Your kitchen cabinet’s our first-aid box

Your kitchen cabinet’s our first-aid box
Highlights

Increased side-effects, lack of cure for several chronic diseases, high cost of new drugs and microbial...

Increased side-effects, lack of cure for several chronic diseases, high cost of new drugs and microbial resistance and emerging diseases are some reasons for renewed public interest in complementary and alternative medicines and usage of household ingredients such as honey, ginger, asafetida, mint and turmeric

Dr K Satya Lakshmi

Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) are the two ‘great traditions’ that have sound philosophical, experiential and experimental basis. Use of indigenous drugs of natural origin forms a major part of such therapies. More than 1,500 herbals are sold as dietary supplements or ethnic traditional medicines. Pharmaceutical companies have renewed their strategies in favour of natural product based drug development and discovery. The Pharmaceutical Research and Development Committee report of Ministry of Chemicals, Government of India also underscores the importance of traditional knowledge. World Health Organization (WHO) is keen regarding traditional medicine and has been active in creating strategies, guidelines and standards of botanical medicines.

The native science and practices:
Indians realised that plants, animals and human beings have a common base from the environment around and an ecologically sound approach would be mutually beneficial to all organisms. This understanding resulted in a new knowledge system known as ‘herbology’ and has become a base of pluralistic tribal medicinal practices that expanded into various medicinal systems such as Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Naturopathy. Basil (tulasi), Turmeric(haldi), Honey, Ginger, Pepper, Pudina, Asafoetida, Garlic, Fenugreek(methi), Cumin seeds(jeera) etc., are commonly used as therapeutic agents in India.

Two of such common plants and plant based usages are discussed here to reinforce the age-old wisdom which has the endorsement of the latest research findings.

Tulasi: In Indian mythology this plant is considered to absolve all sins and purify the body when touched. These plant products have properties to cure pains, swelling, stress, fever etc. It is known to have positive effect on liver, cardio-vascular and neurological activity. Tulsi’s chemo-protective plant extract has been shown to protect against chemically induced oral cancer and the development of skin papillomas (tumours) in rodents. The whole plant and parts of the plant have been used in bronchitis, arthritis, ulcers, ear ache, constipation, colicky pain, dog bite, cold, cough, opacity of cornea, sprains and sore eyes etc

Turmeric: Indians commonly used turmeric in cooking as a colouring agent for thousands of years. It is used as a cure for fresh wounds; added with hot milk, it is given to relieve cold and cough and is used as a cosmetic agent. The main ingredient, curcumin, in turmeric has been shown to have a wide range of therapeutic effects. It improves digestion, reduce gas and bloating. It stimulates bile production in liver and encourages excretion of bile via gallbladder. This improves body’s ability to digest fats, and inhibits oxidation of LDL (low density cholesterol-bad fat). Turmeric may also prevent platelet build up along the walls of an injured blood vessel. Turmeric has its potential effects on specific diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, diabetes and other clinical disorders.

Honey: Honey is used as a vehicle for faster absorption of various drugs such as herbal extracts. Honey is useful for chronic and infective intestinal problems such as constipation and liver disturbances. It is also said to normalise kidney function, reduce fevers, and help insomnia. It is supposed to help recovery from alcohol intoxication and protect the liver.

Ginger: Ginger helps protect and heal the gut. It helps relieve nausea, destroys a host of viruses and is an anticancer agent also. Ginger capsules or powder are available.

Pepper: Pepper have been in use for its anti-inflammatory and anti-flatulent properties. It may increase the gut motility as well as the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. They are a good source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-A.

Mint: Mint can be used to relieve indigestion, an upset stomach, menstrual cramps, colic and headaches. It also works as an appetite stimulant if taken before eating. The simplest way to prepare mint for medicinal use is to make a tea out of the dried leaves .

Asafoetida: It reduces the growth of indigenous microflora in the gut, reducing flatulence. In the Jammu, asafoetida is used as a medicine for flatulence and constipation by locals. Their roots produce natural antiviral drug compounds that demonstrate potency against the H1N1 virus. It is a good remedy for asthma and bronchitis.

Garlic: It has been used to help combat cardiovascular disease, blood clot formation and lowers cholesterol. Garlic decreases cholesterol and thins the blood flowing through already narrowed vessels. It's this action that may lower the incidence of strokes or heart attacks in people who eat garlic daily. Garlic may also raise good cholesterol levels known as HDL.

Cumin seeds: They are useful in improving memory. They are effective in relieving sleeplessness. It is useful for digestive disorders also.
Cumin water is an antiseptic beverage and very effective in common cold and fevers.

(The writer is Director, Vemana Yoga Research Institute, Ameerpet, Hyderabad)

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