Greens(Spinach) are the gift of Nature. Our knowledge about various spinach is limited only to the common varieties of Tropical and common Amaranth species. But there are many new species sprouting from the soil due to the rains that have precious qualities contributing to our health. These green varieties are highly nutritive and have the properties in removing specific health defects. But we usually don’t consider them due to our ignorance.
Though we are aware of the benefits of some green varieties let us learn more about various green varieties available, what are their health benefits, their medicinal properties as accounted in Siddha medicine and the using them in our daily life.
Karisalangkanni (Eclipta prostrata)
There are four varieties of this plant based on the colour of its flowers, such as yellow, white, blue and red. Early greying of hair among youngsters can be stopped if the whole plant is made as ‘churnam’ and consumed after mixing it with tender coconut water or butter milk.
This is one of the important plants that improves eye sight. In rural areas, black eye liner is prepared in house using the extract of its leaves. Hair growth and also its blackness will be significant if the plant powder is mixed and boiled with coconut oil and the same is applied on the hair regularly. The plant can be cooked and used regularly to cure many liver related diseases including jaundice.
There are two varieties of it, country variety and a foreign variety. According to the Siddha literature, the leaves of its plant would make the body shine like gold. That is the origin of its Tamil name, meaning golden lady. It is high in vitamins and iron content.
It will strengthen the physique particularly the pregnant females. It is because of the high content of anti-oxidants. It can have control over diabetes and high blood pressure. As the plant has the property of cooling the body, it is advised to consume it more to reduce body heat. Leucorrhoea due to body heat in females can also be cured. It is also good for eye sight.
Mukkirattai (Boerhavia diffusa, Pigweed)
It is found not only in rural and urban areas but also in all places where there are water sources. It can be found in gardens and parks. It is a small plant variety not commonly used as a food. It is mostly considered as a weed. Some might use it along with other varieties of greens mixed together.
It can be used as part of our food aplenty as it has the quality of increasing red blood cells. It can be used to cure renal diseases, either as extract or along with food. It has the ability to bring down creatinine and urea in the blood. It can also cure the renal damage due to uncontrolled blood glucose level and also high blood pressure.
Mudakkaruthaan (Cardiospermum halicacabum)
Its Tamil name is coined to imply that it can cure arthritis and paralytic complications. It is particularly good for arthritis among the aged ones. It’s a climber variety and found commonly aplenty during rainy seasons in the open grounds and biological fences. It is very commonly available in rural areas but it is sold only in urban areas and cities.
It can be mixed with batter and made as dosa. It can also be mixed with ‘rasam’. It can also be mixed along with stew. By regularly consuming the plant, bones can be strengthened and arthritis can be cured.
Pasalai (Basellla alba, Vine spinach)
This plant commonly grows in wetlands. Therefore, has more water content. There are many varieties of it based on the way it grows, such as a climber, spread on the ground of an erect plant (Kodipasalai, Tharaipasalai and Chedipasalai). By consuming it regularly iron deficiency can be cured. It can be consumed by any age groups as it contains very less calories. It is rich in vitamins. It can be mixed with dhal and consumed so as to cool down the body and also good to for stop vomiting. The level of testosterone hormones can be regulated by consuming it regularly, and therefore good for curing male infertility.
Vallarai (Centella asiatica, Indian Pennywort)
It grows in water rich areas, spreading on the ground. It has another name called, ‘Yosanavalli’ implying its ability to enhance memory. The plant has the potential to improve neural network thereby improving one’s memory. It can be mixed with dhal and can be consumed. The ghee derived from the plant plays a key role in the Siddha medicine. It can be mixed with milk and given to children so as to control respiratory and digestive problems in children. Regular consumption of the plant leads to improved immunity, strengthening the body against diseases.
In this modern way of living due to scientific and technological development, many tend to consume some kind of dietary supplements in order to stay healthy and gain good physique. There are no dietary supplements that can be equated with the traditional food items along with different varieties of greens.
The young parents of today should teach their wards not only the good habits and good thinking but also good food practices that necessitate the good use of green varieties. They can be taught to grow those greens at their home itself as home or backyard kitchen garden. It will help the generations to come founded on good food practices and continuation of Tamil tradition. There can also be a feeling of pride of protecting our tradition by growing traditional green seed varieties for the future.
(This article written in Tamil by M Karthikeyan BSMS has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)
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