Kadha, which is essentially a concoction of herbs and spices, has become one of the most sought-after drinks in the past six months. Prepared in many variations — with pepper, dry ginger, turmeric, tulsi, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg or such commonly found kitchen spices and herbs – it is known to aid the body’s ability to fight infections by boosting immunity. However, as the old adage goes, excess of anything can be harmful, and it is no different when it comes to the immunity-boosting kadha.
According to experts, anything more than the specified quantity can lead to health issues ranging from constipation to an increase in body heat, excessive bleeding during periods and even ‘yellow eyes’.
Recently, endocrinologist Dr M Shafi Kuchay had tweeted about seeing a diabetic patient who had “yellow eyes but no symptoms of any liver disease”. “Bilirubin (a yellowish substance in blood) was normal. Reason: He had consumed two tablespoons of turmeric with water, three times per day, for last two-three months. This was for prevention of #COVID-19,” he said.
Yesterday saw a patient for diabetes. He had yellow eyes but no symptoms of any liver disease. Bilirubin was normal. Reason: He had consumed 2 tablespoons of turmeric with water, three times per day, for last 2-3 months. This was for prevention of #COVID-19. 😄😄
— M Shafi Kuchay (@drshafikuchay) September 2, 2020
While the government and Ministry of Ayush and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi have repeatedly reiterated the need to up one’s immunity through natural remedies including the consumption of turmeric, ginger, tulsi among others, it is essential to note that imprudent consumption can lead to various health issues.
The Ministry of AYUSH presents ‘AYUSH KWATH’ formulation as an immunity-enhancing measure for the public.
Ayush Kwath is a combination of four medicinal herbs commonly used in the Indian kitchen. The formulation has been standardized for commercial manufacturing and pic.twitter.com/46KgH4saUV
— Ministry of AYUSH (@moayush) April 25, 2020
In fact, the AYUSH Ministry on Tuesday also dismissed claims saying it is a “wrong notion” that prolonged consumption of kadha can damage the liver. Addressing a press briefing, Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, secretary, AYUSH Ministry said ingredients like cinnamon, basil and black pepper, which are used in preparing kadha, have a positive effect on the respiratory system. “There is no evidence that kadha damages the liver. It is a wrong notion because the ingredients that go into the kadha are used as masala in cooking at home,” he said adding that studies are ongoing to determine the effectiveness against COVID-19. He also mentioned that such immunity-boosting measures are to be followed in addition to COVID-appropriate behaviour and standard treatment protocol.
However, dietitian Mehar Bakshi stressed, “One must understand that the condiments used in the herbal concoctions are concentrated and can generate excessive heat in the body, which could ultimately lead to detrimental health effects. Frequent consumption of kadha can lead to liver infection and failure”.
She added that indiscriminate usage of such ingredients stems from the “false notion that organic, green, or natural products are safe”. “People think that such herbs cannot cause harm to the body. However, in reality, excess consumption of kadha or any herbal concoctions can lead to many side-effects such as excessive bleeding, digestive issues, acidity, problems in urinating, boils in the mouth, bleeding from the nose,” she said.
“Rather than an increase in the number of patients with heartburn, I have noticed worsening of symptoms in some of my patients with gastro-esophageal reflux who consume kadha in large amounts,” expressed Dr Avnish Seth, director gastroenterology and hepatobiliary sciences at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram and Director, Fortis Organ Retrieval & Transplant (FORT).
It is no secret that products in the name of immunity boosters containing honey, ginger, moringa, green tea, amla (gooseberry), tulsi and saffron have become regular additions to shopping carts, a fact reaffirmed by a June 2020 survey by Pronto Consult that stated how out of every 100 medicine bills, 92 were for immunity-boosting products.
Notably, a 2015-study published in National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) suggested that while herbal preparations owing to their holistic approach strengthen the body’s immune system, which in turn may help the body fight against invading infectious viruses, “a lot of work still remains to be done to determine optimal treatments, doses, and formulae for those herbal preparations.”
As a home remedy, herbal concoctions are not a one-stop solution, said Dr Anjali Sharma, naturopath and yoga expert, Shuddhi Naturopathy Clinic. “Kadha is not a replacement of water. These days some people are seen considering it as some kind of beverage, they can be seen taking it more than twice or thrice a day. Any spice or herb in boiled form is not a kadha. Even types of kadha differ with their ingredients, quantity, types of herbs and health issues,” she remarked.
How much to consume?
Dr Seth also blames the sedentary lifestyle associated with the work from home set-up necessitated by COVID-19 for the “increasing symptoms of reflux”. “One must resist the temptation of lying down immediately after a meal. Ayurvedic concoctions may be good for immunity, but moderation is the key,” he mentioned.
Agreed, Bakshi and said that one must limit the consumption of kadha to gain its maximum health benefits and avoid any potential side-effects. “Drinking a cup of kadha every day is enough for an adult. Contrary to a popular belief, frequent consumption of kadha would not make your immune system strong overnight. However, small dosages of kadha every day combined with a healthy diet and moderate physical activities can do wonders for your body. If you have any serious health risks, then you must consult your healthcare professional before adding kadha as a part of your daily lifestyle,” mentioned Bakshi.
She also suggested one can have kadha on alternate days rather than twice and more each day.
Tips to keep in mind while making herbal concoctions, recommended by Bakshi.
*Add a considerable amount of herbs and spices. If you feel that the kadha is not suiting you, immediately reduce the proportions of all the spices. Measure the quantities. Do not go overboard.
*Avoid adding too much ginger as it causes heartburn
*Just add a pinch of black pepper. Anything in excess could act upon the food pipe causing a burning sensation.
*Avoid adding too much honey as it is much sweeter than the sugar granules, which is again not good for our body.
*Adding excess turmeric can cause dehydration.
*Try to add all the herbs and spices in powder form to get more benefits.