I had this conversation with a young mother who comes from a small remote village in Tamil Nadu. She was complaining that her son, of about five years, was perpetually having a cold. I thought that this could be because the child was suffering from a worm infestation. As the grandparents were looking after her children, I asked her what traditional medicines were being given to her son for getting rid of intestinal worms.
She said that every six months the local government hospital gave the boy a deworming medicine, and that she or her mother did not give him anything else. Her reply both dismayed me and made me proud. Pride because our government health systems were working, dismay because even in her remote village our ancient, traditional, invaluable medical knowledge was no longer being put to use.
Grandmothers would grind the leaves of neem to a smooth paste and make it into a small ball (the size of three black peppers or a green sundakkai), roll it in a little rice flour (to mask the bitter taste), and give it with the little buttermilk to swallow. Neem leaves should not be used continuously as it leads to decrease in shukra dhatu or sperm count. Similarly, there is so much ignorance in modern western medicine regarding the care of the antenatal and postnatal mother. So much traditional wisdom is being condemned as being non-scientific, and replaced with commercially-motivated pseudoscience. During pregnancy, piles is very common, and there is a well-documented preparation called changeriyadi ghritham, which can be used.
Bhaishajya Ratnavali Grahani Rogadhikara gives details regarding its preparation. Made from Zingiber officinale, Piper longum, Piper longum roots or stems of Piper chaba, Plumbago zeylanica, Tribulus terrestris, Coriandrum sativum, Aegle marmelos, Cyclea peltata, Trachyspermum ammi, juice extract of Oxalis corniculata, ghee and curds, it is a wonderful remedy for piles. It can be used internal as well as an external application. The dosage is about half teaspoon before food. It can be according to the constitution of the individual.
The main ingredient (apart from ghee and curd) is Oxalis corniculata called changeri in Sanskrit, and gives the medicine its name. It is called Indian sorrel in English, Teen Patta in Hindi, and Paliakeerai in Tamil. It has three heart-shaped leaves and grows near water sources. It is sour to taste and young children like to eat it raw like tamarind leaves. Since it is ushnaveerya or of hot potency, it is useful in piles and haemorrhoids, and is also agnideepana.
Changeri is also useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, malabsorption syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also useful in treating drug addiction. Changeri leaves and stem contain tartaric, citric acid, Vitamin C, carotene, and calcium. Changeri contains 12 per cent oxalates and probably are the reason it is useful in treatment of piles.
In Western medicine, turnips are used in the treatment of piles and this also contains oxalic acid. And, of course, our acharyas found that Changeri is helpful in the treatment of piles and thus piles during pregnancy can be treated with a safe ayurvedic preparation. The writer is retired Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at sheelarani. arogyamantra@gmail. com/arogyamantra.blogspot.com