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Traditional leaf remedies your grandmother would tell you about

Indian child climb on tree

Indian child climb on tree  

From mothers who bathe their children with neem water to naturopaths who wrap people in detoxifying banana leaves, the chlorophyll-filled disease fighters are back in focus

If we don’t know the value of our trees, we probably won’t be invested enough to save them. So ahead of World Environment Day, we picked our most common trees, and asked the experts about the benefits of the leaves. “According to Ayurveda, there are no plants on earth that do not have medicinal values,” says Valsala Varier, chief medical officer, Arya Vaidya Sala Kottakkal, Coimbatore. The leaves though are said to be free-radical scavengers, with their high anti-oxidant levels. “They are also rich in vitamins, fibre, iron and calcium,” she adds.

Neem leaves

For bacterial, fungal, viral growth

Neem leaves have long been proven to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal, which means they’ll resist communicable diseases. For chickenpox, a viral infection, “Cover the bed of the person in neem leaves daily. The leaves reduce itching and also cool the body,” says Prasan Shankar, who practises Ayurveda in Bengaluru. Neem is the darling of Ayurveda experts for any skin lesion. “Neem leaves are powdered and mixed with buttermilk until a paste is made. This is applied on oozing or wet skin lesions,” he says. “In Maharashtra, many villages use a poultice of neem for thick, scaly lesions,” he says.

Traditional leaf remedies your grandmother would tell you about

Neem leaves can also be used for deworming. “Take about 15-20 grams of tender neem leaves, and five grams of ginger, and make a paste of it. Add some carom seeds to this, and drink with warm water on an empty stomach every morning for three days,” advises MV Mahadevan, a lecturer in the Department of Sirappu Maruthuvam, at the National Institute of Siddha, Chennai.

Insect bites can be tackled using a mixture of curcumin and tender neem leaves, which is applied on the affected area with coconut oil. A study published in Current Research in Bacteriology found that the smoke from neem leaves has anti-bactericidal properties “and could be used for controlling airborne bacterial contamination in the residential premise”.

Mango leaf

For better oral health

Valsala Varier says that the leaves can be used to brush our teeth, because of their antibacterial properties. “This is what our ancestors did. They folded the leaf and chewed it to clean their teeth. The juice that oozes out from it is a cure for mouth ulcers and it also prevents dental caries,” she explains. A paper published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research says that while a great deal more research needs to be carried out, “Our study indicates that mango leaves have potent pharmacological components possessing antioxidant and anti-microbial activity with low or no side-effects.”

Traditional leaf remedies your grandmother would tell you about

You can boil and strain the leaves and use it as a mouthwash, suggest researchers from the Mandsaur Institute of Pharmacy, in a paper published in the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Development. “Add five ripe leaves to a litre of water. Boil it for 10 minutes and gargle with it,” says Varier.

Traditional leaf remedies your grandmother would tell you about

Decoctions and teas
  • Malabar nut, or vasa in Tamil, is widely used as a cough syrup. Take a handful of leaves, and submerge in 300 ml of water. Boil to reduce to half, then divide into three parts and drink thrice a day.
  • Parijat (night jasmine) tea can be used as a detoxifier. Pick a handful of them and add to 300 ml of water, along with 10-15 leaves of tulsi, and pudina each. Boil mixture, filter and add lemon juice. It can be had once in 15 days.
  • Tinospora cordifolia (seenthil kodi in Tamil) is said to be useful for adolescents to develop immunity. Take 10 stems of two inches, to be soaked overnight in 100 ml of water. In the morning, crush the stems and filter the solution. Drink it on an empty stomach. It is known as amritpani and helps protect against viral fevers.
  • — Ganesh Babu, botanist and assistant professor, The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences & Technology, Bengaluru

Banana leaves

To help the body detoxify

Naturopathy uses banana leaves for heliotherapy (therapy of the sun). Plantain leaves are wrapped around a person and then there’s a process of sun-bathing for 30-40 minutes. “The person is given a glass of water to drink before and a cold wet towel is placed on the head, to avoid dehydration,” says Shallu Gupta, a naturopath in Delhi.

Traditional leaf remedies your grandmother would tell you about

Thereafter, she says, the person must have a cold bath. “It helps to improve blood circulation, and the tannins that are secreted from the leaf are helpful with skin diseases,” she says.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 5:07:37 AM |

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