Doctors might tell you – especially if you suffer from an illness or disease that compromises your immune system - that there’s nothing you can do to boost your immunity, and you and your body is essentially on its own.
Traditional doctors, however, rarely think of the healing power of food. If they were in tune with the relationship between nutrition and health, physicians would be telling you to turn to your spice rack to make a difference in not only how you feel, but also how you heal.
“All those spices and herbs in your spice rack can do more than provide calorie-free, natural flavorings to enhance and make food delicious. They’re also an incredible source of antioxidants and improve your health at the same time,” said Suzanne Somers, the former star of the sitcom “Three’s Company” who for a time was well-known for her Thigh Master exercise equipment.
Winter is the season when our immune systems are challenged by a war zone of enclosed spaces, contaminated door handles and sneezing and coughing people around every seemingly innocuous corner.
While you can hide in your home for the season, it’s not a truly practical solution. But changing up your meals by including immune-boosting spices from your spice rack is.
Cayenne kicks a cold
Cayenne is packed with antioxidants, which help build your immune system, providing big-time protection against cold and flu season.
It is also an anti-inflammatory, so it can help sooth pain receptors, easing the aches that are often associated with influenza. If you consume enough of it, you’ll likely sweat more, speeding the release of toxins and preventing that cold from sticking around.
Cayenne tea: Mix together ¼ cup boiling water, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and the juice from a wedge of lemon.
Cinnamon’s an antioxidant superstar
Whether you stir it into your oatmeal or add it to tea, cinnamon is one of the most power-packed antioxidants in your spice cabinet.
One teaspoon contains as many antioxidants as a cup of pomegranate juice, which at least as far as the media is concerned, reigns as the red queen of the antioxidant world.
Detoxifying cinnamon not only helps fight free radicals, reducing inflammation and signs of aging, it also helps boost the immune system thanks to antibacterial properties as well.
Cinnamon can help stop colds and flu in their tracks, so while the rest of the office is suffering through sniffles and sneezes, you’ll be the picture of health (unless of course you share your spice-friendly tips to keep coworkers safe, too).
And if you do manage to succumb to a cold or flu, cinnamon can help speed the infection’s departure, leading to a faster recovery.
Cinnamon Tea: Add a few cinnamon sticks and some fresh slices of ginger to your tea while it steeps, removing them before you drink it. Add honey and lemon to taste to help relieve congestion and ease the symptoms of a cold or flu.
Take in more turmeric
An expert speaking to Joe and Terry Graedon on “The People’s Pharmacy” once talked about turmeric as the epitome of healthy spices thanks to the antioxidant content of the bright yellow spice.
That expert was not the only one to recognize the common ingredient in curry – and the secret ingredient that gives mustard its sunshine yellow color – has big immune-boosting health benefits.
According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, turmeric’s army of antioxidants helps increase levels of a protein that give the immune system the strength to more effectively fight off bacteria and viruses.
Those antioxidants can also help slow free radical activity, so your immune system isn’t compromised and can function more effectively.
Coriander makes immune system stronger
Most of our body’s immune system exists in our gut, so if you have digestive issues, you could be compromising the good bacteria that are on hand to keep our immune system strong.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, digestive woes can contribute to a weak immune system, but coriander seeds can ease them. That means good gut bacteria – the probiotics that make up our immune system – can multiply.
Coriander seeds have been used in Chinese, Indian and European medicine for centuries to treat stomach disorders, thanks to the natural components of the seed’s oil, including linalool.
Coriander is also packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals, accentuating the immune system-boosting benefits of a healthier digestive system.
Cardamom’s both exotic and healthy
Adding cardamom – a slightly sweet, distinctive spice - to breads, cookies and oatmeal (in powder form) or in tea (in pod form) can help keep you healthy the entire winter cold and flu season.
It also helps alleviate symptoms, especially so the cough and sore throat associated with both bronchitis and colds.
It is most effective in a tea, although powdered cardamom can be slipped in almost anywhere you might use powdered ginger.
Cardamom Immune Booster Tea: Steep four cardamom pods, four black peppercorns, one cinnamon stick, four whole cloves and four slices fresh ginger in 2 ½ cups water in a small saucepan over low heat for 30 minutes. Don’t allow the mixture to come to a boil. When steeped, strain out the spices and add two tablespoons of honey to the tea.