It’s no cause for worry as there are quite a few traditional herbal remedies that help keep monsoon-related ailments at bay. And it isn’t difficult to find these either; they’re readily available in the kitchen or garden, says HEMA VIJAY

It is a tradition in south Tamil Nadu to welcome the rainy season with sukkumalli kaapi, which is essentially a brew of dry ginger, coriander and the chittarathai herb (lesser galangal herb). This gastronomic tradition is no empty ritual. “Joint pains get aggravated during the cold and humid months. Sukkumalli kaapi works as a pain-killer, besides improving appetite and digestion,” says Dr. T. Thirunarayanan, Siddha physician and secretary, Centre for Traditional Medicine and Research.

The monsoon is in full swing now in Tamil Nadu. The charm of grey skies and rainy days apart, this season unfortunately brings with it an increased susceptibility to common cold, cough and congestion, besides assorted infections and ailments. But for many of these, we do not have to pop a pill or down tonics that leave us drowsy and unable to carry on with our work. Check out some of the time-tested traditional herbal cures that protect and heal without undesirable side effects.

Herbs as food and medicine

Like the aggravation of joint pain, sinusitis too is more prevalent in wet conditions. “Simple steam inhalation of the nochi leaf (Indian chaste tree) with a pinch of pepper in boiling water can clear a nasal block,” recommends Dr. Thirunarayanan. As for dry cough, the standard remedy many of us were administered in our childhood — milk boiled with turmeric and pepper powder — works well. To make it more palatable, filter the brew and drink it. “Add a little palm sugar (panangkarkandu) to this filtrate to soothe a sore throat,” Dr. Thirunarayanan adds. For wet cough, try adathoda and omavalli (Coleus aromaticus) decoctions. A decoction of adathoda leaves removes phlegm from the body and works as an expectorant. “After removing its midrib, boil a single leaf in a glass of water along with a pinch of pepper powder. Drink this twice a day for three or four days,” recommends Dr. Thirunarayanan. “Thoothuvalai leaf decoction works the same way,” informs Dr. M. V. Viswanathan, retired CSIR scientist, who has researched medicinal herbs.

Then, there is karpooravalli pachadi to consider. Just sauté the leaves, grind them and mix the paste with curd. “It is anti-allergic and keeps away common cold,” says Dr. Viswanathan. The tangy karpooravalli (Coleus herb) can be made into a spicy bajji too. Or you might just chew the raw leaves. Being spicy and pungent, they help reduce kapha (phlegm) in our bodies, besides enhancing digestion and appetite. You might also try the traditional thippili rasam. Saute and grind a few leaves of thippili (long pepper) and add it to rasam. “Thippilli has anti-allergic properties and prevents cough. And to ward off viral fever, drink a decoction of the nilavembu herb (three or four leaves along with pepper powder boiled in a glassful of water)”, says Dr. Thirunarayanan. “If you feel you are going to catch a cold, chewing a few tulsi leaves could prevent its onset; but it is contra-indicated in males, as it could lower fertility,” suggests Dr. Viswanathan.

Monsoon moves

Humid and enclosed conditions promote the growth of fungus. So before taking out blankets that have been stored for nine months, clean them thoroughly and sun dry them for two or three days to neutralise the spores. If a room has been kept closed for several hours, open the windows to ventilate the space thoroughly. This helps disperse the spores and is essential before bringing a child or aged person into the room. “Enclosed and humid conditions promote the growth of microbes,” says general physician Dr. Mallini Srikanth. Wearing wet undergarments also invites fungal infections on the skin. So, ensure undergarments are thoroughly dried after they are washed.

Watch out for water stagnation, which promotes breeding of mosquitoes and consequent spread of various diseases.

And since the onset of monsoon is associated with increase in water borne infections, make sure that the water you drink has been purified. If you use a water purifier, see to it that the filters are cleaned and periodically replaced. Otherwise, drink boiled water. “While boiling, add cumin seeds (jeera) which makes it anti-viral and bactericidal, thanks to its essential oils”, says Dr. Thirunarayanan.