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          Sunday, May 27, 2018


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This column is an eclectic mix of articles drawn from Ayurveda, mind-body medicine, yoga, spirituality, contemporary research, ancient Indian culture and timeless treasure of Vedic legacy.

Homing on the Remedies

Most of us have read botany or medicine, but those who have read both will remember that botany books contained a special mention of medicinal herbs or plants. Botany and medicine, in a way, traveled together mainly as arts until the 17th century when they parted ways to become scientific. At least the former did, while the latter remained as part of the folklore only.

Most home remedies have traveled to us from generations, owe their origin to various indigenous systems of medicine, and even now are to some extent being viewed as unscientific by the modern medical community. This, ironically, is despite the fact that a number of life saving drugs in modern medical pharmacopoeia belong to the plant family. Scientific or unscientific, it is encouraging that people look for home remedies, use them and ask for more.

If one uses them and is happy doing that, we can say the stuff is efficacious and safe. No one else can control you and what you do better than you yourself. In all probability, you will use what is good, safe and comforting for you.

The use of home remedies, as has been widely seen, is not research-dependent. This article is an attempt to drive home this point alone. The point is that though these remedies were compiled and practiced on an instinctive basis centuries back, there was always some scientific element hidden in the prescriptions. Let us see how. The first, and the only, example I would like to quote here is mint; popularly known for relieving gastric discomfort. Mint was just mint for the scientific community until peppermint oil was extracted from it, brought it to the lab to test and retest in order to declare its efficacy for recurrent abdominal pain. But then, traditional medicine was already using this claim?

Now consider this: peppermint oil is now being tested for use in irritable bowel syndrome, a disorder that has become as common as common cold recently; and scientists at the Integrative Care Centre, Toronto, who have conducted a number of controlled studies have shown that enteric-coated peppermint oil is of benefit in the treatment of IBS. Was mint used for anything less as a home remedy?

Believe it or not, it is possible that mint remains just mint over the years, and peppermint oil becomes modern medical discovery for irritable bowel syndrome! Much the same way, reserpine from Indian snakeroot, Sarpagandha, or Rauwolfia serpentine did for hypertension some years back. While the traditional healers are still homing on this remedy judiciously as a bitter tonic, sedative, and febrifuge, modern medicine had to issue a lethal-in-large-doses contraindication and discontinue its use in the US and elsewhere.

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