India is a country where, since many centuries, people in our villages possess excellent and deep knowledge about the various medicinal and kitchen garden plants that are available around us. Our ancestors knew about their benefits and how to use each part of the plant and creeper as medicine that ensured they lived a fit, healthy and long life.
For generations, we have safeguarded our health effectively using this traditional home-grown healthy living that was based on using medicinal plants for our common ailments. However, with the entry of foreign medical research in India that created medicines based on chemical combinations, over a period of time our home-grown medical system got sidelined and has eventually declined.
Unfortunately, enough was not done to capture the knowledge and further transfer it to the next generations. A lot has been lost through the years.
However, things are changing now and we can witness that people are getting averse to allopathic medicine due to its side effects on the human body, low immunity that at times leads to some new unknown diseases too. With this increasing apprehension of modern medicines, people across the world are favouring natural and traditional medicines.
As an active proponent of our traditional medicinal plants, I am so glad that we have finally understood the importance of our traditional medicinal plants and creepers.
I am of the belief that our backyard is not only a kitchen garden, but should be used to grow medicinal plants. And instead of running to the doctor for every small ailment, we must leverage these plants that can be easily grown at home.
I did the same.
I am passionate about farming and I love growing new breeds of plants as a hobby. In my home at Coorg, I started growing medicinal plants as a hobby since 2003 onwards. Along with our usual crop of areca nut, banana, coconut, vanilla, cardamom, coffee, black pepper, cocoa etc., I also began with assorted vegetables, fruits and medicinal plants such as insulin (enhancing insulin secretion), chakramuni (multivitamin leaves rich in vitamins C, D and E), bajje (sweet flag for phlegm and epilepsy), lemon grass, oregano, lavancha (khus root), kalonji (black cumin), madhunaashini (gymnema syvvestri for reduced sugar and liver damage), doddapatre (Indian borage for cough and hiccups), sarpagandhi (Indian snake root for systolic hypertension), aloe vera (for skin diseases, wounds and clearing skin) , nelaneli (phyllanthus for Jaundice) amruthaballi (Indian Tinospora stem for BP and leaves for Diabetes), brahmi (Indian pennywort for nerve disorders and hair tonic) , tincture (leaves as antispectic) to name a few.
It all began with a local horticulture department offering some free saplings of vanilla for growing. I got some and planted in a small patch of land in my backyard.
And with that the journey began. And before I knew it, my home had become a haven to about 100+ types of medicinal plants and creepers.
Back then, people were not aware about Vanilla plants which I cultivated using my own methods and found an easy way of pollination and processing in nurseries too. Eventually I did further share my knowledge with many other people and nurseries which led to an All India Radio interview and couple of awards both at the state and national level.
In 2004, I got the LM Patel Farmer of the Year. I was one of the ten women chosen from across India for this prestigious recognition.
In the last 15+ years, I have learnt and evolved along while winning accolades along the way. And today, to learn and understand about the medicinal plants, many people visit me and most of them are professors and students of Bio-Technology. They come here only to see such a large collection at one place.
In the year 2012, NABARD, Nature Water Conservative Committee and River Ganges Conservative Committee selected 15 types of general medicinal plants from my farm and under the guidance and supervision provided, they created and cultivated a 2000 plant nursery and trained many people from self-help groups on the importance, cultivation and usage of medicinal plants.
The bounty of medicinal knowledge is inching towards extinction and this is the right time to collate and record this knowledge for the future of mankind. For years, our ancestors have been used to growing, vegetables and fruits in our backyards and kitchen gardens. I urge you all to start cultivating medicinal plants and herbs to bring back awareness about the importance of this forgotten knowledge.
It is about time we bring awareness to people about the general and unknown plants which are freely grown in the fields around us and has a lot of medicinal properties and help them understand how to prepare medicines at home for general aliments.
The Corona pandemic which has scared the entire world has brought back the importance of Ayurveda to the mankind. I have collated the information of 100 types of medicinal plants and herbs, and am doing my part in serving mankind by maintaining the medicinal plant cultivation in our back yard. This gives me immense joy and personal satisfaction.
Did you know that there are around 3400 types of plants and herbs only in Karnataka state forests, out of which 1200 to 1300 plants have medicinal properties? Nature has given us such beautiful forests with such good medicinal plants and herbs. It is a boon to all of us, so let us conserve it and live a healthy life.
Are you ready to take the pledge?
Ms. Nirmala Jayaprakash is a Coorg based farmer who on the basis of her passion for gardening and farming, has today became a well-known name in cultivating medicinal plants. A Parisara Premi (Environment Lover) awardee and a holder of innumerable Karnataka state and national awards, she is the president and secretary of a few trusts and organisations in the farming space.
*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*