Ayurvedic Tips for Managing Immunity During the Covid-19 Outbreak

By Anuradha Gupta | Posted: March 09, 2020

What is the impact of panic on our immunity? Can we reduce panic by telling ourselves not to panic? Should we follow a protocol for good health and hygiene only when there is a risk of seasonal respiratory illnesses or when a new contagious disease spreads? 

Prevention is always better than a cure. Given the outbreak of Covid-19, while most of us have read theories or viewed umpteen videos, it’s important to remember that the CDC and the WHO are authoritative sources about the disease, its symptoms, and its prevention. Also, Covid-19 is not classified as a pandemic as I write this article; the difference being that the focus is on containment, and not mitigation. 

See a recap of the WHO’s recommendations in the graphic below. Similar prevention protocols are followed for all respiratory illnesses, including influenza. Additionally, make sure to clean surfaces regularly. Don’t touch your face with dirty hands, and stay home if you’re sick. Wash your hands and feet, and change your clothes when you come back from outdoors--reviving this practice despite our busy, fast paced life would help as well.

Improve your immunity with Ayurveda

Here’s how we can improve our immunity, keeping in mind Ayurvedic principles, and remembering that this is a season for respiratory illnesses. 

  1. Manage your Agni (digestion and metabolism) and avoid the buildup of Ama (toxins) 

  • Avoid cold, processed, heavy, fried, and junk foods, and reduce nightshades, white sugar, and flour. Eat warm, fresh, easy to digest, nourishing food at regular meal times. 

  • It’s very important to stay hydrated; have warm water or water at ambient room temperature, and drink herbal Tulsi or ginger tea, CCF, or cardamom tea

  1. Attend to the three pillars, or trayopstambh, of nutrition, sleep and lifestyle 

  • Besides a healthy diet, adequate sleep and avoiding late nights promotes rejuvenation and healing. Regular yoga, exercise, and breathwork improve vitality and strength. 

  • Alternate nostril and warming breathwork like Kapal Bhati is good in this season, but do be cautious if you have a Vata/Pitta Prakriti/Vikrati. Try full yogic breathing or alternate nostril breathing, which has no contraindications.

  • Follow a dinacharya (daily regimen) that involves drinking a glass of warm water in the morning with lemon and honey (if tolerated well). Do not have honey with hot water, as this combination is incompatible (a virudhahar). Try waking early and oil pulling with sesame oil, or any oil based on your prakriti. A daily Nasya, called Pratimarsa Nasya, with two drops of Anu Taila or sesame oil helps. It is recommended to start this regimen under the guidance of an Ayurvedic professional. Regular, light Abhyanga (self massage) is also strengthening. 

  • In your interactions with people, putting your hands together in Namaste instead of offering a handshake or a hug is a good and safe way to keep your distance. 

  • Specifically for respiratory conditions, where your khavaigunya (weak system) is vulnerable, steaming or sudation (with eucalyptus or tea tree oil or just regular water) and gargling with warm water and salt is great. Using a Neti Pot is good in the Kapha season to prevent respiratory allergies. 

  1. Meditate

  • Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Art of Living, recently addressed 17,500+ people from all over the world. His message was to tell everyone not to worry about Covid-19 Coronavirus, to reassure families that the ‘worldwide spread of this new disease’ will be over, to care for those who have lost a loved one, and to bless those who have passed away. The overriding direction was that as the world deals with this disease, it’s important to improve your immune system and meditate often. 

  • Meditation is a tool to manage the mind, and there are many studies about how it boosts immunity and improves health. There is a concept of psycho-neurological immunology (PNI) in modern medicine; neuro-hormones that enhance immunity, which is similar to Achara Rasayana or rejuvenation through practices like meditation and a positive state of mind. Here are some tips to get started with a daily meditation practice.

  1. Follow a Kapha pacifying protocol in the spring

  • Adopting Ritucharya, or a seasonal regimen, strengthens our health. We are in a transition called Ritusandhi, between winter and spring, and that is when Agni fluctuates and declines; there is a tendency for the buildup of Ama. Follow a Kapha pacifying protocol if you do not have a specific Vikrati

  • In the US, this is the best time to plan a Panchakarma, or even a gentle cleanse at home, where you can follow a light khichdi diet. Ayurveda classifies nutritional inputs as food, breath, water, and sensory perceptions. Unplugging will aid a mental cleanse; rather than following every stressful news report that can cause build-up of psychological ama

  1. Support your health with herbs

  • Turmeric is a natural antibacterial herb that can be added to food (with some pepper that reduces ama). 

  • Amruth, an antipyretic and immunomodulatory, is a Tridosha-pacifying Rasayana (rejuvenator) and one tablet can be taken daily for three months after a meal. 

  • Tulasi Arka has anti-viral properties. 10-15 drops of Tulasi Arka in water twice a day can be taken safely.

  • Sri Sri Tattva’s Shakti Drops are created from a widely-researched formulation and contain the goodness of 8 powerful herbs that are 100 percent certified organic; 6 drops can be taken twice a day to build immunity and boost Ojas

  • For those who take a spoon of Chyawanprash with warm milk or water in the morning or night, this is a good practice to continue. Here is a Sri Sri Tattva video about boosting immunity: 

  • Make sure to consult an Ayurvedic professional before you take herbs. They may advise Immunogen (Sri Sri Tattva), Ojas (KAL), Dashamoola, Amalaki, Trikatu, Sudarshana, Dasamulakatutrayadi Kashayam, Sudarshanasavam or Indukantham Ghritam, or Kashayam, depending on your state and stage of health and Vikrati

  1. Honor nature

  • Ayurveda considers our relationship with ourselves, our family, our community, nature, and the environment as a vital part of our health. Honoring nature and respecting the limits of our biosphere and biodiversity is really important and this was a reminder to us as China banned the consumption of wild animals in January of this year. 

  • We need to address our immunity rather than sterilize our world. By all means, we can sterilize it during this outbreak, but at other times, a natural environment is better for improving immunity--what is dubbed, ‘playing in the dirt’. 

Combatting Coronavirus

WHO has a “Know the Facts campaign” which cautions that we should not consider, say, garlic or spraying alcohol or chlorine on our body as a cure for Coronavirus. We are discussing improving immunity that helps with all diseases; whether our goal is preventing onset or reducing symptoms. 

Ayurveda is a system of medicine in India and alternative medicine in the US. Indeed, our focus is complementary medicine, taking no risks and especially attending to those that are immunocompromised with pre-existing conditions; the elderly, kids, pregnant women, etc. If anyone has symptoms of a respiratory illness, they should call their primary care physician (CDC). While there are different types of Coronaviruses, ranging from common cold to MERS and SARS, Covid-19 is a new virus that we do not have antibodies to. A treatment protocol and vaccination is still being developed, and diagnosis and management is vital . 

The Ministry of Ayush in India, a ministry that deals with traditional forms of medicine (like Ayurveda, Unani, and Homeopathy practiced as mainstream medicine in India), drew criticism for suggesting a preventative protocol for diseases like Coronavirus; while waiting for modern medicine to find a cure, would you rather twiddle your thumbs, or focus on getting healthier? They talked very clearly about boosting immunity, prioritizing prevention, and also about adopting any regimen in consultation with Ayurvedic practitioners. In Ayurvedic advice, they suggested supplementing with herbs, staying hydrated, eating an immunity-boosting diet, and following a regular Dinacharya lifestyle.  

Dr. David Frawley, an authority on Ayurveda, advises boosting immunity with Yoga and Ayurveda, and asserts that the current malady is in the artificial manner by which we live, mentioning “[O]ur air, water, food, urban and technological existence, as well as how we have polluted and damaged our natural environment in many ways from the soil to the sky.” He talks about a breakdown in our individual and collective physical and psychological immunity, and reiterates the importance of getting in touch with the peace of our inner Being. 

Staying healthy and panic-free

Covid-19 news is constantly being updated. Mortality is generally related to pre-existing conditions or vulnerability. Awareness and caution is important, but there is no need to panic. As events and travel are cancelled and the economy slows down, many worry about their basic livelihood. Yet others are relieved as the frenetic pace of life slows down; some talk about conscious economic degrowth – and sustainability. Everyone mourns the loss of lives.

A lot is being done at all levels to contain and manage this outbreak, and that is reassuring. What can we do? When our Ojas and immunity are high, we are less susceptible to disease and the spiral of anxiety and negativity. We live in a global village, and are connected in not just the spread of diseases, but also with information overload and stress. Indeed self-care, resilience and balance are essential in any regimen we adopt going forward. 

 This content on the Art of Living blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any links to third party websites are provided as a convenience only and the Art of Living blog is not responsible for their content. 

 With inputs and discussions; Vaidya Lokesh Raturi, Vaidya Jayarajan Kodikannath, Sejal Shah and Shriram Sarvottam

Read more insightful blogs on COVID-19 at: Coronavirus Information and Help


Anuradha Gupta is an Engineer, MBA and Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor. She has a corporate background and volunteers for Art of Living and other nonprofits. You can find her on Facebook or on LinkedIn.