Healing Herbs

The Healing Powers of Herbs – Ranjit Roy Chaudhury
Book Reviews by Manju Gupta


Stress and strain of modern-day life take a toll of our mind and body. Lack of time and patience force us to resort to quick methods of relief, making us forget that the effective cure is not found in this manner. Modern medicine has found a cure for many diseases and illnesses but makes us suffer from side effects, which cannot be ignored or sidelined.

This book is a compilation of articles published in The Asian Age by the author, Prof. Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, a leading pharmacologist in the country. Currently he is Emeritus Scientist at the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi.

What makes this book under review different from others on alternative systems of medicines is that the healing effects and properties of each medicinal plant have been explained in detail. Many of the medicinal herbs and plants mentioned are taken from ancient traditional books on medicine and whose values in today’s globalised world are very relevant, considering the USA’s recent efforts to patent haldi (turmeric) as an anti-inflammatory drug found on its soil. The same is the case with karela (bitter gourd) and Basmati rice, which the USA wants to patent for itself.

In short, the book mentions some very important cures for diseases commonly seen in India. Malaria has become a major health problem here because the malarial parasite has over time become resistant to chloroquin, the well-known drug for curing malaria.

While China has discovered the use of the plant Artemesia annua (sweet wormwood) to treat the clinical condition in malaria, India too needs to conduct research on the use of Indian drug guggal, in addition to other herbs, points out the author.

In India, Ayurvedic and Unani medicines had discovered the treatment for dissolving stones or renal calculi in the kidney or ureter, blocking the passage of urine. Crataevea nurvula helped in treatment of 50 per cent of the patients. Another plant called Bergenia ligulata, commonly known as pashabheda has been found to be effective in dissolving stones in the kidney or ureter. Dolichus biflorous, commonly known as kulattha, is administered to colic patients who have stones formed due to deposits of calcium phosphates or oxalates.

Chronic viral hepatitis can be cured with Bupleuri radix.

The vinea plant called sada bahar in north India is suitable for curing leukaemia.

In Thailand, it was discovered that the fruit of ebony tree on pounding gives a juice which, when mixed with coconut milk, is effective against hookworm infection. India too needs to conduct research on the Indian species of ebony to see whether it possesses any anti-hookworm action.

Here the author points out how in August 1994, Surat in Gujarat state witnessed deaths due to plague. The Government of India and supporting organisations went into such frenzied activity rarely seen ever before that the menace was controlled in no time. Unani physicians administered a drug prepared with zahar mohora, jadwar and camphor.

Houses were fumigated by burning together ajwain (caraway seeds), neem, camphor and sandalwood. Another preparation made from the roots of Withania somnifera or ashwagandha, ambia, pushkar mool and black pepper was used as a fumigant to contain the plague in Surat.

The Indian kitchen is a repository for several useful spices, which have medicinal properties to treat common and simple ailments. Two common spices, which can be used to treat indigestion, are jeera (cumin seeds) and heeng (asafoetida).

Heeng is obtained from the plant Asafoetida binn. It is the milky juice or exudate collected from the thick fleshy plant. It is also used to treat excessive gas in the intestines.

Dhania seeds (coriander seeds) are used for treating sore throat and common cold. A decoction prepared from the coriander seeds is drunk three times a day. Coriander leaves contain large amount of vitamin A, which is good for the eyes.

Another plant is of saunf (fennel), which is ideal for treating flatulence or worms in children. The volatile oil of fennel seeds mixed with sodium bicarbonate and the syrup is used for children. An ideal treatment for sore throat is to boil saunf in water till reduced to one-fourth its volume and mixed with sugar or honey before being sipped slowly.

Ajwain (caraway seeds) is a recognised carminative medicine for indigestion and flatulence in children. Sarson (mustard seeds) are beneficial when applied locally during muscle injury, sprain or joint injury. Mustard poultice prepared with mustard seeds increases blood circulation and decreases pain and inflammation.

Tulsi (basil) leaves are used in treating coughs and colds. Tulsi leaves mixed with neem leaves and black pepper prevent fever and malarial infection when consumed after boiling. A few tulsi leaves boiled in water every morning and taken daily have an anti-stress effect.

Ginger helps in curing nausea and other disturbances of the gastrointestinal tract.

According to the author, this book is like a fountain of knowledge on medicinal plants and is a useful guide in curing simple diseases. Research is being carried out at the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow under the auspices of the Indian Council of Medical Research particularly with Picrorhazia kurroa for curing liver disorders; with Commifera wightii (guggal) for lowering lipid and cholesterol levels in blood; Pterocarpus marsupium (vijayasar) for treating diabetes and the day is not far when Indian herbs may become a necessity in one’s medicine cabinet.

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One Response

  1. Just fellow author, a very interesting article, is rarely found in the network once again want to thank the sponsors, thank you.

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