Food

A herb to cure stress

Karisalankanni is a medicinal weed found across the world

 
By Meenakshi Sushma
Last Updated: Tuesday 12 June 2018 | 09:11:39 AM
Communities  across India use karisalankanni  to treat filariasis, boils, wounds, headache and giddiness (Photo: Vikas Choudhary)
Communities  across India use karisalankanni  to treat filariasis, boils, wounds, headache and giddiness (Photo: Vikas Choudhary) Communities across India use karisalankanni to treat filariasis, boils, wounds, headache and giddiness (Photo: Vikas Choudhary)

Karisalankanni (Eclipta prostrata) finds mention in L G Holm’s 1977 book, World’s Worst Weeds: Distribution and Biology. It is a worthy contender, having the ability to thrive among at least 17 types of crops, including sugarcane, flax, corn, rice, taro, papaya, banana, peanut, soybean and barley, states the book. Native to Asia, the herb spread to countries like France as a contaminant in rice seed.

Though karisalankanni is a small wild herb, growing barely 8 cm, spinach-sellers in Chennai supply it on demand. When I was young, my grandmother would prepare porriyal (a dry dish) or thogayal (a chutney-like preparation) from karisalan-kanni leaves. Unlike porriyal, thogayal is prepared from cooked or roasted ingredients. It is generally mixed with rice and served. The herb tastes bitter and pungent, but is full of medicinal qualities.

Karisalakanni is considered a precious herb by Ayurveda and Siddha practitioners. A non-negotiable ingredient of hair oils, it is used to treat dry scalps. It is said to even cure baldness. This was substantiated by a paper published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine in 2015. The paper said that extract of the plant stimulates the hair follicle and can be used to treat certain types of alopecia, a condition in which hairless patches emerge on the head and other parts of the body.

The benefits of karisalakanni are not limited to hair, though. According to the Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions, a Bengaluru-based research institute, communities across India use the plant to treat filariasis, boils, wounds, headache, giddiness, lack of vision, indigestion, enlargement of liver and spleen, jaundice, abdominal pain, cough, skin diseases and fever. Irula, a tribal group settled in the Nilgiris in the Western Ghats, uses the leaves to cure malaria. Malayali tribes of Yercaurd hills in Salem district of Tamil Nadu cook the leaves and eat it along with boiled rice. Tribes in the Kolli hills of the Eastern Ghats in Tamil Nadu use the roots of kari-salankanni to prepare a chutney that helps reduce body heat and cure migraine and body ache.



Studies have also found that karisalan-kanni is full of adaptogenic properties— it increases the body’s tolerance to mental and physical stress. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and micro nutrients like sodium, magnesium, copper, iron, calcium, zinc and potassium.

The herb is available across India, at all elevations, throughout the year. But it grows in abundance at the end of the monsoon and during winter. It is called garagadasappu in Kannada, bhringraj in Hindi and galagara in Telugu.

Karisalakanni prefers a clayey soil which can store plenty of moisture. The herb is pan-tropical and the list of countries it grows in includes the US, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar.

Karisalankanni porriyal
 

Ingredients

  • 200g karisalankanni leaves
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 medium size onion (chopped)
  • 1 green chilli slit into half
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 tsp grated coconut
  • Salt as per taste

Method
Remove the leaves from stem, soak them in water for 10 minutes and wash. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Add onion and saut till it turns translucent. Add green chilli, turmeric and coconut. Sprinkle water while sauting if the mixture is dry. Do not cook the leaves for long.

Karisalankanni thogayal

 

Ingredients

  • 200g karisalankanni leaves
  • 1 dry chilli
  • 8-10 pepper corns   
  • 1 tsp tamarind (berry size)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • Salt as per taste

Method
Remove the leaves from the stem, rinse them and keep it aside. Heat oil in a pan and saut the leaves along with chilli till the leaves shrink. Add salt and tamarind,saut for a minute. Crush garlic and pepper in a mortar and pestle. Add the crushed ingredients to the sautd leaves and grind them in to a fine paste. Mix the paste with boiled rice and ghee. Serve it hot.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Related Story:

Herbs to heal malaria

Book review: Healthy herbs

Vanishing herbs

Herbs face extinction

We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.