Most people enquire how it is possible to acquire information about plants. We get it from our own locality largely from three sources. I shall introduce one such source today. He is Shri Raghu who has been here since the time I came to this place. Although he is 78, even today he dives from the rocks into the river below and swims. His grandson is an MD who got admission to the medical programme on merit. This old gentleman has a lot of knowledge about plants, and it is from him that I learnt a lot. Let’s identify some of the plants here. Chetta, what is this plant?
What’s its use?
Its leaves are crushed, mixed with rice flour, and given to women immediately after delivery. Care should be taken to avoid salt in this preparation because, otherwise, its medicinal value will be lost.
The other one, with long leaves?
That’s mere grass. The other one is Indian sarsaparilla.
What do we use it for?
We make sherbet with it. The leaves are crushed and eaten raw too.
What is this?
This creeper is Morning glory.
What’s its use?
It’s good as fodder for cattle.
It is a plant included in Dashapushpam.
If you crush the leaves with your fingers, you’ll feel that they become sticky.
I haven’t seen this variety.
This plant has four varieties. This is the real Gale of the wind. It is ground and mixed in milk in order to treat jaundice.
This is also Indian sarsaparilla.
This is the first time I’m seeing Indian sarsaparilla with flowers.
It has flowers. Only then will seeds form. Every variety will have seeds. Without them, nothing will get born in Nature.
But don’t certain plants sprout from roots?
Of course! But they needs seeds to grow from.
Chetta, what is this?
Wild jasmine. It is ground to paste and applied on the skin to remove itch. It is also mixed with tender coconut water and applied on affected areas.
That is Goanese ipecac, added to coconut oil and heated to make a medicinal oil.
Asparagus. This too has bulbs. It fetches you money in the market.
Why do they use it?
It’s crushed, squeezed and its essence mixed with water to cure urinary infections.
What about this?
Little tree plant. This is also crushed and given to women to drink.
Isn’t it mixed with something, and given as an antidote to poison?
I don’t think so.
Not to combat snake venom but spider venom.
I don’t know. It’s Indian birthwort that is used for that purpose.
That is Golden eye grass. It too has bulbs. The other one grows like ginger grass. It is Nut grass. It’s very potent. Its bulb is very spicy. I’ve mixed it in milk and given my doctor-grandson to drink to prevent worm trouble.
Chetta, what about this one?
That’s a variety of black pepper. It too has a bulb at the root. It is crushed and the juice consumed.
Isn’t its leaves used to make curry for treating ring worm infection and eczema? You have yourself told me this.
Oh, yes! A sprig of the new shoots and one leaf of black pepper, along with a sprig of new shoots and a leaf of Tears-of-the-virgin are chopped, mixed with grated coconut, and cooked into a curry. Jackfruit seeds are chopped and added to it. We were asked to eat it and assured that we would not get ring worm trouble or scabies. Maybe that was right. Ayurvedic physicians make tablets using these leaves. But they are not as effective.
The other day a friend of mine came here in search of leaves to make concoctions for his daughter who had just had a baby. Nearly all the leaves could be collected from here. Portia tree, velvet leaf, cotton, bee sting bush, narrow leaved canthium and so on. The leaves are ground to paste, the size of a tiny ball, and consumed along with rice, each variety on each day.
This is locally known as pazhaparuthi. This is also sticky to touch. It’s good for cattle. It’s odourless.
True. Very slimy to touch. Chetta, isn’t this country mallow? What is it used for?
It’s added to oil and applied on the head to cure dandruff.
It’s also very good for curing rheumatism. Ayurveda medicine shops stock this medicine. This plant is not seen everywhere these days. Some grow it. Isn’t that Hill glory bower?
Yes. That is also a medicine, used to cure piles.
Once I saw it on my way to Sabari hills. The plant was really huge.
Some plants are like that. They grow to huge size in the wild. I believe country mallow also becomes big although I haven’t seen it.
Oblong leaf salacia, I haven’t seen that either.
I have seen it in the area where I go to cut grass. If I spot it there the next time, I shall bring it here and plant it.
What is it used for?
Its fruit is edible. Its tuber is ground to paste, mixed with tender coconut water and applied for curing oedema in the groin. It will ease the pain too. If you go to a doctor, he’ll first apply a medicine, and then use the scalpel.
This gentleman is no doctor but an ordinary person who has grown amidst plants and understood them. What we heard from him was what he gathered from here. There are plenty of similar people in all our localities. They are above 60-70 years, and have grown consuming such medicines. If we gather as much information as possible from people like them, when they are still alert and conscious, we will learn a lot about plants. Much of what I learnt about plants in this garden plot is from him. The rest is from certain botanist-friends that I have. I shall introduce them to you. You too may have sources like them close to you. If you want to know more about this gentleman, I shall share a link with you. It will take you to my blog where I have written about him. Read it. He is an interesting person, an individual worth knowing on closer terms.