I had the good fortune to meet an amazing person last month, my uncle introduced me to him. He is now 72 years old and had spent most of his adult life in the forest. It was amazing to listen to his old tales, he had lead a peaceful life that very very few lucky people will have. Since he was living for months together in the forest, he had developed a very good relationship with local tribes (outsiders are strictly forbidden in their area) and he could spot animals before hand expertly. Since he was living in the forest he has an amazing knowledge of herbs and he generously shared all of his remedies with me. One of the herbs that he spoke about was African cabbage (common name). It is called Nalvelai in Tamil, Ajagandha in Sanskrit, Vaminta in Telugu and it’s botanical name is Cleome Gynandra. There are many species of Cleome and the variety that is very commonly found here in our place are Cleome Gynandra and Cleome Viscosa (actually Cleome Gynanadra is more common). Last weekend when I went trekking with our friends, I found pink Cleome Hassleriana there but Cleome Gynandra and Cleome Viscosa are the ones used the most in remedies. The plants have a unique strong distinctive smell and since these plants grow in abundance along the road sides and waste lands, you can easily find them. Cleome Gynandra is actually eaten as greens in our village side, it is slightly bitter so it is always had along with lentils or other greens. It is a very safe herb to consume but if you have too much of it, it will increase the body heat. It is said to have first originated in Africa and that is why it is also called as African spider plant or African cabbage. This plant is very very highly nutritious and is said to contain very high amount of vitamin C, beta carotene and protein. It also has wonderful medicinal uses. You can also grow the plant from the seeds very easily, this plant needs full sunlight and once you have a single plant, you will find that they spread very fast. Try your best to include this plant in your diet and also use it in home remedies like given below…
1. For treating sinus infection, use the leaves for steaming. The leaves are very very effective in easing sinus headaches and infection.
2. For insect bites and wounds, take the leaves and crush them in mortar and pestle. Apply it directly in the affected area as a thick poultice.
3. The leaves are very effective in treating chest congestion and mild fevers. To use it as a remedy, pound 1/4 tsp each of cumin seeds and peppercorns coarsely in mortar and pestle. Add 5 leaves along with 1 flower head, crushed pepper and cumin and 1 cup of water in a bowl. Boil till it reduces and drink. It is not very bitter and I prefer to have it without any sweeteners but if you prefer add good quality honey after straining.
- The best way to include the plant in the diet is by mixing it with lentils or with other greens.
- This plant is found plenty in forests so if you ever find yourself bitten by insects or bugs you can use the leaf poultice immediately…