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While raising our six children, I experimented with every type of immune-boosting concoction you could imagine to keep our kids healthy.
One report suggested that kids get sick 6-8 times a year on average.13 With six kids and each cold lasting a couple of weeks, I did the math: six kids x six colds per year x 10 days for each cold = 360 days a year where there was a sick kid on our house. So we declared getting sick unacceptable behavior. I wrote about many of the immune-boosting strategies I used as my kids were growing up in my book Perfect Health for Kids.
Here is one of my all-time favorites: based on an age-old Ayurvedic recipe for immune strength, I would pretend to be a daddy bird squirting castor oil into their mouths with an eyedropper the way a momma bird feeds her young (I think my kids would publicly deny ever being tricked into begging like a baby bird for another squirt of castor oil!). I would also have them lie down on a towel in a line to drop warm, garlic-infused olive oil into their ears to ensure they would stay strong and healthy all winter long—an Ayurvedic remedy called karna purana.
I have to admit, these strategies worked to keep our kids healthy, but the compliance and long-term willingness to let me keep experimenting wore thin over time. After two decades of raising kids, I have come up with a pretty simple, user-friendly plan to keep both kids and adults healthy.
I receive emails asking for immune-boosting strategies on a regular basis, so I’d like to share the regimen that has worked in our home and that I have been recommending to my patients with great success for many years.
The Master Immunity Plan
Starting in the fall, this is the plan I recommend every day:
- Turmeric Plus: Take 1-2 capsules or 500-1000mg per day. To make the formula more potent, mix 16 parts turmeric to 1 part black pepper and make a paste with equal parts ghee and honey.
NOTE: If your child has more kapha in their constitution and is prone to deep congestion, consider our Mucus Destroyer formula instead of Turmeric Plus.
- Ashwagandha: Take 1-2 capsules or 500-1000mg per day. Mix the powder with warm milk and honey for a nourishing and re-building bedtime tonic.
- Vitamin D3: Take 4-5000IU per day.
- Chyawanprash: Take 1 spoonful or more every few hours by the spoonful to boost immunity during times of stress. Many kids and adults also enjoy it stirred into a cup of warm milk.
NOTE: LifeSpa recommends dietary supplements only for children over the age of 4 unless they are suggested by the child’s health care professional.
The Science behind the Immune System Master Plan
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an herb used for thousands of years, and the research continues to be impressive. With over 300 active constituents, turmeric has been found to support the natural production of new brain cells during stress, help lower cortisol levels, increase antioxidant stress-fighting activity, and boost lymphatic circulation.1-4Turmeric is also emerging as an adaptogenic herb for stress-related mood concerns.5
An extract of turmeric has been found to reduce the spread of toxins through lymphatic channels in stressful situations. Turmeric seems to help the body fight toxin build-up locally while decreasing the likelihood that toxins will circulate through the lymph to other areas of the body.6 Turmeric has also been shown to boost the immune system’s response to stress triggers, supporting healthy lymphatic flow during acute stress.7
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb that has many studies showing its stress-mitigating properties.8, 9 An adaptogen is an herb with overall nervine tonic benefits—energizing the body when needed during the day, and calming overactive nerves for easy, restful sleep at night.
As holiday stress can be especially difficult to manage, ashwagandha is a great herb to keep on hand. Ashwagandha may be my favorite herb for kids. It’s easy for kids to get run down from sleepovers, sports, tests, recitals, and social stress without even realizing it, and it all keeps coming at them 24/7.
Vitamin D3 plays a critical role in supporting immunity. Low serotonin levels, linked to seasonal mood imbalances, may be caused by vitamin D levels,10 which often plummet in the winter.
Vitamin D activates genes that protect antimicrobial peptides (AMP), which govern our immune system and support the body’s natural response to the change in seasons.11Vitamin D is converted into its potent form in the respiratory cells, a process that supports healthy lungs and immunity.12
Chyawanprash is an immune-supportive, vitamin C-rich antioxidant herbal paste for both adults and children. I give kids a spoonful with breakfast along with a squirt of liquid D3. With a supporting cast of over 40 organic herbs, chyawanprash is a classic Ayurvedic formula for anyone who needs support during the change of seasons or stressful life transitions.
Chyawanprash helps support the body’s natural ability to remove toxins or ama and boosts ojas, which, in Ayurveda, supports vigor and vitality.
Tips for Kids
It’s helpful if kids can swallow pills, but it isn’t necessary, as these herbs can be poured out of their capsules and mixed with a tiny bit of honey and/or water to facilitate ingestion.
While I have used all kinds of bribery to get my kids to swallow pills, my eldest son developed a trick that worked great for him, so a few years back I wrote a blog on it. Check it out if your children have any trouble swallowing pills–it’s great for adults too!
- Science News. 2006 Nov 11: 312-3.