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Awareness Magazine
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Indian Medicinal Plants

(Please note that use of any medicinal plant or plant product should be

undertaken only under medical advice and supervision)

By Sudhir Ahluwalia

 

Agaricus campestris

Common name: Field mushroom or meadow mushroom

Family: Agaricaceae

Medicinal use: Diabetes

This mushroom species is distributed across the world — India, China, U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, North Africa. It is an edible mushroom that looks similar to button mushrooms sold in grocery stores across the U.S. and other parts of the world. Rich in protein, minerals and natural oxidants, the plant was used extensively by ancient and modern societies.

This is not cultivated; has a very short table life and is found in open grassy areas and fields. The mushroom sprouts in a ring pattern in compost-rich places after the rains. It is rarely found in woodland.

Traditionally healers across the world have been using the plant to cure diabetes. A decoction is prepared and orally administered to patients. Modern research on rats has confirmed the hyperglycemic insulin-like property of the species.

European healers have been known to apply the mushroom externally in the form of a poultice to ripen abscesses and boils. In some parts of Scotland, fungal dressing was used to treat ulcers, bed sores and slices were applied to scalds and burns.

Ayurveda practitioners regard the action of the species to be astringent, hydragogue and lactifuge. The plant is also administered for constipation. There is reference of the plant in ancient Islamic test Ahadith wherein it is recommended that the juice be applied as medicine for the eyes.

 

Alhalgi pseudalhagi  syn A. maurorum

Common name: Camel thorn bush or manna

Family: Fabaceae

Medicinal use: Digestive system diseases

This bush could grow up to a meter in height. It is found in temperate and tropical regions of Eurasia right up to Siberia on the one side and across to the Mediterranean region on the other. It is also found in North South Asia, Middle East region and China.

In the U.S. it was introduced in the early nineteen hundreds from the Middle East region as a contaminant in imports of alfafa and dates. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has classified the plant as a noxious weed. The plant aggressively invades cattle pasture land in the U.S. rendering it unfit for grazing. The plant is seen distributed across the U.S. except the Mid-West region.

 

Alhalgi pseudalhagi

FLOWERS (see photo above)

The perennial shrub bears sharp yellow-tipped spines with flowers and seed pods borne on thorns. The small pea-like flowers exude a sweet-tasting sap that contains manitol. The sap is an effective laxative and is used to reduce sweating, quench thirst, is anti-pyretic and anti- inflammatory. It is used as a cough remedy and referred to as manna in the Holy Quran.

Research done in Iran has demonstrated a uretal stone excretion property of the plant. The plant is authorized for use in the UK as a honey plant and feed.

Leaves of the plant are used to treat fever, headache and rheumatism. Flowers are said to act as a blood coagulant and used to treat piles. Folk medicinal use includes using plant to treat glandular tumors, nasal polyps, gastroenteric diseases, diarrhea, hemorrhoids and as a laxative.

 

Acorus calamus

English Common name: Sweet Flag, Calamus

Family: Acoraceace

Medicinal use: Nervous system

This plant is widely distributed across parts of the globe. It is a perennial monocot that looks like grass, grows up to 2 meters tall and in the breeze gives a swishing sound.

The plant’s medicinal property is mentioned in literature associated with Hippocrates (460 BC to 377 BC), Theophrastus (371 BC to 287 BC) and Dioscorides. The plant is also referred to in the Bible — Exodus 30: 22-25 as one of the ingredients to the “holy anointing oil.” In Europe the rhizome was added to wine and probably as an ingredient to absinthe. It was also an ingredient in witches flying ointment of Greece, Rome and other European lands.

North American tribes like the Sioux and others placed a great value on the species. The plant was extensively planted by them along their migration paths and trails. They viewed this to be a miracle plant that was used to cure diseases of the skin, a cure to cough, cold, asthma and as a remedy to a host of digestive disorders. It was used as face paint by American tribes before they went to battle. The stimulating impact rendered them calm and fearless before the enemy. American tribes also used to make aromatic garlands from the plant. It was extensively used by the early American settlers.

The plant was banned by the U.S. FDA for use as a food additive in 1968 after research indicated that some varieties of the plant had pro-carcinogenic chemicals. Herbal shops in the U.S. have stopped recommending or dispensing medicine from the plant.

Homeopathy drugs for treating flatulence, dyspepsia, anorexia and gall disorders are also made from the plant.

This listing of Indian medicinal plants will be a continuing article in upcoming issues of Awareness Magazine. Go to www.awarenessmag.com for any issues you may have missed.