Homes and gardens

How medicinal gardens in Thiruvanthapuram come handy in the time of an illness

CISSA volunteers unloading medicinal plants at a residence as part of Home Herbal Garden project   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sivakumar K P is not in the habit of rushing to a doctor at the first sign of an illness. The Sasthamangalam resident first tries out “natural home remedies” gathered from a small garden at his residence. “I grow some common plants with medicinal value, such as Krishna thulasi, navara (aka panikoorka), ramacham and so on in my garden. For minor cuts and bruises, there’s murikootti (Red flame-ivy, known for its healing properties),” says Sivakumar.

With the advent of the Malayalam month of Karkidakam, many choose to go on wellness diets and health regimes as this month, when temperatures dip due to the monsoon, is considered to enhance the benefits of Ayurveda treatment protocols, massage and so on. And having your own garden with herbs and plants of medicinal value, irrespective of the size and scale, can be quite handy, in preparing several home remedies. What many do not realise is that certain useful herbs and plants such as ginger, turmeric, navara, adalodakam, kattar vazha (aloe vera), thulasi (basil) and so on can be easily grown and maintained in your backyard or terrace.

“From an urban perspective, it’s ideal to grow trees with high carbon sequestration potential such as arayal, peral and neem if space permits, as they help improve air quality. In domestic environs, smaller trees such as moringa and amla, which are good for primary health care as they boost the immune system, can be grown,” says S Rajashekaran, former senior scientist, Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Palode. He says one can grow several herbaceous plants in houses, whittling down the list to five key ones — adalodakam (for cough and respiratory issues), kudangal (helps reduce blood pressure), karinochi (for pain relief), vishnukranti (used as a general tonic), nilanarakam (for treatment of insect bites).

A beneficiary of CISSA’s Home Herbal Garden project with medicinal plants

A beneficiary of CISSA’s Home Herbal Garden project with medicinal plants   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Three years ago, city-based NGO Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA) under its Home Herbal Garden project, undertaken with the support of the State Medicinal Plants Board, distributed plants with medicinal values in grow bags to 150 houses in the three wards of Vazhuthacaud, Palayam and Estate (near Pappanamcode). With the aim of spreading awareness about the importance of nurturing one’s own herbal garden, the 20-plant kit included saplings of ginger, thulasi, adalodakam, karinochi, vatham kolli, keezharnelli and amari.

“In our follow-up, we found that the success rate was 85%. This proved that even within a city, maintaining individual medicinal gardens is quite viable,” says C Suresh Kumar, general secretary, CISSA. Inspired by the response, another project that would cover 500 houses is on the anvil, adds Dr Suresh.

Navara, aka panikoorka

Navara, aka panikoorka   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

Often, certain plants with medicinal values also serve ornamental purposes, such as thechi (Ixora) and koduveri (Plumbago indica or better known as the Indian leadwort) that bear beautiful flowers. Others, like the ubiquitous curry leaves, turmeric, ginger, celery, pudina, rosemary and so on can go straight from the garden to your kitchen.

Several Ayurveda-based heritage homes in the city and its suburbs combine the twin aspects of producing their own raw materials for in-house medicines and maintenance of a pleasant green space for guests to unwind. For instance, Thapovan Heritage Home in Mulloor off Kovalam, houses several medicinal herbs in its large garden, the brainchild of its German-born owner, Andreas Heitmann.

A view of Thapovan’s herbal garden

A view of Thapovan’s herbal garden   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Dr P Anand, Ayurveda Consultant of Thapovan, explains: “We have over 100 varieties of plants with medicinal values. Most of them are not really rare and can be easily grown with proper care.” He lists four varieties of thulasi, two varieties of koduveli, erukku (crown flower), karinochi (Chinese chastetree), amukkuram, commonly known as aswagandha, avanakk (castor) and shatavari as some of the important species in Thapovan’s herbal garden. “Though the garden was opened to obtain a green leaf certification for tourism purposes 10 years ago, it caught on. It was then developed and expanded,” adds Dr Anand.

The Santhigiri Ashram at Pothencode maintains two herbal gardens, one at the 25-acre agriculture zone managed directly by the Ashram and the other taken care of by Santhigiri Siddha Medical College. “Approximately 25,000 plants belonging to over 500 species are grown in the gardens. Medicinally important species such as Wild Asparagus, East Indian Screw tree, Beach Wood, Indian Tulip Tree, Malabar Nut etc can be found here. Some of the medicinal plants are used also by our medicine manufacturing unit,” says Jyothi Udayabhanu, senior manager, Public Relations of the Ashram.

A view of Santhigiri Ashram’s herbal garden

A view of Santhigiri Ashram’s herbal garden   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Certain plants such as Adakkapine, Indian Kino tree and Bird’s Foot that are listed under threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nation, are part of the garden. Popular Japanese technique of Miyawaki method is followed to entail better plant growth and density, adds Jyothi.

Next time you catch a cold, remember your green fingers can ensure you find the remedy in your own backyard.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 10:26:00 AM |

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