Herbs to the Rescue When Obesity Strikes - The New Indian Express

Herbs to the Rescue When Obesity Strikes

Published: 02nd February 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 02nd February 2014 10:54 AM

If you have water retention in the body, the churnam that ayurvedic vaidyars prefer to use is the Upanaha Lepa Churnam. If you have a knee or ankle pain accompanied with swelling this churnam is extremely effective in tackling it. It is made by mixing equal quantities of powdered dried ginger, tubers of Alpinia galangal (chitharathai in Tamil) and Acorus Calamus (vasambu in Tamil), horse gram (kollu in Tamil), bark of the drumstick tree and dill seeds (sadha kuppai in Tamil). The powdered mixture has a distinctly herbal smell, which I love.

In ayurvedic practice, the churnam is applied to reduce fat in obese patients, in reducing kapham and swellings. Basically it is mixture used to reduce kapha in the system. The powder is used as an external application by mixing a few teaspoonsful of the powder in water that is got after washing rice. The mixture is heated and then applied to the swollen part. I was a little surprised that the water used should be water that is got after washing rice. Apparently it imparts a little stickiness to the mixture and the starch and vitamins are helpful in reducing kapha.

All the ingredients used can be generally classified as heat producing and often used for treating coughs and colds. Dried ginger tea is given when you have a bad cold. Similarly dill seeds are added to rasam when someone has a bad cough or cold at home. Chitharathai is a grandmother’s remedy for coughs and colds and used in much the same way as dried ginger. Kollu or horse gram is again made into a rasam to deal with coughs and colds. It is also used in cases of obesity. The same principle applies in both treatments. Obesity is often seen as a vitiation of kapha, the body is bloated due to water retention and treating it helps in weight reduction. Coughs and colds are also a result of vitiation of kapha and herbs which are pungent and termed ‘hot’ help in alleviating the condition. Vasambu or Acorus Calamus about which I have written earlier is again something that is given for coughs and colds for alleviating kapha. Drumstick tree bark reduces swelling and is used as an astringent.

Upanaha Lepa Churnam with its six ingredients acts to reduce swelling, reduce pain, decrease kapha to fight obesity. The churnam is applied externally although all the ingredients are edible and have important medicinal uses. The churnam has a delightful smell. In some ayurvedic clinics the churnam is mixed with the chopped leaves of nochi (Vitex Negundo), erukku (Calatropis Sp. ), adathoda (Adathoda Vasica) and pongam (Pongamia Glabra) and boiled. The steam is then directed to the swollen knee or tender back muscles. It helps in reducing the swelling and reducing pain. The steam has a lovely herbal smell emanating from the powders and herbs and is very soothing and healing. This powder can easily be made at home and applied wet in case of localized swelling. In case of general obesity, it is applied as a dry powder all over the body. One should generally get this done in an ayurvedic clinic as the powder can burn very sensitive skin, as all the herbs are heat producing. However, it is safe to use and can be used at home after checking your skin sensitivity to the churnam.

The writer was earlier Health Secretary, Tamil Nadu, and is currently Additional Chief Secretary, and Chairman and MD, Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation. She can be reached at Sheelarani.arogyamantra@gmail.com.  Earlier articles can be accessed at  www.arogyamantra.blogspot.com.

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