Bangalore does not have the most conducive environment for persons with respiratory complaints. How serious this was struck me only when my little one started having bouts of wheezing, at just 9 months of age. In my anxiety I visited a pulmonologist and even started administering an inhaler. It was only a few weeks later that I checked myself and wondered if an alternate remedy was possible.
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And then as I started searching for more natural and homemade remedies for common ailments, I realised what a treasure trove (rather, a medicine chest?!) I had right here in our kitchen and garden.
I am sure we are all aware of some of these but do we really look upon home remedies as a long-term solution or just occasionally, like when we decide to make ginger tea for a sore throat?
With summer approaching, I thought it might be useful to relook at some of the common remedies for ailments that we are likely to face and some others.
The paediatrician we consult strongly recommends fresh plain curd for episodes of indigestion and diarrhoea. I remember asking him ‘how much’ when my daughter was less than a year old and he said ‘as much as she wants’! I have found it works really well even for adults. Curds can also be had mixed with rice for indigestion/diarrhoea.
Similarly pomegranate seeds with a dash of salt is good to treat diarrhoea. The fruit rind when boiled in water and then filtered is also a good remedy.
A decoction of arrowroot powder also controls diarrhoea effectively as it is a starch based solution.
Stewed/boiled apple and pear are effective too due to the presence of pectin. It is a safe remedy even for babies and pregnant women.
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye/Madras Eye):
Extract the juice of 5-7 leaves of tulsi (holy basil) and mix with 3 drops of honey. Apply 2-3 drops of this mixture to both eyes at bedtime.
Common Cold and Cough:
Inhaling the vapours of a teaspoonful of ajwain (carom seeds) roasted on a tava and tying it in a handkerchief to keep under the pillow at bedtime helps to clear nasal congestion and sinuses.
A common and useful remedy is the juice of fresh leaves of tulsi, karpurvalli (doddapatre/coleus aromaticus), and betelnut with fresh ginger. If the juice is too strong for children, it can be given with a drop of honey.
A few years ago, I also found this ‘miracle’ sachet – Samahan – available at most chemists these days. It can be added to milk, tea or just plain hot water and is really effective during the onset of a cold/sore throat. (One sachet now costs Rs. 4 and I usually keep a bunch at home, gladly doling it out to any unsuspecting friend or visitor who just happens to mention the word cold!).
A khichdi of tender long brinjal, tomato, garlic and rice with salt and pepper to fight the cold is a favourite remedy of the lady who helps at my father’s place.
When sleeping at night becomes difficult due to extreme congestion, 1-2 camphor pieces added to warm sesame oil and the vapours inhaled provide tremendous relief. A clove of garlic can also be added. Subsequently rubbing this warm oil on the chest and then applying a warm wet compress significantly reduces night cough and ensures better sleep.
Almost 20 years ago when my sister fell ill with jaundice, my father arranged for fresh leaves of the Kilanelli plant (Phyllanthus plant also known as bhuiamla) and it proved to be extremely effective in ensuring her speedy recovery. The herb is said to act on the liver and is therefore a preferred choice to treat jaundice. It is also said to be available in capsule form.
Each family and community is sure to have its own preferred home remedies, tested and tried over time. For those keen to know more, there are a wide range of reliable resources available on the subject:
Home Remedies : A Handbook of Herbal Cures for Common Ailments by TV Sairam: This book is now available in three volumes and offers an exhaustive description of everyday and special plants/herbs (40 in each volume) with their use for particular ailments. The index in the book makes for easy reference as it mentions not just the plant name (botanical and multi language common name) but also ailments.
Home Remedies by Fr SJ Meloo: Another useful book prepared through extensive research and practice with communities in rural and tribal areas by the author, formerly Director of Community Health at the Catholic Health Association of India.
Grow and Use Medicinal Plants for Primary Health Care: A publication by MedPlan Conservatory Society (MCS), a sister organisation of Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), it is a comprehensive and useful guide published in Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and English. It offers simple remedies according to the ailment, be it respiratory, urinary, or complaints related to the stomach/eye, et cetra. It also offers a description of the plants and how to grow them in your garden. FRLHT also manages a website www.homeremedy.in where one can seek online advice from a doctor.
MCS also publishes a bimonthly magazine Heritage Amruth that aims at developing appreciation among the English reading urban audience about Traditional Healthcare Knowledge and Medicinal Plants. Each issue is theme-based (there are 6 issues a year), so the themes mentioned are just a preview of some of the issues in 2009. If you still want the months, Yoga – Jan 2009, Palliative Care- Jun 2009 and Traditional Cooking – Aug 2009. Back issues are also available on request. An annual subscription for an individual costs Rs. 240. For those interested, contact Madhavi Latha (Subscription Incharge) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 080-28565873. MCS also has a range of educational material on the subject in the form of books, posters, DVDs and CD-ROMs on the subject.
DNA – the new entrant to Bangalore’s newspaper market – has a section on home remedies every Sunday (in the DNA Wellness segment). Useful to cut and keep.
What is exciting about home remedies is the possibility of an effective cure that is natural and safe. And when this can happen from your own garden and kitchen, what could be healthier? Maybe we could soon adopt the old Chinese tradition of paying the doctor when the family is in good health?!