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Author(s): Nisha Gupta1, Esmil Beliya2, Shubhra Tiwari3, Jai Shankar Paul4, Shailesh Kumar Jadhav5



    1School of Studies in Biotechnology, Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, 492 010 (CG), India
    2Department of Botany, Govt. College, Bichhua, Chhindwara, 480 111 (MP), India
    *Corresponding author:

Published In:   Volume - 3,      Issue - 2,     Year - 2021

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Nisha Gupta, Esmil Beliya, Shubhra Tiwari, Jai Shankar Paul, Shailesh Kumar Jadhav (2021) Combating SARS-CoV-2 and other Infectious Diseases with Enhanced Immunity by Herbs and Spices, and Preventing its Community Transfer via Ancient Indian Traditions and Culture. NewBioWorld A Journal of Alumni Association of Biotechnology, 3(2):13-21.

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NewBioWorld A Journal of Alumni Association of Biotechnology (2021) 3(2):13-21             


Combating SARS-CoV-2 and other Infectious Diseases with Enhanced Immunity by Herbs and Spices, and Preventing its Community Transfer via Ancient Indian Traditions and Culture

Nisha Gupta1, Esmil Beliya1,2, Shubhra Tiwari1, Jai Shankar Paul1*, Shailesh Kumar Jadhav1

1School of Studies in Biotechnology, Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, 492 010 (CG), India

2Department of Botany, Govt. College, Bichhua, Chhindwara, 480 111 (MP), India

*Corresponding author:





India and several other countries are facing the biggest threat to survival due to a novel pandemic called Coronavirus and diseases (COVID-19) which was originated from Wuhan in China in the year 2019. This coronavirus belongs to the group of respiratory viruses (SARS-CoV-2). Its mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets released from the mouth of an infected person while sneezing or coughing. This outbreak has forced to shut down several countries to minimize its community spread. Due to this current lockdown, affected countries are facing several challenges viz. health issues, economical pressure, educational, religious, and social affairs etc. As it can be seen that the world’s biggest pandemic i.e., COVID-19 is spreading at a very high rate and has taken away the lives of innumerable people worldwide since the initial days of its occurrence. Therefore, it is necessary to prevent its social spread to save the lives of many people all over the world. This manuscript deals with several essential ethnopharmacological herbs and spices which can be incorporated in diet to prevent infectious diseases. Also, it will revive the role of ancient Indian tradition, cultures and beliefs in preventing the spread of infectious diseases and thereby decreasing the chances of its occurrence.


COVID-19; Ethnopharmacology; Indian tradition; Infectious diseases; Spices and herbs



Currently, all over the world including India is suffering from the world’s biggest viral outbreak of the year 2019 namely Coronavirus and disease i.e., COVID-19. Coronavirus was firstly originated in Wuhan city, Hubei Province, China in December 2019, the epicentre of this outbreak (Bahadur et al. 2020; Muthusami and Saritha 2020; Rothana and Byrareddy 2020). Thousands of people died globally in a very short period because of being suffering from deadly COVID-19 and it is still in its fatal stages (Liu et al. 2020).

This deadly Coronavirus has been named as the biggest pandemic of the year or “Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)” by the World health organization (WHO) (Kalteh and Rajabi 2020). It has led to a massive loss to mankind all over the world including China, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Iran, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, USA and India etc., and it is still in progress. With each passing day, this viral pandemic is getting worst and out of control. All suffering countries including India has been lockdown to prevent the chances of community transfer for several months and infected people are recommended to live in quarantine ranging from a few days to a month after their treatments. Central, as well as state governments of infected countries, are taking necessary precautions to break this coronavirus chain. Timely guidelines have been provided to normal people for awareness regarding preventive measures.

COVID-19 tracker website ( is available in India to provide information about the total number of coronavirus positive cases and the total number of death and also to provide some preventative measures. Instead of having several medicinal therapies and costly treatments to cure such infections, the major focus should be given to disease prevention because it has been truly said that prevention is better than cure.

India is a nation of various cultures, traditions, civilizations, religions and languages (Worthington and Gogne 2011). It has so many old sayings, remedies, cultures and beliefs since ancient time for the prevention of various infectious diseases. There are scientific reports and findings which proves the positive impact of Indian tradition in avoiding chances of getting infected. The current study will emphasize on some immunomodulating food items including medicinal herbs and spices which serves an efficient alternative for anti-viral therapeutics. This allows them to use as a potential herbal medicine for fighting infectious diseases including COVID-19 by enhancing our immunity when incorporated in our regular diet.

Coronavirus: A novel and fatal respiratory virus

The large, positive-sense single-stranded RNA (26-32 kb) Coronaviruses belong to family Coronaviridae in order Nidovirales, the causal organism of the most common severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) and naturally resides in birds and mammals (Li 2016; Ghosh et al. 2018; Bahadur et al. 2020; Parakevis et al. 2020). It has four genera including Alphacoronavirus, Betacoronavirus, Gammacoronavirus, and Deltacoronavirus (Sivabakya and Srinivas 2020). Out of them, alpha and betacoronaviruses infect mammals, gammacoronaviruses infect birds, and deltacoronaviruses infect both mammals and birds (Li 2016). Coronavirus consists of four structural layers that is made up of protein viz. spike protein (S), membrane protein (M), envelope (E) and nucleocpsid protein (N) from outside to inside (Fig. 1). A crown like appearance is given by the spike protein. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, headache cough, breathing difficulties, tiredness, mucus production, haemoptysis, diarrhoea, and decrease in WBC count (Bahadur et al. 2020; Huang et al. 2020; Koenig 2020; Rothana and Byrareddy 2020).


Fig. 1 Structure of SARS-CoV-2

Life cycle of Coronavirus

The life cycle of SARS-CoV-2 begins when it gains its entry into the host cell via cellular receptor namely Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) which cause some conformational changes in the spike protein (Fig. 2). A protease namely cathepsin (TMPRRS2) along with other proteases digest the spike protein and then facilitates the binding of the host cell membrane with the viral membrane which ultimately helps the virus to enter the host cell via endosomal pathway (Fehr and Perlman 2015). After entry into the host cell, the virus releases its ssRNA into the host cytosol for the translation of the replicase gene which encodes two large ORFs, rep1a and rep1b. The virus operates a slippery sequence (5′-UUUAAAC-3′) and an RNA pseudoknot that results in ribosomal frameshifting from the rep1a reading frame into the rep1b ORF to express both rep1a and rep1ab. These ORFs are then translated into two polyproteins, pp1a and pp1ab (largest). The polyproteins pp1a encodes 11 non-structural proteins whereas pp1ab encodes 16 non-structural proteins (Fehr and Perlman 2015; Shereen et al. 2020). The above mentioned polyproteins are then digested by viral proteases (papain-like proteases (PLpro), and a serine protease, the main protease) to generate individual nsps. Many of these individual non-structural proteins (nsp) gather to form a replicase-transcriptase complex (RTC) to transcribe and translate subgenomic RNAs to form all the viral components which afterward assembled into virions in the ER and Golgi and then transported via vesicles and then released out of the cell via exocytosis (Shereen et al. 2020).

Factors responsible for COVID-19 transmission

There are various intrinsic aspects as well as extrinsic aspects which influences the spread of infectious diseases from one person to another (Fig. 3). Furthermore, climate change has also a major impact on the spread of various infectious diseases and on human health (Xun et al. 2010; Parry et al. 2019).

Indian diet, beliefs, traditions and cultures in alleviating COVID-19 infection

All over the world, infectious diseases are the cause of death of about 25% of people per annum (Kapiriri and Ross 2018). India is a nation of various cultures, traditions, civilizations, religions and languages (Worthington and Gogne 2011). It has so many old sayings, remedies, cultures and beliefs since ancient time for the prevention of various infectious diseases. There are scientific reports and findings which proves the positive impact of Indian tradition in avoiding chances of getting infected.


Tradition of Vegetarianism

In order to prevent various zoonotic diseases, nutrient-rich diet is an essential factor which needs to be taken care of (Gicevic et al. 2019). The origination of COVID-19 is due to the consumption of wild animals which helped in the zoonotic transmission of virus directly from animals to human beings. After unveiling the cause of coronavirus, people are becoming so conscious about their diet. The most effective way to prevent zoonotic infection from origination is to avoid non-vegetarian diet. This outbreak has once again encouraged vegetarian diet which comprises of various nutritious foods which are enriched with high fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein etc. like fruits, green vegetables including spinach (palak), green coriander, drumstick (Moringa oleifera), broccoli, mint, basil leaves, curry leaves, green chili, mandukparni (Centella asiatica), brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), grains, jaggery, honey and unprocessed food.

Fermented foods and beverages are also included in regular diet (Ray et al. 2016). Traditional fermented food preparation is one of the oldest biotechnological processes in which microorganisms play a crucial role by improving the nutritional characteristics by allowing the easier digestion of carbohydrate, enrich body with essential amino acids, vitamins. This amazing benefit of fermented food is that it helps to maintain normal microflora of the gut which is obligatory in avoiding various diseases and also to maintain body homeostasis of the host (Ray et al. 2016). Fermented rice based food products such as idli, dhokla, uttapam, dosa and vada etc. helps to fulfill various ailments related to nutrient deprivation (Tamang 2020). For preventing microbial contamination in cooked food items, appropriate hygiene is maintained while cooking these food items to prevent microbial contamination and thus preventing the occurrence of diseases.

Furthermore, drinking water in a metal vessel especially made up of copper has been scientifically proven that it has so many health benefits like the water stored in a copper vessel for overnight is microorganism free and will enrich our health with stronger immunity, better digestion, and will also help to balance our body fluid’s pH.

Ritual of eating curd

Consuming curd (Dahi) in regular diet rich our gut with healthy bacteria including Lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Furthermore, curd is rich in vitamins, minerals and also has probiotic properties. Hence, curd is highly recommended for patients suffering from diseases and disorders like allergies, atherosclerosis, and gastrointestinal disorders like constipation, indigestion and diarrhoea etc. (Khedkar et al. 2016).


Fig. 2 Life cycle of Coronavirus

Fig. 3 Factors responsible for COVID-19 and other infectious disease transmission



Anti-viral effects of some spices and herbs

Spices as well as herbs are reservoir of various bioactive components which have numerous pharmacological roles (Table 1). They have been used in different forms like oral herbal formulations (decoction or kadha), aqueous and solvent extracts, and in supplementation with various allopathic drugs to either enhance their efficacies or to neutralize the side-effects generated by that drug up to some extent. Several precautionary measures are provided by Ministry of Ayush ( for preventing COVID-19 infection. The guidelines include the herbal decoction (kadha) made up of various herbs and spices like holy basil, cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, turmeric, ginger and coriander, and black paper etc. This was accompanied by oil pulling therapy to clarify nasal passage, various pranayama, meditation and consumption of golden milk twice a day is highly recommended.



Magical herbs and spices in kitchen

Kitchen is full of medicinal herbs which is widely used in cooking like turmeric (Curcuma longa), ginger (Zingiber officinale), garlic (Allium sativum), onion (Allium cepa), black pepper (kali mirch), fennel seeds (saunf), fenugreek (methi), cumin (jeera), ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi), sesame seed or til (Sesamum indicum), flax seed or alsi (Linum usitatissimum), mustard seeds or sarso (Brassica nigra), clove (laung), cardamom (elaichi), asafoetida (hing), tezpata or Indian bay leaf (Cinnamomum tamala), cinnamon or dalchini (Cinnamomum verum), nutmeg (jayphal), coriander (dhania) and saffron (kesar) etc. (Fig. 4). All these herbs and spices helps to cure various human ailments like the common cold, flu, cough, arthritis, headache, fever, bodyache etc. by boosting immune power in the body which makes it capable for fighting and preventing various infectious diseases. A visitor from China namely I-Tsing visited India and studied the various traditional and cultural practices of people living there and described it in his book called “Bharat ki Yatra” (Santram). He studied that the people of India uses various medicinal plants to cure human diseases.

Fig. 4 Various herbs and spices used in Indian kitchen


Immunomodulating food items

It is mandatory to fulfill all the nutritional requirement of an individual to stay fit and disease-free. There are varieties of food items which are the reservoir of vitamins, minerals essential amino acids, and micronutrients which help to modulate our immune system and thereby decreasing the chances of infection (Table 1).

The Hindu ritual of yagnas, pooja and havan (traditional fumigation technique)

In ancient time people use to do various kinds of pujas and yagnas by sublimating havansamagri which comprises of a mixture of wood like neem stems (Azadirachta indica), chandan (Santalum album), Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), goolar (Ficus racemosa) etc. and dried medicinal herbs like haldi (Curcuma longa), betel nut, betel leaves, dhoop etc. which is mixed with camphor and ghee for burning in fire (Fig. 5) to purify their surroundings by killing microorganisms and to attain the peace which is also described in Rigveda, the most ancient Indian compilation of knowledge. Havan is a type of disinfection technique which can be easily applied to purify and sterilize their surroundings.

Table 1 Immune system modulating food items which ultimately helps in fighting infection

S. No.

Food item

Type of immune modulating activity



Syzygium aromaticum


Inhibits NF-κB activation and also Inhibits viral DNA polymerase and hence synthesis of HSV-1 and HSV-2.

El-SaberBatiha et al. 2020



Curcuma longa






Inhibiting NF-κB signaling pathway and improves pulmonary inflammation caused by influenza virus.

Inhibits infection causing capacity of ZIKV and CHIKV.

As curcumin is lipophilic it can alter membrane fluidity and thereby decreasing binding capacity of virus to receptor.

Mounce et al. 2017; Xu and Liu 2017



Allium cepa


Act as a virus (hepatitis virus, poliovirus, influenza virus, HIV virus, and SARS virus) inhibitor via preventing viral replication by blocking its receptor binding and also prevents virus assembly for the formation of new viruses.

Sharma 2019


Allium sativum


Effecting in treating several viruses such as Rhinoviruses, HIV virus, HSV, viral pneumonia and rotaviruses via stopping virus multiplication, prevents the release of TNF-α, IL-6, blocks  NF-κB signaling.

Sharma 2019


Zingiber officinale


Inhibit viral protein (G and F) of HRSV and hence prevent them from attachment and entering in host body. It also stimulates IFN-β secretion.

San Chang et al. 2013




(Litchi chinensis)

Good anti-oxidative property by killing superoxide radicals, anti-tumorous by up-regulating apoptotic genes like Bax protein and caspase-3, cell-cycle regulating genes (CDK-inhibitors) and down-regulating the signaling pathway associated with cancerous cell.

Emanuele et al. 2017



(Actinidia chinensis)

Antimicrobial activity by releasing β-defensins and promoting opsonization of bacteria, enhance IFN-γ and NK cell activity, cytokine secretion by upregulation of IL-2 by binding of polyphenols of kiwifruit to γδ TCR.

Skinner et al. 2013



Dates fruit

(Phoenix dactylifera)

Anti-inflammatory properties by suppressing NF-κB, modulate cytokine secretion, prevents lipid peroxidation by inhibiting COX1 & COX2, act as an antioxidant by damaging free radical and thereby preventing disease progression.

Rahmani et al. 2014



Dairy products

Resist infection by improved gut health via enhanced amount of B cells, NK cells, APC, CD4+, CD25+, and CD8+, CD25+ in peripheral blood cells.

Wu et al. 2019




(Spinacia oleracea)

Act as a scavenger of free radicals, inhibit COX-2, down-regulate action of NF-κB, prevents association of cyclin A and CDK-2 by enhancing CDK inhibitor (p21cip1) during G1/S cell cycle progression which prevents phosphorylation of Rb gene and thereby no synthesis of E2F-1 factor and hence promote cell cycle arrest in cancerous cell.

Roberts and Moreau 2016


Jaggery (gur)


Act as a lung cleanser by translocation of the dust, coal and smoke particles from lungs in occupational labours,

Sahu and Saxena 1994




(Ocimum sanctum)


Immunomodulatory action by up-regulating secretion of IL-2, IFN-γ and TNF-α and down-regulating IL-1β which is responsible for invasiveness of tumor cells, inhibit NF-κB pathway and hence act as an anti-inflammatory herb.

Hemalatha et al. 2011



Gotu Kola

(Centella asiatica)

High anti-oxidative property, inhibit AChE levels and hence suppressing Alzheimer’s disease and inflammation

Hafiz et al. 2020




Antibacterial property, stimulate wound healing by suppressing reactive oxygen intermediate and hence act as an anti-inflammatory agent, stimulate synthesis of cytokine TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6 by blood monocytes.

McLoone et al. 2016


Note: Nuclear factor kappa B ( NF-κB ),  SARS- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome ,HSV- Herpes Simplex Virus,  ZIKV- Zika virus, CHIKV-  Chikanguniya virus,  HIV- Human immunodeficiency syndrome, HRSV- Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus, NK-Natural killer, IL-2 Interleukin-2, TCR- T- cell receptor, COX-cyclooxygenase enzymes, AChE- acetylcholinesterase


Fig. 5 Various things used in havans and yagnas (A- dhoop, B- havansamagri, C- camphor)

Fig. 6 Lifestyle changes for the prevention of community spread of COVID-19

Behavioral roles of Indian cultures and traditions in preventing the community transfer of COVID-19

There are various lifestyle measures since ancient time which can be so helpful in breaking the chain of spread of infectious diseases (Fig. 6). Several influential remedies for preventing the spread of infectious diseases including COVID-19 have been incorporated in this manuscript.

The Indian tradition of touchless greetings

Corona outbreak has given rise to a new etiquette i.e., touchless greetings ‘Namaste’ which is very common in Indian culture and tradition. Indian culture has a habit of folding of their hands together for greeting, or in prayer, or as a symbol of respect for someone, which indirectly taught us to maintain the hand hygiene rituals (Khuan et al. 2018).It has revived the ancient Indian tradition to do namaste instead of shaking hands which directly provides a medium for the microbial transmission which are responsible for various diseases. Hand hygiene should be performed frequently to avoid colonization of microorganisms in our body for example, washing of hands is necessary before having anything in our mouth to avoid entry of pathogens inside the body (Allegranzi and Pittet 2009; Khuan et al. 2018).

Tradition of personal hygiene

 Lives of thousands of human have gone and countries are suffering from financial losses because of the most common healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Prevention of HAIs can be done through proper hand hygiene which also reduces the rate of mortality and cost of medical facilities (Khuan et al. 2018). We should always wash our hands and feet just before entering our homes after coming from our workplace to prevent microorganisms from getting inside the house. We should wash our hands properly whenever we are having our meal. It is also mandatory to wash our hands after changing diapers of children in order to avoid infection arises due to faecal matter (Curtis et al. 2003). A minimum of 20-30 seconds of hand wash should be done with either soap or water or with alcohol-based sanitizers helps in killing germs.

The Indian tradition of fasting

 Fasting or the intermittent fasting is being followed since ancient times. In fasting, individual do not eat anything for a definite time interval. Fasting duration of an organism allows them to repair their biological machinery and to withdraw energy more efficiently when food is consumed (Longo and Panda 2016). In Indian culture, fasting is not a compulsion, but is generally advised to achieve peace and purity of mind. Fasting has been scientifically proven by various researchers for contributing to a range of physiological functions such as autophagy of cells (‘self-eating’) which is increased due to fasting which was proven by Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan who Wins Nobel Prize for the same, scientific reports and findings also supports fasting. I-Tsing also reported the importance of fasting for human being. He reported that continuous fasting for some days (usually 4-5 days) is beneficial in treating diseases. Various scientists have also proved the positive impact of fasting by conducting experiments in various animal models and also in cell lines and concluded that fasting can inhibit cancer cells and ageing, autophagy, eliminating pathogens, weight loss, improved blood sugar levels and brain functions, and cleansing of cells from insides etc.

Tradition of ‘Pranayama’, ‘Surya namaskara’ and meditation

The people across the world follow so many health and fitness-related ritual especially in the morning to keep their physical and mental health free from diseases, stress and anxiety. They perform a different kind of yoga, asana and various exercises since ancient times. I-Tsing also described the health benefit of physical activities like walking, jogging. Performing the ‘Surya Namaskar’ (Sun Salutation) every morning gives so many health benefits like it reduces the tension from body and mind, rejuvenates the physical and mental body, improves blood circulation, regulates breathing pattern and enriches our central nervous system. The scientific explanation behind this is that by doing pranayama and yoga body heals itself through various machinery and gives us so many advantages like it lowers the blood pressure and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, maintains healthy body weight, improves the physical state of cancer patients, eliminates stress and anxiety from the mind, brings peace and calmness to our soul and strengthens our lungs and hence improves respiration etc. (Sengupta 2012).

Tradition related to pregnant ladies and with the new-born

There is one normal nutrition-related conviction that during pregnancy ‘hot’ nourishments is destructive and 'cold' food sources are advantageous. The possible explanation behind this is that during pregnancy there is a rise in the overall internal body temperature so, for normalizing purposes, it is advised to eat cold food instead of hot food (Choudhry 1997). Additionally, hot nourishments are supported during the most last month of pregnancy to ease labour pain. 

Secondly, quarantine of new mother and child for few days from gathering places just after the delivery, to prevent them from expose to outer contamination and which reduce the chances of infection to new baby and mother. The mother after delivery prefers to live at her parental house to get complete rest and nutritional care. After the delivery, the new mother has been massaged with a special kind of oil by a midwife to relieve her body pain and the main focus is given to her diet. Her diet includes high protein and vitamins enriched foods like dry fruits, green vegetables, fruits, milk and ghee as it is believed that ghee enhances the quality of breast milk.

Indian ritual of bathing after funeral (sanitization of whole body) after funeral

People after attending the funeral follows a habit of bathing to wash off the whole microorganism from their body which prevents all those microorganisms from entering into the houses. A scientific explanation behind this is that funeral places are treated as contaminated spot, since all individuals, regardless of their wellbeing condition, are permitted to visit in the funeral. Because of that, the air around it is fully contaminated with infectious germs. Also, when an individual is dead, their body becomes unresponsive to pathogens and as a result body starts decaying. The individuals who attend funeral come in direct contact with the dead body and henceforth directly to the microorganisms. Chanakya, one of the world's most popular researchers, clarifies that it is significant for people to wash or tidy up themselves whenever they are attending the funeral.


The best way to stay fit and healthy is to prevent infectious diseases as much as possible. There are so many remedies or changes which can be incorporated in daily life through which one can remain fit and fine without costing a penny. All these dealings regarding various herbs and spices or various changes in lifestyle have numerous scientific evidences given by many of the researchers, scientist as well as biologists. This manuscript has dealt with all those measures through which we can prevent the spread of fatal infectious diseases which cause massive loss to mankind. This manuscript may encourage the people living in worldwide for a little change in their lifestyle to live healthy and disease-free. The study strongly supports that herbs and spices have tremendous anti-viral properties which allows them to use as a potential herbal medicine for fighting infectious diseases by enhancing our immunity when incorporated in our regular diet to inhibit viral diseases like COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Also Indian cultures and traditions play a major role in preventing the social spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.


The authors acknowledge School of Studies in Biotechnology, Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University Raipur, Chhattisgarh for providing facilities to conduct this study. Authors also acknowledge Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, New Delhi, for providing financial support as DBT-JRF fellowship to author Nisha Gupta during the tenure of this study (Sanction no. DBTHRDPMU/JRF/BET-20/I/2020/AL/319). Authors also acknowledge DST-FIST for financial support to School of Studies in Biotechnology Pt. RSU Raipur, Chhattisgarh (Sanction No. 2384/IFD/2014-15, dated 31.07.2014).

Funding information not applicable.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest All authors declare that they have no any conflicts of interest in any part of this study.

Ethical approval This article does not contain any studies with human and animal participants performed by any of the authors.


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