Two researchers from India present the medicinal benefits of three widely used herbs

by Neetu Gupta *& G.K.Kochar**
Dept. of Home Science
Kurukshetra University

“The fruit of the tree is for man's food and the leaves of the tree for man's medicine" - The Word of God

Doesn’t this mythical statement signify a universal truth? With the advent of modern medical science and allopathic treatment somehow the use of herbs was conquered. Of course a change has taken place but sorry to say it’s much inclined towards the adverse direction.  
Looking back to the medicinal herbs is indeed a consequence of this crisis. Your very presence in today’s situation may make you feel bizarre about following the ancient track. But believe it or not; where prescription drugs fail, herbs can be useful.

•    Herbal treatment has a holistic approach that depends on natural elements to take care of your good health.
•    And the most crucial factor you can really rely on is that herbal treatment has very little or no side effect.
Herbs keep your life pure, pious and protected. Here are a few common herbs which are around us and we are using in our day to day life   without knowing there medicinal values and if perceptive than that to limited extent.
Holy basil (Tulsi )

The Tulsi or the holy basil is an herb typical to the Indian religion and culture. This has assumed great religious significance over thousands of years. In fact its religious importance far surpasses its medicinal and other (condimental) uses. Tulsi plant of India is the Ocinum sanctum. Fresh or dried leaves of Tulsi are used for carrying out religious rituals- for worshipping particularly Lord Vishnu or Krishna revered by Hindus.
Tulsi or Holy Basil has a hot and spicy flavor that is comparable to the flavor of the clove. The Tulsi leaves have a marked strong aroma and an astringent taste. There are some biologically active compounds like urosolic acid, luteolin and apigenin that can be extracted from the Tulsi leaves. Though it is the leaves that are usually used, the flowers, seeds and roots also find good usage.

Medicinal uses - Tulsi has got diverse healing properties. Though traditionally used by Hindus or Indians now others are using it too recognizing its immense therapeutic properties. The Tulsi has the property of acting as an adaptogen. Recent studies have shown that the tulsi leaf  balances different processes in the body and is of great help in stress management. Even a healthy person can chew 12 leaves of basil, twice a day, to prevent stress. It purifies blood and helps prevent several common ailments. The common paediatric problems like cough, cold, fever and vomiting respond favourably to the juice of basil leaves.

Studies have also shown the Tulsi leaves are to be effective in reducing blood sugar levels and in controlling diabetes. It has also been proved to be effective in reducing cholesterol levels. Having anti bacterial and anti parasitic properties makes it suitable for combating infectious diseases of various types.

Applied locally, basil juice is beneficial in the treatment of ringworm and other skin diseases.

Indian aloe (Ghee kanvar)
Indian aloe is an erect plant, 30 to 150 cm in height. It has smooth, pale green, fleshy leaves, convex below, tapering to a blunt point, with horny prickles at the margins. The mention of this plant finds place in many ancient texts including the Bible.   The plant is succulent and short stemmed and has thick leaves. The bitter juice of the fleshy leaves is used in medicines.

The active principle of aloe is a mixture of glycosides called aloin. The proportion of aloin varies in different specimens of aloes.

Medicinal value

The leaves of the plant are useful in restoring the disordered processes of nutrition. This has high water content and a large number of nutrients. It has been found that there are some 75 different health endowing nutrients including vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars and some useful acids.   The Aloe Vera leaves contain mucilaginous juice. This is a soothing substance and is popularly used to treat burns (that is why the Aloe Vera is also called the burn plant). It is in treating minor burns and sun burns of skin that the plant’s extract is primarily used for.

Aloe Vera is taken orally to act as remedy for heartburn, stomachaches, indigestion, arthritis and rheumatism pain and asthma. It also helps provide relief (when administered internally) from congestion, intestinal worms, ulceration conditions, colitis, hemorrhoids, cirrhosis of liver and hepatitis and problems of the prostrate glands. The pulp of one leaf should be taken daily for relief.

The Aloe Vera derivatives and extracts (sap) are used on a large scale in various products manufactured by the cosmetic companies.   The plant is a great healer of dry skin and skin affected with a host of problems like acne, pimples, blemishes, pox marks etc.

Garlic (Lahsoon)

Garlic is an erect biennial herb of the onion family, normally grown as an annual. The bulb consists of 6 to 35 bulblets called cloves, enclosed in a thick whitish and transparent covering. The cloves have been used all over the world for seasoning. Its various medicinal properties were also discovered and gainfully utilized in various cultures. The bulbs yield an essential oil containing allyl propyl disulphide, diallyl disulphide and two other sulphur compounds. The unpleasant odour in garlic is due to its sulphur content.

Medicinal value

Garlic is one of the most beneficial herbs for the digestive systems. Crushed cloves of garlic either as such or infused in water or milk and taken for all disorders of digestion. It has an antiseptic effect and is an excellent remedy for infectious diseases and inflammation of the stomach and intestine. Garlic oil is absorbed into the alimentary tract and is eliminated partly through the urine.

Garlic is one of the most effective remedies for lowering blood pressure. Pressure and tension are reduced because it has the power to ease the spasm of the small arteries. It helps to break up cholesterol in the blood vessels, thereby preventing any hardening of arteries which lead to high blood pressure and heart attack.

The herb is regarded as a rejuvenator for various blood and skin disorders. Garlic helps to remove toxins, revitalize the blood, stimulate circulation and promote intestinal flora for good.  Garlic, rubbed over ringworms, gives quick relief. The area is burnt by the strong garlic and later the skin peels off and ringworm cures. Pimples disappear without a scar when rubbed with raw garlic several times a day. Even very persistent forms of acne, in some adults, have been healed with garlic.
Further the garlic is used extensively in the treatment of whooping cough, wounds, diphtheria, rheumatism and associated diseases.
Ginger (Adrak)
Ginger is a perennial herb, with underground branching stems which are swollen and tough. The leaves and rhizomes of ginger have a characteristics fragrance when cut. The rhizomes are dug out when the leafy parts are dried. Ginger is believed to have originated in India and has been used as a spice and a medicine from early times by the Indian and the Chinese. The primary known constituents of Ginger Root include gingerols, zingibain, bisabolenel, oleoresins, starch, essential oil (zingiberene, zingiberole, camphene, cineol, borneol), mucilage, and protein.

Medicinal values

Ginger is most commonly known for its effectiveness as a digestive aid. By increasing the production of digestive fluids and saliva, Ginger helps relieve indigestion, gas pains, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Ginger root is also used to treat nausea related to both motion sickness and morning sickness. Ginger has been found to be even more effective than common allopathic medicine in curbing motion sickness, without causing drowsiness. Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties help relieve pain and reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, rheumatism and muscle spasms. In headache, ginger ointment made by rubbing dry ginger with a little water on a grinding stone and applied to the forehead affords relief.

Ginger's therapeutic properties effectively stimulate circulation of the blood, removing toxins from the body, cleansing the bowels and kidneys, and nourishing the skin. Other uses for Ginger Root include the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems by loosening and expelling phlegm from the lungs. Ginger Root may also be used to help break fevers by warming the body and increasing perspiration.

The essential oil from the ginger is used in the manufacture of flavoring essence and in perfumery also.

* Doctoral candidate
** Professor, Foods and Nutrition cum Chairperson, Department of Home Science, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra