Cure from nature

Severe cough? Burn an onion and eat its core. Not getting sleep? Drink decoction of om seeds before you retire or smear castor oil on your eye lid before you hit the bed. Burning sensation in the eye?

Soak a few washed coriander seeds in water overnight and put a few drops into the eye. Sugar problem? Try bitter gourd juice. Vitamin C deficiency? Eat gooseberries…

Prescriptions or cures like these galore and many of them are effective. But how were these discovered? By sheer accident? If yes, then thousands of such accidents must have taken place because we have a myriad of home made or herbal cures for a variety of diseases that afflict us. Take the holy tulsi for instance. Even botany students worship it at home. But why? Once upon a time, the tulsi was the sole repository of medicine for a variety of ills and the plant continues to be sacred even in 2014. But who discovered its medicinal properties? We are grateful to a Fleming, Pasteur or a Jenner but who takes the credit for discovering tulsi’s hidden powers?
From holy tulsi let’s turn to lantana, a weed. A weed? But its leaves have iodine content useful as an antiseptic and I remember getting dressed by its paste when I got injured, and that was quite often. But who found it out and how?

By the way what is a weed? A weed, it is said, is a plant whose virtue has not been discovered yet. Going by this definition tulsi too must have been a weed once. Do I sound blasphemous for saying this? Let us turn to datura, a poisonous seed. But many pandits use it as a cure. No one knows who discovered its hidden virtue. By accident perhaps, because there were no research labs and organised drug trials were unheard of.

Rose sends poets and lovers into raptures, including the Bard. Even a prosaic soul like me gasps at its sheer beauty. But for herbalists, it is just another flower with medicinal value. Salute the chap who found out the rose’s intrinsic beauty and next time you gulp down gulkan with butter, think of the rose petal which is its main ingredient.
There is no plant that is useless, the venerable Malladihalli seer had said long ago when he took me round the herbal garden on his campus. Even today the best medicine for jaundice is herbal. Allopathy might have come out with Liv 52 after extensive drug trials at a considerable cost but our ancient herbalist got it right perhaps without spending a pie! And who was that unsung hero? There are hundreds of such heroes who have left behind a legacy. But many took their prescription to the grave with them because they did not want to part with it lest it was commercialised or misused. That way hundreds of herbal cures have simply disappeared.

Animals too practice herbalism. When sick they know what leaf they have to nibble at. They practice the dictum: patient, heal thyself. Self medication is not dangerous for them!

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