Herbs That Nourish & Heal

Words: Dr Chaithra S RAO 

Ayurveda, the science of life, is not knowledge limited to medicine. The popularity of Ayurveda, thanks to its focus on total health and wellness is not only immense, but also simple, and yet trailblazing, since ancient times.

The way of life that Ayurveda preaches has, yet again, and in a manner born out of nature’s requisite, entered Indian households. One such paradigm relates to home remedies, or grandma’s remedies, or Ajji maddu, in Kannada, or Daadi maa ke nuske, or grandmother’s home recipes in Hindi.

A popular saying in Kannada, Hittala gida maddalla — the backyard herb — mocks at our ‘pretentious ignorance’ towards such easily available plants and their medicinal benefits. Some lost, some lost and found, and a few recipes still in practice. During the past fifty years, I wonder if there has ever been a greater time than the incumbent pandemic for herbs in our yard to be duly complemented for their medicinal and culinary uses — so evidently and profoundly. 

This piece on kitchen herbs, the first in a series on the ‘genre,’ is a modest attempt to put forth the idea — of plants majorly indigenous to parts of South India, either growing wildly, or effortlessly as weeds, or ones that can be easily cultivated.

  • Home remedies are part of Ayurveda and medicinal Ayurveda not restricted to home remedies alone. Ayurveda is vast; it is based on principles, laid and tested by eminent Acharyas from time immemorial
  • Home remedies are mostly effective in transient or/and uncomplicated imbalance of dosha
  • An professional Ayurveda health advisor’s guidance is recommended for any disease, more so chronic illnesses, and to ascertain if a certain home remedy is suitable for the individual/patient, or not.

NB: Home remedies alone do not suffice in most chronic conditions.

Every medicine is potent owing to the methods used and dosage of utilisation prescribed. A medicine can act as poison; a poison can act, likewise, as medicine. The watchword: guided judicious usage holds the key.

Bhumyamalaki 

Bhumyamalaki is a notoriously growing medicinal weed popularised for its hepatoprotective [liver protecting] properties. It comes from two botanical sources, Phyllanthus niruri and Phyllanthus amarus. They are called Nelanelli (Kannada), kizhukanelli (Malayalam), Bhuiamla (Hindi). The herb is also popular around the globe as Chanca piedra (Spanish), stone breaker, gale of the wind (English). Ayurvedic references have described this herb to be cooling in nature and pacifying kapha-pitta dosha.

The herb is chemically rich with flavonoids and tannins; it acts as an antioxidant agent with excellent restorative action on the liver and spleen. Its therapeutic action on the kidney and gall stones is equally well-known. This explains why the herb is aptly called as the ‘stone-breaker.’ 

The juice is used with specific adjuvants to treat colds, cough, fevers, jaundice and liver disorders, burning urine, anaemia and bleeding disorders. 

The herb is rendered more palatable and its bioavailability enhanced when a recipe is formulated with buttermilk. One such recipe is tambuli — apt for summers. It is a digestive; also, an appetising post-meal drink. About two-inch of the top portion of ten tender plants are collected, rinsed well, roasted with a few drops of ghee, grinded with coconut, black pepper, cumin and salt and mixed with buttermilk, seasoned with oil, mustard and curry leaves. Tambuli is traditionally served with rice, or used as a beverage.

Health is maintained — in healthy individuals — with the regular phased utilisation of herbs in food. The herb recipes act as adjuvants speeding up the recovery process in individuals recuperating from illness.

The best part, or adage, is — the herb may be one, but its benefits are diverse. What’s more, such healing herbs are available in your backyard. Herbs for medicinal thought, isn’t it? Call it nature’s bounty, or what you may.

Dr CHAITHRA S RAO, BAMS, has a clinical experience of ten years in Ayurvedic medicine. She’s also trained in medicinal plant identification — botanical illustrations — folk medicine [Daithota Parampara], and ethnobotany, under the tutelage of [Late] Vaidya Venkatram Daithota. Her other interests include medicinal plant cultivation, farming, reading and analysing ancient literature, writing, bioecology, exploring traditional Indian cuisine, formulating medicines and preparations, veterinary sciences, conceptualising, thinking and brainstorming, aside from a great love for nature. Dr Rao is also the founder-partner, Ayurveda physician, and diet and lifestyle advisor, at Ayurvedeeyam, Bengaluru.

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