Archive for the ‘ Herbs & Spices ’ Category

Bhringaraja (Eclipta Alba)

Bhringaraja: hair herb

Called by many names as bhangara, kesharaja and Eclipta alba (botanically), bhringaraja is prominent among the herbs chosen by Ayurveda for hair-care. Depending upon the colour of its flowers, ancient texts describe bhringaraja to be of three types — white, yellow and blue. Practically, only the first two varieties are found as the blue form seems to be the transformation of the white one at the ripe stage. The whole plant (panchang) is medicinal.

Bhringaraja is pungent and bitter in taste and light, dry and hot in effect. Experts in modern medicine have drawn an alkaloid known as ecliptine from it. Bhringaraja pacifies vata and kapha but aggravates pitta. Ayurveda texts have described bhringaraja as keshya, which means something beneficial for one’s hair. The less known but equally important virtue of bhringaraja is its salutary effect on the liver. It is also carminative, digestive, diuretic and laxative. It helps in blood formation and is a rejuvenator and tonic of immense value.

Both Charaka and Sushruta have mentioned several uses of bhringaraja, whereas another leading light of Ayurveda, Rishi Vagbhatta, has written about bhringaraja kalpa, which is a specific regime for the purpose of rejuvenation only. In case of liver disorders like jaundice, bhringaraja is a promising herb. It is also used in a number of other problems like skin and ophthalmic disease, anaemia, hyperacidity, migraine and non-specific glandular swellings. Some of the common uses of bhringaraja are as under:

Hair and scalp tonic: Since time immemorial bhringaraja is used to prevent hair loss, dandruff and premature greying. Oils prepared with bhringaraja are, therefore, found occupying an important place in the hair-care kit in every Indian home. Though there are many formulations of the famous Bhringaraja Taila, it can be made at home by simply processing one kilogram of its juice in 4 kg of sesame oil.

Liver and spleen disorders: Taking 10 ml of the fresh juice of bhringaraja daily is a good adjunct in the treatment of jaundice and also in the enlargement of the liver and the spleen. It improves appetite and digestion too.

Hyperacidity: Chronic cases of acidity respond well if given 2 gm of the powder of dry bhringaraja, hararh and amla, all crushed in equal parts. Sootshekhara Rasa, the well-known classic ayurvedic, medicine for acidity and ulcer, is actually prepared by stirring the core medicine in the juice of bhringaraja.

A tonic: To gain the tonic effect, ayurvedic texts mention a number of formulations containing bhringaraja. Whereas 10 to 20 ml of its simple juice is prescribed to be taken every morning for at least 40 days, another way of taking 2 gm of triphala churna with 10 ml juice of bhringaraja dissolved in a cup of water daily is described as an anti-aging prescription.

Other uses: Bhringaraja is also used for treating many diseases like leucoderma, migraine and skin disorders. Though it is better to use bhringaraja in its fresh form, in winter, when it is out of season, its powder or decoction can be adopted by procuring it from the pansari shop in the dry form.

Bansa (Adhatoda Vasica)

Bansa — an effective spectorant and more

BANSA is probably one of the first Indian medicinal plants which went into commercial utilisation. About one hundred year ago, a few readymade caugh syrups which contained it as the chief ingredient hit the market. Even today, a number of proprietary expectorant formulations using it are being sold in the country.

Called by many names such as vasa, vasaka and sinhasya in Sanskrit, Adhatoda vasica scientifically and basuti in popular terms, Bansa is a two to four feet tall dense shrub which grows in wastelands throughout the plains and foothills of India. Depending upon its colour, it has two varieties — white and black. Fresh or dried leaves, flowers and the root of the plant are used as medicine.

Ayurvedic texts have described Bansa as a cure for diseases arising from vitiated kapha and pitta. It is bitter and astringent in taste and dry, light and cold in effect. Its chemical composition consists of an alkaloid known as vascine which is considered to be its main active principle. Bansa also contains a volatile oil, resin and an acid named adhatodic.

Ancient authors have explored its medicinal value and described it as an excellent expectorant a bronchodilator, a respiratory and cardiac stimulant and an antispasmodic agent. Experimental studies have shown that Bansa is also endowed with anti-diabetic, blood pressure-lowering antacid, antiviral and anticonvulsant effects. Charaka has specifically attributed antipyretic and cooling properties to this plant.

Bansa is extensively used in Ayurveda as a sedative and an expectorant and also as a remedy for cough, bronchitis and asthma. It removes respiratory spasms and relieves irritable cough by its soothing action and softens the sputum which makes expectoration easier. Bansa is widely used in jaundice and raktapitta (haemorrhagic disorders). It is helpful in controlling diarrhoea and dysentery and some skin problems too.

In bronchitis and asthma simply taking two times a day 10 to 20, ml of the juice of Bansa mixed with one teaspoonfuls of honey, proves beneficial. If the phlegm is more sticky, one gram of the powder of black pepper can be mixed in it. In associated feverish conditions, this regime can be fortified by adding one teaspoonful of fresh ginger juice. A jushanda of bansa leaves, banfsha, mulethi, nilofer and a few pieces of unnab helps remove the spasm and facilitates gentle cleaning of the bronchial tree.

Bansa is also recommended in many other diseases, like epistaxis, dysfunctional uterine bleeding Burning Hands and Feet Syndrome, and diarhhoea or dysentery. A simple decoction of its leaves can be taken independently or as a vehicle with any other suitable medicine. The average daily dose of its fresh juice is 10 to 20 ml two or three times a day. Overdose may result in nausea or vomiting.

Bansa is used in many classic ayurvedic medicines. To name a few Vasavaleha, Vasakarishta and Bansa Kshar are used for respiratory problems. Darvyadi Qwath is given in uterine diseases and Panchtikta Ghrit Guggul is prescribed in stubborn skin diseases. Bansa is a natural germicidal like neem and is toxic to all forms of lower life. Rural people use its fresh or dry leaves to preserve water, food, clothes etc.

Apamarga (Achyranthes Aspera)

The stone-breaker

APAMARGA (Achyranthes aspera) has been described as a divine medicine in the Vedas. Acharya Charaka was so much convinced of its efficacy that in his famous work Charak Samhita, he specially gave the name of one of its chapters after the great herb. Apamarga grows in plenty in wasteland and by the roadsides throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is more commonly known as puthkanda.

Apamarga is pungent and bitter in taste and light, dry, sharp and hot in effect. It not only alleviates kapha and vata but purifies pitta also. The whole plant, which is medicinal, contains an alkaline substance — specially “potash”. Depending upon the colour of its flowers apamarga is of two types —red and white. But the medicinal properties of these two are the same.

All ancient ayurvedic texts have attributed a wide range of actions of apamarga on the human body. It is famous as a herbal lithotriptic agent (that breaks the urinary stones) and is a diuretic. It is also carminative, digestive, expectorant, anti-inflammatory and a killer of intestinal worms. Having blood-purifying and anti-endotoxin properties, it is also a bitter tonic.

Apamarga is used both internally and externally for many ailments. Because of its diuretic and alkaliser properties, it is a drug of choice for urinary afflictions like calculus and irritation in the bladder and the urethra. It is also used in various other diseases like anorexia, colic, ear infection, bronchitis and skin diseases. In rural India, apamarga is the first medicine to be used to counter pain and swelling associated with a scorpion bite.

Ayurvedic texts describe the use of apamarga kshara to gain the maximum medicinal benefits. To make it, the whole dried plant is burnt and its ashes are washed in water. This kshara is used in a number of diseases. If taken in the dose of 250 mg mixed in a teaspoonful of honey two or three times a day, it acts as a good expectorant. Given with warm water and half a teaspoonful of ajwain churna the kshara also works well in acute abdominal colic.

To treat small urinary stones, apamarga kshara is considered the foremost ayurvedic medicine. For this purpose one gram of the kshara can be given two or three times a day with the decoction of gokhru (Tribulus terrestris) which, in addition, is itself a very good diuretic and stone-breaker. To treat chronic sinusitis and the related heaviness of the head, giving snuff made of apamarga seeds is used.

Apamarga is the chief ingredient of the famous apamarga kshara tailam which is a classic medicine for the treatment of chronic ear diseases. The juice of fresh powder of apamarga is also used to treat chronic febrile conditions, bleeding piles, intestinal worms and post-delivery uterine problems. The average daily dose of its kshara and juice is up to 2 gm and 20 mg daily respectively.

Manjishtha (Rubia Cordifolia)

Manjishtha for charm & stimulus

Commonly called majeeth but scientifically known as Rubia cordifolia, manjishtha is one of the foremost curative herbs used by ancient ayurvedic physicians. Its big climber plant is found up to the height of 8,000 feet in the hilly areas of the Indian subcontinent. The root of manjishtha is used as medicine.

Varnya (improving the complexion), rakta prasadaka (a booster of the haemopoietic system), rakta shodhaka (a blood purifier) and vishaghna (a detoxifier):that is how manjishtha has been described in revered ayurvedic texts. It is also an astringent antiseptic, a carminative, a digestive and an haemostatic agent. Some acharyas, while attributing anti-inflammatory and uterine stimulant properties to manjishtha, have written that it is a bitter tonic also.

Though manjishtha is at the same time bitter, astringent and sweet in taste and heavy, dry and hot in effect, it is a pacifier of kapha and pitta. Besides the glucosides known as manjisthin and purpurine, its chemical composition consists of various other components which include resins, lime salts and colouring agents. Manjishtha is used in a number of diseases. It is a drug of choice for treating various systemic problems like raised uric acid and gouty arthritis, glandular swellings, recurrent skin infections and other diseases of the skin like pigmentation anomalies and leucoderma. It is also included in various formulations to treat uterine and urinary infections, diarrhoea, dysentery and chronic fevers. Manjishtha holds the reputation of a very good skincare herb. Used externally and internally, it helps one to gain lustre and glow (of the skin) and aids to remove pimples, freckles and discoloration.

Manjishtha promotes the healing of skin tissues damaged by injury or infection. Its finely crushed powder can be simply applied on the face after mixing it with little honey. A combination of dried and crushed orange peels 100 gm, and sandal powder, turmeric and manjishtha powders each 50 gm, makes an excellent face pack.

Since manjishtha has a marked effect on the female reproductive organs, it is useful treating various gynaecological problems, like white discharge and irregular menstruation. To treat stubborn pelvic inflammation taking two or three times a day 2 gm of the powder of manjishtha, ashoka, daru haridra, nagkeshar and lodhra, all crushed in equal parts, have very good results. A decoction of manjishtha, giloy and gokharu can be given in chronic urinary infections occurring in both males and females.

Brihad Manjishthadi Qwath, mentioned in the Sharangdhar Samhita, is the most famous classic ayurvedic formulation which contains manjishtha as its chief ingredient. Though bitter in taste, it is a highly acclaimed medicine. It is indicated in a number of simple and complex problems like pimples, boils urticaria, eczema and psoriasis. The qwath is given as a vehicle with various other medicines to treat obesity, high cholesterol, gouty arthritis and benign enlargements.

Manjishtha is successfully used as a natural dye. It imparts a light reddish tinge to the skin and is included in many cosmetic formulations. The daily dose of manjishtha powder and its decoction is 2 gm and 50 ml respectively, two or three times a day. To avoid possible adulteration, while purchasing herbs, one should get them identified by an expert.

Nagarmotha (Cyperus Rotundus)

Nagarmotha: A detoxifying herb

Ayurvedic texts, while discussing the pathogenesis of disease, have repeatedly mentioned the word “ama” which, if briefly explained, can be called the toxic material produced in the body as a result of faulty digestion. The concept of “ama”, if properly explained to the experts of modern medicine and other health scientists, can really help in making a breakthrough in the treatment of many autoimmune disorders and other serious diseases. Nagarmotha is the herb which has been described in Ayurveda as the best ama-pachaka or corrective and remover of endo-toxins.

This ordinary-looking herb grows wild along water courses or wet places inmost parts of India. Known as mustaka in Sanskrit and Cyperus rotundus scientifically, it has been described as bitter, pungent and astringent in taste and light dry and cold in effect. Nagarmotha is a pacifier of kapha and pitta. Its different varieties possess an aromatic oil, besides protein, starch and carbohydrates.

Nagarmotha has very good digestive and carminative properties. It is an effective killer of intestinal worms, a diuretic and anti-pyretic medicine. Many ancient texts have also described it as an anti-inflammatory medicine, a general and nervine tonic, a promoter of uterine contractions and an excellent binder of stool.

Even in ancient times, nagarmotha was a favourite of ayurvedic physicians for treating a number of diseases. It is a drug of choice now for treating the majority of gastrointestinal problems like anorexia, vomiting, diarrhoea, dysentery and specific and non-specific colitis. Nagarmotha is also used in various other ailments like fever, burning micturation, skin diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, painful menstruation, neurasthenia and general debility. Here area few tips with regard to nagarmotha as a household remedy:

Nagarmotha, sonth and the dried pulp of the bael fruit, all crushed in equal parts, and two grams of this powder, if taken two or three times a day, works well in case of chronic mucous diarrhoea. Similarly, taking twice a day two grams each of the powder of nagarmotha and the pulp of bael and two tablets of the famous Kutajghan Vati has been reported to have reduced the frequency of stool besides controlling abdominal cramps in cases of ulcerative colitis. The same combination can be given with rice water to control the coming of blood in the stool.

The decoction of nagarmotha and pitapara is the most common household remedy for excessive thirst arising in fever and an episode of gastroentritis. During the flare-up phase of rheumatoid arthritis one gram each of the powders of nagarmotha, hararh and sonth can be given with any other anti-arthritic medicines. Acting as a detoxifying medicine, it help reduce inflammation and stiffness in the joints.

In the treatment of alcoholism (madatya roga) ayurvedic texts prescribe that the patient should be regularly given a decoction of nagarmotha. In case of alcoholic liver disease various preparations containing nagarmotha are prescribed. The regular use of it also helps lower the raised levels of serum uric acid.

Mustakadi kwatha, Mustkarishta and Mustadi Churna are the prestigious classic ayurvedic medicines which containing nagarmotha as their chief ingredient. The average dose of the powder of nagarmotha is three to five grams twice or thrice a day and that of its decoction 50 to 100 ml daily.

Pudina (Mentha) (Mint)

Pudina: the versatile healer

Can you guess which plant is an integral part of most of our everyday personal care products? Before you hurry to find an answer, just have a thought of some of these items — toothpaste, shaving cream, post-shaving lotion, mouth-wash and fresheners, cough syrups and green digestive capsules, etc. Most of these products, of any brand, have menthol as one of the ingredients. The answer may leave all of us a bit astonished as menthol is the active substance of pudina, the herb we have been using in our kitchen for centuries.

The ancient ayurvedic literature calls it “putiha”. There are more than 20 of its varieties, some original and others hybrid. The garden mint or the spear mint is the most commonly available specie of pudina. It has been described as pungent in taste and hot, sharp, dry and light in effect. Pudina is mainly a pacifier of “kapha” and “vata”. Widely acclaimed as carminative, digestive, aromatic and an anti-emetic agent (that allays nausea and vomiting), pudina is valued as a stimulant, expectorant, anti-spasmodic killer of intestinal worms and a mildly analgesic herb.

Fresh pudina leaves, on chemical analysis, are found to have moisture, protein, carbohydrates and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron and a volatile oil. Different varieties of pudina contain different active substances. Menthol and peppermint which give a tingling cool sensation are its popular derivatives which are extensively used in the modern pharmaceutical industry. Pudina is famous for its use in digestive upsets like nausea, vomiting, distension and diarrhoea. Here are some of its simple and remedial uses:

Indigestion — Prepare an infusion of pudina leaves by boiling a couple of its leaves in a glass of water. Taking three table spoonful of it after adding a little rock salt at the interval of two or three hours makes a good carminative and digestive aid. It also helps to ameliorate nausea, vomiting, distaste, morning sickness, flatulence and abdominal colic of mild intensity.

Urticaria — Pudina comes very handy to cure itchy skin rashes or urticaria originated due to food allergies. Take a few leaves of pudina by mashing it with a few pieces of black pepper and a pinch of ajwain. It also immediately neutralises the incompatibility of any food article.

Bad breath — Simply chewing a few leaves of fresh pudina helps in controlling bad odour of the mouth. “Sat pudina” or peppermint is an essential ingredient of many popular tooth powders also. Another of its kind can be made at home by finely crushing together ash of almond shell 250 gm, nagarmotha, bark of moulsiri, kattha and hararh 50 gm each and clove, ash of phitkari and dalchini each 25 gm. Just add and crush 10 gm of peppermint to this powder. To fight bad breath and conditions like spongy gums, this makes an excellent tooth powder.

Other uses — Equal quantities of “sat pudina” and “sat ajwain”, if put in a small glass bottle, and kept in the sun with a closed cap for an hour get liquefied. By this method a unique combination is achieved which can be used both internally and externally in a number of ailments. A few drops of it in a cup of warm water act as a good digestive and anti-spasmodic aid, whereas if applied externally it is an effective pain balm. Old timers will recall the famous “amritdhara” drops of the pre-Partition era. This is the exact formula of once very popular and effective medicine.

Besides being used for garnishing and flavouring dishes, salads and soups, pudina makes some of the mouth-watering chutneys in our kitchen. “Arq pudina” the aqueous extract drawn by the distillation method, is the famous medicine used by ayurvedic and Unani physicians.

Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri)

Brahmi for our body and mind

BRAHMI has been used since time immemorial as a tonic for improving memory. In the gurukuls of ancient India there was the practice to regularly administer Brahmi to young students to help them learn sacred hymns.

The small creeping herb grows wildly in marshy places throughout the hotter parts of India. Scientifically known as Bacopa monnieri and jalneem in Hindi, the whole of the Brahmi plant is endowed with medicinal properties.

Bitter and astringent in taste and light and slightly hot in effect, Brahmi is a pacifier of all the three doshas — mainly kapha and vata. Although people in India, especially ayurvedic physicians, knew about Brahmi’s benefits thousands of years ago, modern research on it was conducted recently by the central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow. The trails have resulted in establishing that this long treasured herb, besides possessing antioxidant properties, also has the amazing ability to facilitate learning and enhance memory and concentration.

Ayurvedic tests describe Brahmi as medhya, a medicine that braces the mind to carry cognitive functions and intellectual pursuits. But ancient authors seem to believe that the healing effects of Brahmi extend far beyond mind and brain. Brahmi is not only a memory-booster and intellect-promoting herb; it is also a tranquilliser, a muscle relaxant, an anti-convulsant, a blood purifier, and an anti-pyretic, carminative and digestive agent.

Though Brahmi is beneficial for maintaining the tridoshic balance, ayurvedic physicians believe it to be the drug of choice for counteracting the vitiated vata dosha — the factor which governs the nervous system,

Brahmi is known for its salutary effect in anxiety, depression, hypertension, sleeplessness, mental retardation, insanity and hysteria. Acharya Chakradutta has written that Brahmi is beneficial in all types of epilepsy. Ancient texts describe the use of Brahmi in a number of other disorders like biliousness, ulcers, splenomegaly, asthma, skin diseases and in general and senile debility.

Brahmi enhances the mind’s ability to learn and concentrate. As it simultaneously calms and invigorates the mind, it is a very good medicine for reducing the effects of stress and nervous anxiety. It also helps maintain the clarity of thought and has proved effective in treating ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in hyperactive children, and age-related mental disorders in old persons.

Equal quantities of powders of Brahmi, Shankhapushpi and Jatamansi make an excellent combination which, if taken in the dose of one gram two or three times a day, combats the symptoms of anxiety, depression and nervous exhaustion. Sesame oil, enhanced with Brahmi, Amla and Vacha, forms a useful hair tonic. Its regular massage calms the mind and induces sound sleep. Apart from Brahmi sharbat, which is a popular home recipe of the summer season, Brahmi Ghrita, Saraswata Churna and Smritisagar Rasa are classic ayurvedic medicines which are beneficial not only in minor anxiety and depression but also in unmada and apasmara (insanity and epilepsy).

Caution: Some of the ancient texts, in their references, have created confusion by calling another plant, Mandukparni (Centella aciatica) as Brahmi. Invariably sold as Brahmi, Mandukparni is a different herb which will be taken up in these columns separately. While using “Brahmi’, make sure that what you are using is Bacopa moneiri.

Haritaki (Terminalia Chebula)

Haritaki: mother of all herbs

Abhya (which allays the fear of illness), pathya (beneficial in all diseases) and vyastha (which helps gains longevity), that is how haritaki has been named in ancient Sanskrit literature. Popularly known as hararh and scientifically as terminalia chebula, haritaki is one of the oldest herbs known to mankind. Its moderate-sized deciduous tree is found throughout the greater part of India and it is the dry pulp of its fruit which is used as medicine.

Haritaki fruit is predominantly astringent but at the same time is also bitter, sweet, pungent and sour in taste and light, dry and hot in effect. It pacifies vata, pitta and kapha, all the three doshas. Ayurveda has differentiated seven types of haritaki which include varieties ranging from its different stages of ripeness to the species found according to the diverse places of its origin. Haritaki has been abundantly praised for its extraordinary healing properties. Ancient texts have described it to be gentle and caring like a mother.

With a vast array of action on human body, haritaki is primarily digestive, carminative and laxative in nature. It stimulates liver functions, corrects metabolism, kills intestinal worms and has tonic effect on all body organs, including the lungs, heart and brain. Haritaki is also known for its anti-inflammatory, wound healer, anti-obesity, aphrodisiac and, above all, rejuvenating properties.

In its efficacy and usefulness haritaki has been considered to be equal to that of amla. The famous Charak Samhita has described it as a drug of choice in the loss of appetite, indigestion, constipation, upward flow of abdominal gas, sprue and piles. Besides curing the swelling of liver and spleen, haritaki is also beneficial in cough, asthma, hiccup, anemia, jaundice. sinusitis and diseases of the urinary tract. Haritaki helps to dissolve glandular swellings and also has salutary effect in conditions arising due to the excessive use of alcohol.

Haritaki is therapeutically prescribed as a preventive and restorative measure. Though contra-indicated in pregnancy and also forbidden for prolonged use, ayurvedic texts have described different methods to use haritaki in different seasons and diseases. During summer it should be taken with jaggery. In the rainy season, winter and spring, haritaki is advised to be taken with rock salt, ginger and honey, respectively. In the diseases arising due to vitiated vata, haritaki should be taken with ghee, in pitta diseases with sugar and in kapha problems it is indicated to be used with salt.

As a household remedy, haritaki is best used to clear the bowels. If it is combined with a equal quantity of amla and baherha a unique combination is achieved which is known as triphla. Ayurvedic texts have described several uses of triphla, which, besides being attributed with anti-aging properties, is also given independently or as an adjunct to cure a number of diseases.

There are numerous classic ayurvedic medicines where haritaki is used as a chief ingredient, Chitrak haritaki (sinusitis), vyaghri haritaki (asthma), pathyadi qwath (migraine), abhyarishta (piles), vaishvanar churna (rheumatism) lead a vast list of classic formulae which puts haritaki at an exalted place in ayurveda. Apart from its easy availability and low cost, it is the unmatched efficacy of this herb which even today makes its use as popular as it was thousands of years ago.

Saunf (Fenniculum Vulgare) (Fennel)

Saunf: herb and spice

Known as fenniculum vulgare scientifically, mishreya in sanskrit and saunf in common parlance, fennel is a yellowish green herb which is cultivated throughout India as a leaf-vegetable and seed spice. While forming an important ingredient of the Indian kitchen since ages, it is also a household health recipe of grannies. Fruits, root and oil of the plant have medicinal usages.

Saunf is at the same time sweet, pungent and bitter in taste and is light, sharp and cold in effect. Its chemical analysis shows that it consists of protein, fat, certain minerals, fibre and carbohydrates. It contains both volatile and stable oils having a characteristic taste and odour. It alleviates “vata” and “kapha” is primarily used as digestive, appetising and stimulating agent.

Though saunf is shown in different systems of medicines as an aromatic, digestive and carminative agent, ayurvedic texts additionally describe it to be a repellent of abdominal wind, anti-emetic, neutraliser of digestive impurities and an expectorant. Besides this, it is also endowed with anti-colic, glactaguage (that produces milk in breasts) and diuretic properties. It is also mildly antiseptic and vermicidal in action.

It is used in a number of digestion-related ailments such as diarrhoea, dysentery, nausea, gas trouble, and anorexia. It is also beneficial in conditions involving minor coughs and colds, burning micturation and halitosis (bad breath). Due to its strong odour, saunf is used as a corrective agent for less pleasant drugs. Many of the confectionary items are invariably flavoured with saunf. Given below are some tips to gain its medicinal benefits:

* A drink prepared by boiling a tablespoonful of saunf in 100 ml water is beneficial in indigestion, biliousness, flatulence and dyspepsia. Chewing of saunf after meals is considered helpful not only in digestion of the food and but also in countering the problem of bad breath. As a household remedy, fennel decoction is used in infantile colic and flatulence. it checks diarrhoea and excessive gas formation. Saunf in roasted form has more pronounced anti-diarrhoeal action.

* A drink prepared by adding cardamom, cinnamon (dalchini), kiquorice and saunf is a common household remedy to treat minor flu and cough conditions. Soaking overnight one teaspoonful each of coriander and saunf seeds in a glass of water and taking after straining it in the morning ameliorates burning urine occurring in hot weather.

* Mix fine powders of saunf, dry ginger, dry rose leaves, senna and rock salt. Taking occasionally one teaspoonful of this powder at bed time relieves the symptoms of gas, flatulence and constipation.

* “Arq saunf” drawn with aqueous distillation method is a well-known medicine of the Unani pharmacopea and is used to allay symptoms of indigestion, vomiting and other gastrointestinal disturbances. Dissolved 20 ml of it in a cup of warm water and taken as an adjunct with any other medicine to treat digestive upsets brings faster relief.

* Around the globe saunf is available in many varieties. The Indian saunf, which is a bit rough and bigger in size, is considered to be endowed with all active ingredients and is considered the best for medicinal usages.

Jeera (Cuminum Cyminum) (Cumin)

Jeera: Carminative and digestive herb

Since times immemorial jeera has been an inseparable part of the Indian kitchen. Early ayurvedic literature gives ample importance to its medicinal value and even today it continues to benefit mankind whichever way we use it, whether as a spice or as a herb. Called “jeeraka” in Sanskrit and cuminum cyminum scientifically, it is commercially grown mostly in all parts of tropical India.

According to ayurvedic materia medica, jeera is pungent in taste and is light, dry, sharp and hot in effect. It pacifies “vata” and “kapha” in the body but aggravates “pitta”. Jeera contains many important nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and traces of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron in different proportions. Though jeera has been known for various medicinal properties affecting different systems of the body, its main area of action essentially seems to be the gastro-intestinal tract.

Apart from having the marked digestive and carminative effects, jeera is also a wind repellent, anti-colic and intestinal absorbent agent. Of the vast range of its effects on human body, jeera acts as an anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, blood purifier, diuretic, glactogauge (that enhances milk engendering during lactation) and uterine stimulant medicine. Some ancient texts described it as “katu paushtic”, meaning a bitter tonic. It is given in conditions where a patient complains of the anorexia, nausea, indigestion, distension of the abdomen, colic pains, piles and intestinal worms. Jeera helps treat urinary stasis, prevents stone formation and has a number of uses if applied externally.

As a single herb, jeera is best used in roasted form. Taking a pinch of roasted and crushed jeera shortly before meals enhances appetite whereas if used after food it helps in faster digestion. To allay severe or chronic indigestion, hiccup and abdominal distention, crush jeera, ajwain, black pepper, rock salt and small hararh in equal parts. This “jeerakadi churna” if taken in a daily dose of one to two gms twice a day, with warm water or whenever required, is simple and safe remedy to get the abdominal wind dispelled and to gain symptomatic relief from colic pain.

Jeera is also a very good medicine for mucous diarrhoea and non-specific colitis and is used in combination with other medicines to cure the irritable bowel syndrome. As a simple and safe remedy, by crushing 50 gm of it with an equal quantity of each of nagarmotha, sonth, bark of kutaja and 250 gm of pulp of bael and taking two gm of this powder two or three times a day helps in binding and clearing the stool. Decoction of jeera and dry dhania helps to cure vomiting and loss of appetite occurring during pregnancy.

As a delicacy and appetizer there is a common practice to serve jeera wate before meals. It is available at many eateries, but to overcome the risk of contamination and infection it is better to make this gastronomic and digestive recipe at home. Taking two tablespoonful of each of roasted jeera powder and lemon juice, one table spoonful each of pounded mint leaves, dry mango powder called “amchur” and table salt, 50 gm of sugar, half teaspoonful of black salt and black pepper and a pinch of hing makes about five to seven glasses of jeera water. Besides waking up the taste buds and enhancing the gastric secretions, “jal jeera” also makes a freshening summer drink.

Ayurveda has a large number of classic medicines where jeera is used as an important ingredient. To name only two, Jeerkadyarishta and Hingashtak Churna are the most famous digestive medicines. Apart from the jeera used in Indian kitchen, which is known as “safed” (white) jeera, there is another variety called black jerera. It grows on high altitudes and is costlier than the former. Though considered a separate herb, black jeera has more or less the same medicinal properties as that of the common white jeera.


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