Revisiting A Long Forgotten Childhood Memory

In the last week of February, my husband and I were driving in the streets of Ironshore. Ironshore is an upscale community in the outskirts of Montego Bay, Jamaica. There are some beautiful houses in this neighbourhood. Anyway! As we drove towards the A1 highway, my husband suddenly exclaimed, “Seema chintha gubbalu!”. I had no clue what he was referring to.

He stopped the car by the sidewalk and asked if I saw them on the tree nearby. I explained to him that I am hearing that word for the first time. He pointed to a tall tree in a piece of wasteland by the road. Before I could get a good glimpse of the tree, he got out of the car and walked towards the tree.

He picked a delicate, pink and white pod that was curled up and appeared to have burst open. He showed it to me and said that these trees were commonly found in and around his village in India. He ate them a lot as a child.

The scientific name of this fruit is Pithecellobium dulce. I did a little research to know that these trees a commonly found in Asia, Central America, Mexico and South America. It is called by different names in different regions. The bark, fruit, seeds of this tree are used to treat various ailmentsKaushik V. Kulkarni and Varsha R. Jamakhandi from the College of Pharmacy in India have explained a few interesting facts about the tree. The uses of Pithecellobium dulce are described in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. It can be accessed at this website:

https://www.phytojournal.com/archives/2018/vol7issue2/PartJ/7-1-390-353.pdf.

The pods of Seema Chintha burst open on the tree when they become ripe and ready for eating. They taste sweet when ripe yet have a mild sour taste at the same time. The best way to describe the flavour is like chewing on fresh rose petals that were sweet. After eating the first one, I couldn’t stop. I ate them all, one after another.

After picking a bunch of pods from the tree, we separated the delicate white fruit from the pod, removed the black seeds and washed them thoroughly before devouring them. I couldn’t help notice the delicate white flowers hanging down. They were so beautiful and feathery that I decided not to touch them. Bees and wasps were hovering around too.
For now, I am going to leave you with this last picture of this Seema Chintakaya. For my husband, this was a wonderful memory brought back from his childhood.

Going Back to Roots

This past year has been an eye-opener for many reasons. For one thing, it has highlighted some of the problems that globalization brings. We all speak of the economic and social concerns. This time, globalization brought forth a new health and science scare. The pandemic was exacerbated due to relaxed boundaries and free and easy travel. It has also strengthened the fight against it by creating a global forum for vaccine development and distribution.

Anyway, my post is not about globalization or the problems thereof. The whole conversation started off during a fun discussion between my friends and me about how the situation felt like an Indian soap opera. The year marked the return of the rebellious kid back to his parent’s home.

If you are confused, let me explain. Mankind and his best friend Science walked out of the family home after a dramatic fight with ayurvedic medicines, herbs, sheltered living and other such traditions. Mankind, with the help of its trusty sidekick, Science set out to carve a new and better future, away from their parents Nature and Earth.

When faced with the magnitude and ferocity of the pandemic, Mankind was stunned while Science was overwhelmed. They were inundated with too many variables that were out of their control. They were forced to return to herbal and natural medicines like ginger, giloy, neem, tulsi etc., to keep up immunity till Science found a cure or a vaccine. Like a rebellious son returning home with his tail between his legs, Mankind returned back to Nature to heal its wounds.

Covid-19 posed a risk too huge and widespread for Science alone to tackle. We had to use traditional techniques of isolation, herbal teas, natural immunity boosters and such remedies till we could find the vaccine. Social media was flooded with various recipes of health foods, natural sanitisers, herbal disinfectants and such.

Nature also got a break from all the interference that Science brought. Without any road traffic, animals started coming out and visiting us. With factories on break and road pollution at an all-time low, stars seemed to twinkle brighter. This has been a big boon that the lockdown has brought for us. People also stopped and took a forced break from their busy schedule to spend time with family.

By the end, my friends and I were joking that in true soap opera style, we could hear a fast-paced tune on sitar and tabla playing in the background to indicate a happy ending.

Misadventures With Home Remedies

In an earlier post about Indian Home remedies, I had written about various home remedies that were passed down in my family and how much I relied on them. They are like the first aid for health conditions until I can visit a doctor. But, my road to learning the home remedies was not an easy one. There were quite a few misadventures before I learnt to tell the difference between useful remedies from quack remedies.

I clearly remember one such mishap that my sisters had while growing up. One of my sisters had a severe acne problem and she was desperate to try anything to cure them. One day, in a women’s magazine, we read a home remedy for acne. It involved making a poultice of ginger paste asking with a few other household herbs. When we read that, my sisters joked about the remedy seeming like a recipe for curry rather than a home remedy. For those who tried Indian cuisine will recognise that ginger garlic paste is a staple in all curries 

We tried the remedy, nonetheless. The only problem was that, amidst all the jokes, my sister accidentally, used garlic paste instead of ginger paste.

As soon as she applied the poultice on her face, it started to burn. Garlic paste is acidic in nature, so any contact with open wounds and cuts causes severe inflammation and irritation to the skin. You can imagine the effect it had on my sisters face. It was red as a tomato and the acne was aggravated two-fold. We had to apply a lot of aloe vera and calamine lotion before the burns subsided. 

At the end of the day, the pimple did not vanish but our itch to try new remedies was cured for a few months. 

There was another instance when I accidentally used the whole egg instead of just the egg white in my hair pack. To make matters worse, I washed my hair with warm water. The stink it raised in my hair would not wash off easily, nor would my memory of it. My hair may have become soft and smooth because of the egg white conditioner, but the yolk in the pack and the warm water almost became a dish of scrambled egg on my head. My hair was left stinking along with the whole bathroom for a few days.

Despite such misadventures, I still turn to home remedies for most day-to-day health problems. I’ve just learnt to be careful before trying them. I have to add a cautionary note here. Try only those remedies from sources you trust, unlike the ginger paste remedy that we tried. Secondly, always follow the instructions correctly. Don’t mix up ingredients or instructions. 

Lessons Learnt From COVID-19 Pandemic.

Today, all headlines are dominated by information about or related to COVID-19. Social media too is inundated with the same topic, even comics and jokes are not spared. I don’t blame them for this. If one looks at the latest updates, a staggering number of people are infected in different countries around the world. There are close to 200,000 people affected in 146 countries and the number of fresh new cases continues to rise.

According to the World Health Organisation website, “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from a common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).”

In light of this, it is very easy for people to panic. More than fear of our safety, we are concerned about our loved ones who are elderly and vulnerable. It scares us to hear about all the people in China, Italy, Iran, Korea, Spain or anyone in any other country who are suffering and live in fear.

Thinking about what we can do to help the situation has motivated me to write this post today. Here are a few precautions and measures we can take up to help our family and friends, in improving the situation (many of these things we already practice in our daily life).

  • No more handshakes and hugs to greet people. From now on, join your hands and say “Namaste”. 
  • No more touching or rubbing the face unnecessarily.
  • Washing our hands frequently is an excellent habit. Especially after we visit the washroom, before and after meals, before and after we meet people and lastly, after we cough or sneeze.
  • Cover your nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing, preferably with tissue paper or fabric as the germs die after some time on the surface. Always,, dispose of used tissues carefully, so that the infection does not spread.
  • Some of us have the habit of touching different surfaces, even when not required. For example, we run our hands along the railing or rest our hands on a table etc. Try to reduce touching unsanitized surfaces when you are in public places.
  • For now, until we get a grip over the current situation, avoid crowded areas and maintain an arms distance from people.
  • This particular one is important for the current situation. If possible, stock up the pantry to last for two weeks, so that you can avoid going out frequently. I don’t recommend panic buying, but this is just a way to minimize the need for frequent visits to public spaces. 
  • There are many herbs and spices, that boost immunity and help alleviate the problem. Tulsi (basil) tea is said to relieve and prevent respiratory illnesses. Turmeric boiled in milk helps relieve irritation in the throat. Eucalyptus oil helps to ease out nasal congestion. There are many other such small remedies which are worth trying.
  • Take vitamins regularly. A healthy body has a better chance at fighting infection. At the same time, I want to stress the importance of a healthy and balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables supply the body with the required nutrients to build our immune system. 
  • Sleep is as important as a healthy diet. Being deprived of proper sleep can hamper the body’s chances to heal itself. Get a good night’s rest and by that, I mean a full eight hours of sleep. The results will be excellent for your health.
  • Everyone should adopt a mild exercise routine. Yoga has many exercises that help keep the respiratory system healthy. Some very useful yoga asanas are Bhastrika, Kapalbhati, Bahya Pranayam, Agnisar, Anulom Vilom, Bhramari, Udgeeth etc. We can find step-by-step instructions on these asanas, on the internet and Youtube.
  • And lastly, do not panic and stress about what might happen. Watching continuous news updates on the spread of this virus can add to your stress levels. We all know that stress kills, so do not lose your cool over the Coronavirus. Take all precautions and have faith in your preparedness.

These are some things that came to my mind. If you have more suggestions to add to my list, I will be extremely happy to hear from all of you. However, I would like to add here that the above precautions are something that will help us in life, irrespective of a virus pandemic or not. Cultivating these habits will keep us safe in the long run. Wishing you all good health.

Indian home remedies passed down from my grandma

Every once in a while we have all faced some sort of health issue that was too small to visit the doctor, but troublesome enough to make us lose our sleep. Every time, in such a situation, we turn to those trusty home remedies that are passed in our family from generation to to generation. Sometimes, even suggestions from friends and neighbours help us. I have tried to make a compilation of those remedies that I have heard of an tried. I only hope to share them and see if others will find it helpful too.

These home remedies are those that I have learnt from my grandmothers and old aunts that did not have immediate access to a doctor in the old days. Some of these remedies suit Indian climate more than other colder locales. They are all harmless and can be tried at least once before you can decide upon its usefulness.

  • Curd and Fenugreek paste: They say that curd and fenugreek paste, when applied to scalp will help to fight dandruff. Make a paste of fenugreek seeds soaked in water and mix the paste with sufficient curd and apply to your scalp. The mixture leaves a bit of a stink if you do not rinse it off your hair completely.
  • Sesame oil mixed with Camphor: Mix camphor powder with sesame oil and massage it on your joints or painful muscles for instant pain relief. This trick worked well for me. It is an old grandmother’s remedy for arthritis and other rheumatic pains. It helps to improve circulation when you massage well.
  • Gelatine paste with Turmeric and Honey: This mixture helps remove blackheads and white heads on the skin. Mix 2 teaspoons of gelatine powder with a pinch of turmeric and a teaspoon of honey. Apply a thin layer of this on the affected area and leave it to dry. Peel it off your skin to see all your blackheads removed.
  • Paste of yellow split pea (besan) to lighten hair growth: This is an age old technique that South Indians use to lighten hair growth on hands and legs. This besan paste when mixed with rice flour and dried orange peel makes a bath powder. It is supposed to lighten hair growth over repeated use, but the process is very slow. It takes many months to see even a slight change. This paste however is good for the skin.
  • A decoction of cumin and coriander seeds will cure stomach cramps and period pains. This is another old wife’s cure. Drink half a glass of this decoction daily. It takes a few weeks of regular use to start showing results. It is good for digestion, smoothens skin, reduces pimple breakouts and alleviates cramps.
  • Toothpaste to remove pimples: Apply a generous blob of regular calcium toothpaste on your pimple in its early stage. The calcium and the anti-cavity medicine in your paste will prevent the pimple from aggravating and erupting.
  • Triphala powder helps with incessant toothache or bleeding gums. Triphala is an ayurvedic mixture of 3 fruits in the dried form. When you use this powder to massage your gums and teeth, it helps alleviate bleeding gums and received tooth aches. It also strengthens your gums and fights cavities in early stages.
  • Holy Basil: It is a commonly called Tulsi in most Indian households and it is a godsend for most ailments. A tea made with Tulsi leaves helps to fight the common cold and allergy symptoms. You can add a squeeze of lime and a spoon of honey to this tea in case of cough and sore throat.
  • Vaseline Jelly:  Petroleum jelly or Vaseline jelly works excellently for cracked heels. Every night, before you go to bed, wash and dry your feet and apply Vaseline to the cracked heels. Put on socks and go to bed. In the morning you can wash of the Vaseline. In a week’s time you will notice a big difference.
  • Hibiscus flower: Boil the petals of the red hibiscus flower in coconut oil until the flowers are charred. Filter out the petals and use this oil to massage into the scalp. This oil helps to promote hair growth and keeps the hair black.
  • Fresh garlic cloves with warm milk help with blood pressure control and fights cholesterol. Boil one close of garlic in a glass of milk and drink it on empty stomach in the morning. It tastes pungent and is basically yuck, but, is an effective remedy for high BP.
  • Aloe Vera: Aloe has thick fleshy leaves with thorns on the edges. Aloe Vera has numerous health benefits. The one that worked for me is that it helped me get over the acid burning sensation in my stomach and esophagus. How to use: scrape the outer green skin and the thorns. Take a piece of the white gelatinous part and wash it thoroughly in running water to get rid of as much slime as you can. I used a piece half the size of my pointing finger, dipped it in sugar and chewed it thoroughly and swallowed it with water. This has to be taken early in the morning on an empty stomach and do not eat or drink anything for the next thirty minutes. I did this for ten days. This remedy worked very well for me.
  • Coconut Water: Coconut water is the most wholesome food that one can survive on. It provides the body a concoction of all essential minerals and vitamins. In case of nausea, diarrhea or severe stomach agitation, drink a glass of coconut water every few hours to replenish your lost body fluids.
  • Potato peel is good for skin lightening and acts as a mild bleaching agent. Wash the potatoes to remove all dirt and take out thick layer of the peel. A paste made from this peel can be applied on your skin to help lighten it.
  • Onion Juice: Onion juice is known to promote hair growth. Take a quarter piece of red onion and grate to using a grater. You will be left with onion pulp and milky white liquid. Strain this juice and apply to your scalp and hair roots in the affected area. Leave it on for 20 minutes and rinse with water.
  • Ginger juice with Honey: Ginger juice with honey is an old remedy to remove impurities from the blood. When you have frequent acne breakouts and skin rashes you can try this quick trick. Take a tablespoon of Ginger juice and add a dollop of honey to it and take on an empty stomach in the morning. Sometimes you can also chew on a small piece of ginger dabbed in salt. It will reduce the occurrence of puss filled boils and those white top pimples too.

I am sure that you have heard of quite of few of these preparations from your friends and elders too. They have served us well in the olden days before advanced medicines and medical procedures were invented. However, do not depend on these remedies when a problem persists, always consult a medical doctor and take the right medicines. These home remedies are something to help along with the doctor rather than to replace them.