People living in the northern part of India are reeling under the impact of breathing polluted air for the past couple of months due to a variety of reasons, ranging from crop residue burning to vehicular pollution. October and November are the worst months of air pollution. The air we breathe is harmful not only for our lungs but for the whole body. The polluted air that we inhale comprises ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, diesel exhaust particles etc., which are harmful for our lungs. The protective antioxidants present in the lining of our lungs fight it out till they are outnumbered, thereafter, the pollutants start attacking the immune and body cells producing free radicals and causing inflammation. Other than using N90 masks or avoid going out altogether, there are ways you can protect rather strengthen yourself from the harmful effects of air pollution. Consuming nutrient-rich foods is one of the ways to help our body combat this threat.
Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, carotenoids and minerals like Magnesium, Calcium and omega-3 fatty acids all are well-established lung nutrients; they help lungs stay healthy and maintain the integrity of lung tissues. Eating a variety of seasonal foods will ensure that all these nutrients are present in adequate amounts in your body. However, some foods are better than others when it comes to specific functions or organs. Ayurveda has propagated the use of several herbs, spices and foods for healthy and strong lungs. Let's find out the efficacy of some common Ayurvedic remedies using natural herbs to strengthen our lungs and protect them against air pollution.
Here Are Foods As Per Ayurveda That You May Consume To Combat Air Pollution:
Long used for its ability to relieve symptoms of cough and cold, this root is very effective in strengthening our lungs. Its medicinal use can be traced back 2500 years. It helps breakdown mucous, making breathing easier. It is also associated with increasing the blood circulation to the lungs and reducing inflammation.
How to use: A ginger tea made with honey is an easy way to ingest ginger.
2. Carom Seeds
Also known as Ajwain has several health benefits- it improves digestion, helps expel excess gas and prevents gas formation. Rich in fibre, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals, emerging scientific evidence is showing that Ajwain is a strong antifungal and antibacterial action. It is also found to improve airflow to the lungs and have an anti-coughing effect.
How to use: Add it to your chapati dough. Soak 1 teaspoon in 1-litre water overnight and drink it 1 glass at a time.
Rich in the lung vitamin, Vitamin C and compounds like Camphene, Eugenol and Cineole, Tulsi is been used for treating lung infections and damage. It is said to heal damages caused by smoking, so this makes it a perfect must-have for protection against air pollution. The holy basil is said to be purifying- it is kept at homes and around temples because of its ability to purify the air. So in addition to eating its leaves, we must also grow it in our homes.
How to use: each family has its own personal recipe. The easiest is making an infusion with ginger, tulsi and honey or gur.
Fruit of piper longum, also called long pepper, is considered the queen of spices for respiratory health. It has long been used for rejuvenation of lungs and respiratory system in Ayurveda. Pippali is also shown to have very strong anti-inflammatory properties, helping control the oxidative stress brought about by air pollution.
How to use: 2-3 gms boiled in 2 cups of water and taken 1tsp at a time as per Ayurveda, but the suggestion is to consult a practitioner for the correct dose.
Triphala calms the imbalance in the three doshas, according to Ayurvedic literature. By doing so, it helps in strengthening the immune system of our body and protects us from the ill effects of pollution.
How to use: 1 tsp of Triphala powder with 1 teaspoon of honey is what is mostly recommended.
Here Are Some Home Remedies To Other Air Pollution-Related Illness:
- Burning/Itchiness of the eyes: Ayurveda recommends that we can apply cotton wool dipped in cow's milk on our eye lids for 5 minutes each three times a day. Another way to soothe our eyes is to make a poultice of Licorice + Turmeric and rose petal, all powdered. Dip this in milk and apply to your eyelids externally.
- Nasal Irritation can be overcome with a nasal rinse of Licorice and turmeric water. Applying two drops of coconut, sesame, almond oil or ghee in the nasal cavity also helps to breathe easy, according to the Ayurveda.
- Skin may also be irritated by air pollution. Applying oil of Arjun bark or Cedar bark helps. A paste of Sandalwood, Manjishtha and rose water on the skin also alleviate itchiness. And, of course, a hot water bath works the best
We all need to come together as a society to combat this yearly menace to our health. While consuming the above-mentioned herbs and spices will help, planting trees like neem, peepal and plants like tulsi, we can all help in our own small way to save our lives and our environment.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.