Ayurvedic and Siddha pharmacies sell a powder of the manjistha root. If you add about half a teaspoon of manjistha powder to about 60 ml of water and brew it like you would green tea, you will get a mildly red brew which can be drunk early in the morning. It is slightly bitter and astringent to taste. The manjistha tea should not be boiled like you would for a Kashayam but only lightly brewed for a couple of minutes.
This tea is extremely useful for people having blood-related problems. It is prescribed by vaidyars for conditions of low blood platelet count. In Ayurveda there is this concept of the Saptadhatus (seven harbingers of life). Basically the Saptadhatus are what we are made of—rasa (lymph), rakta (blood), mamsa (flesh), meda (adipose tissue), as thi (bone), majja (bone narrow) and sukra (reproductive elements). Ayurvedic vaidyars use herbs to pacify the doshas and cleanse the dhatus. One such ‘cleansing’ herb is manjistha or Rubia cordifolia. The roots of Rubia cordifolia are red in colour and is the part used for medicinal purposes. Manjistha is used to purify the rasa and rakta dhatus that are the lymphatic system and the blood.
It is useful for those who have bleeding piles, varicose veins, for those who have diabetic ulcers and non-healing wounds. Manjistha helps to improve the peripheral blood supply and is therefore useful for treatment of bed sores. Manjistha tea is often prescribed for bedridden patients for treating bed sores (along with Mathan tailam about which I have written earlier).
Mathan tailam is useful for detoxifying the liver and improves the general condition of the patient. It is also useful in treating anaemia along with an iron supplement. Manjistha cures hepatic obstruction by detoxifying the liver and improves the complexion. The root paste is applied to the face and is said to be helpful in clearing up freckles and in depigmentation of the skin. Many important ayurvedic preparations use manjistha in their preparations such as Dhanavantara aristam, Manjisthadi tailam etc.
The Manjistha plant is a climber having jointed stems. The leaves look like frogs. Mandukaparani—‘froglike’—is a synonym of the plant. The Malayalam name of the plant is Manjathi. This herb is extensively used in Kerala. While buying Manjistha one needs to be careful as there is a local variant, Rubia tinctoria called Chevalikodi, meaning red creeper which is often sold as Manjistha. One needs to ask for Iranian Manjistha to get the actual Rubia cordifolia.
Adwankar in his research paper says that the plant may have anti-cancer properties and is therefore used by some vaidyars in the treatment of blood cancers as an adjunct. Adwankar et al have proved the anti-inflammatory activity of the plant. Manjistha and its preparations are useful for older people, diabetics and for those with blood problems.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier articles can be accessed at www.arogyamantra.blogspot.com