Locavore Food

A weed that cures

Thumma, with its sweet white flowers and pungent leaves, is a nutritive powerhouse

A lot of the rituals involved in Indian festivals have a significant importance in our day-to-day lives. Ganesh Chaturthi involves a lot of plants and climbers, which are meant to be beneficial for us, and my colleague suggested I discuss the importance of thumma (Telugu) leaves during this season.

Every ritual in traditional religious practices has a co-relation with our daily lives, season and climate. Thumma is a common weed, but people who know about its medicinal properties consider it as Nature’s cure for sinusitis. “As a common home remedy, the juice of this plant obtained by crushing it in a stone grinder is given to children with cough and cold,” my domestic help said.

I made the connection between sinusitis and weed and realised that this is what is called duron xaak in Assamese. This led me to probe the names in which this weed, whose botanical name is Leucas cephalotes, is known in other states. Hindi-speaking people identify it as guma; in Telugu, apart from calling it thumma, it is also called peddatumani; Bengalis call it dandakalas, halaksa and ghalghase; in Marathi, it is tubari and tumba; Kubo is its Gujarati name; the Tamil name is tumbari, thumbai; Kannadigas call it tumbe, tumbe hoovu, tumbe gida and thumbe; and in Malayalam it is known as tumba and tumba poovu. The Sanskrit name of the herb is dronapushpi and it bears white flowers.

I remember, as kids, we would chew these flowers to relish the sweet nectar in it. If the flower is sweet, the same cannot be said about the plant. When the plant is steamed and mashed into a paste to be consumed during lunch, the morsel of rice can be the most pungent ever. It is as good as eating wasabi by itself. But the pungency is a magic potent. It not only clears your cold and cough, but is also supposed to heat the body normally, preparing it for colder winter days. Apart from being a medicinal plant, the weed is also used in various Hindu religious practices. But its medicinal use is most prominent, because it is known to be beneficial for liver disorders, jaundice, asthma, cough and cold, among others.

The plant is not too tall and grows best in damp conditions. The milk-like extract, which is obtained on breaking the plant at joints, is used to treat skin disorders. While the leaves of the plant can be cooked and eaten to derive the best results, its raw juice is used as a nose drop to treat sinusitis. It’s bitter and pungent property makes it an excellent cure for cough and cold.

For sinusitis and headache

Dronapushpi’s fresh leaves are crushed to extract juice. Two drops of this juice are put into both nostrils on an empty stomach. This helps to relieve sinusitis-related headache.

As an antiseptic

The plant is dried, powdered and made into a kashayam by adding water and boiling it. This water is used to wash wounds.


Over-dosage may cause a burning sensation. Nasal administration of its juice extract should be done under the supervision of a qualified Ayurvedic doctor.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 9:05:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/a-weed-that-cures/article19636082.ece

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