Delhi Pollution Making You Cough? Experts Agree Jaggery Can Help

Delhi’s air pollution problems have reached an all-time high in recent days with the Air Quality Index (AQI) consistently crossing the 450 mark, which is almost 10 times the acceptable limit. Children are being kept home from school, people are making every excuse to stay indoors and visibility in most parts of the city is negligible. But aside from the lifestyle hindrances, this new wave of smog has brought on a host on potential new health concerns for city residents and visitors alike.

When breathing the air outside is being compared to smoking 25-30 cigarettes a day, it’s no surprise that sore throats, lung infections and general breathing issues are on the rise. “When we inhale dust and particles, the body anatomically has a defence mechanism to cough and remove it,” says Nisha Singh, (Gold Medallist) Clinical Nutritionist & Sports Dietitian, Founder of NutriWellness and certified Ayurveda Dietitian. “And when there’s an onslaught of these, it goes into the lungs and settles there affecting the lining of the throat, lungs and upper respiratory tract.” 

Of course, there’s not exactly a way to avoid breathing in situations with high pollution but there are some measures you can take to protect your body from harmful pollutants, and one effective addition to your arsenal is organic jaggery.

How Can Jaggery Help With Respiratory Health

Jaggery has long been touted in Indian medicine as a powerful healer and modern studies have confirmed that its not just an old wives tale. According to a study by G.P Rao and P. Singh, Jaggery is a nutraceutical (nutritional pharmaceutical) due to its content of micronutrients, essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. The health benefits of jaggery are linked to the presence of these micronutrients and polyphenols and it’s also thought to function as an antioxidant due to the presence of selenium which can detoxify free radicals from our bodies.  

There are also a lot of links to Ayurvedic beliefs in jaggery which are still popular today. “In ancient times jaggery has been used to heal respiratory issues. So from the perspective of Ayurveda, they say jaggery is warm in nature,” says Nisha Singh. “ Which means it could help expel foreign particles from the body.” The way you use jaggery also affects the benefits you get from it. “For example, if you soak jaggery in water and use it will cool and rehydrate, but if you overdo the jaggery intake – because it is hot in nature – it will cause issues. But when used correctly, it’s an expectorant and helps expelling phlegm from the system.”

This expectorant effect was observed in a study by the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre in Lucknow, India where it was found through experimentation that “jaggery and its constituents are capable of enhancing the defence mechanisms of the lungs and protecting them against lesions induced by dust particles.” In a recent Instagram post, Food Consultant Sangeeta Khanna also stood by the potential of jaggery as a balm for throat and lung issues saying that a small piece could ease irritation and allergy symptoms by clearing the particles in the respiratory system.

How To Consume Jaggery For Respiratory Health

Firstly it should be noted that these health benefits can only be attributed to organic jaggery, not mass-produced jaggery that undergoes high levels of processing and treatment. “Modern nutrition tells us that organic jaggery from smaller towns where the traditional method of making is used you’ll get a whole lot of micronutrients like iron, potassium and more which can neutralise acidity and much more,” says Nisha. 

Here are a few ways she recommends using jaggery: 

  1. The first way Nisha recommends adding jaggery to your diet is simply as it is. One teaspoon twice a day as part of your routine of having lunch and dinner. From the Ayurvedic perspective, she adds that starting your meal with a bite of jaggery can stimulate digestion and reduce acidity. 
  2. The second way that Nisha recommends, and the method she uses when she has respiratory tract issues is by warming a bit of jaggery in ghee, adding two pinches of turmeric, a pinch of black pepper and a pinch of dry ginger powder and mixing them well. She recommends this mixture 2-3 times a day or up to 4 for a severe case.

Possible Side Effects

Despite its many health benefits, jaggery is still a natural sugar and when consumed in excess, it could lead to increased blood sugar levels so anyone with diabetes or a family history of diabetes should use jaggery with caution. Also, due to the hot potency as per Ayurveda, Nisha recommends that anyone who deals with heavy periods or is going through menopausal hot flashes should use jaggery sparingly and consult with their medical healthcare provider if there are any doubts.