Banana or Plantain is one of the most savored fruits, and though they come in various shapes, sizes and varieties, two of these varieties are widely used:
Musa sapientum – These fruits are small and raw ones are used as vegetable.
Musa paradisica – These fruits are large and eaten when ripe.
In Ayurveda banana is referred by various synonyms like Kadali, Vaarnaa, Mocha, Ambusara, Anshumatiphala. Various varieties are also described – Manikya kadali, Martyak kadali, Amrita kadali, Champak kadali, etc.
It is considered as one of the sacred trees and symbolizes Lord Vishnu. The fruit is offered to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi for happiness in family and married life. The Banana leaves symbolize growth and regeneration and in auspicious ceremonies leaves are tied to the pillars and food is served on them.
Today is World Heart Day . Atleast 80% of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease ( CVD ) could be avoided if four main risk factors – tobacco use , unhealthy diet , physical inactivity and harmful use of alchohol – are controlled .
So , this year’s theme is creating Heart –healthy environments .
Along with these environments if we judiciously use Ayurvedic herbs , health of heart can be maintained and many complications can be avoided.
ARJUNA ( Terminalia arjuna ) :
Anti hyperlipaemic Activity : Terminalia arjuna is known to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis and potentiates the activity of lipolytic enzymes to early clearance of lipids from the circulation in triton induced hyperlipaemia .
Hyperlipaemia cause inhibition of hepatic lipolytic activity and specific binding of I-125-LDL in membrane, T. arjuna is known to restore the enzyme activity and receptor mediated catabolism of LDL. T. arjuna administerd in hyperlipaemic subjects inhibits the overall hepatic lipid biosynthesis as evidenced by the decreased incorporation of sodium acetate , cholesterol – digitonoid and free fatty acid fractions of liver lipids . T. arjuna enhances the synthesis of LDL apo proteins as well as receptor protein and inhibits the oxidative modification of LDL to accelerate the turn over of LDL cholesterol in liver .
Antianginal and Cardioprotective Activity : T. arjuna is known to alleviate angina pain in Ischemic heart disease . It is also effective in patients having rhythm disturbance particularly in ventricular premature beats . In one of the studies , T . arjuna exhibited increase in the coronary flow of the blood in coronary heart diseased patients .
It is known to lower systolic blood pressure , body mass index and increases HDL cholesterol . It has been observed to increase PGE2 activity . PGE2 is known to induce coronary vasodilation and hypotension .
DRAKSHA ( Vitis vinifera ) :
Cardioprotective Activity : The cardioprotective effect of V. vinifera is contributed to the three polyphenolic groups . These are – procyanidins , anthocyans and trans – resveratrol . The cardioprotective action of resveratrol is supposed to be mediated through anti oxidant property . Resveratrol significantly protects LDL from oxidation .
ARDRAKA ( Zingiber offinale ) :
The active constituents gingerol and shagol are known to cause vagal stimulation . This results in decrease in blood pressure and heart rate . Gingerol shows a significant decrease in serum cholesterol with an increase in HDL cholesterol.
KALMEGHA ( Andrographis panniculata ) :
Stenosis caused by injury to the inner lining of the blood vessel and high cholesterol in diet is also decreased by A. panniculata .It is known to have anti platelet aggregation property . It is also known to have fibrinolysis property which helps to dissolve the clots after myocardial infarction .
DARUHALDI ( Berberis aristata ) :
Clinical trials have suggested that B. aristata and berberine may be effective in preventing the onset of ventricular tachy arrhythmias and sudden coronary death after myocardial ischemic damage . In human’s berberine in a specific dose for 30 minutes elicited several significant changes . A 48% decrease in systemic and 41% decrease in pulmonary vascular resistance , along with a 28% decrease in right atrium and 32% in left ventricular and diastolic pressure is observed . Measurable increase of 46% in cardiac index , 45% in stroke index and 56% in left ventricular ejection factor is found .
PUSHKARMULA ( Inula racemosa ) :
Inula racemosa is known for its anti angina action . Alantalactone and isoalantolactone are considered to be responsible for its action . I. racemosa shows improvement in precordial pain and dyspnoea in angina patients when administered along with Commiphora mukul . It also lowers the serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels , in hyperlipidemic patients .
The powder of I. racemosa is known to prevent ST segment depression and T wave inversion in patients with proven ischemic heart disease .
In Ayurveda many herbs are described which are used as a single herb or in combination . Combination is done to increase the efficacy of herbs to enhance the action on a particular organ or disease .
Various parts of plants are used for treatment e.g roots , barks, leaves etc . The group according to the part or number of herbs is indicated in various conditions . One combination is based on five herbs or pentad of herbs . Following are some of the important pentad of herbs .
1) PANCHAKOLA ( Group of five Pungents) :
Herbs : Pippali ( long pepper ), Pippalimula ( root of long pepper ) , Chavya , Chitraka ( leadwort ) , Shunthi ( dry ginger ) .
For stimulating digestion : It is given in gruel form
Grahani roga : It is given with ghee ( clarified butter ) or soup of radish
Piles : It is given with buttermilk
Cough : Milk processed with panchakola is advised
Colic : Panchkola with three salts and hingu (asafoetida ) with warm water relieves colic
Amavata : Water boiled with panchakola or powder with warm water is given
Disorders of breast milk : Paste of panchakola and kulatha ( Dolichus ) should be applied to breasts
Turmeric has always been integral part of Indian kitchen with varied uses – as a condiment to medicine . In this article , the journey of Turmeric from ancient times to present has been tried to explore .
Family : Zingiberacaeae
Botanical Name : Curcuma longa
English Name : Turmeric
Hindi Name : Haldi
Synonyms : Haridra ( Symbolizing special bond with Hari / Lord Vishnu or one which improves skin complexion)
Kanchani ( Which gives colour of gold )
Nisha ( Related to night )
Krimighna ( Which kills germs )
Yoshita priya ( Liked by women )
The Plant :
It is an annual herb . Orange to yellow coloured rhizomes grow underground . Leaves are 30 – 40 cm in length and smell like ginger . Petiole is long and broad like leaves and it smells like mango . The stalk of the flower is 12 – 16 cm long and yellow flower grows at its tip . Fruit is oval with deep yellow pulp.
The yellow of turmeric is a virile colour , colour of sun spreading across the sky and reaching out to the earth . When sprinkled over deity , the idea is to evoke the deity’s grace and power. Turmeric is antiseptic – destroyer of germs as Gods destroy demons .
Yellow is the colour of Solar Plexus Chakra – which is the energy centre relating to the metabolic and digestive system .
As a ritual in Indian weddings , brides and grooms are anointed with turmeric paste . Turmeric is sprinkled on invitation cards also .
Turmeric improves fertility and is considered as a symbol of purity and prosperity.
Culinary Uses :
Fresh leaves are used in cooking .
Leaf is added in Ghee ( clarified butter ) for aroma .
Raw turmeric is used as pickle .
As a condiment ( in powdered form ) in most of the Indian food .
Properties of Turmeric :
Taste : Bitter , Acrid
Properties : Dry , Light
Potency : Hot
Post Digestive Property : Acrid
It balances Vata , Pitta , Kapha and is mainly used in vitiated condition of Kapha and Pitta .
It is used as thermogenic , antiseptic , anti inflammatory , appetizer , carminative , anthelmintic , anti allergic , expectorant , haematinic , styptic , febrifuge , tonic , vulnerary , alterative.
It is used in ulcers , skin disorders , hepatomegaly , spleenomegaly , hyperlipidemia , malignancy , diabetes , arthritis , jaundice , bronchitis and general debility .
Post natal period : Haridra khand pak has purifying effect on uterus and breast milk .
Diabetes : 10 – 15 ml juice of turmeric and gooseberry ( Amla ) in equal quantity should be taken daily as a prophylactic measure . If juice is not available , powder of both herbs should be taken in equal quantity . This is called ‘ Nisha – amalaki Yog’.
Bronchial Asthma / Cough : It acts as an expectorant .
It is roasted and given with honey or warm water .
Inhalation of turmeric smoke reduces cough .
Put it in saline water for 21 days and then parched on fire ,should be kept in mouth. It checks hiccough , cough , asthma , disorders of kapha .
Anaemia : It should be mixed with Triphla ( three myrobalans ) , honey , ghee ( clarified butter ) for internal use .
Colic : Turmeric 10 gm with equal quantity of yavani ( Trachyspermum amami ) and salt 2.5 gm is powdered and cooked in ghee 40 gm . It should be taken warm in severe colic.
Paronychia : Fresh rhizome ground with milk and castor oil is applied externally.
Bone fracture / Sprain / Wound :
External : It is applied locally with lime stone .
Internal : Powder mixed with Murraya paniculata is given. It can be given with Candy Sugar ( Mishri ).
Disorders due to change of place : Turmeric pounded with sour gruel should be taken .
As a Cosmetic : It’s paste is applied on face in combination with either cucumber / honey / milk / curd /aloe or rosewater . It enhances complexion and texture of skin. Paste made with turmeric powder and gram flour can be used as a body scrub .
Teeth : Brushing teeth with turmeric powder and mustard oil or salt or alum , clears tartar and teeth become white .
Dose : Juice – 5 – 10 ml ; Powder – 1 – 3 gm
Active Principles : Present studies have shown that Curcumin , Curcuminoids and essential oil are the main active constituents of turmeric. Curcumin imparts yellow colour and is responsible for its biological activity.
Anti – Oxidant Property : Anti – Oxidants can act at different levels .These are broadly classified into 5 Levels – Level – 1 , Level -2 , Level – 3 , Level – 4 , Level – 5.
Level – 1 : Prevention of radical formation , mainly by enhancing the levels of SOD and catalase or by sequestering transient metals like iron.
Level -2 : Scavenging of primary radical ( OH , O₂ ,ⁱO₂ ) or breaking chain initiation .
Level – 3 : Scavenging of secondary radical ( ROO ,LOO ) or breaking the chain of propagation (conventionally studied as inhibitory lipid peroxidation ).
Level -4 : Repair and reconstruction of lipid membrane aided by glutathione peroxidase or by increase in level of glutathione .
Level – 5 : Repair of DNA and other cellular constituents .
Turmeric works at Level – 2 , Level – 3 and Level – 4 .
Anti inflammatory Property : Curcumin shows an anti inflammatory effect in acute , subacute and chronic models of inflammation in mice and rats . It also exerts a significant response in a controlled trial in Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis .
Hepatoprotective : Turmeric and Curcumin have been shown to protect liver against a variety of toxins in-vivo and in-vitro . Turmeric in diet has been found to stimulate enzymes – aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase , glucuronyl transferase , glutathione S transferase which metabolise xenobiotics.
Respiratory System : It is useful in Bronchial Asthma . Its anti allergic effects are also proven.
Immunostimulant Activity : Stimulates reticulo endothelial system , acts as immune stimulant .
Blue Lotus : Indivar / Utpala / Pushkara ( Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea )
Pink Lotus : Padma ( Nelumbo nucifera )
( A yellow flowered species – Nelumbo lutea Willd is native to North America )
According to the blossoming , two types are mentioned in Ayurvedic texts :
Surya vikasi : These blossom in morning and close in evening .
Chandra vikasi : These blossom in evening and close in morning .
THE PLANT :
It is an aquatic plant with slender , elongated , branched , creeping rhizome , sending out roots at the nodes . Leaves peltate 60 – 90 cm in diameter , much raised out of water . Flowers solitary , large , fragrant , pink or white with centrally located yellow , conical torus in which carpels are shrunken . Fruits ovoid , nut like achenes .
It is mentioned in Rigveda as Pundarika . It is considered as a symbol of divine beauty , prosperity , enlightenment , purity and fertility in Hinduism .
In Bhagwad Gita , it is stated that the individual who performs his duties without attachment is like lotus leaf that is untouched by water . In Upanishads , the lotus signifies the method of interior meditation and the revelation of the Atman ( soul ) within oneself .
In the epic Mahabharata , Brahma , the creator , is described as having sprung from the lotus that grew out of lord Vishnu’s navel ( Padmanabha ), when the deity lay absorbed in meditation .
The Goddess Lakshmi , who symbolizes wisdom , wealth and fertility sits on lotus flower , holding the same in two of her four hands .The lotus seat and pedestal have an almost universal appreciation with the figures of Hindu mythology .
The rosary made of seeds of lotus is used for prayer .
OTHER SIGNIFICANCE OF LOTUS :
In Yoga , Lotus Position or Padmasana is used for meditation and other sitting poses . In this pose , body remains steady for longer periods and mind remains calm .
In Atharvaveda , human heart is compared with lotus .
In Ayurveda ,the ovulatory period in females is depicted with the example of opening and closing of lotus .
Padma is associated with Sahasrasaar chakra .
Literature : In Kumar sambhavam , written by poet Kalidasa , the arms of Parvati are compared with Mrinal ( the peduncles of lotus ) .
Culinary Uses : i) Stems are used as vegetable , pickle .
ii) Seeds are eaten raw or parched called phool makhana .
iii) Leaves are used for wrapping the food which is to be steamed .
Fragrant flowers yield good quality honey . It is called Makranda or Padma madhu .
Dried seed heads are used in flower arrangement for decoration .
PROPERTIES OF LOTUS :
Taste : Sweet
Properties : Cold , dry
Potency : Cold
Post digestive property : Sweet
LEAVES ( SAMVARTIKA ) : The leaves are bitter , cooling and diuretic. Useful in burning sensation , hyperdipsia , fever , haemorrhoids and leprosy .
Prolapse of rectum : Tender leaves of lotus plant mixed with sugar are given .
Threatened abortion : Leaves of lotus and blue lotus mixed with honey and sugar , taken with milk are useful .
FLOWERS : These are sweet , astringent , refrigerant and cardiotonic . Useful in diarrhoea , fever , hepatopathy , hyperdipsia , internal injuries , bronchitis , vitiated conditions of pitta .
Diarrhoea with blood : Goat’s milk processed with lotus , utpala (Nymphoea nouchali Burm) and lajjalu ( Mimosa pudica ) mixed with honey and sugar is used for drinking , eating and sprinkling .
Dysuria : Decoction of lotus ,utpala (Nymphoea nouchali Burm) , shringataka ( Trapa bispinosa ) is helpful .
SEEDS ( KAMAL GATTA / PADMABIJA ) : It is nutritious , sweet , cold , unctuous , astringent ,aphrodisiac , helpful during pregnancy , in clotting of blood .
It is used as a food .
In cough caused by pitta , one should use powder of lotus seeds mixed with honey .
Its gruel is useful in vomiting , hiccough and leucorrhoea .
STAMENS ( KINJALKA / KESAR ) : It is astringent in taste , is cold , aphrodisiac , alleviates kapha , pitta , thirst , burning sensation , bleeding piles , inflammation .
Its powder with candy sugar is helpful in menorrhagia , haemoptysis .
Bleeding piles : Regular use of butter mixed with sugar and stamens is helpful .
Diarrhoea with fever : Utpala ( Nymphoea nouchali Burm) , pomegranate bark and stamens of lotus taken together with rice water should be given .
Dysentery : Stamens of white lotus pounded with rice water and mixed with sugar candy is indicated .
STEM ( KAMAL NAAL / BIS / MRINAL ) : It is sweet , cold , heavy , dry , heavy to digest , aphrodisiac , astringent .
It increases lactation , vata , kapha and alleviates pitta , blood disorders , burning sensation , stomatitis .
Intrinsic haemorrhage : Duralabha ( Fagonia Arabica ) , Parpata (Fumaria officinali ), Lotus stalk – these combined or separately are helpful.
Alcoholism : One should take lotus stalk , lotus stem , pippali ( long pepper ) , and haritaki ( Terminalia chebula ) mixed with honey .
ROOT ( KAMAL KAND / SHALUKA / KARHAATAKA ) : Lotus root cooked in oil with cow’s urine should be used in retention of urine associated with severe pain .
PADMINI ( BISINI / KAMALINI ) : It is the blossomed flower with roots , stem , leaves , fruit . It is cold , heavy to digest , sweet and salty in taste , dry , obstructs vata . It alleviates pitta , blood disorders and kapha .
As a rasayan – ghee processed with the paste of stalk , stem , stamens , leaves and seeds of lotus along with pieces of gold and milk is known as pancha vrinda ( having five parts of lotus ) , it promotes strength , virility and intellect .
Spring season – these words weave a picture of blooming mother nature, mosaic of colors, joyousness and festive spirits. The cooing of cuckoo, humming of bees and the flowering of Mango tree are the augury of spring season. The relation of spring season and mango tree in Indian culture is portrayed beautifully in the folklore, literature and art forms . The Mango tree has the mythological, religious, historical, culinary and medicinal importance.
The Mango tree is said to be the nectar on earth. It is the state tree of Maharashtra and Mango is the national fruit of India.
The Tree: It is a big fruit bearing and shade giving tree. It has two varieties – Beeju and Kalami.
Beeju: It is grown from seeds and is big in size .
Kalami: It is grown from kalam (grafting) and is medium in size .
The timing of flowering and fruiting of mango depends on the temperature and varies in different parts of India. So in southern and western regions mangoes are available in March – April and in northern region it is available in May – June.
Varieties and Nomenclature: The popular varieties are – Dashehari, Langra, Haafus, Chausa, Kesar etc
Names are based on appearance, taste etc eg
Appearance: Totapari, Kareliya
Color : Safeda, Sinduri, Zaafraan, Badami
Taste: Dudhiya, Sharbati, Mishra
MYTHOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE :
– Once Manu requested Brahmaji for a fruit which should have sweet smell of flowers, sweetness of fruits, nutrition of food and is easily available to rich and poor alike. Brahmaji said ‘As it so’ and sprinkled water on the earth. After sometime the shoots of mango tree started erupting.
– Kamadeva (God of Cupid) carries bow made of sugarcane with cord of honey bees. Arrows are made of five flowers i.e of White and blue Lotus, Jasmine, Ashoka tree and Mango tree .
– In Shankhayana Ghriyasutra, it is called ‘phalottam’ i.e the best among fruits .
– In Shankhalikhita Dharmasutra, it is one of the fruits which are given during Shraadha.
RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE :
Mango tree is one of the sacred trees in India. Leaves, fruits and wood is used in various ceremonies.
a) ‘Bandanvaar’ or ‘Toran’ i.e the leaves of mango tree woven in a string and hung on the entrance are auspicious.
b) In Havan (sacred fire), Aachamani (with which ghee is poured) is made with mango leaves .
c) In Kalash Sthapana, leaves of mango are put in a pot on which coconut is kept .
a) It is used in Havan as Samidha (firewood).
b) For cremation, the pyre is made of wood of mango tree.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE :
a) Artifacts in the shape of mango have been found during excavations from Mohanjodaro and Harrappa civilization.
b) King Ashoka had selected Mango tree as a shade giving and fruit bearing tree.
c) Amir Khusro called it as ‘KING OF FRUITS’.
d) There is a description in Aain-e-Akbari by Abulfazal that king Akbar was so fond of mangoes that he built an orchard in which various varieties of mangoes were planted in Darbhanga and was known as “Laakhi Baag”.
Ayurveda has described elaborately the properties and uses of various parts of the Mango tree as a food and medicine. These can be divided into two categories:
– Culinary Uses
– Medicinal Uses
CULINARY USES :
Dried Mango Fruit (Amchoor) : After removing the peels of raw mango , it is sun-dried and powdered . It is called Amchoor. It is sour and astringent in taste, laxative, alleviates vata and kapha and increases taste.
Raw fruit (Amiya): It is astringent and sour in taste, increases vata and pitta. It is used in making pickles, sweet and sour chutney.
Dugdha Aamra (Ripe mango with milk): It is cold, heavy to digest, anabolic , aphrodisiac, improves complexion, alleviates vata and pitta, increases taste.
Pieces of ripe mango : These are cold, sweet in taste, heavy to digest, anabolic, alleviates vata , promotes strength .
Dried mango pulp (Amaavat): Also called Aampapad, Mango leather – Pulp of ripe mango is spread and sundried. On this dried layer, another layer of mango pulp is spread and dried. When a thick layer is formed, it is called Amaavat. It alleviates thirst, vomiting, vata and pitta, is laxative, light to digest, increases taste .
Juice of mango pulp : Also called Aamras, it is heavy,alleviates vata, increases kapha, anabolic, provides strength, laxative, good for heart.