help reduce headaches and fevers, relieve congestion, and support digestion. “Mildly warming, tulsi is known for soothing the nerves, supporting healthy emotions, and enhancing mental clarity,” Carlson says. “It’s also a great tea when going through rough times in life.” Carlson recommends that people fighting the flu try drinking one or two cups of tulsi a day, and that the original flavor is the best at helping fight a cold. Note: Carlson says to avoid tulsi during pregnancy or high-pitta conditions like acid reflux or hot flashes.

Try this Tulsi tea.

See also Ayurveda 101: 6 Ways to Prevent Colds and Flu

2. Make a turmeric paste.


Turmeric is an immune-boosting spice. “There may not be a better herb to amp up the immunity needed fight off a flu, as it boasts natural anti-viral properties as well as energy-, mood-, and digestion-boosting properties,” Douillard says. At the first sign of the flu, simply mix together equally parts raw honey and turmeric powder. Take 1 teaspoon of the paste every few hours. “To make the formula more potent, mix 16 parts turmeric to 1 part black pepper and make a paste with raw honey, and you’ve got a pretty amazing remedy,” Douillard says.

Try Simply Organic Turmeric Root

See also 6 Turmeric Beauty Products That Clear Blemishes

3. Burn off toxins with ginger tea.


Ginger tea is good for more than your digestion—it is also a powerful expectorant and helps get rid of phlegm (kapha dosha). “Try a cup of this pungent, warming tea to expel congestion, reduce gas and bloating and support good circulation,” Carlson says. Its robust kick makes it a great caffeine-free choice for burning off mental fog, enhancing alertness, and sharpening focus while bogged down with the flu.” To make your own ginger tea, Carlson recommends steeping three to five slices of fresh ginger in hot water. Note: Anyone with ulcers, inflammatory skin conditions, or bleeding disorders should avoid ginger tea.

Try Traditional Medicinals Organic Ginger Herbal Tea

See also Fresh Ginger Tea Recipe

4. Take Ashwagandha.


This adaptogenic herb has been shown to reduce stress and boost the immune system. “An adaptogen, it helps restore the endurance, energy, and stamina we need to fight the flu,” Douillard says. “It is, however, not a stimulant. It is an herb with overall nervine tonic benefits—energizing the body when it needs it during the day and calming overactive nerves for easy and restful sleep at night.” To help fight the flu, take 500 milligrams of the whole root after meals. Note that it’s always wise to check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

Try Organic India Ashwagandha Supplement

See also 3 Ayurvedic Supplements That Boost Energy

5. Breathe and stretch.


Gentle yoga can help when you’re feeling under the weather. Carlson says that vigorous pranayama is often too irritating when you’re sick, but practicing mindful breathing can clear congestion, enhance circulation, and restore a balanced energy flow throughout your body. Carlson recommends completing one to three minutes of Complete Yogic Breath, or Three-Part Breath (dirgha pranayama) several times per day. Here’s how: “Sit up or lie down with a long, straight spine,” Carlson says. “Direct the inhalation down toward the belly, then take in more breath to flare the ribcage, and finally take in a bit more breath for the upper chest (never force or strain), exhale thoroughly and begin again. The breath may feel heavy and resistant at first, but with mindful repetition, this simple practice can help clear, purify, and lighten the body and mind when most needed.” Once you feel up to it, Carlson says that “gentle, rolling-around-the-floor stretching” can help open up your chest, relieve stiffness, and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.

See also Transform Your Practice with Better Breathing

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


The skin is the largest organ of your body, and it can have up to 1 billion microbes per square centimeter. Not only that, but the sensory neurons on the skin can be aggravated by many different environmental factors, such as weather, stress, travel, clothing, and more. “Applying oil to the skin can calm these neurons and as a result the central nervous system, which needs a full tank of fuel when fighting the flu,” Douillard says. “Oiling the skin can keep the skin microbiome healthy, which in turn supports our immunity and the active communication between the skin microbes, the environmental microbes, the gut microbes and the function of the whole body.”

See also Ayurveda How To: Abhyanga

7. Get more sun to boost immunity.


Sun exposure can do wonders for your immune system. “People who get less sun exposure are twice as likely to get a cough and three times as likely to get a runny nose, compared to those with the most sun exposure,” Douillard says. The reason behind this is vitamin D3, which activates immune-boosting proteins. To make sure you are getting an adequate amount of vitamin D3, spend some time outside or supplement with 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day.

Try NOW Supplements, Vitamin D-3 2,000 IU

See also The Benefits of Vitamin D Supplements—Do You Really Need Them?

8. Do a warm salt water gargle.


This trick is a simple and effective Ayurvedic favorite. Gargling warm salt water not only helps loosen any stubborn mucus in the throat, it also cleans out bacteria and germs. “Dissolve a half teaspoon of high-quality Himalayan salt or sea salt into a half cup of warm water,” Carlson says. “Gargle for at least 30 seconds and repeat twice a day while sick, and at least once a day throughout the week after sickness has cleared up.” Note:Carlson recommends doing this rinse on an empty stomach and checking with your doctor if you are on a sodium-restricted diet. Make sure to clean the cup you use in between rinses to avoid bacteria building up.

Try The Spice Lab Himalayan Salt

See also Self-Care Tip: Take a ‘Five Nectars’ Bath

9. Eat this Ayurvedic superfood.


The flu can really run you down and compromise your immune system, making it harder to fight back against the virus. “The ability to employ your own immunity can be enhanced by delivering the immune-boosting nutrition we need by ingesting one of Ayurveda’s most famous rejuvenating formulas called Chyawanprash,” Douillard says. Chyawanprash has over 40 different herbs and is full of vitamin C and antioxidants needed to help fight off the flu.

Try Himalayan Institute Natural Chyawanprash Herbal Supplement

See also Support Your Immune System: Yoga for Wellness

10. Practice clean cooking.


Combat the flu with healthy food. “Ayurveda treats symptoms with opposite qualities, so when bogged down with thick, heavy, sticky congestion, Ayurveda recommends eating light, clear foods,” Carlson says. Seek out clear broths, clear liquids, and vegetables that take on a translucent quality once they’re cooked, like bitter leeks, bok choy, celery, kale, and asparagus. Avoid foods that might be harder to digest, like meat, dairy, and sticky breads.

See also Elena Brower’s Go-To Recipe for Nourishing Comfort Food

 Want to learn more about your body’s natural needs from John Douillard and Larissa Hall Carlson? Sign up now for our online course Ayurveda 101!

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