In Vriksha Ayurveda, which deals with agriculture and botany, there is reference to a treatment for making plants flower in all seasons. A mixture of some sesame oil cake, sugarcane juice and well-composted cow dung is mixed with vai vidangam or Embelia ribes, and sprinkled around the roots of the plant. This apparently makes the plant flower throughout the year. Embelia ribes is also called false black pepper because it looks so much like pepper.
Embelia ribes in addition to being used in horticulture is an important herb used to treat worm infestations both in adults and children. About 3-5 gm in divided dose is usually used. It has a laxative action so the dead worms are usually expelled because of this property of the herb. It is also useful in abdominal colic pain and in improving the appetite.
It is useful in relieving headaches and is an ingredient in anutailam, the oil used for daily nasyam. For those who have had worm infestations for a longer period, vidanga arishtam is prescribed by vaidyars. It is usually given after consuming food. The arishtam contains among other herbs the bark of indrayava or Holarrhena antidysenterica. It is fermented with the help of dhataki flower or Woodfordia fruticosa. For children, the dosage of the arishtam varies from 2.5 to 10 ml and for adults from 10 to 30 ml.
Since vai vidangam has a contraceptive effect, those who are pregnant or trying to have a baby should avoid its use. Normally, the arishtam or powder of Embelia ribes should be able to handle the normal worm infestations. In case it is a severe case of worm attack, krimi mudga ras is given. About 250 mg is once or twice a day. Krimi mudga ras consists of herbal and mineral ingredients, including Embelia ribes. The ingredients range from herbally purified mercury and sulphur to ajwain and Strychnos nux-vomica.
A lay person looking at the ingredients is apt to get a little scared but it is an empirically well-tested drug and safe for use even by children above five years of age. As an added precaution, this drug should only be taken under the advice of an ayurvedic practitioner. The reference for this drug is given in Rasendra Sara Sangraha Krimi Chikitsa and is manufactured by many of the well-established ayurvedic manufacturers. It is a matter of distress and concern that our own pharmacopoeia is ignored in our public health programmes. Whether it is anti-anaemia programme or a deworming project, the drugs chosen are based on Western allopathic practices.
The Western pharma industry keeps up a well-orchestrated tirade against ayurvedic drugs and manages to instil fear and doubt in the minds of the general public, aided by an often misguided and ignorant media. In fact, this newspaper is frontrunner in popularising ancient traditions whereas many others are still wallowing in Newtonian traditions and definitions of science.
This has implications for public policy as repeated media portrayal of ayurveda as a non-proven tradition makes it difficult to use effective ayurvedic preparations and formulations in mainstream public health programmes such as in school health, antenatal and postnatal programmes, etc. India has been struggling with nutritional anaemia in spite of crores being spent on iron tablets from the allopathic pharmacopoeia, which have very little acceptance because of its tendency to cause constipation. On the other hand, we have dhatri loha from the ayurvedic pharmacopoeia.
Because it is a combination of amla, which has laxative properties and iron bhasma, this problem is avoided. Additionally, amla aids the absorption of iron and imparts its own goodness to the preparation. The Prime Minister’s Office and other policy making institutions should be looking at ways of mainstreaming ayurveda without heeding to self-serving propaganda by Western pharma industry that ayurvedic formulations are not safe. The writer is retired Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at sheelarani. firstname.lastname@example.org/arogyamantra.blogspot.com