The healing touch

A USER’S GUIDE TO MEDICINAL PLANTS FOR PRIMARY HEALTH CARE·Vaidya P Ram Manohar·Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions· Price Rs 50

By Frederick Noronha
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

this book, published by a voluntary group from Bangalore, offers an insight into the world of medicinal plants from the region, and how villagers have been meeting their health needs over generations. A low-priced, yet slick and well-illustrated publication, it offers plant-based cures for common ailments from coughs and eye ailments to menstrual disorders and scabies.

This slim publication does not aim to replace the physician. Its less ambitious and more realistic task is to promote the cultivation and use of commonly available medicinal plants to treat common ailments at home. As the book says, "We are one of the richest nations in the world in terms of natural resources. Yet, many of us know very little about the vast treasure-house of medicinal plants that nature has so graciously bestowed upon us."

Medicinal plants, it points out, remain as potent and effective today as they were thousands of years ago, yet very few people know how to use them. For example, how many would know that headaches of different types can be treated with fruits of Piper Nigrum or Piper longum , the bark of neem , dry seeds of Coriandrum sativum or Cumminum cyminum and the roots of Vetiveria zizanoides ?

By giving the Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Sanskrit names of the plants used, along with well-executed colour photographs, this neat publication has enhanced its own utility. The explanations for trying out these remedies are accompanied by interesting notes on the methods of processing the plants as fresh juice, decoctions, milk decoctions, herbal tea, paste or powder, which makes the book very user-friendly. The book also lists suppliers of raw herbs and barks in South India and medicinal plant conservation areas, parks and nurseries that are being set up in the region.

The publishers of this volume have ambitious plans of distributing medicinal plant packages through nurseries in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They hope to develop this project into an all-India one. They hope that growing more medicinal plants would ensure that these are not affected by rampant collections from the wild.

This publication represents a stride towards reclaiming the natural wealth of India and using it to treat those who can ill afford more expensive cures.

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