Run of the mill kitchen staples like garlic, ginger and chilli offer us more immune protection than you may know. Contrary to the mainstream modern day believer, food IS medicine. With powerful immune bolstering properties, these age old super spices are timeless. Packed with a powerhouse of anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial plant compounds, these superstars can help to protect, prevent and repel the initial stages of infection.
With coronavirus and social distancing restrictions in full swing - now is the time to get resourceful. And what better way to do so than by using regular household produce found in our kitchen cupboards and local greengrocers?
Here are some of the amazing benefits that these understated and under appreciated day-to-day foods offer us.
Note: for the very best results - incorporate at least two of these ingredients into your diet every 2-3 days.
Referred to as the ‘Russian Penicillin’ - the use of garlic for medicinal purposes dates back to Sanskrit records from 5000 years ago. Effective in warding off common infections, garlic has both anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulating effects. It’s linked with increasing macrophage and natural killer cell activity and the production of T and B cells that fight virus infected cells. Garlic has also been shown to stimulate the immune system's ability to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold - the world’s most widespread viral infection. Findings from a large, twelve week study demonstrated taking a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds and upper respiratory tract viral infections by 60% compared to a placebo. Rich in the sulphur-containing compound allicin, garlic has powerful anti bacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties.
- Uses: add fresh garlic to soups, stews or any hot dish in the last minute of cooking. Add raw to freshly homemade hummus. Macerate in olive oil for one week and use in dressings and marinades. Or roast whole and enjoy alongside your evening tatties. Note: for maximum benefits - consume raw.
- Quick and easy hummus dip: puree together one can of chickpeas (400g), three cloves of fresh garlic, two tablespoons of tahini, four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, four tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 4-6 tablespoons of cold water and salt to taste. Optional: add half teaspoon of ground cumin. Add more lemon juice, garlic, salt, or cumin to taste. Sprinkle a dash of paprika or sumac on top for serving - with a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy as a snack with warm pitta bread, toasted rye bread, celery or carrot sticks.
Native to Central America - there are said to be over three thousands varieties of chilli peppers - varying in size, heat, colour, shape and flavour. The plant compound capsaicin - gives chilli its heat factor - and anti-inflammatory, immune stimulating affects. Chillis contain high amounts of vitamin C, betacarotene, B6, iron, and flavonoids etc. which further make them effective in building up our immunity against infection and illnesses. A powerful circulatory stimulant - chilli gets the blood flowing and promotes the circulation of immune boosting compounds, oxygen and other nutrients to vital organs, tissues and cells. A powerful decongestant - chillis are great for breaking down mucus and relieving congestion.
- Uses: A great addition to soups, stews, sauces, stir fries, chilli salsa or bean, chicken or meat chilli con carne. A little goes a long way.
- Immune boosting dressing: add 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger, 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon, 1 tablespoon tamari (or regular soya sauce), 4 tablespoons raw sesame oil, one mashed clove of garlic and a hint of chilli (optional - to your liking). Delicious drizzled over a salad or steamed veggies.
Originates from southeastern Asia, India and China and has been used in mainstream diet for thousands of years. Potent volatile compounds called gingerols give ginger its knockout aromatic pungency and anti-inflammatory affects. It’s most well known for its effectiveness in treating gastrointestinal complaints and inflammatory immune disorders like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. But it ALSO boasts powerful antioxidant, diaphoretic (perspiration inducing), antimicrobial benefits with evidence confirming its effective in helping to treat infectious diseases.
- Uses: ginger can be added to any homemade Indian or Asian style cuisine. It’s also great in soups, dressing or with fish. You can even juice it and drink it as a shot, or add to hot water and enjoy as a tea.
- Ginger, lemon and honey drink: peel and thinly slice one inch of ginger (or more to taste). Add to a mug of hot water with 1/2 squeezed lemon and a teaspoon of honey (or to taste). Let it steep for 5-10 minutes and then strain. Great to sip on when you feel a cold or flu coming on.
Ginger, garlic and chilli are steeped in history and have stood the test of time - for good reason. Incorporating these immune boosting foods into our every day diet is a really simple and proactive way to support our immune health, the health of our loved ones, households and communities at large.
Other great immune supporting foods to eat more of include lemons, red and orange bell peppers, onions, leeks, broccoli, almonds, raw organic coconut oil, grapefruit, limes, green tea, papaya, turmeric, celery, dark green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit and coriander.
For more recipe inspiration, check out Dale Pinnock, the medicinal chef’s famous flu fighting - immune boosting soup.
London naturopath, nutritionist, medical herbalist and BodyTalk practitioner Merran Lusher, ND offers science-based intuitive holistic health consultations and healing for mind, body and soul. Merran consolidates other natural therapies into her treatments including energy work, homeopathy, reiki, dietary and lifestyle advice and much more. She runs a busy weekly remote clinic to clients around the world and also consults across two busy London practices in Chelsea and North London. You can read more about her here.