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Protecting Immunity Part Two: Anti-microbial spices - why we need them

Continuing in this series I have been looking at some of the more commonly used anti-microbial spices and related research pre and post COVID-19 on their protective anti-viral effects.

Medicinal plants have been known to provide the essential raw material for the majority of antiviral drugs in use today. Used in their whole natural form the powerful properties of these spices provide a very safe and effective way to keep our immune system strong and active, ready to fight off viral attacks.

I found many COVID-19 research studies listing viral inhibiting plants from across the world, most of which seem to provide beneficial actions to the protective tissue lining, the mucus membrane, of our respiratory system. I detail below the key research themes emerging from three commonly used spices below.


Cinnamon has been used and recorded in just about every traditional medicine culture across the world. In Traditional Chinese medicine its use is for colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma and digestion and has a quality that is said to strengthen the circulation and blood vessels. More recently studies have proven its inhibitory effect against SARS-CoV, the virus that causes severe respiratory syndrome (SARS) associated with COVID-19. It’s understood that the antiviral activity of Cinnamon is due to the inhibition of viral replication (Zhuang 2009). Clinical trials have shown efficacy against several viruses including Epstein-Barr virus.

As well as blocking viral and bacterial growth Cinnamon also suppresses inflammation and helps to regulate blood sugar. A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of The Endocrine Society, showing that cinnamon lowers fasting blood sugar in prediabetes, is proposing its use as a strategy to prevent progression to type 2 diabetes (Romeo 2020).

When diabetes can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, this spice becomes a pretty impressive friend to have in your cupboard.

Cinnamon is an easy to use spice, it needs no preparation and can be added to many different foods such as on breakfast porridge, to steamed or stewed fruit, and included in your baking, taken as a tea and sprinkled into to a drink or smoothie. It complements the flavour of sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash very nicely. Ceylon Cinnamon is believed to have a more refined and subtle flavour. Aim to incorporate a teaspoon of this great tasting spice every day.


Ginger was mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings and has long been used for its medicinal properties.

In a detailed study fresh ginger was found to have anti-viral properties against respiratory virus in the airway tissue by blocking viral attachment (Chang 2013). Interestingly, another report highlighted that fresh ginger, rather than the dried version, proved more effective in repairing damage to lung tissue (Shirpoor 2017). Several other clinical studies have suggested that use of ginger, both fresh and dried, could have beneficial effects in individuals with pulmonary problems, as well as those having respiratory inflammatory conditions, all of which increase COVID‐19 infection rates (Thota 2020). A further study validated the use of dried ginger in respiratory disorders such as asthma, suggesting that ginger reduces allergic airway inflammation by supporting the immune defence response (Khan 2015).

Peel mature ginger and chop or grate into your dish. Young ginger doesn’t require peeling as the skin is very thin.

It’s best to add fresh ginger to the dish towards the end of cooking to retain the nutrients. Dried ginger is best added at the beginning of the cooking process allowing the heat to bring out its flavour.

Fresh ginger works really well added to chicken and fish and combined with tamari soy sauce and olive oil with fresh garlic to make a fabulous dressing. An easy way to include fresh ginger is to cut a 2” piece and use in your daily smoothie. Dried ginger is very versatile and can be added to sweet and savoury dishes – great in butternut squash soup and poached pears (see recipes below), and baked foods so it’s really easy to get this spice into your cooking.

One of the added benefits of using ginger to boost your immunity is that is works wonders on digestive complaints reducing intestinal gas and cramping, but that’s not all, it’s also regarded as cardiovascular and neuro protective owing to its strong anti-inflammatory properties. Aim for one teaspoon of this spice, or a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger each day to benefit from these protective actions.


Turmeric is a concentrated source of the phytonutrient curcumin which has well documented anti-inflammatory properties. In fact in numerous studies the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin have been shown to be comparable to potent prescription and over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines giving rise to its medical nickname of “cure-cumin”.

Turmeric has been shown to inhibit many different types of virus by blocking viral multiplication (Praditya 2019). Its anti-inflammatory actions are also being proposed (Manoharan 2020) as COVID-19 protective through its positive effects on damaged respiratory tissue. This inflammation lowering action is also believed to support positives results in the reduction of raised blood pressure.

Turmeric also provides an excellent supply of manganese a mineral regarded for the protection it provides to tissue, helping to form collagen, a structural component of skin.

Traditionally Turmeric is one of the key ingredients in curry power. As well as using it in stews to give a spicy curry flavour it can be added to complement the taste of lentils and cauliflower and to egg salad, omelette or scrambled egg to give a bold yellow colour. On rice or in soup it provides a warm and fragrant addition.

Aim to use plenty of Turmeric in your cooking, 3 - 4 teaspoons a day is perfectly fine. The rule of thumb is that there are 200 milligrams of curcumin in one teaspoon of fresh or ground Turmeric. 500 to 1,000 milligrams of curcumin is considered an anti-inflammatory dosage. There are no reported health risks to taking Turmeric.

Scroll down to try some spicy, winter warming, immune protective recipes.

If you believe you have COVID-19 symptoms please contact your GP. If you have chronic long term health concerns you would like to discuss, in relation to a personalised nutritional programme, please contact Henley Nutrition: 07831 120423


  • Chang, J. (2013) ‘Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines.’ J Ethnopharmacol 145(1):146-51.

  • Khan, A. (2015) ‘Zingiber officinale ameliorates allergic asthma via suppression of Th2-mediated immune response’ Parm Biol 53(3): 359-67.

  • Khuang, M. (2009) ‘Procyanidins and butanol extract of Cinnamomi Cortex inhibit SARS-CoV infection.’ J.antiviral.02.001.

  • Manoharan, Y. (2020) ‘Curcumin: a Wonder Drug as a Preventive Measure for COVID19 Management’ Indian J Clin Biochem 35(3): 373-375

  • Praditya, D. (2019) ‘Anti-infective Properties of the Golden Spice Curcumin’ Front Microbiol. 10:912

  • Romeo, G. (2020) ‘Influence of cinnamon on glycemic control in subjects with prediabetes: a randomized controlled trial’. Journal of the Endocrine Society,

  • Shirpoor, A (2017) ‘Ginger extract attenuates ethanol-induced pulmonary histological changes and oxidative stress in rats.’ J Biomed Res 31(6): 521-527.

Turmeric Lemon Salmon

2 Salmon cutlets or steaks

20 grams fresh grated ginger

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Juice from 1 lemon

2 whole lemons

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Parsley to garnish

How to prepare:

  • Heat the oven to160C fan/gas 4

  • Place the salmon steaks/cutlets in an oven proof dish

  • Grate the ginger and mix with the juice of half a lemon, oil and turmeric powder, pour half over the salmon

  • Slice the remaining two lemons and arrange on top of the salmon and pour the remaining juice on top. Add two tablespoons of water to the dish away from the salmon to create steam while cooking and cover with foil or parchment paper

  • Place in the oven for 20 minutes

  • Remove from the oven and spoon over the juice in the dish

  • Service with chopped parsley

Good accompaniment: 3 minute steamed asparagus and homemade pesto sauce

Serves two, easy to cook

Preparation and cooking time 30 minutes

Per serving 373g:

623 Kcal, 57 grams of protein

High source of vitamin D, 116% of recommended intake, 5.8 ug

High source of vitamin B12, 158% of recommended intake, 3.9 ug

Good source of Selenium, 33% of recommended intake, 18.4 ug

Low glycaemic load, suitable for type 2 diabetics

Henley Nutrition / Nutritics

Per 100g: 106 Kcal

Butternut and Ginger Soup - suitable as a Vegan dish

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

A small bunch of coriander

2” piece of ginger

1 large butternut squash

400ml unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

Small pinch of crushed chilli flakes

2 limes

Garnish, optional handful of toasted coconut flakes (toast ahead of using)

How to Prepare:

  • Peel ginger and thinly slice, combine with chopped onions and garlic and sweat in a pan with the oil on a low heat for 5 minutes

  • Add to the pan peeled and sliced squash to 1” thick with 700mls of water to just submerge the squash. Separate a little coconut milk for garnish and add the rest to pan with a small pinch of dried chilli flakes. Simmer with the lid on, on a low, for 15 minutes. Add the chopped coriander and simmer for a further 5 minutes, reducing the cook time will retain the goodness of this herb.

  • Carefully blend then stir in the juice of the limes and serve with the remaining coconut milk and a sprig of coriander with coconut flakes if you like this.

  • Add a little salt if you need to.

Serves 4, easy to cook

Preparation and cooking time 30 minutes and can be prepared ahead of time

Per serving 281g:

310 Kcal, 3.2 grams of protein

High source of vitamin A, 25% of recommended intake

Low glycaemic load, suitable for type 2 diabetics

Henley Nutrition / Nutritics

Per 100g: 106 Kcal

Cinnamon and Ginger Poached Pears

3 large pears, 540 grams

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ glass of fresh apple juice

1 pint of water

Cinnamon stick – optional

Three whole cloves – optional

1 star anise – optional

How to prepare:

  • Wash and peel the pears, slice and place into a large pan

  • Pour over apple juice and water and add cinnamon and ginger

  • Optional: add a stick of cinnamon, three whole cloves and a star anise to add beautiful flavour. These look fantastic when you serve

  • Place the lid on the pan and simmer on a low heat for 10 – 15 minutes

Serve with kefir yogurt and some chopped nuts for extra nutritional value

Serves 4, easy to cook

Preparation and cooking time 15 – 20 minutes

Per serving 291g:

81 Kcal,

Low glycaemic load, suitable for type 2 diabetics

Henley Nutrition / Nutritics

Per 100g: 28 Kcal

If you would like more health supporting advice please contact:

Henley Nutrition 07831 120423


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