Rajam Murali, whose programme “Azhagu Kalai” completes hundred episodes on DD Podhigai this week, speaks about the healing power of herbs

Rajam Murali is a woman of conviction — she swears by everything natural, is all for customised solutions to any problem, and believes small is beautiful. And, thanks to her show on Doordarshan Podhigai, ‘Azhagu Kalai' (Sundays, 3.40 p.m.), which completes 100 episodes on April 3, thousands of viewers have been hooked to the healing power of herbs.

Rajam, whose mother introduced her to herbs at a young age, never imagined her destiny lay in fragrant-smelling barks and tender leaves and flowers — she was number-crunching as an accountant for 13 years before swapping ledgers for the mortar and pestle. A chance opportunity to take up a three-month Government-organised course in herbs in 1995 saw her changing track.

She's shared her passion for herbs through programmes on the national broadcaster for many years now, articles in magazines and a couple of books too. What keeps her going in her quest for better health is that there are virtually no side effects in herbal medicine. “The best part about herbal medicine, when practised with a conscience, is that nothing is mass-produced. So, even if it is something as common as henna, the combination of ingredients will differ based on the individual — any allergies are taken into account and so is the body type,” she says.

Easily available

And, your kitchen shelf can yield most of what you might need for a routine beauty regimen, says Rajam. Coconut milk, when applied on the hair before a wash, gives you the same effect of oiling your hair, without the attendant stickiness. And, potato powder works as a bleaching agent. The only thing she wants people to do is develop awareness. “Our forefathers knew what worked for us. We've moved away from that knowledge, to our disadvantage. So, even if we don't get back to where we started from, we should at least know what is right and what is not. Half-baked knowledge is dangerous.”

As for herbal medicine being expensive, Rajam says: “Some herbs are rare, and cost a lot. Some others might be inexpensive, but processing them into a usable cosmetic (for instance, khus khus powder) is laborious and expensive.”

One more thing that Rajam, who is 63 but still has glowing skin, believes in is that it pays to do things on your own. “Go to the parlour once in a while for relaxation, but otherwise, use your hands. They know what pressure works best during a massage, and you derive the satisfaction of doing something yourself.”

But, will it work today when working women straddle two equally demanding worlds? “It's a matter of planning. And, I'm sure you can borrow five minutes off your daily routine to take care of yourself. It is only when you ignore your body for long that you need to devote more time to set things right, isn't it?” she asks.

(The hour-long 100th episode will be screened from 3.10 p.m. to 4.10 p.m.)

Easy tips

Skin care

Mix a spoon each of milk powder, honey and lemon juice. Apply on the face and wash after a while. Your face will stay fresh for eight to 10 hours.

Apply the flesh of tender coconut all over the body. It removes tans and leaves the skin feeling silky.

Take a piece of whatever fruit or vegetable is at home (eg: watermelon, cucumber, apple…) and place it in a cloth bag. Cover your face with it for 10 minutes to feel rejuvenated.

Hair care

Mix fenugreek powder with water and use this paste to wash your hair. It is a great cleansing agent, and it also conditions the hair.