It may not have the thorough documentation that say blueberries have, but we in India accept that jaggery has benefits. As the purest form of unrefined sugar extracted from sugarcane juice and sometimes from the palm and coconut, it is a store house of iron, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, potassium and sodium. Most homes have it readily available in their kitchen jars as an effective remedy for throat infections and for general wellness.
A small piece of jaggery to suck on, or a spoon of jaggery powder dissolved in warm water to drink, or a piece of jaggery, ginger and tulsi leaf to chew on — in any which way mothers hand it out when you get a bout of bad cough or feel fatigued. It’s also the reason why industrial workers in dusty environments like cement factories, thermal plants and coal mines are given a fixed quota of jaggery to eat. We have simply believed, albeit without much research, that it is a protective agent in polluted conditions.
With a doctorate in pharma analysis, Raghu Khimani says in his research paper on jaggery that it helps to ‘pull out’ dust and unwanted particles from the body and gives relief to the respiratory tract, the lungs, food pipes, stomach and intestines. However, Dr Valsala Varrier, Chief Medical Officer with the Coimbatore branch of Arya Vaidya Sala-Kottakkal, says jaggery is effective not as a stand-alone remedy, but always in combination — say with pepper, tulsi or dry ginger. Ayurvedic doctors recommend a daily dose of jaggery (not more than 4 gm or little less than a teaspoon) to fight toxins in the body and strengthen one’s immunity.
However, if you already have a respiratory disorder like bronchitis, asthma, or wheezing, allopathic doctors clarify that only medication and treatment will heal. “Jaggery cannot replace or substitute the treatment of indoor- or outdoor-pollution-related diseases,” says Dr Anantha Subramanian, Consultant Pulmonologist at Chennai’s Kauvery Hospital. There is no scientific evidence to suggest jaggery is a broncho-dilator, a substance that relaxes bronchial muscles in people who find it difficult to breathe to increase the airflow to the lungs. Neither does it have the power to provide immediate relief to someone gasping for breath. In that context, jaggery as medicinal sugar that de-smogs the lungs is hype.
Madurai-based certified naturopath Dr S Harishankar, says natural remedies do not match the pace and intensity of allopathy treatment. At best, this iron-rich, anti-allergic source of energy improves the haemoglobin levels that increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and thereby strengthens the body’s defence mechanism.
(In this column, we decode health trends and decide if it’s all just ‘hype’ or actually ‘happening’ )