A book issued by the WHO is full of easy-to-make cures for common ailments.

WHEN you catch a sudden cold or a cough just does not go away, most of us reach for over-the-counter drugs. But there is a not-so-well-known book of home remedies brought out by the World Health Organisation that gives some easy remedies for minor ailments. Simple and regular items found in any kitchen like lemon, turmeric and cumin seeds are used. The Use of Traditional Medicine in Primary Healthcare is a manual for health workers in south east Asia. It mentions 49 plants and general methods of preparing medicines. Syrups, pills, tablets, medicated ghee, medicated oil, healing teas are some of the remedies given.

Important aloe

The aloe plant (Aloe Barbadensis) is given much importance. Apart from its tonic effects, it can also be used to treat acidity. The juice of the fresh roots is very useful and can be stored in a cool place for 15 days. Its roots can be taken as a powder. Cut the roots into five-centimetre pieces. Dry them in the sun and powder them. Keep the powder in a clean, dry and well-corked glass jar. If properly stored, the powder will remain fresh and effective for six months. But since the aloe's root is starchy, it should not be given to diabetics over long periods of time, says the WHO. Neem bath is useful in treating scabies, eczema, itching, and lice! The manual gives a remedy to treat children suffering from skin diseases. One is to extract oil from the seeds to use externally. Since neem is very bitter, use tender leaves to make the paste and turn the medicine into little round pills and take it with water. For children, add a little honey, sugar or jaggery to remove the bitterness. Neem flowers can be used to make a tasty dish. Add spices to the flowers and fry them with mustard oil. This tasty dish during the monsoons and the cold season helps prevent skin diseases. Since neem can also cause nausea or stomach upsets because of its bitter taste, it should never be taken on an empty stomach. Asafoetida is another medicinal item. It can be used not only for making pickles, dals, curries but also to cure indigestion, colic pain and toothache. The WHO tells us how to make the powder: clean the asafoetida properly and fry it with a little ghee in a frying pan. When it cools, powder it and store it in an airtight glass jar. Apply a little of this powder over the tooth and surrounding gums in cases of toothache till the pain subsides. For colic, take one gram of powder along with warm water every half an hour, five or six times a day! Even the fig tree (Ficus racemosa) is useful in treating bleeding or swollen gums and acidity in the stomach! Use a warm decoction of the bark as a mouthwash two to three times a day. The powder of the bark is also used as a tooth powder. The powder or decoction of the fruit or bark is taken for acidity. Since it tastes astringent add jaggery, sugar or honey to the powder and decoction. The manual is filled with such interesting, cheap and easy home remedies .The book (priced at Rs. 50) is not readily available but one can enquire at the World Health Organisation, World Health House, New Delhi 110002. Neem cureSoak neem leaves or bark in water for some time and make a paste adding water as necessary. Apply the paste over the affected areas. To treat scabies, itching or eczema, prepare one litre of the paste as given above and add to a bucket of lukewarm water during a bath. For better results, take two parts of the paste and mix it with one part of turmeric paste. Add a little mustard oil. Apply the mixture over the affected parts and leave overnight. In the morning bathe with lukewarm water.