After a long spell of summer heat, Chennai has cooled down a bit and this is an appropriate time for starting a Home herbal Garden. Increasing pollution and modern day stress, advance aging process, reflected by fine lines in the skin, pain in the knees and weakness. Traditional medicines are time tested and are in use for overcoming stress and ageing and for healthy living. Conventional medical practitioners are increasingly inclined towards herbal medicine. This herbal kit aims to revitalize our traditional medicinal knowledge; to promote herbal awareness at home and to re-introduce safe home herbal remedies particularly for children. This user-friendly kit has been designed by physicians of Centre for Traditional Medicine and Research based on community based clinical experience.
Indigofera tinctoria – Avuri or Neeli
This stiff woody herb grows well with the least care. The leaves as well as the roots are medicinal. They are among the most reputed hepato protective (Liver protection). The leaves contain a blue (INDIGO) dye, and its related and associated compounds are effective in a wide variety of skin diseases including psoriasis and eczema. The leaf or root is converted into 250 mg paste and rolled into a pill. 2 to 3 pills are given everyday. Fresh leaf soaked in equal weight of sesame oil till the leaves turn brittle and the oil takes a purple colour. This oil, when applied on affected part, is good for skin diseases, dandruff, psoriasis etc.
Hibiscus rosa sinensis - Chemparathai ;
A good ornamental garden plant. The leaves and flowers of shoe flower are of cosmetic value, particularly to those women who want to maintain soft silky hair. The dried or fresh leaves along with soap nut powder acts as a hair cleanser conditioner. The red pigments in the flower improve the strength of small blood vessels when consumed internally. A herbal tea made using four dried flowers of red variety, single petal flower could be used to protect against heart diseases.
Cissus quadrangularis – Pirandai
The jointed winged stems are made into chutney with acid lime or tamarind. A good source of Vitamin C and calcium. According to Ayurveda and Siddha medicines, it is good for the bones and heals fractures faster. Researchers have confirmed this and shown that the healing time is reduced by 33% and the bone setting is stronger. It is good for growing children who are weak and thin because it is anabolic. The tender stems are steeped in curd and dried, and to be eaten with food after frying it (Vathal- Pickle). This plant is recommended to prevent and treat post- menopausal osteoporosis patients.
Aloe vera – Sottru Katrazhai
An ornamental succulent, it does well in desert conditions too. The jelly-like substance present in the leaf is separated from the skin and rapidly washed in water to remove the yellow juice, which is irritant. Taken internally it is a cooling agent and heals stomach ulcers and nullifies inflammations.Externally it is a fine wound healer. The jelly when applied on the face, is an effective beauty care agent for a glowing face. The yellow juice from the leaf skin is an irritant and is rubbed on rheumatism-affected joints as a counter irritant. Internally the yellow juice will induce menstruation and trigger abortion.
Bacopa monnieri - Neer Brahmi
This mat forming runner with succulent leaves and purple flowers grows luxuriantly near water bodies and agricultural lands. It also can withstand salinity in water and is seen near industrial effluents drains. The leaves are bitter but help in calming down the mind. It holds promise as an anti-epileptic drug. It is also used as a remedy for polycystic ovary in women. It can be taken as a powder 1gm twice daily or “Brahmi Ghritham”. It is commonly used as Memory enhancer for children.
Plectranthus ambonicus- Omavalli
This succulent and brittle herb with highly aromatic leaves (smells like Ajwon) is grown in many households and used in health care. The leaf juice is a good digestive, appetizer and expectorant-removes phlegm and cures the upper respiratory tract infection. The leaves induce vomiting and removal of phlegm when chewed by people with severe respiratory infection. The “Bajji” made with the leaves during monsoon prevents respiratory infections. Leaf juice is taken from ½ teaspoon to 2 teaspoon with honey depending upon the age of children.
Andrographis paniculata - Nilavembu
This small erect herb prefers to grow in partial shade and good humidity. The plant is called as the “King of bitters” owing to its bitterness. The decoction of the plant is very effective in controlling fever and is a powerful appetite stimulant. The plant is invariably a key ingredient in hepato protective formulations and medicines used to treat skin diseases. Native healers use this plant to treat bites and stings as an antidote. It has been found useful in the treatment of leucoderma also, internally and externally.
Tinospora cordifolia – Seendilkodi
A perennial climber that will grow anywhere. The leaves and stems are reputed immune-modulator. The plant contains principles that are effective anti-bacterials and is used to treat infections of the eye, respiratory, urinary and alimentary tract. According to Ayurveda and Siddha systems of medicines, this plant is a Rasayana & Kayakalpa plant.
3 gm of dried stem, powder or a decoction of the aerial part of the plant including the leaves could be used. Thick stems are natural tooth brushes.
Lawsonia inermis – Maarudhani, Henna
The shrub of Marudhani is excellent hedge (Fence) plant. The leaves are traditionally used for tattooing and more particularly on special occasions. Henna is one of the largest export earner for India. It is also used as a hair conditioner and hair colorant. The application of ground leaf paste of Henna with eucalyptus oil or lime juice on the nails on a regular basis prevents fungal infection (Pittvedippu, Nagasutru ) of the palm, especially for women , who have to toil in water for washing, cleaning etc. Commercial Henna mostly contain harmful synthetic dyes, therefore growing Henna at home becomes absolutely essential.
Adhatoda vasica - Aadathodai
The shrub is grown as a hedge plant as it is not browsed by cattle. The leaf is very good expectorant. The alkaloids present in the leaves are responsible for its pharmacological action. Innumerable cough remedies are made with the leaf both as syrups and capsule. The plant possesses anti-microbial activity and hence it is used to treat respiratory infections and some uro- genital infections but contraindicated in pregnancy. For adult one fresh leaf is enough for 30 ml decoction. Take one leaf, remove the central vein, cut into small pieces, then add 5 peppers, add 120 ml water, boil it till it reduced to 30ml. It should be taken twice daily.
Ocimum tenuiflorum – Thulasi
The sacred plant of the Hindus is grown in every household. The holy water offered as Prasad in Vishnu temples contains this herb. Thulasi is extensively used in cough syrups and expectorants. It has anti-microbial properties and is used for enhancing the immunity of the human body. Ursolic acid present in Thulasi is a powerful anti-oxidant and studies have been carried out on its effect on stress induced by noise pollution. It is now mass cultivated and the bulk of the produce goes to herbal cosmetics industry and soap –scenting.
Centella asiatica - Vallarai
This runner, known as Gotu-kola in most parts of the South East Asian countries, has long been associated with the property of enhancing memory. Since it also has a stimulant activity on central nervous system it is best avoided by epileptic patients. The asiaticoside and madacasic acid present in the plant makes it an excellent wound healer and prevents photo ageing of the skin. It is used in anti-wrinkle creams. The plant grows near water bodies and wet lands. Studies have established its value in the treatment of ulcers due to tuberculosis and leprosy. It can be taken as leafy vegetable or dried powder 2 gm twice daily.
Vitex negundo – Nochi
This is a large aromatic shrub with quadrangular densely whitish tomentose branchlets up to 4.5m in height. It is very common in many parts of the country and often occurs gregariously. The leaves are aromatic and are considered tonic and vermifuge. 2 to 3 leaves with addition of long pepper -5nos, add 120 ml water, boil it and reduced it as 30 ml decoction is taker for fever and head ache. A decoction of the leaves and the vapors are employed in baths for the treatment of rheumatic complaints.
Gymnema sylvestre - Sirukurinjan
The leaves of this perennial climber which grows almost through out the scrub and deciduous jungles are probably one of the very few Indian herbs investigated and accepted in almost every part of the world for its anti-diabetic property. Chewing of leaf blocks the taste buds and the taste of the sugar is masked temporarily. 1 to 2 gm dried leaf powder twice daily should be taken for diabetes along with other diabetic herbs.