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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kirata: The drug for all ailments

Kirata, Kalmegh or Chiraita is a wild herb with bitter taste. It grows in the wild in forests, wastelands, and along roadsides. It is popularly known as the king of bitters.

Kalmegh belongs to the family Acanthaceae and genus Andrographis. Andrographis paniculata is a common species of this genus.

Image: Kirata or Kalmeghphotographed by Dr. M.P. Mishra growing along roadside)

Kirata has several vernacular names. Kirata is its Sanskrit name.Buminimba and Yavatikta are its Hindi names. In English it is called as Kriate, Kre, Kariyat and creat.It is called as Alui in Bengali whereas in Gujrti it is called as Lilum Kariyatun. In Telugu it is called as Nelavembu and in Marathi it is called as Olikiryata. In Ayurveda it is popularly known as Kalmegh, Bhuminimba, Vishwambhar etc. In Unani Medicinal system it is known as Kiryat.

Kirata is erect with a height of 30 to 110cm. The stem is slender, dark green in colour and square in cross section. It has longitudinal furrows and wings along angles on stems. The leaves are lance-shaped having hairless blades and measure up to 8 cm in length. These are about 2.5 cm wide. The inflorescence is spreading raceme. Fruit is capsule which is about 2cm in length and few cm in width. Many yellow brown seeds are contained in it.
Medicinal Properties
After a extensive surveys and interviews with traditional herbalists, and tribal vaidyas the extracts and Pechanga (extracts of all the five parts) are used to cure following ailments in traditional systems –
(i). The extract of the plant has been proved to have anti-bacterial properties,
(ii).It has reported to have anti-viral properties
(iii). Studies show that it improves immunity
(iv). It has been reported to have carminative, diuretic, and anti-gastric propertied,
(v). It is supposed to be a liver tonic,
(vi). It is chloretic, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, and blood purifier.

Traditionally, the whole plant is cleaned and boiled to get its aqueous extract. This extract is drunk in small quantity to get rid of numerous types of diseases. In Jharkhand tribal men and women can be seen selling this plant in bundles of dried whole. It can be seen being sold in local markets of Jharkhand and people use it without any prescriptions. However, the extract of the plant is contraindicated in cases of bleeding disorders, hypotension, and female sterility, pregnancy, duodenal ulcers, hyperacidity, esophageal reflux etc.

Key Words: Kirata, king of bitters, Acanthaceae, Andrographis paniculata, Tribals of Jharkhand, Pregnancy

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Science Express

The Science Express is running ...running across the country to popularise science among school children. It stops at a junction for some days and students of the area under the student guides go to visit its different compartments were different sections of science are displayed.Not only displayed but demonstrated also.

The train is sole initiative of National Council of Science and Technology Communications(NCSTC) Network, New Delhi, the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.The previous year the theme was BIODIVERSITY.

Here is a glimpse of the Science Train where students are seen going inside to see the interior of the train and to learn interesting facts there. A training class for Teachers was also organised in the Couch Number one of the train in which I had been a resource person. I also took the responsibility of showing different experiments inside the train. Just see below.

 Image 1  

Image 2

Key Words: Science Express, students, biodiversity, resource person

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Dodder Plant

We often see an interesting net of thread like structures on a plant. It is called as Amarbel in Hindi and dodder in English. In taxonomy its genus is Cuscuta which contains up to 170 species. It belongs to the family of Morning Glory or Convolvulaceae.
Cuscuta is found throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the world. It has great species diversity in subtropical and tropical regions of the world. It has many folk names like wizard net, devil’s hair, goldthread, hair weed, love wine, strangleweed, angel’s hair, and witch’s hair.

Fig. The Dodder plant on Bougainvillea

This plant has thin stem which appears leafless, although it has minute scales that may be termed as leaflets.
Cuscuta is a parasitic plant. It has a very low level of chlorophyll. Cuscuta reflexa can slightly photosynthesize where as some other species are total parasites. The plant produces haustoria that penetrate into the host plant and derive nutrition from it. This leads to weakening of the host which sometimes leads to the death of both the host and parasite.
Many countries have laws to check the import of grains containing seeds of this plant. Under the law … all clothes should be inspected for dodder seed when moving from an infested area to a non-infested crop. When dealing with an infested area, swift action is necessary.
Key Words:thread like, convolvulaceae, haustoria, parasite 

Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Lion's Tail

Leonotis dysophylla is a strange plant with its strange and bold appearance. It grows as a weed in waste lands usually untroden for many years. It is also seen growing in old deserted and broken houses where nobody goes. It is also called as Lion’s tail.

Leonotis ocymifolia and L. dysophyla is a slender shrub growing 1 - 5 metres tall, branching from a thick, woody base. The plant is sometimes harvested from the wild and used locally as a condiment and medicine. It is found in India, Eastern and Southern Africa - Sudan to Ethiopia, south and west to Angola and most of southern Africa.
It grows well on rocky outcrops and in well-drained soils on hillsides at elevations from 1,000 - 2,000 metres, but descending to sea level in the south of its range.
According to some researchers, this plant has immense ethno –herbological uses. The resin obtained from its leaves is smoked by some tribals.
This species was originally cultivated as a medicinal herb; the Hottentot tribesmen of South Africa utilize it as an inebriant; it has been touted by some references as a legal substitute for achieving marijuana-like effects when smoked; Leonotis leonurus is used fairly extensively in traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicines; the active compound is an alkaloid called leonurine.; due to its widely documented medicinal properties, L. leonurus should be considered potentially poisonous; the genus name appears incorrectly as Leonitis in some references; L. ocymifolia is sometimes listed as the scientific name for this taxon, but is considered by others to be a synonym for Leonotis dysophylla G. Bentham which is a closely related species that is not as showy in flower; these two species appear to be somewhat confused in the literature, but can be distinguished by the near linear to oblanceolate leaves and darker colored flowers on L. leonurus compared to the broader ovate to cordate leaves, lighter flower color, and greater cold tolerance with L. dysophylla.

Key Words: Leonotis, weed, wild, dysophylla

Friday, November 06, 2015

Pollution of Rivers in India

Governments are seriously worried about pollutions of our rivers today and a number of projects are being run to clean them and to check their pollutions. One of such projects is Namami Gange run in India through a separate department.
Can governments alone clean our rivers and remove all the pollutions we make. What not is being done near the banks of our rivers. Along such a long stretch of the course of river Ganga people do lots of activities including defecation and throwing garbage, carcasses of dead animals, dead infants and even dead persons( as Jal Pravah tradition). Joining of drains from cities and surface run offs from agriculture farms etc are old and well known stories, but many stories of serious river pollution are unheard and untold that cannot be addressed by governments. A high level awareness and real changes in our traditions and customs are needed if something is to be done in real sense to eradicate river pollutions. Here is a scene of throwing away of a dead body as Jal Pravah near Unchahar stretch of the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh. The photo was taken as sting operation by the author.

Can cleaning of the river at important points remove pollution while dead bodies are thrown into its water in remote areas?

Key Words: River pollution, namami gange, Jal Pravah

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Baloon Vine

The balloon vine is an interesting plant on India which is also called as Love in a Puff, the heart pea, the heart seed etc. Botanically, it is called as Cardiospermum Halicacabum.
This plant belongs to the taxonomic family Sapindaceae or the Soapberry family.
Balloon Vine is a woody perennial vine distributed almost globally in the tropics. It is a fast growing vine up to 10 feet. Leaves are trifoliate, up to 4 inches long, with highly lobed leaflets. The plant climb with tendrils and needs some form of support. The small white flowers bloom from summer through fall, flowers are not very showy. The fruit is more interesting, from which the plant gets its common name. It is a brown, thin-shelled, inflated angled capsule up to 3 cm across, containing 3 black seeds each, with a white heart-shaped scar.

Medicinal Properties:
1.Whole plant,young leaf,roots,leaves, seeds Actions : Anti-vatha, Analgesic, Diuretic, Laxative, Stomachic, Anti-inflammatory
2. The oil prepared from the leaves acts as a very effective external application for arthritis and other painful conditions of the body.2 to 3 drops of juice of the leaves can be used as a ear drops for ear ache, purulent discharge from ears. The decoction prepared from the roots can be given for haemorrhoids.
3. The leaves can be crushed well, ground and applied over the lower abdomen of the delivered woman. This helps in expulsion of waste products out of the uterus.
4.The decoction prepared from the samoolam or whole plant can be given in the dose of 20 to 30 ml for constipation and abdominal discomfort.
5.For hydrocele the leaves can be applied as an external paste over the scrotum. For any inflammation, the leaves cooked in castor oil is ground and applied over the affected areas.
6. For dandruff, the leaves are soaked in water and then crushed well. This water is used in cleaning the hairs.

Key Words: cardiospermum helicacabum, anti-dandruff herb, Hydrocele, scrotum

Monday, November 02, 2015

True Essence of Diwali

Guest Writer: Latika Mishra
Triumph of light over dark, good over evil, truth over lie is not the only essence of Diwali. Ever wondered why do people in India, Hindus basically, have mass lightening of earthen-lamps and that too in the same season i.e.; around October and November every year? Is Diwali, a day singled out to spread noise and sound pollution due to busting of crackers? 
 Bursting of crackers and the noise and sound pollution are the evil modifications that have found close association with the celebration. Almost all over the world crackers are exploded on some occasion. Why single out Diwali, when on USA day more crackers are burst. Diwali is not a practice that adds to pollution only. There is certainly some added significance behind the festival.
Reasons although are hidden but they have the capability to mold and structure the whole civilization. If any layman would face the same question his/her approach would be different, but people close to science would explain it differently. Notwithstanding the spiritual reasons to celebrate the festival of lights, there is a scientific fact behind.
The season is marked by the abundance of an insect called 'tiny leaf-hopper' of the family cycadilladae.  This insect feeds on plant sap and can transmit plant infecting viruses and bacteria. These insects are of sporadic occurrence in the rice grown areas. They have piercing and sucking type of mouth parts and are serious threat to rice cultivation as they have the capacity to transmit the virus disease of rice. Nymphs and adults both have the capacity to damage the crop.

Diwali Insect
Rice is found to have a close association with every Hindu ritual. The great Indian sage Parashara has laid stress on essentiality of rice cultivation and sung in his treatise called 'Krishi Parashar', "Rice is vitality, rice is vigor too and rice is indeed the fulfillment of all ends of life. Gods, demons and human beings all subsist on rice."
The wise sages in order to protect the civilization from starvation, as rice is the principle crop in the subcontinent, devised a method. Now, if people who are ignorant are explained scientific facts, they would never understand as you should have the receptors, there in your brains to receive something that can act as stimuli.
So they found religion as a weapon to execute their motive. They said because King Rama has arrived in the kingdom and his rule has been established once again, so to welcome him every house must light earthen lamps. People approved as King Rama had his influence on people far and wide due to his policies that were just and morally proved. 
Every year the same event was practiced to remember his arrival marked by the victory and justice that was established. The sages as wise they were, thus were successfully removing the insect from the environment, as we know insects are attracted to the fire and are killed. So, this event is marked by the mass killing of insects- tiny leaf-hoppers and mosquitoes chiefly that are abundant during the same season every year, and pose a challenge to crop cultivation there upon human nutrition.

Present day concern is that people have stopped lightening earthen lamps, to find themselves more comfortable or at mark with the lifestyle fashion. You must have seen the electric bulbs and lamps that are on display before Diwali, in the markets. Do these electric lightening equipments serve the purpose? Certainly not! People must realize it is not only in the light, but there is certainly more than light. It owes more to fire than to the light that it illuminates.
Key Words: Diwali Insect, Rama, earthen lamps, markets