Monday, February 13, 2012

Living with HIV? Let Giloi be your flatmate!

This weekend was quite special for me. No, I didn't have a smashing date, didn't watch a great movie or dine out. What I did, instead, is this: plant a Giloi (Tinospora cordifolia) creeper in my balcony garden.
Giloi or Giloy - also called Guduchi.

I had been looking for Giloi for several months - July to be exact. That was the month I shifted from Goa (where it was very commonly found) to Hyderabad and ever since, I had been on the lookout for a Giloi plant. Finally, after a long search, my mom discovered this creeper in the garden of a neighbo who thought it was a wild nuisance and was about to pull it out and throw. So, I did a timely intervention!

Now, what makes a Giloi so special for me or us? Lets see: this is a plant you can use for a number of sicknesses such as Jaundice, TB (Tuberculosis), Piles, constipation and chronic fever. As I often suffer from common cold and hay fever,Giloi is just what I need.

But , above all else,  Giloi strengthens the immune system which is why it is the greatest gift of nature for  those living with HIV

A number of  medicine brands (with dried Giloi extract) are available in the market.But here is how you can use it at home.

Take a one-foot long branch of giloi, add five to six leaves of Tulsi (sacred basil) and boil in water for 15-20 minutes.. Add black pepper and a little rock or black salt, or Misri (palm candy) to make it sweet. Let it cool a bit and drink this concoction while still warm. 

If you have piles, then boil giloi leaves and have that extract with butter milk. 

So, go ahead, plant a Giloi today - it wont take much space, can grow in a corner,around that pillar with little supervision!

As for me, I have to wait for my creeper to grow a bit. After all, its just a baby now!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Goa needs Kalanchoe

I was living in Goa, a coastal state in western India that draws millions of tourists every year, until a few months ago. One Summer morning, the bell rang and I found a young man in his mid- twenties at our door. It was Easter time and I thought that the young man had come to invite me to an Easter party in the neighborhood. But, to my utter shock, he said he was here to meet my mom for 'the medicine to his kidney problem'.

He ultimately got the medicine: a bundle Kalanchoe Pinnata (Goethe Plant) leaves.  Mom instructed him to extract the juice of the leaves and drink half a cup every morning. 'Be regular, it will surely cure you', Mom told him.

Kalanchoe PInnata or the stone crusher - a plant that has proven curative properties for those suffering from renal disorder such as kidney stone.

Found  quite commonly all across India, Kalanchoe has a number of varieties. And all of them have renoprotective abilities/ properties that cure renal problems. This must be the reason why it has the local name 'Patharkuchi ('stone crusher'). .

Now, Goa - a state famous for its blue sea, beautiful beaches, also has some dark realities. One of them is the fact that the state has a very high rate of renal disorder/ailments. In fact Canacona - a block in South Goa tops the list of maximum people suffering from kidney stones in India.

I wasn't aware of this until Devidas Gaonkar, a young tribal reporter who lives in Canacona, told me about it. I was discussing with Devidas possible health issues in his community when he said that the most common disease they had was urinary stones. Death of renal failure is quite common, he said.

The exact reason of why Canacona has such high number of renal problems is still not known, despite several studies done by the government. The government has also built a high-tech hospital in the block for treatment of renal failure. This hospital is closed most of the time, says Devidas, as it lacks equipments and medicine. 

 Now, this is why I think Goa government should promote cultivation and use of Kalanchoe. The effectiveness of Kalanchoe is a scientifically proven fact. In fact, all Ayurvedic companies are using the same properties in their medicine for renal disorder.

From my personal experience, I have seen how taking Kalanchoe at an early stage of the stone formation, helps avoid a surgery by dissolving the stones; both men and women in my community have used it and have been cured of the stones.

Surely then, for Goan government, cultivation and promotion of a herb like Kalanchoe, is a much simpler, cost-effective way to provide the villagers an option to stay healthy?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Beat That Mumps With A Monkey Stick

Corporal punishment is a horrible thing. But believe me, sometimes, a stick can do wonders to you, especially if its the stick of a monkey.

Puzzled? Well, I am talking about Indian Laburnum or the Amaltas - the beautiful yellow flower tree that also bears a meter long, bean-like pod. In my mother's village in the North East India, they call it the 'Monkey Stick".Now, have never seen a monkey walking with that, or any other stick :) But I love that name.

In my village, kids often get Mumps. Now Mumps, as we know, is nothing to romanticize about. It attacks your saliva glands, making your throat and mouth swell like balloons and the pain, especially when you try to swallow, is so severe, you cry every time.

But in my village, nobody is scared of  Mumps, thanks to the monkey sticks. What you do is this: pluck the ripe (the outer shell will be dry, hard and wooden) pods. Crack them open. Inside, you find dry wax of dark brown color. Heat a handful of wax it a little until it melts and then apply a thick coat of that wax over the swollen glands. 

I always saw people getting cured in 2-3days. In fact, I had Mumps once (when I was in 10th standard) and I got alright on the 3rd day.

Of course, the tree has other uses also, especially all those dazzling yellow chandeliers flowers. A thick paste of the flower petals can help enormously cure skin diseases like chapped, broken or itchy skin. The fruit pulp with milk can also be used as a cure for seriously infected skin and burns.

So next time you see an Amaltas tree, do a bit of monkeying around, collect a few seeds.They will help beat the Mumps blues away!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Miracle Tree: What Indian Women Need

Yesterday I wrote a blog on the current status of women's health in India. The blog is about how over 50% of Indian women suffer form anemia and malnutrition - a fact revealed by a  recent report.

After the blog was published, a friend called Olanike from Kaduna, Nigeria asked me if I knew miracle tree (moringa oleifera) which could cure anemia. Executive Director of Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment in Kaduna, Olanike often advises women in her community to use the miracle tree to build blood, thus fighting anemia. And that is how I came to write this blog.
Moringa Oleifera/Miracle Tree: Over 50% of women in India suffer from anemia and consuming parts of this tree can help build blood and restore their health

Miracle Tree or drumstick or Sanjna is a tree widely available in India. In fact I have never lived in a house that didn't have at least 1 miracle tree in its garden. And I have always eaten, not just its beans/pods (the 'drumsticks'), but also its leaves and flowers which you can eat in different ways, are quite tasty as well,beside being high in nutrition. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Basil - Grow, Munch, Enjoy !

Its sometimes shocks me to know that most of my friends in India don't know how to eat Basil. In big cities, a few boutique-type vegetable shops do sell basil, but the buyers are all restaurateurs.

It shocks me because I have eaten lemon basil as long as I can remember. And frustrated with 'no basil' situation, I took to growing them a few years ago. Turns out, they are extremely easy to grow! Doesn't need more attention than what you give to a Tulsi/sacred basil plant.

The common way to basil is of course as a flavor add on or as a salad leaf. So, one day I thought of trying an 'Indian' way - fry the leaves. The result was quite impressive! The leaves were thin and therefore cooked quickly. With each bite, you get the strong flavor filling your mouth, your nostrils, while the fried leaves, coated with corn flour, tempts you to snack on.

Another experiment that I did was cooking basil with tiny local fish. Clean the fish, mix them with a thick paste of turmeric, salt, ginger, green chili and garlic. Finally, add a liberal amount of finely chopped basil and  and cook in steam . The taste is so good, you will not forget for quite some time!

Another weekend is here. How about flavoring it with a bit of basil - the oriental way?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fern - Food For A Smile!

Ferns are in demand as a home decor. But if you cook the right one, it can also bring a big smile on your face. The aroma and the taste is so wonderful, I call it my happy dish - one that always lifts up my sagging spirit!.

Edible Fern, popularly known as 'Dheki' or 'Akoor'

Fern is quite popular in the North east India. The variety that we find there - quite in abandon - is the Pako/fiddlehead fern. But in Goa also, I have been lucky to find it, though only in monsoon. The variety is the swamp fern, and goes with the local name of 'akoor'. Sadly, many people, locals included, don't seem to know how to eat it :(

Cooking the fern is simple: chop them into tiny pieces. Chop some garlic cloves and fry them a spoonful of oil, add the fern now and fry until it goes tender. You can, also use cumin seeds for the seasoning, but its garlic that really brings out the flavor of the fern. Remember, you must wash the fern thoroughly before cutting. Because, once cut, a slippery substance starts to ooze out, making it difficult to wash it later. 

Want to get over your Monday blues? Try this happy dish! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vegetarian? Here's A 'Bird' You Can Eat!

Everyone knows a hummingbird. But have you ever seen a hummingbird flower? You did? Great! Now, have you ever tried eating one? There! Gotcha!

Hummingbird or 'Bok' - one of the tastiest flowers ever! Photo credit:

The hummingbird flower is one of the tastiest flowers ever! In fact its been over 3 years since I ate my last, but I can still feel the taste!  

Before you eat a hummingbird,remember 2 things: 1) A fully grown, about -to-bloom bud will taste better than one on full bloom. 2) Dig your fingers inside the flower and remove the thin, green stalk that you find in between the petal. That is a bitter, inedible part.

If you like your food in its original flavor, like I do, then chop the flowers in small or medium pieces and just saute with a pinch of salt and turmeric, if you will. That's it!

But if you want a more exotic dish, then get a handful of rava (semolina) powder. Make a thin paste with water, dip the flower and dip fry in oil. You can eat it as a snack or as a side dish at lunch/dinner.

The hummingbird grows all year through and you can eat it anytime! And when you do that, no real birds will be hurt :)