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Cure in your Kitchen

Instead of depending on drugs and expensive invasive treatments, spices, condiments and herbs could be the practical and affordable alternatives for almost all illnesses.

It is ironic that our herbal heritage, our folk knowledge, used by people for ages, is of negligible value today, and is scoffed at by most people if it is not available in fancy-coloured coated pills in foil strip-packing. Recent global trade cenferences and treaties tend to justify this. The custodians of herbal wealth are persuaded to supply their herbal forest produce to industry at the cost of environmental degradation, in exchange for money to buy food and consumer goods. There is no replenishing of resources, and these people, when they fall ill, turn to allopaths who prescribe the same strip-packed knowledge, which they buy back at exorbitant prices at the cost of their daily sustenance, in order to benefit industry. Modern medicine is mostly drug-dependent, and often involves invasive intervention, which is not really the answer, particularly when there is readily available, easily affordable, practical health care for all. Long before a disease is diagnosed, there are always warning signs and symptoms which can often be successfully treated with home remedies and a lifestyle change. Cures with natural remedies and lifestyle changes have the potential of reversing illness, even some very old and chronic ones.

Treatment of disease is today a thriving industry and it feeds obscene amounts in profits and commissions to doctors, druggists and diagnostics. Aggressive advertising and medical literature ensure that pharmaceuticals rule the roost. Maintaining the infrastructure of the health care industry takes up more money than the actual services delivered. However, a slowly increasing number of modern medicine practitioners do not rely on drugs alone. They prescribe complementary dietary and lifestyle changes, as drugs by themselves can cause various side effects, which produce ‘newer’ diseases. Rising levels of literacy, health-related advocacy or awareness generated by the media, plus exorbitant drug pricing, is making the lay person or the consumer turn to more easily available, less toxic avenues of health care. This has also led to the revival of indigenous health care practices-the leading and better known ones being ayurveda, unani, siddha, homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicine, massage, aromatherapy, meditation, yoga, reiki and pranic healing.

The woman at home is often the first to deal with headaches and ‘heartaches’, indigestion and insomnia; not to forget cuts and burns, nappy rashes, and much more. To aid this woman, and keeping in mind what every home has, either on the kitchen shelf or in the kitchen garden, or in and around the house, the book is a comprehensive compilation of safe, time-tested in-house prescriptions to help tide over day-to-day common health complaints. Your doctor, of course is the best person to consult should you still not feel better. Some of these remedies are a complementary adjuvant to a specific prescription for a chronic disorder-for example in diabetes, your blood-sugar levels will need to be mentioned for a review of your prescription, as allopathic drug requirements may become much less.

This book aims to help you learn to treat yourself by drawing from the rich reservoir of natural resources, whenever needed, and live happily in harmony with nature. Speaking of nature-God has gifted us our life-force, that is, prana or life breath. Breathing is the most mysterious, yet vital function of life. We live because we breathe. Breathing is the only function in the body that is totally involuntary, and yet can be fully voluntary. Learning to breathe properly and being aware of how we breathe is the simplest, safest, most effective and inexpensive way to remain healthy in mind and body. Whereas breathing is invisible, the blood in our bodies is visible, and it is vital for sustaining health and healing. Blood carries nourishment and energy to every part of the body. Hence, ensuring an adequate blood supply that is maintaining the efficient circulation of blood in the body is the master key to health and healing.

The scope of this book is limited to its being a ready reckoner at home, and the remedies suggested are mainly made from condiments, spices and herbs you are most likely to have on your kitchen shelf, larder or kitchen garden. Some common flowers, shrubs and trees have also been included. Wherever diet is mentioned, the accent is on a vegetarian combination of foods. The nomenclature is one that is in common usage:


Fennel is a hardy plant with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. Its seeds are dried and used as a food flavouring as well as a remedy for various ailments-the leaves and root are also utilised. Fennel is efficacious for many health problems, and it is used to treat respiratory and gastro-intestinal disorders, hypertension, coughs, hoarseness, persistent indigestion, flatulence, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, colic, biliousness, constipation, dysentery and diabetes.


The neem tree grows luxuriously in India to a height of 30 to 50 feet, the leaves are bipinnate and the large bunches of lilac flowers are pleasantly perfumed.

Every part of this tree is used and has antiseptic qualities. Special oils prepared from the leaves and seeds are used to treat leprosy and other skin diseases such as eczema, ringworm and scabies. Dandruff is cured by using water with neem leaves as a rinse. The tender twig of the tree is used as a toothbrush to clean the teeth. Neem leaves, fruits and the bark are used to treat fevers, sore throats, earache, mouth ulcers, gingivitis, cholera, intestinal worms, diabetes, measles, chicken pox, heat rash, prickly heat, boils, abscesses, pimples, hair problems and lice.


Ginger is a perennial root which creeps and spreads underground in tuberous joints. It sends up from its roots a green reed with narrow, lanceolate leaves. The root is used after the plant dies. Ginger has a penetrating and aromatic odour, and its taste is spicy and biting. It is used to treat nausea and vomiting, colds, chest problems, toothache, hyperactivity and heartburn, indigestion, dyspepsia, biliousness, stomach-ache, diarrhoea, flatulence, constipation, biliousness and loss of appetite in jaundice, piles, kidney problems, arthritis, sprains and strains, allergic rashes, period pains and scanty periods.


The cinnamon tree grows to a height of 20 to 30 feet. It has a thick, scabrous bark, strong branches and the leaves are petiolate. Commercial cinnamon is the dried bark of the tree. It has a fragrant perfume, an aromatic and sweet taste, and is brown in colour.

Cinnamon is carminative, antiseptic, astringent and a stimulant. It is prescribed as an infusion, a paste, and in powder form, often combined with other herbal remedies. It is useful for headaches caused by extreme cold weather and winds; throat problems, including hoarseness; diarrhoea, acne, and any swelling caused by inflammation.


Garlic is another remedy which has no sodium or potassium, but contains certain cholesterol-lowering properties. Two or three cloves or half a teaspoon of garlic powder, taken every day in the morning, is an effective remedy. However, those with weak stomachs or people who are prone to acidity, heartburn or peptic ulcer should avoid this much-publicised good-for-everything remedy.


Mustard seeds are used as a condiment and for medicinal purposes in paste and powder form. The oil extracted from them also has numerous uses, and is an important ingredient in many herbal remedies. Mustard is a stimulant, diuretic and emetic, and is also used as a poultice in pneumonia, bronchitis and other diseases of the respiratory system. It is efficacious in the alleviation of neuralgia and other pains, and also in massages and local applications. The application of mustard oil benefits rheumatism. The seed is useful in all its forms for treatment related to the head, conjunctivitis, disorders of the nose, gingivitis, toothache, throat problems, earache, muscle sprains and strains, chilblains, boils and other skin problems.


The clove tree is small and evergreen. Its flowers grow in bunches at the end of the branches. The cloves used in cooking and for therapeutic uses are the dried flower buds of the tree, which are pungent and aromatic. They contain a large amount of essential oil, which is used for medicinal purposes. Good quality cloves are fat, oily and dark brown in colour. Clove powder and oil are very effective in treating fever, problems related to the head, nausea, hypertension, disorders of the nose, sore gums, toothache, earache, chest pain, coughs, digestive problems, diarrhoea, cholera, intestinal worms, arthritis, backache, blisters, boils, burns, sexual debility and morning sickness in pregnancy.


The pepper plant has a round, smooth, woody stem; the leaves are dark green and ovate; and the fruits globular red berries when ripe, with a coarsely wrinkled surface. The berries are collected as soon as they turn red, and are dried in the sun. Pepper has an aromatic odour and a pungent, bitterish taste. It has been greatly valued from time immemorial-so much so that it is said that Attila the Hun demanded 3000 pounds of pepper in ransom for the city of Rome!

Apart from its other uses, pepper is highly efficacious as a herbal remedy. It has an active principle called pipperine, which gives it its pungent taste and analgesic and anti-inflammatory qualities. Whenever our bodies are under siege by an infection, the body policemen, the macrophages, rush to attack the invaders. They produce nitro-oxide, which prevents replication of the infecting virus. Pipperine enhances nitro-oxide production.

Pepper is a stimulant, a carminative, and is said to possess febrifuge properties. It is used to treat fevers, styes, disorders of the nose, throat problems, hoarseness, indigestion, constipation, cholera, jaundice, gallstones, loss of appetite, sexual debility, intestinal worms, diabetes and skin problems, and is an indispensable ingredient in herbal tooth powder.


The turmeric plant is of the ginger family, yielding aromatic rhizomes which are used as a spice in curries, as dyes, and for medicinal purposes. It is yellow in colour and has an aromatic, slightly bitter taste-both in powder and paste form. Fresh and dried turmeric is used for multifarious ailments such as fever, anaemia, hypertension, conjunctivitis, disorders of the nose, a sore mouth, throat problems, chest pain, coughs, wheezing and other respiratory problems, digestive disorders, jaundice, diabetes, muscle strains and sprains, chapped lips, skin problems, wounds and sexual debility.


Parsley is a biennial herb with white flowers and crinkly aromatic leaves used for seasoning and garnishing food. Its uses are many and varied, and by no means restricted to the culinary sphere. Parsley has a carminative, tonic and laxative action, and also has diuretic properties. General ailments, hypertension, chest and kidney problems, a burning sensation in passing urine, renal stones, insect bites and stings, burns, and morning sickness during pregnancy are effectively treated by this versatile herb.


Holy basil is a low, bushy plant with ovate leaves and flowers in whorls towards the top of the branches. The leaves are fragrant and aromatic and are valuable as remedies for a variety of ailments. The leaves of the holy basil lead the home-herbal list as a febrifuge. Their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties are well-researched and documented. They relieve pain, clear respiratory passages of congestion, and are excellent as a remedy for change of season fevers, cholera, piles, kidney problems, fungal infections, pimples, nausea and vomiting, hypertension, sore throats, earache, coughs, asthma, breathlessness, indigestion, dyspepsia and biliousness.


Mint shrubs are about two-feet high, bearing short-stalked, lance-shaped, wrinkled bright green leaves, with fine-toothed edges and prominent ribs beneath. The leaves are not only used for culinary purposes, but have a stimulant, carminative and antispasmodic action. Mint relieves hiccups, flatulence and indigestion. It is an excellent remedy for fevers, inflammation, problems related to the head, dizziness and fainting, nose problems, hyperacidity and heartburn, dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea, jaundice, muscle strains and sprains, fungal infections of the skin, allergic rashes and stress-related disorders. It allays nausea, vomiting and colic, and soothes haemorrhoids. Mint also has febrifugal and diuretic properties, and is essential ingredient in herbal tooth powder.


The bael fruit is globular in shape, dull greenish-brown in colour, and its external surface is hard and nearly smooth. It has a thick rind, which adheres to a light red pulp inside. The pulp contains several woolly seeds, has a faintly aromatic odour and a sweet, mucilaginous taste. Fresh or dried bael pulp is considered a panacea for digestive disorders, and is also used to treat various other ailments such as fever, nausea and vomiting, hypertension, eye problems, chest pains, hyperacidity and heart burn, dyspepsia, flatulence, constipation, jaundice and excessive menstruation.


Cardamom is known in its own country, India, as elaichi . The plant has a large, fleshy rhizome, and the alternate, lanceolate leaves are large, smooth and dark green above and pale, glaucous green and silky beneath. The fruits are less than an inch long and have cells inside which contain small dark, reddish-brown seeds. These fruits are dried and only the aromatic seeds are used to flavour food and for medicinal purposes. They are usually powdered just prior to use as they lose their aroma if stored as powder. As a remedy it is used to treat indigestion, flatulence, fever, nausea, vomiting, hypertension, eye disorders, chest pains, hyperacidity and heartburn, dyspepsia, constipation, amoebiasis, diarrhoea, excessive menstruation and jaundice.


Sandalwood is the scented wood of a tree of the genus santalum-in full white sandalwood. A yellow aromatic oil is extracted from it. Sandalwood oil, paste and powder are the panacea for a host of ailments. The oil promotes mental balance, a feeling of peace and tranquillity, and a cool, relaxed mind. The paste and powder are used for hypertension; the paste for headache, rashes caused by measles, chicken pox, heat rash, prickly heat, acne, allergic rash and eczema; and the powder for white patches on the skin.


Henna is a tropical shrub, 8 to 10 feet high, with small pink, red or white, sweet-smelling flowers. The henna leaf paste is used in India to decorate women’s hands and feet. It is also popular as a hair conditioner and colourant.

Henna leaves have an astringent action and antibacterial properties. For pains, a paste made of the leaves, applied on the affected area, is soothing and gives relief. Gargling with an infusion made of henna leaves heals a sore throat; and burns, skin infections, jaundice, leprosy, small pox are cured by using henna internally and locally.


The nutmeg tree is evergreen, yielding a hard, aromatic and spheroidal seed. This seed is grated and used as a spice to flavour a variety of cuisines all over the world. It has a strong but pleasing fragrance, with a slightly bitter and aromatic taste. Nutmeg also has several less-known medicinal uses. It is used to alleviate general weakness and debility, anaemia, toothache, flatulence and diarrhoea.

Home Doctor by Dr P. S. Phadke
Published by Lustre Press/Roli Books
Pages: 256; Price: Rs 595