Medicinal Plants

Question Hour

In this issue, we publish an interview with Brij, a young computer scientist and former student of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry, whose love for knowledge systems led him to the underdeveloped regions of Equador. He was fascinated by the rich treasure of their knowledge of herbal medicinal plants. He felt, however, that the tribes were soon losing their knowledge carefully preserved through generations and that there was a need to do something about it. The result has been a painstaking study involving the tribals themselves and a unique book, bilingual (Spanish and Kichawai, meant to benefit not only the modern man sitting far away from the setting in his easy chair but also the community themselves who do not know the real worth of what they already hold.

Q. Brij, you are not yourself a doctor, yet what inspired you to such a labour, a turn about from computers to medicinal plants?

A. I have always been thinking about the problem of the poor and the underdeve­loped. As a software systems expert, I realised that computers may be okay for a certain type of work, but they cannot solve the problem of the world at large. And then, you see, there is no real about-turn. I am fascinated by knowledge systems and I feel they (the tribals of Equador) have their own knowledge systems which are largely in­accessible to us. I felt that it would be good if this knowledge could be preserved from fur­ther loss, hence I worked upon the project.

Q. Could you enlighten us about the nature of your work?

A. Well, yes. Firstly, we followed the ethno-biological approach. We did not try to make a value judgment on their system but simply collected the data as observed by them. In fact, we involved the community in the recording of data so that they could begin to value their own health care. Secondly, we used extensive pictorials, devising a kind of iconic language. This was done so that the knowledge can cut across language barriers and above all benefit the community itself. After assessment, we found about 121 plants that were used in consistent ways across the land among different communities.

Q. What do you think is their concept of health?

A. It is so very different from ours, you see. They are very scared of hospitals and feel that hospitals are places where people go to die. As for death, they take it in a natural way, the average lifespan being about sixty.

They believe a lot in psychosomatic illnesses. Strangely they use a plant for curing payne (the Kichawai equivalent for depression) whereas many of us feel that depression has purely psychosocial aspects.

Most healers are women (kuranderas) and they use strange methods of diagnosis with many magic rites for cure. But, I am pur­posely cutting out these parts since most people react against it and in the process even useful knowledge is lost. Besides, they have a great faith in their system. And well, you know, faith works.

Q. What do you propose to do next?

A. First of all, I will distribute the book among the tribals and see their response to it. It is very important to know how they are benefited, if at all. One never knows, they may use it for fuel. All the same, one must know why they have used it for fuel.

Secondly, I want to study the plants and their medicinal uses cross-culturally to see the consistency in their use. And then to design a software system to store this extensive data. It would be nice if one could have all this at the push of the button.

Q. How do you think your work is being received?

A. Oh! very well, very well indeed. It has been recommended as a textbook too. But then it is left to the medical community to do further studies and see the detailed effects. I am not an expert on that.

Q. You know Brij, in India we already have extensive documentation of over 1000 plants and on the basis of the method of prepa­ration, the same plant is used for different purposes, from treating a boil to cancer. Would you like to work in India over this?

A. Yes, certainly. That is interesting. All this must be preserved.

The questions we pose are:

1. How did the ancient system acquire such an extensive knowledge of medicinal herbs in the absence of detailed methods of analysis and statistics? Was it ‘trial and error’ or ‘need and intuition’?

2. For developing countries, isn’t it far more useful to do research on these herbal remedies which are economical and easily available, than to go in for extensive work on synthetic preparations?

3. Should knowledge of traditional herbs be included in our medical curricula?


(N.O. Labiatae, Genus: Ocimum)


Dr. Gouri Rani Ghosh

Editor’s Note:

Tulasi is a plant which is grown in almost every house in India whether it be a bungalow, apartment or hut. Like everything else, it is primarily used as an offering to The Supreme. And then it is a household remedy — protecting and curing. This article briefly explores the different aspects of the plant.


In Sanskrit the word tulasi means the matchless one. Though this plant is well-known in Ayurveda, it is very interesting to note that this name neither occurs in the works of the three great classical authors: Caraka, Sushruta, Vaagbhat; nor is it found in the Vedas. The name seems to have become current only from the time of our mythological literature or the Puranas. Ayurvedic authors call it surasa. But here certain aspects of history need to be researched in order to equate surasa with tulasi.

Mythology behind tulasi

Every Hindu woman worships Tulasi for her husband’s life. The leaves are held so sacred that they often form an invariable part of tiirtha or prasaad, the sacred water given to the devotee and also often constitute the last food given to a dying man. There is also a custom of keeping tulasi leaves in drinking water and cooked food during solar and lunar eclipses. It is due to these reasons, that the plant is cultivated fondly by women in a special place called brindaavan, in the courtyard, which they worship daily. Padmottara Puraana asserts that a house where a garden of tulasi exists is itself a centre of pilgrimage; neither the servants of Yama (the Lord of Death), nor any disease can enter there. Wherever the fragrance of tulasi goes, the air gets purified. Modern science has an answer to this now. Leaves of tulasi have been found to be anti-bacterial.


The flowers of tulasi are small, bi-lipped and arranged in 6-10 flowered whorls on an elongated cone like a spike or thyrse, as it is technically called. The calyx is also bilipped, erect and persistent in the fruit. Its lower lip usually has four minutely pointed teeth, of which the two middle ones are the largest. The corolla is also bilipped, the tube being  short. The upper lip is recurved and partly divided into four segments while the lower lip is shorter than the upper and nearly flat. The fruit is an inconspicuous cluster of four small, one seeded nutlets, that are dry but mucilaginous or slimy when moistened. They are almost wholly enclosed in the membranous, veined and strongly recurved calyx.

Common types of tulasi

The different ‘varieties’ of tulasi are actually botanically different species of the strongly scented genus Ocimum.

1. Ocimum sanctum

This is the most famous of the tulasi species and is the one worshipped in every Hindu home. The two varieties of the herb — black and green — have medicinal properties in common. They bear tiny pale, mauve, light yellow or white flowers on erect spikes. They also grow in profusion in such countries as Malaysia, Australia, parts of West Asia and Arabia. The Mother called the flowerDevotion.

2. Ocimum basilicum, Linn.
(Sweet Basil)

Its exquisite aroma was considered fit for kings. In different parts of India it is known as baabui tulasi (Bengali), dhalaa tulasi (Oriya), baaburi (Punjabi) and kaama kasturi or Subja (Konkani). To the Mother the plant was a ‘symbol’ of the ‘Joy of Union with the divine’ — lavishly scented, it fills the heart with joy. The plant sports white flowers on elegantly erect spikes. There is another variety of Ocimum basilicum with pink flowers and purple calyces and the Mother looked upon it as an embodiment of the spirit of ‘Discipline’, that, “sets the example and hopes to be followed”.

Sweet basil is native to the lower hills of Punjab and grows freely over large parts of the country. It is widely used in Unani medicine too.

3. Ocimum gratissimum, Linn.

It also produces white flowers on erect spikes. But its leaves are larger and have a delicate lemon fragrance. Yet another tribute that the Mother paid to this variety is in calling it ‘Conquering fervour’ — “an ardour which fears no obstacles” . It is known as ram tulasi in Bengali, Maharashtrian and Hindi; araka or vanatulasi in Sanskrit; nimma-tulasi in Telugu, Kattei-tuliava in Malyalam and elumicham tulasi in Tamil. Thus Tulasi is to be found all over India and is widely cultivated for both pious and medicinal purposes. It also grows in Sri Lanka, Java and tropical Africa.

Other species are also known — Ocimum americanum, Linn.; and Ocimum kilimandscharium, Guerke, which yields camphor oil and grows in the Kilimanjaro hills. These are not native to the Indian soil. O. album, O. canum, O. caryophyllatum, O. grandiflorum, O. longifolium, O. minimum and O. pylosum are other varieties known in India.

Medicinal properties

Tulasi is demulcent, an expectorant and anti-periodic (countering periodic fever). The root wards off fevers and the seeds are mucilaginous and soothing. The dried plant is stomachic (relieves stomach problems) and expectorant. The leaves counteract catarrh. They are in addition expectorant and fragrant. They cure fever, cold, vataa and kapha aggravation. The seeds are diuretic.

Tulasi is hot, light for digestion and causes pitta. It is good for the heart, astringent, stimulates the digestion, prevents breathing difficulties, treats coughs, hiccups and germs. It destroys any aggravation from excessive vaayu and kapha.

Medicinal uses in traditional medicine


Shaarangadhara, a reputed classical author of Ayurveda opines that typhoid fever can be cured by drinking 1-2 tolas1 of the juice of the leaves with 1 ½ – 3 mashas2 of black pepper powder.

Tulasi works very well specially against fevers where cold is a predominant factor. In fever with joint pains and swelling, tulasi is given with apaamaargaa (Achyranthes aspera) and nirgundii (Vitex negundo). In these cases a cold infusion of the root of tulasi can also be given. In phlegmatic fever, tulasi juice is given along with honey. For patients suffering from constant fever, massaging tulasi leaf juice all over the body gives welcome relief. Developing a tulasi garden in areas where malaria is endemic is a recommended preventive measure for malaria.

Digestive System

In the intestine, tulasi kills germs and relieves gas. Fresh Tulasi juice stops vomiting and cleanses the bowels. Its cold infusion ‘is beneficial against alimentary disorders in children particularly for liver enlargements.

Skin diseases

Thymol found in tulasi is successfully employed in skin afflictions. All the parts of the herb (panchaaniga — root, stem, leaf, flower and seed) are powdered, mixed with lime juice and applied beneficially for many skin diseases, such as itchings, scabies and eczema. Sprinkling maggot-infested ulcers with its powder will destroy any maggots. Washing a wound with fresh leaf juice will prevent its infestation with germs or maggots and the wound heals quickly. Tulasi is useful against advanced cases of leprosy where the tissues have started degenerating. A paste of tulasi leaves applied over the face will increase its lustre. In cases of white spots on the body, or warts and freckles on the face, tulasi juice proves beneficial. A specific recipe advised here is as follows: take a copper vessel, fill it with lemon juice and keep it overnight. Mix with an equal quantity of tulasi juice and that of black kasaundii (kaasamarda or Cassia occidentalis, Linn.) Keep the whole mixture in the sun for sometime and when the juice gets somewhat thickened, apply it over the face. Spots and warts will disappear and the face becomes lustrous. By constantly applying this, even the white spots of leucoderma are reputedly cured.

Snake poisoning

Many ancient authors like Caraka, Sushruta, Vaagbhata and also medieval authors like Bhaavamishra, the author of Yogaratnaakara have used it for snakebites. As soon as he is bitten, the patient should eat one to two fistfuls of tulasi leaves and simultaneously the root of tulasi should be mixed in butter and applied over the region of the bite. To start with, the colour of this application is white, but it becomes darker as it drags the poison out. As soon as it becomes dark, it should be removed and a fresh application of paste should be made there. This is to be continued till there is no darkening. A case has been reported where the treatment was carried out successfully even eight hours after of the bite. Here the juice of tulasi was applied over the head, the temples and chest. This was followed by good massaging and simultaneous drinking of some banana juice. This was continued for six to eight hours when the patient started regaining consciousness. Even very hopeless cases of snake poisoning are said to respond well to such massaging with tulasi juice and an intermittent drinking of banana juice. If the patient has lost consciousness, a few drops of tulasi should be placed in his ears and nose.


Tulasi thickens and increases semen, develops real strength and ojas in the body and destroys various aggravations of vaata and kapha. A powder from the seeds or the root of tulasi mixed with old jaggery in a dosage of 1 ½ to 3 mashas rendered into pills (1 pill in the morning and another in the evening), followed by a cup of fresh cow’s milk for 5-6 weeks is necessary. It is also useful for preventing premature old age.


Leaf juice of tulasi with that of vaasaka (Adhatoda vaasaka or adaasa in Hindi) is beneficial. For dry coughs, grind the inflorescence of tulasi and dry ginger in onion juice. Add some honey and lick it up.


A decoction from the leaves of tulasi mitigates the pain of flatulence.

Children’s liver complaints

A decoction from the leaves of Tulasi is useful.

Ear ache

Fresh juice of tulasi leaves, slightly warmed and put into the ear relieves any ear pain immediately.


Prepare a pill from a paste of black pepper and Tulasi leaves and keep it on rhe aching tooth. The pain will stop.


If a cup of the decoction of tulasi leaves is drunk every month after the period stops, for three days, the foetus will not stay.


This is an exudation of foul smelling matter from the nose. Keep smelling a snuff made for the powders of the inflorescence and the root of tulasi. It destroys any germs and stops the foul smell.

Swellings behind the ears

Grind tulasi leaves, some tender shoots of the castor plant and a little salt. Apply this paste after making it lukewarm. The pain will subside and the swelling will also disappear.

Loss of consciousness

A beneficial procedure is to put a few drops of the juice of tulasi leaves added with a little rock salt (saindhav) in the nose. Consciousness is immediately regained.

Night blindness

Using the juice of tulasi leaves as eyedrops several times a day proves beneficial.

Children’s afflictions

Prepare a sherbet or sweet drink from tulasi leaves and give in a dosage of three mashas. This proves beneficial for many afflictions in children, such as cold, fever, cough, vomiting, bowel complaints and flatulence.

(a) Teething trouble

Take the leaves of dark tulasi; boil in water till it simmers. Remove from the fire and strain. Give it once every hour, two times.

(b) Persistent cough:

Tulasi juice mixed with ajwan and honey will set right persistent coughs in children.


Applying and massaging tulasi juice gives relief even for serious pains like those of arthritis (pains at the joints), and the tendons.

A Cosmetic treatment

If the face has become disfigured with freckles, black spots and the like, rub some fresh juice from the leaves of the dark tulasi. When this dries, after an hour or so, wash with water, thinly apply sandalwood oil or chaulmoogra oil. A fortnight of this treatment will remove any disfigurements and restore the lustre.

Typhoid fever

Black tulasi tea morning and evening should be drunk. Such a tea is prepared as follows. Take equal portions (half a tola) of the panchaanga (i.e. roots, branches, leaves, flowers and seeds) of tulasi, bruise them and cook in half a ser (1/2 kg) of water till the latter is reduced to a quarter. Strain through a clean piece of cloth. Add a fine powder of seven grains of black pepper and true talamishri (a form of sugar candy). Give this warm. This constitutes one dose. Repeat it in the evening. After the fever comes down, 2-4 spoonfuls of milk may be added to the tea.

Another useful preparation of tulasi is its sherbet. Its preparation is as follows. Take 5 tolas of the panchanga of tulasi; trikatu (dry ginger, peepul and black pepper), 8 annas worth; gulbanafsa, 10 annas worth; and borax (suhag), 5 annas worth. Boil them together in 11/2 seers of water till the latter is reduced to 5 a (one chatak is 1/16th of a ser). Strain through cloth, add 5 chataks of one-year-old country sugar and cook again till it reaches a consistency when you can draw one string out of it. Remove from the fire, cool and store in a closed container. Taking a tolas of this, morning and evening reduces the distress. Fever also gets mitigated and gas trouble is removed.

A tolaa of this sherbet is soothing in high fever.

To reduce the violence of the fever and bring about sweating, a decoction from tulasi is useful. Such a decoction to which four rattis of dry ginger powder is added, taken at bedtime, removes the ensuing pains.

Stomach pain

Mix a tola each of the juice of fresh ginger and tulasi leaves, add a pinch of black salt and take this once in three hours.

Indigestion and feeble digestion. Take two tolas of one-year-old jaggery, 1 tola of strained dry ginger powder and 1 ½ tolas of the juice of the leaves of dark tulasi and keep this entire mixture in the sun throughout the day. Give it as a chutney, thrice a day in hot water.

One more recipe for tulasi tea: Take three maashaas of dry leaves of the dark tulasi (dried over a low fire) and two rattiis each of the powders of cardamom, dalchiinii, clove and liquorice (mulethi). Boil them together in half a pau (125 ml) of water, strain, add milk and sugar and use as tea. This is very helpful for any tiredness of the body, coughs, cold and fever and painful throats. This will also rectify a lost taste in the mouth and proves useful in stopping vomiting, thirst and gripping or congestion of the chest.


A foul smell in the mouth or halitosis disappears if a few leaves of tulasi are chewed regularly as a habit.

Head Lice

Prepare a decoction from tulasi leaves. Expose it over night to dew and rub the head with this in the morning. Two to four days of treatment will cure the distress.


All this makes one reflect and wonder:

Between the hallowed heavens above and Man
A plant can oft the spiritual distance scan;
What we cannot learn from saints and sages
We can oft read off Nature’s Live, green pages.1


1. Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy. Fragrant Herbs. Delhi; D.K. Fine Art Press.
2. Dr. V.V. Sivarajan, Dr. Indira Balachandran. Ayurvedic drugs and their plant sources. New Delhi; Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd.
3. Sri Chandraraj Bhandari. Vanaushadhi Chandrodaya. Varanasi; Chaukhamba Sankrit Sansthan, 1973.

Dr. Gouri Rani Ghosh is a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Illinois and Fullbright and Smithmundt scholar with specialisation in Mycology.

Foot notes:

1 Tola = A weight of 12 mashas.
2 Masha = A weight of 8 rattis or 18 grains.

1 The quatrain is specially composed for the article by Dr. Alo Sircar, professor of English, Magadh University, Bodh Gaya, India.


Aegle Marmelos, Corr.
(N.O. – Rutaceae)


Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy


This is one of the most famous medicinal plants in Ayurveda. Of the many names for this plant, one is rather interesting; shailusha, i.e. an actor. This refers to the many forms that the plant takes up like an expert actor in its several medicinal uses. But the plant is more well-known in India due to its leaves, the bilva patra, which are used for the worship of Lord Shiva. Thus young and tender leaves, the characteristic three leaflets on a stalk, are specially hand-picked for the Lord so as not to include any that is either broken or injured. It is one of the sacred trees of India, which is never injured and grown in most temples (specially those for Shiva) and in house gardens. Its fruits are also sacred and considered to be an emblem of riches or fertility. According to a well-known sloka, tulasi ushers in auspiciousness while bilva confers moksha or liberation.


Sanskrit — Bilva; Bilvam; Sriphal. (Sri Goddess of abundance; Phal — Fruit. It is an emblem of riches or fertility). English — Bael fruit; Bengal quince. Hindi — Bel; Bael Sripal. Gujarati — Bilivaphal; Bilinuphal.
Bombay — Bael. Maharashtra — Baela. Telgu — Bilvamu; Bilvapandu; Maredu. Tamil Vilvam; Vilva —pazham; Bilvam. Canari Belapatre. Malayalam – Koovalam; Vilvam. Bengali — Bela, Bael. Sindhi — Katori. Persian — Shul.


The bilva tree grows to a height of 15 to 25 feet. Its branches have many knots and grow rather crookedly from the main stock. They bear straight and strong thorns and are mostly full of insects. The trunk has a bluish hue. The leaves are alternate on either side of the stem and have three leaflets, the two laterals being equal in size and the middle one a little bigger. The lamina or leaf blade has numerous translucent pellucid glands all over which are filled with fragrant, volatile oil. Thus the leaves themselves are fragrant. They are shed in the winter, fresh leaves sprouting forth in abundance during spring and summer, the months of chaitra and vaishakha. In the early rainy season, greenish-white flowers burst forth which are also attractively fragrant. The fruit is hard, greenish, egglike and measures 2-5 inches in diameter. It is pulpy within and filled with many seeds. The pulp is sweet, thick and orange-coloured.

The bilva tree is found all over India, from the sub-himalayan forests in the north down to the south excepting probably the Thar desert. It grows wild in the jungles or is cultivated. The fullgrown fruit when it just begins to ripen is preferred for medicinal purposes. The pulp of the bilva fruit is called bael giri.

The tree is believed to be native to India.

Medicinal Properties

Ayurveda specifies its properties as follows: tender fruit — tikta kashaya-rasam, ushna veery am, vata-kapha haram, pitta karam, grahi, ruksham, laghu, pachnam, balyam, agnikarak. ripe Fruit — Madhuram, guru. root — Vata haram.


The ripe fruit is sweet, aromatic, cooling, alterative (causing desirable changes in the vital functions) and nutritive. The unripe fruit is useful for habitual constipation, chronic dysentery and dyspepsia (indigestion). It is astringent, good for the stomach, cooling and soothing, digestive and a little constipative. The pulp is a stimulant, is anti-scorbutic and reduces fever. The fresh juice tastes bitter and pungent. The root and stem bark also reduce fever.

Modern work

The active principle here is aegelin, a neutral alkaloid. Its production in the plant shows a distinct seasonal variation. Its yield is negligible during December to February and maximum during June to August. Two more characteristic active substances are also extracted: aegelenine, a minor alkaloid from the leaves and marmin, a new coumarin drug isolated from the trunk bark.

Extracts from the leaves taken in water and alcohol were tried on the heart of frog. This increased the amplitude and force of contraction like digoxin. The alcoholic extract from the roots and fruits when tried on albino rats showed a hypoglycaemic activity – an important asset in treating diabetic patients. The fruit extract was seen to be anti-viral in the Ranikhet disease. Marmelosin, another substance isolated from bilva, showed anti-helminthic (i.e. worm-killing) activity against ankylostomiasis or hookworm.

The fruit pulp contains balsamic principle resembling balsam of Peru (a liquid resinous and oily substance acting as a healing material, most praised for healing slow wounds and skin diseases).

The wood ash found in its pulp is also rich in a variety of materials, specially, mineral salts such as potassium and sodium, phosphates of lime and iron, calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, silica, sand etc. On distillation, the fresh leaves yield the yellowish green oil marmelosin. The dry pulp of the fruit is rich in mucilage and pectin. The seeds are rich in gums.

Uses in traditional medicine

It has been a longstanding traditional belief that bilva is an invaluable remedy for obstinate cases of chronic diarrhoea and dysentery, especially where there is no accompaniment of fever. This is given either in the form of a powder or in the form of a confection or a sweetmeat. The use of bilva was so widely prevalent that it was also used by the Western practitioners in India in the olden days and as such it got an entry into the British Pharmacopea.

Preparationsfor dysentery
(1) The astringent rind of the ripe fruit is employed by the kavirajs of Bengal against acute dysentery. Its usefulness is heightened when combined with opium.

(2) Powder of the dried pulp stored in airtight bottles is given in doses of half to one drachm with treacle or molasses in recent dysentery accompanied with griping pain in the loins and constipation.

(3) For chronic diarrhoea in children take: powder of unripe fruit – six grains, kino powder (vijayasar in Hindi or Pterocarpus marsupium) and pure white sugar – one grain. Mix. Give two or three times a day.

(4) Prepare a paste from the pulp of a young, unripe bilva fruit in an equal quantity of any bland oil and eat with cream, curds, ghee or oil. This will rectify diarrhoea and dysentery.

(5) The unripe fruit is to be taken, its pulp removed, dried and powdered. This is to be mixed with liquorice root (mulethi in Hindi), honey and sugar candy and then drunk in rice water. This cures dysentery due to pitta.

(6) Take the powder of the pulp of the unripe fruit and dry ginger – in equal quantity. Drink in buttermilk. Avoid meals altogether and take only buttermilk. Violent dysentery will come under control.

(7) Take bilva, one part; Holarrhena antidysenterica or kutaja bark two parts; sweet fennel seeds (saunf, Foeniculum vulgare), and harada (Terminalia chebula) one part each; and sugar, three parts. Powder all of them together. Add isphagula or plantago seeds. The dose is one to three drachms.

(8) Take the dried pulp of the bilva fruit, four parts; Scindaspus officinalis or gaja pippali; Andropogon muricatus or khus khus grass and lodhra or Symplocas officinalis one part each. Mix and powder. The dose advised is 20 to 30 grains.

(9) Take the dried pulp of the fruit, 2 ½ drachms, dried ginger 1 ½ drachms, saunf, 2 ½ drachms, the gum of the silk cotton tree 1 drachm, honey 1 drachm and sugar 3 drachms. Mix and powder to a fine degree. The dose advised is ½ to 1 drachm.

(10) Take bael fruit pulp 1 drachm, and an equal quantity of pomegranate bark. Mix and powder. The advised dose is 1/2 to 1 drachm.

The use of bilva for cases of acute amoebic dysentery is not supported by any recent literature. It also does not seem to have any commendable effect in acute dysentery, especially so, when there is definite tenesmus (i.e. painful and ineffectual straining to relieve the bowels) and the discharge of blood and mucus. Nonetheless, the beneficial effect of the fruit is most evident when the condition has become sub-acute or chronic. In these conditions its administratiOn leads to clear signs of improvement: the blood gradually disappears from the discharge and the stools assume a more flocculent and solid form. If the use of bael is continued for sometime, the mucus also gets diminished and may in fact disappear altogether.

Bilva is also reputed to be useful in relieving flatulent colic — i.e. twisting pains in the stomach accompanied with a bloating of the abdomen due to gas collection or in patients suffering from a state of chronic gastrointestinal catarrh or discharge. For bacillary dysentery, bilva is an useful supportive addition. The principle difficulty of these patients is that they always have constipation and if this is not relieved, the ulcerated surfaces will not heal. It is precisely here that the bilva sherbet is a very useful addition to the diet of the patient; as it acts chiefly as a demulcent, i.e. cooling and soothing. To make a sherbet the pulp of the fresh juice is mixed with sugar and strained through a piece of muslin cloth so as to remove the seeds and the mucilage.

The leaves of bilva have been found to be very beneficial against diabetes. One tola (10 gms) of the freshly extracted juice of the tender leaves should be taken twice a day. Just a few days after the commencement of this treatment the sugar level in the urine falls. The patient should be advised to test the specific gravity and the sugar level in his urine along with blood sugar regularly. Till the sugar level becomes normal, he should regularly take this juice.

Gonorrhoea and parmeha
Parmeha is a urinary affliction in which semen accompanies urine. For patients with these diseases, the oil from the seeds of bilva has proved very beneficial. To extract the oil, take unripe bilva fruits, and boil them in an adequate quantity of water. When the seeds get separated from the pulp, remove them and grind them into a fine powder. Boil this powder seven times (this is known as bhavana) in the decoction of triphala (harda, baheda and amalaka). The powder is then to be put into water again before the oil is extracted.

Usage: The body is first cleaned and made ready by requisite vomiting and laxative procedures. Eight rattis of this oil is then drunk on the first day, in milk. From then on, the dosage of the oil is increased by eight rattis every time. The dosage on the tenth day is thus ten mashas. During this regimen the patient shouldsustain himself on milk and rice only. The body becomes strong and the eyes lustrous during this treatment. Deafness of the ears and many problems due to vayu are also relieved. This treatment is more effective if before use the oil is placed under the earth for one month.

Nervous disorders
Bilva is used in diseases like hypochondria and melancholia. It is the decoction of the root, root bark and sometimes stem bark that is used here. This decoction is also useful in intermittent fever and palpitations. Sushruta, the great surgeon, includes an interesting use of bilva for increasing intelligence and for a long span of life. For this he advises the decoction of the root or the powdered bark along with honey, milk or ghee and gold leaf daily. This however is to be eaten only after taking a bath, carrying out the daily rituals and chanting the Shri Sukta (in praise of Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity).

The root of bilva pacifies the nervous system. It is therefore used for insomnia or sleeplessness and insanity. Its use is however accompanied with a certain amount of intoxication.

Bilva can be used in the following ways: (1) take two drachms of the leaves with honey (2) two drachms of leaf juice with one drachm of ginger juice (3) a decoction of the leaves and root with pepper in a dosage of half to one ounce.

These are excellent cough mixtures useful in chronic bronchitis, asthma and pthisis or consumption. It is especially useful at relieving the uncontrollable and the highly distressing cough in pthisis because of its soothing action on the nerves. In addition it liquefies the hardened sputum, which can then be easily expectorated.

Dried leaves can be smoked as cigarettes by patients of asthma with much relief.

Snake poisoning
Its root is given for snake poisoning.

Purulent boils
Grind its leaves without water and tie on purulent boils.

Gum problems
Chronic and incurable gum problems are helped by drinking 50 gms of bilva sherbet with 50 gms of milk daily.

Eating the ripe fruit of bilva relieves anorexia and fever.

Bilva leaf juice is to be given with black pepper. This will remove oedemas due to all the three doshas, jaundice and specially the constipation that is common in piles.

Recurrent fever is relieved by drinking the decoction of the bark of its root.

A leaf poultice can be applied over the head in the delirium of fever.

Pain in the eye
A poultice of its leaves tied over the eye relieves pain.

(1) Honey mixed in the decoction of its root bark relieves vomiting due to tridosh.

For vomiting in pregnancy grind the bilva pulp, mix with rice water and drink.

(2) Take 5 parts the rind of the fruit and four parts of guduchi (Cocculus cordifolius) and prepare a decoction. Add honey and administer to check vomiting.

Nasal catarrh
Leaf juice diluted with water or honey forms a highly praised medicine for running nose, feverishness.

Bilva is a very good tonic too. A dose of 12-15 grains of the powdered pulp is enough.

Pulp of the fruit when mixed with milk and given with cubeb powder (kababchini or Piper cubeba) acts as a diuretic inducing profuse urination.

Scanty semen
Two tolas of the juice of the bark is given with a little cumin in milk as a remedy for scantiness of semen.

Burning sensation
The pulp of the unripe bael fruit is to be kept soaked in oil for a week. Before taking a bath, this oil is to be massaged over the body. This will relieve burning sensations, especially at the tendons of the hands and the feet.

Charaka opines that seating a patient of piles in a tub bath of a comfortably hot decoction of bilva root mitigates the distress.

In bleeding piles, taking the pulp of bilva with buttermilk proves beneficial.

Foul odour from the body
According to Chakradatta apply the juice of bilva leaf all over the body in case of bad odour. This will remove any foul smell due to sweating.

The powder of unripe bilva fruit mixed with j aggery is useful against amashula or stomach ache of dysentery or colicky pains arising from indigestion.

For making old ghee fresh
i) Curds ¼th the weight of ghee to be rectified.
ii) Crushed bilva leaves ¼th the weight of the curd
iii) The whole ghee

Heat over a slow fire till it starts crackling. Now remove from fire and cool. Then sieve it and keep in an earthen vessel. This ghee will now have the smell and taste of fresh ghee.


Our plant heritage and knowledge is slowly waning. The amount we spend on drugs and doctors could easily be reduced if we rediscovered the plants growing all around us.


1. K.H. Krishnamurthy. Bael, Wood apple, Lemon, Castor. Traditional Family Medicine Delhi; Books for all.
2. A.K. Nadkarni. Indian Materia Medica, Vol.I. Bombay; Popular Prakashan.
3. Chandraraj Bhandari. Vanaushadhi Chandrodaya. Varanasi; Chaukhamba Sanskrit Sansthan 1973.
4. V.V. Sivarajan,,Indira Balachandran. Ayurvedic Drugs and their Plant Sources. New Delhi; Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd.

Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy, a botanist, is the author of a series of books on Ayurveda.

Neem (Azadirachta indica, Linn.)

Dr. Gopal Misra

Editor’s Note:

There has been a global interest in neem and its products. Besides its multiple uses in medicine, it is also useful in agro-forestry. The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry called its flowers ‘Spiritual Atmosphere’ on the basis of the their inner vibrations.

Neem is a well-known tree not only in the Indian subcontinent but in other parts of the world also. The word ‘neem’ is a derivative of its Sanskrit name nimba,

meaning – capable of irrigating health. Besides, its other names such as pichumard, i.e. destroyer of leprosy, arishtta, i.e. harmless and sarvatobhadrak, i.e. beneficial to all, make it the best example of the adage,

“As is the name so is the merit”. It is margosa or Indian Lilac in English and Azadirachta indica or Melia indica in Latin. It belongs to the Meliaceae family. It is distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent, except in the cold areas.

Neem has been called by different names in India, as:
Persian: nib, azad-darakht-i-hindi; Marathi: limba, kaadu-limba; Gujarati: limba, ;Limado; Telugu: vepa, nimbamu; Tamil: vembu, veppam; Kanarese: bevinamara; Malayalam: veppa; Burmese: thin, bowtamaka; Portuguese: margosa; Oriya: nimba, Sindhi: nimmi. Observe that most of these terms have ‘nimb’ as the Sanskrit radical.


Neem or Azadirachta (the fever bark) indica (from India) Linn. is a 12-15m evergreen tree found growing all over India, wild as well as cultivated. It usually grows near human habitations and sometimes along the highways. It does not normally form a component of wild forests. Due to this reason it is thought to be considered as an exotic tree, viz. as introduced into India from foreign countries.

The branches are long, spreading all around and give it a characteristic graceful appearance. The colour and details of the bark, which is historically the most important medicinal part, vary depending upon the form and the age of the tree. The bark of the smaller branches is sticky and violet like the jamun fruit in colour, with ash coloured lines all along. The inner layer of the bark in a fresh state is a reddish-brown or yellowish- white and tastes very bitter. The astringent, useful in contracting live tissues, is abundant in the outer densely coloured layer of the bark and not the inner region.

An amber coloured clear gum flows out from the bark. This is not bitter in taste like the bark and dissolves in water. Due to its solubility, it appears to ooze out as it were, constantly in the moist atmosphere surrounding the tree and can be easily collected. It usually smells strongly like hing or asafoaetida, hence the name hingu niryasa in Sanskrit.

Neem leaves are 20-40 centimeters long and densely crowded like a crown at the ends of the branches. They are arranged alternately on the stem and are compound in nature with many leaflets on either side. The leaflets are 2-7 cm long, 1 to 3 cm broad and described as imparipinnate, viz. with a single central leaflet at the tip and an equal number of leaflets on either side of a central axis. The leaflets are lanceolate, the leaf blade being bent on one side as one half of it is larger than the other. The edge or margin of the leaf blade is serrate or cut up into teeth like projections. The typical colour of the leaf is a yellowish-green, which is what makes it soothing to the eyes.

Flowers are small, strongly smelling like sweet honey and clustered in a much branched elongated stock of inflorescence. The sweet smell is particularly strong during nights and in breeze. Flowering is seasonal, occurring once a year generally from March to May, during the summer as a harbinger of spring. The fruits ripen by June to August. The tender fruits are green. When ripe they become yellow, slippery, shining, ovoid, sweet and pulpy. A white milk-like fluid oozes out when an unripe fruit is pressed. The seed is usually single.


The history of neem appears to be as old as our culture. However, there is no mention of neem in early Vedic literature, the Samhitaas, Brahmanas, and Upanishads. According to Grhyasuutras, its wood is to be discarded in religious rites. Atharvaparishishtta prescribes it to be used for producing aversion and destroying enemies and sometimes in rituals of witchcraft. Dharmassuutras give it a medicinal tinge in the use of nimba twigs as tooth brushes. The traditional and folklore uses of neem are well documented in ancient Ayurvedic compendia such as the Samhitaas of Charaka, Sushruta, Vaagbhaita, Bhela and Kashyapa. The Charaka Samhitaa regards neem as one of the best bitters and a powerful remedy for itching of skin diseases due to blood disorders. Neem is good against leprosy, worms, diabetes, piles, chronic dysentery, jaundice, vomiting, erysipelas, wounds, eye diseases, paraplegia, female genital diseases and all kinds of fever including malaria. Sushruta Samhitaa gives a more detailed description of the uses of neem for various ailments including diseases of the head and obesity and also establishes it as a potent antiseptic.

Ashttaangahridaya of Vaagbhatta, being essentially a compilatory handbook for general practitioners, combines the information of Charaka and Sushruta, making the presentation practical and useful. Kashyapa Samhitaa throws light on the uses of neem for diseases in children. The medieval treatises such as Cakradatta, Saarangadhara Samhitaa and Bhaavaprakaasha respectively of 11th, 13th and 16th century A.D., give an account of a number of complex formulations or yogas with neem as a chief ingredient for the treatment of various diseases. During this period, the combined use of the 5 parts of neem (Panchaanga) — flowers, fruits (seed), leaf, bark and root — developed and became popular along with the five bitters, with neem as one.

In modern texts and traditions, neem has carried the legacy of the medieval period with some new facts. Here mention may be made of the texts such as Yogaratnaakara, Raajanighanttu (17th century), Siddhaprayogalatika, Sahasrayoga, Priyanighanttu (20th century), etc. that have further served the cause of neem.

Medicinal uses

There are hundreds of medicinal uses of neem and parts thereof in traditional and folklore practices. Only a few of them are enumerated here.

Fumigation with leaf, root, flower, fruit and bark of neem mixed with ghee is useful for relieving fever. The powdered neem leaves along with residual segments of the poppy capsule in equal parts cure fever when taken in the dose of one gram with water.

Nimbaadi kvaatha for fever
A decoction from nimba, shuntthi, guduuci, devadaaru, kiraatatikta, pushkaramuula, pippalii and brihatii alleviates fever due to kapha.

Taking 5-10 drops of neem oil twice daily cures malaria.

Treatment of venereal infections
A formulation containing nimba, arjuna, ashvattha, kadamba, shaala, jambu, vatta, udumbara and vetasa, taken in the form of a wash, paste, ghrita or powder is a remedy for venereal ailments.

The use of nimba leaves mixed with ghee takes care of many allergic conditions such as general skin eruption, itching, minor external injury, siitapitta, amalpitta, etc.

Treatment of insanity
An incense, Nimbapatraadi dhuupa composed of neem leaves, vaca, hing, slough of the serpent and mustard destroys witchcraft and insanity caused by evil spirits.

A regular use of powdered nimba with hariitaki or aamalaki overcomes all sorts of kushttha after a month.

Neem oil massage is a very good remedy for arthritis and even paralysis.

Abscesses and wounds
An application of a paste made from neem leaves and sesamum mixed with honey cleanses wounds; whilst mixed with ghee it acts as a healing agent.

50 g. of neem leaves are fried in 50 g. clarified butter (ghee) till they become black. The contents are then cooled and mixed thoroughly. A topical application of this ointment is very soothing for all kinds of wounds,abscesses and even bleeding piles.

A wick of cotton wool soaked in neem oil, put into anal fistula and bandaged brings relief of pain as well as healing.

Eruptions due to chicken pox
Neem leaves are beneficial against pox. The bed of the patient is covered with neem leaves. The twigs with leaves are used to tickle the body and give relief from itching. They are also used as a fan for the patient.

100g neem kernels fried in 50g. sesamum oil are cooled and made into a fine paste. The paste is heated, 5g. of beeswax is added and the contents mixed thoroughly to form a butter-like ointment. A topical application of this ointment on the protuberances due to piles is very useful.

Nimba panchaanga cuurna
Powdered flowers, fruits, bark, root and leaves of neem in a dosage of 5g. daily is a very good remedy for all morbidities of the blood.


The tree is held sacred by Hindus because it is believed that a few drops of heavenly nectar (amrita) fell on the neem. It is said that Chaitanya, the father of the Vaishnava cult, was born under a neem tree and hence nicknamed ‘Nimai’. It is a custom amongst the Hindus to chew a neem leaf on returning from funerals — a custom followed since the ancient times. There is a strong belief that on New Yea’s day, a neem water bath and chewing fresh leaves of neem will cleanse the body and soul leading to a disease-free year. This is still practised in the states of Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra.

Environmentally, the beneficial attributes of neem lie in its large canopy of rich green leaves that carry out a higher rate of photosynthesis and the evergreen habit of the plant. It releases high amounts of oxygen during the daytime and even at night unlike other trees. Hence it has a reliable reputation as an air purifier. It provides shade throughout the year. Emperor Ashoka was one of the first to recognise the value of neem as an avenue tree. It is interesting to learn that the idols of Lord Jagannath, Subhadra and Balabhadra are made of heavy neem wood.

Soil conditioner

Presently neem is widely cultivated in arid, semi-arid, wet, tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Indian sub-continent. With babool (Acacia nilotica) neem trees are widely seen on the sandy soils of Rajasthan. They fix the moving sands and afford welcome shade in the heat. Neem flourishes close to the seashore too. Its extensive deep roots are remarkably effective at gleaning nutrients from crevices of poor soils. As the leaves and twigs of neem fall and decay the topsoil is nourished. This helps to convert worn-out soils into productive ones.

Wind breaks

Vegetative wind breaks have long been in use to lessen wind speed and consequently reduce damage by wind and wind-driven particles such as sand, dust, smoke, gases, etc. Neem plantations have been found to be very effective on sandy soils where sand blastings and desiccation affect crop establishment. To check the advance of the Sahara Desert, three rows 250-300 km long of neem trees have been planted. The neem windbreak project in the Majila valley in Niger showed a 20% increase in pearl millet. We too can take lessons from these established facts concerning our deserts of Rajasthan.

Neem constituents and their activity

150 individual compounds have been so far isolated from neem. Of these the seeds amount to 101 including 43 from the malodorous fraction, the leaves 37 and flowers, bark and root supply the rest. Surprisingly, these compounds have no resemblance to the present-day insecticides or though they are quite effective in that capacity. The compounds of insecticidal nature are distant relatives of steroids. With an exception of salanolactum I and II that have nitrogen also, all are composed of only carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They have no chlorine or phosphorus. The compounds from the malodorous fraction contain sulphur. The bitterness of neem is due the presence of limonoids that are tetra-nor-triterpenoids. Neem bitters can be categorised in eight groups — protomeliacins, limonoids with modified side chain, azadirone, gendunin, vilasinin, nimbin, salannin and azadirachtin. It would be worth mentioning here that no single group of researchers have isolated all the constituents from a single source.

The neem oil when purified and refined is as good as any edible oil and can be so used. It contains palmitic 13.8, stearic 18.2, arachidic 02.6, oleic 52.2 and linoleic acid 13.2% — in terms of fatty acid composition and can be hydrogenated. The oil as such is non-edible due to the presence of malodorous compounds which can be got rid of by extraction with ethyl alcohol. The processed meal is not at all bitter in taste and is a good source of protein with balanced amino-acid composition. The commercial meal and the malodorous product are at present used only to ameliorate productivity of the soil.

From the numerous compounds of neem, eight compounds such as azadirachtin A and B, vepaol, isovepaol, meliantriol, salanin, 7-desacety1-17-betahydroxy azadiradione and nimbin possess antifeedant and growth- regulating properties. Nimbin is anti-viral. Neem derivatives have so far been found to be active against 250 insect-pest varieties. Gendunin and its derivatives which are found in the bark are anti-malarial and anti- fungal. Neem leaves and seeds are found to be effective against both chloroquine sensitive and chloroquine resistant types of malaria. Neem has no toxic effects at all.

According to the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, neem bitters could offer a possible cure for AIDS. A vaccine named ‘Praneem VILCI’ has been developed at this Institute from neem seed extract as a male and female contraceptive. Praneem, soapnut extract and quinine hydrochloride as a polyherbal cream is good for intravaginal use. A neem oil formulation called ‘Sensal’ is on the market for contraceptive purposes. Neem products have also been studied for many other biological activities such as reducing cholesterol, anti-tumour, anti-leukemic, anti-tubercular and various skin affections. For use in agriculture, there are half a dozen neem preparations for sale.


Neem has long been in use to improve the health of livestock. It is really a tree of the poor. Not only does it care for his daily requirements but also provides a safety cover for the health of his domestic animals. Neem twigs are widely used as teeth cleaners and for general mouth hygiene. The villagers sometimes apply the oil to the hair in order to kill vermin. The leaves are largely used to protect grains, clothes, books, papers, etc. from the ravages of insects.

Due to the global interest in neem and its products of late, the price of neem seed is going beyond our reach. A few years ago, it used to cost Rs.300 a ton but is now between Rs.3000-4000 a ton.

There have been numerous national and international conferences on the judicious use of neem products in the last decade. Resolutions have been adopted for launching a mass movement for propagation of neem and emphasising its importance. However, it can be justifiably asserted that neem has still not been fully explored. It is high time to inculcate the use of neem.


1. Sharma P.V. Dravyagun Vigyan Part II. Varanasi; Chaukhambha Sanskrit Sansthan, 1978, pp.149-152.
2. Mitra C.R. Neem. Himayatnagar, Hyderabad; Indian Central Oil Seeds Committee, 1963.
3. Sharma P.V. A Historical Biography from Antiquity to Modern Time Part I. Aryavaidyan 6, 233-238 (1993); part II & III idem. 7, 41-47, 97-101 (1993).
4. Sharma P.V. Classical Uses of Medicinal Plants. Varanasi; Chaukhambha Visvabharati, 1996, pp.210-214.
5. Nigam S.K., Misra G. and Sharma A.V. Neem: A Promising Natural Insecticide. Lucknow, Natl. Bot. Res. Inst., Applied Botany Abstracts. 14, 35-36 (1994). Natl. Bot.
6. Neem Research and Development Publication No.3 (Ed. N.S. Randhava and B.S. Parmar). India, Society of Pesticide Science. 1993;
7. Nigam S.K. and Misra G. Adbhut Neem. Sachitra Ayurveda, 47, 886, 915-924 (1994).
8. Nigam S.K., Saimbi C.S. and Misra G. Neem as Universal Remedy. Lucknow; Proceedings of the 1st Congress of the Asian Federation of Clinical Pharmacologists, Nov.12-13, 1988.
9. Krishnamurthy, K.H. Neem and its Relatives. Delhi; Books for All, pp 11-16.

Dr. Gopal Misra heads the Pharmaceutical Chemistry Laboratory, National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow and has 37 years of research experience in the chemistry of plant products.

Shringavera (Zingiber Officinale)

Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy

Editor’s note:

Shringavera, (the Sanskrit name for ginger) is an important spice used in every Indian household. It was in search of Indian spices like this that the European colonisation of Asia started. Today ginger is used all over the world as culinary and medicinal agent.


All authorities agree that ginger marketing began from India.It is interesting to study the origin of the term ‘Ginger’. The word is traced to Gingivere : middle English, Gengibre :o ld French, Gingiber : Latin, Zingiber :German, etymological Shringavera (Sanskrit for Ginger). The word Shringavera itself is revealing. ‘Shringa’ means horn. ‘Vera’ has no meaning in Sanskrit but in Dravidian it means ‘root’. Thus ‘Shringavera’ means a ‘horn-like root’.One can surmise that the plant was discovered as early as the time when both the Aryan and Dravidian races were one.

Shringavera pura was a famous city on the banks of Ganga and is referred to in the Raamaayana. Interestingly the term Zanzibar comes from Shringavera as this was an international trading centre for ginger.

Botanical aspects

Ginger belongs to the same family as banana called Scitaminaceae. They are herbs, often large (banana is the largest) and have a ‘pseudo-stern’ or ‘false stern’. This is constituted by overlapping of the basal sheathing portions of the leaves. The true stern lies underground and is reduced, coining up as the central axis at the time of flowering, piercing through this pseudo-stern. The leaves are large and found at the level of the root itself. They have a large sheathing base. The leaf blade or lamina has a strong central nerve on either side of which many parallel veins arise like feathers or pinnae. The flowers are hermaphrodite, i.e. both male and female structures appear in the same flower. They have a very short or even no stalk and are either solitary or in clusters called spikes – conical groups of stalkless flowers.

Ginger is one of the species of a genus called Zingiber. The genus Zingiber consists of herbs that have long leafy stems aerially and horizontal tuberous root-stocks or rhizomes underground. Bracts or leafy structures in whose axils the flowers arise are persistent and usually enclose one flower. They produce fruits that are oblong capsules, dry and dehiscent, breaking open at maturity to shed large globose seeds having an aril or outgrowth at the base.

This genus is distributed in the lndo-Malaysian area.

The flowers of Zingiber Officinale are greenish with a dark purple or purplish black lip and are attractively scented. They are arranged in spikes that rise up from the root level. The spikes are 3.8 to 7.5 centimeters in length and 2.5 centimeters in diameter.

It is is a perennial herb living for many seasons, producing leafy shoots reaching up to a height of about one to three feet. After the flowers fall and the aerial stems wither, the underground ginger is ripe and ready for harvesting. There are many varieties on the world market now, named after the trading city. Of these, the Jamaican ginger is most highly esteemed. Some commercial ‘varieties’ of ginger are as follows: African ginger (odour strongly aromatic, taste aromatic and strongly pungent), Cochin ginger (similar in odour and taste), Calcutta ginger (odour aromatic; taste, starchy and pungent.), Calicut ginger (also called lemon ginger (with an odour that is lemon-like, taste aromatic and pungent) and Japanese ginger (from a different species altogether viz. Z. mioga Rose (odour and taste, aromatic and pungent).


A description of the qualities of ginger can be deduced from its Sanskrit names. Some of them are: Anupama (incomparable), Anupaja (growing near marshy areas), Gulma mula (with a thicket-like or bushy root), Kandala (tuberous), Vara (the best), Saaringa, Shringa vera (the horny root), Mahija (born underground), Saikateshtha (loves to grow in sandy soil ), Ardrakhya, Ardraka (the wet one; referring to the ginger used in a fresh state and not dry which is Shunthi), Rahucchatra, Sushakaka (a good bit of vegetable).

Shunthi, the dried ginger has its own set of names: Mahaushadha (the great medicine), Vishva bheshaja (the universal medicine), Naagara (the city form; i.e. as it is sold in city markets) and Katubhadra (the bitter and the auspicious).

Its name in Arabic is Zangabil; Assamese and Bengali, Adaa; in Chinese, Kiang; in Hindi, adrak; in Kannada, alla, ardraka, hasi shunthi (the wet ginger), shunthi (the dry ginger); in Marathi, ale; in Malayalam, ardrakam, chinchiver, chukku, inji, Shringaveram; in Punjabi, adrak; in Tamil, aleam, inji, sukku, ver kombu (a term which is a literal translation of Shringa vera, meaning root which is horn like); in Telegu, mhaushadamu, allamu, shunthi and in Urdu, adraka.


Ginger contains an aromatic, essential volatile oil responsible for its characteristic smell, and 1 to 5 per cent of a substance (gingerol) that is of a light yellow colour.

There are many alkaloids and other characteristic chemical substances such as camphene, phillandrene, zingiberine, cineol and borneol; and, gingerol. There is a resin called gingerin which is the active principle. Other resins, starch and potassium oxalate are also present. The essential oils, giving it pungent flavour, occur just beneath the skin. However they are not volatile and are consequently not present in the volatile oil.

Pharmacological action

The chief importance of ginger is in its carminative action, i.e. itscapacity to expel gases from the stomach. It is aromatic and stimulates the gastrointestinal-tract, thereby increasing the secretion of valuable digestive juices. It is also a commendable sialagogue, i.e. a drug which stimulates the formation of abundant saliva.

Externally it acts as a local stimulant and is a good rubifacient. According to Ayurveda and Siddha, ginger is sweet and also katu or pungent; ushnam or hot and its post-assimilative effect or vipaka is katu. The principal or the officially useful part of the plant is its ‘root’ which is actually its underground rhizome or modified storage stem. It is considered one of the best and most Saattvika of herbs and alleviates vaata and kapha, whilst only slightly aggravating pitta. Generally, dry ginger is hotter and drier than the fresh; dry ginger reduces kapha and promotes the digestive fire, while fresh ginger acts primarily on vaata and may aggravate pitta.

Uses in traditional medicine

1. Diarrhoea
If a person is passing watery motions in profusion, make him lie down on his back, place a ring of Bengal gram or urad flour around his navel and fill this ring with the juice of fresh ginger. In an hour any loose motions will stop. Simultaneously, take six maashas of ginger juice filtered through a cloth, mix it in two tolaas of boiling water and ,feed it while still rather hot, five minutes after stoppage of loose motions. Keep giving this drink two or three times a day. Ginger juice, when rubbed on and around the navel, is presumed to cure all kinds of diarrhoea.

2. Hoarseness; temporary or total loss of voice
If one eats sour substances followed by cold water, or is suffering from a severe cold or takes too much ice, the voice is likely to become hoarse or abruptly stop. This may be painful at times.

A simple remedy is gargling with hot salt water or keeping ginger juice with some honey in the mouth.

A salutary diet in this condition is taking halva (porridge) made of ginger and sugar.

To prepare, take ginger juice, water and sugar and boil them together down to the consistency of syrup. To this, add (during the later stages of preparation) saffron or keshar, cardamoms and cloves — all in powdered form. This is then to be preserved in moisture-free, securely stoppered, chinaware or an earthenware bottle. It is a delicious and highly medicative preparation, also useful for cold, cough, asthma and dyspepsia.

(ii) Take a bit of fresh ginger, place it in the mouth and go on chewing it for some time. This produces a copious flow of saliva and thus proves of considerable benefit against the complaints of sore throat, hoarseness of voice as well as total but temporary loss of voice.

3. Chronic Bowel Problems; sprue
Sprue is a tropical disease affecting the mouth, throat and digestion due to malabsorption. In such a condition as well as in chronic disorders of the bowel (due to many reasons), ginger acts as a useful remedy. The usual complaints are a decline in hunger, great weakness, indigestion even if the intake of food is very little, palpitations etc.

For such a condition, adraka ghrita or a ghee-like preparation made of ginger proves ideal. This is prepared as follows:

Take a ser of cow’s ghee, two sers of dehusked and ground wet ginger and four sers of water. Cook them all together in an iron vessel. When the ghee alone remains, remove from the fire and cool. The cooking should be done over a low heat and the ghee should be removed from the fire as soon as it acquires a granular appearance.

Take six maashas of this ghee, mix it with half a paav of lukewarm goat’s milk and administer in the morning and evening.

This heals digestive disorders. It also removes persistent low fever, continued coughing, feeble digestive power, tastelessness or insipidity of the mouth and improves the quality of the blood.

4. Stomach pain
If the stomach is aching, heavy and filled with gas, mix a little bit of java khaar in boiling water and add two tolaas of the juice of wet ginger. When the water is about to spill out, remove from the fire and drink like tea, whilst still rather hot. The pain as well as heaviness will disappear.

If they do not, administer another drink after two hours. A good diet for this patient is hot barley water cooked with ginger.

5. Indigestion
In case of indigestion accompanied with low appetite; equal parts of ginger juice, lemon juice and rock salt are mixed together and taken. Or a mixture of equal parts of ginger and rock salt is recommended before the meals themselves.

When ginger and rock salt are taken together in this way before the meals, it cleans the tongue and throat and also increases the appetite, leading to an agreeable sensation in the mouth.

6. Nausea; Vomiting
Take a tolaa each of the juice of ginger and onion. Mix well and administer. This is given to obtain relief in cases of nausea, vomiting and retching.

7. Earache
Grind some wet ginger in water and extract its juice by squeezing it through a piece of soft cloth. Make it lukewarm. Put four to five drops of this warm juice into the painful ear. The pain will disappear immediately. If some pain still persists, repeat after some time. Some fomentation with ginger juice may also be attempted outside the ear in the surrounding area.

8. Eruptions
Reddish eruptions with burning and a generalised itching are caused by excessive pitta. The whole skin becomes hot and there may occur nausea or even vomiting. The haalvaa or sugar confection of ginger constitutes a good remedy.

To prepare this haalvaa, take half a ser of dehusked ginger, grind it fine, mix 2 sers of cow’s ghee and cook well. Simultaneously prepare a sugar syrup (to a consistency in which you can draw it out as a single wire). Mix this syrup with the ghee, cook further and thicken. When the haalvaa starts leaving the pan, remove from the fire, cool and store. This is to be taken in a dosage of one or two tolaas, morning and evening along with half a paav of milk.

It will soon get rid of the eruptions, nausea, mild fever as well as the burning sensation. This preparation is also beneficial for afflictions of feeble digestion, indigestion, cough, asthma, constant catarrh as well as cramps in the hands and feet due to cold.

9. Pitta aggravation and delirium tremens
Take two tolaas of ginger juice mixed well with seven tolaas of cow’s milk. Boil to half of its initial volume and add adequate amount of sugar candy, according to taste. The dose is given depending on the severity, to be taken once at bedtime.

Another recipe for the same purpose is the following. Take two tolaas each of ginger juice and mango juice, fine sugar and cow’s ghee. Mix and cook to half the quantity. This is to be taken morning and evening every day.

10. Fresh cough
When one catches cold, due to use of cold substances, the throat is affected, the nose gets blocked and difficulty in breathing may also arise. In this situation, one simple remedy can be tried with good results.

Take a tolaa of ginger juice, mix with it an equal quantity of honey and let the patient lick it up. There will be relief the same day. The throat will clear, the nose block disappear. Continue for two to three days, morning and evening, even if the symptoms subside.

A salutary diet here is to keep taking cow’s or goat’s milk cooked with ginger.

11. Fresh injury
If there is a cut or bruise, take a large piece of wet ginger, grind it well and prepare a paste.Apply a one inch thick layer of this over the region of the injury as quickly as possible. Over this, tie a tight bandage which should be removed after two hours. Sprinkle mustard oil and foment. Adopt this procedure two or three times. The distress will disappear completely.

12. Dryness of hands and feet
It sometimes happens that hands and feet become excessively dry following some disease or when there has been excessive bleeding. In such cases, prepare an oil of wet ginger and massage the hands and feet. Then take a piece of cloth, dip it in the oil and tie it as a bandage over the region morning and evening for about twenty to thirty days. Such a measure increases the circulation of blood. For preparing the oil of ginger for this purpose: take a paav of gingiley oil, one paav of well ground wet ginger, a ser of buffalo milk and half a cataak of saindhav salt. First heat the oil in an iron vessel. When it starts steaming, drop two to three lemon leaves in it. These will turn around and finally settle at a place.Remove them and see if they have become crisp (like paapad). Now remove the vessel from the fire. Cool it for an hour, put the ginger and buffalo milk in it and cook. While cooking, add saindhav salt. When the oil alone seems to remain, remove from the fire. Cool and strain the oil through a thick cloth.

Diseases of vaata aggravation often cause such a drying-up of the hands and the feet. Lakvaa or paralysis of the limbs is also due to vaata aggravation. Vishvaachi in Ayurveda refers to a disease where there is a paralysis of the arms and the back. Here too, the hands and the feet look dry. Ginger oil is presumed to be helpful here also.

13. Round worm infection
If small round worms are visible in the stools causing nausea, loss or decline in hunger, heaviness and tension in the stomach and a dripping of saliva from the mouth, the following remedy can be tried.

Take a paav of dehusked and ground wet ginger, add a cataak of old vinegar of sugarcane juice, one tolaa of black salt and one tolaa of garlic juice. Store this mixture in a bottle. Take one to one and half tolaa of this chutney daily with meals. Within a month, these small worms as well as the feeble digestion, nausea and tension will disappear.

14. Diabetes
Ginger juice mixed with sugar candy given twice a day is a good remedy for the patients of both types of diabetes, namely diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus.

Medicinally, it is the dry ginger or sunthi which is preferred. It is fondly called vishva bheshaja and mahaushadhi or the universal medicine and great medicine. We shall examine here the reasons for its great fame.

Dry ginger is usually given as a corrective and additional drug to purgatives. Its role is to prevent nausea and gripping or severe spasmodic pain in the intestines – which are the two side-effects that often accompany the administration of a purgative, particularly if the latter happens to be of a strong variety.

Dry ginger or shunthi is best given in powder form in doses of ten to thirty grains. It is taken along with five grains of sodium carbonate or potash for a better effect. Such a medication is very effective for gout and chronic rheumatism.

Shunthi mixed with ghee and hot water is a good remedy for indigestion, loss of appetite, tastelessness and anorexia.

In case of painful affection of the bowels and stomach, prepare an infusion of dry ginger and administer it with one or two teaspoonfuls of castor oil.

Dry ginger with sajjikhaara and a pinch of hing or asafoetida is a common home remedy for the same purpose.One more recipe for this affliction is as follows:

Prepare a mixture of dry ginger and aniseed (Pimpinella anisum or sounf in Hindi) in a proportion of four to one parts, fry this in half the quantity of ghee and powder the whole together. This is to be taken in suitable doses mixed with jaggery.

In case of chronic rheumatism, an infusion of dry ginger is prepared (1 part in 24 parts of water) and taken whilst still warm, just before going to bed. The whole body is covered with a warm blanket to facilitate the production of copious perspiration. This works equally well in cases of common cold and also during the shivering stage of intermittent fever.

For curing headaches, a ginger paint or plaster (made by rubbing the dry ginger with a little water) is applied to the forehead. Especially recommended for neuralgic headache is a paste made of dry ginger, cinnamon or dalcini, castor root and cloves, in equal parts, applied to the forehead and the temples. Even toothache is relieved by this application.

Ginger helps dramatically in cases of cholera. Powdered ginger is rubbed in the extremities of the limbs. This checks the cold perspiration, improves the local circulation and relieves the agonising cramps that are often associated with this terrible disease.

In cases of fainting and epileptic fits:

(i) Here, ginger is made into a thin paste with water and then applied as anjana (eyeliner) to the eyelids.

(ii) A powder of ginger, black pepper and long pepper are mixed and sniffed in small pinches just as one takes snuff. This is also very successful in cases of fainting, stupor, delirium and senselessness.

To cure vaginismus or spasmodic contractions of the vagina, powdered dry ginger is mixed with castor oil or castor root powder, made into a paste and then applied to the painful parts.

Here below we give a list of such combinations which are reputed recipes from famous Ayurvedic works like Bhava Prakasha nighantu and others.

1. Shunthi and jaggery
This combination clears aama or unassimilated food. It is beneficial in shiita pitta (or a tumour caused by chill accompanied with fever and sickness) and an increase of bile caused by cold. It is also effective in cases of weak digestion and as a naasya (snuff) cures the diseases of the head.

2. Shunthi saindhava salt
This is called lavanardraka yoga by Cakradatta. It promotes digestive strength, and is thus a digestive and appetising recipe. It also relieves oedemas, cleanses the throat and destroys vaata and kapha aggravations.

3. Shunthi and ordinary salt
-This is useful for curing indigestion (for this, dry ginger is fried and used) and also acts as a wholesome appetiser before meals.

4. Shunthi and pade lavana
This is effective for rectifying regurgitation, belching as well as in splenic enlargement.

5. Shunthi and Java khar
250 ml of this combination is given in ghee or warm water for cases of fever due to indigestion.

6. Shunthi, pomegranate juice, cumin seeds or jeera and sugar
This is effective against the aggravation of any or all the three doshas.

7. Shunthi, lemon and saindhava salt
This is an effective appetiser when taken one hour before meals.

8. Shunthi (sun dried) and stored bits of amalaka (Emblica officinalis), ghamasa or dhamasa (Fagonia Arabica, Linn.) and sugar
This is useful in cases of amla pitta or plethora.

9. Shunthi, hariitaki, (Terminalia chebula) and pippalii (Piper longum)
A decoction is prepared out of this combination and administered for cases of vomiting.

10. Shunthi, hariiaki and jaggery
This is useful at regulating three varied kinds of distresses: vomiting, asthmatic coughing and incomplete assimilation of ama.

11. Shunthi, hariitaki, lime juice and jaggery
This is useful for cases of copper-coloured slimy stools.

12. Shunthi, haritaki, nagarmotha mushtaka (nut grass or Cyperus rotundus Linn.) with jaggery
A bit of cotton soaked in the above combination should be kept in the mouth for curing dysentery.

13. Shunthi, bahedaa (bibhftaki or beleric myrobalan or Terminalia belerica) and pippalii
This is prepared as an electuary or lehya in honey which, when licked, relieves coughing.

14. Shunthi and bahedaa
A decoction is prepared from these two drugs and administered to persons suffering from shveta muutra or albuminuria.

15. Shunthi and amchuur (sundried pieces of mango fried and then powdered)
This is to be taken in buttermilk in the dosage of half a tola in case of dysentery due to indigestion.

16. Shunthi and mocha ras (exudation of Salmalia malabarica, red silk cotton tree)
An electuary or lehya is prepared from these two in combination with jaggery and ghee. This is given against dysentery.

17. Shunthi and buttermilk
This is given for dysentery.

18. Shunthi, kuda (Kutaja or Holarrhena antdysenterica) and black pepper
This combination is powdered and given for cases of chronic disorder of the bowels and sprue or malabsorption in the intestine.

19. Shunthi, Kuda and bael fruit (Aegle marmelos)
Useful for ordinary dysentery.

20. Shunthi, indrajava (Wrightia tinctoria) and nagara motha (Cyperus rotundus or nut grass)
This is effective for dysentery caused by vaata.

21. Shunthi, valavel and sounf (fennel, Foeniculum vulgare)
A decoction is prepared and given in cases of rakta pitta or plethora where bleeding occurs from the nose.

22. Shunthi, nutmeg and dalcini or cinnamon bark
A powder is to be prepared out of them and given as a lehya in case of diarrhoea.

23. Shunthi and distillation of pudinaa (mint leaves)
This is to be taken in ghee for cases of feeble digestive power, piles and dysentery due to indigestion.

24. Shunthi and sounf
The two are powdered and administered in jaggery in cases of aamavaata, for numbness or insensitivity due to indigestion.

25. Shunthi and pippalii
A kalka or paste is prepared and administered in hot water in cases of indigestion.

26. Shunthi, pippali and the seeds of bael
This is to be given in old jaggery in the form of pills of two maashas each; one pill per day. It acts as specific remedy for ozaena.

27. Shunthi, sounf and jeera (cumin seeds)
All the three are to be well powdered and prescribed in cases of indigestion in a dosage of ten grams after meals.

28. Shunthi and black pepper mixed with double the quantity of jaggery
This is meant for aiding the digestion of the food and is taken in cases of shooting pains due to indigestion.

29. Shunthi and daalciinii
A paste is to be prepared as an external application for uncontrollable sleep.

30. Shunthi, daalciini and lavmig (cloves)
A decoction is to be prepared from these and administered in cases of gas troubles, indigestion and in kapha or phlegm.

31. Shunthi, daalciini and cardamom
A powder given in a dosage of ten grains helps cure feebleness of digestive ability.

32. Shunthi, cardamom, cloves and cumin seeds
Powdered and given in the dosage of eight grains rectifies defective digestion.

33. Shunthi and nagar motha
This is advised in cases of thin watery motion due to chronic weakness of the bowels.

34. Shunthi and jyeshtha madhu or mulethi (liquorice root, Glycirrhiza glabra)
A decoction of these with jaggery is given in case of hoarseness of voice.

35. Shunthi and guduci (Tinospora cordifolia)
This is an ideal combination for gout and rheumatism or sandhii vaata.

36. Shunthi, kacoraa and punarnavaa (Boerhaavia diffusa, the red variety)
A decoction is useful in chronic troubles of indigestion coupled with gas.

37. Shunthi and gokshura (Tribulus terrestris)
A decoction is employed with good results in cases of shooting pains at the loins and chronic troubles of indigestion accompanied with gas troubles.

38. Shunthi and the root of castor
This is also used in rectifying the shooting pains associated with chronic weakness of the bowels and indigestion associated with gas trouble.

39. Shunthi and castor oil
This makes an excellent external application for glandular enlargement.

40. Shunthi and juice of castor leaves and twigs
This is employed for diarrhoea.

41. Shunthi and coriander
A decoction is employed to cure gas troubles, specially the shooting pains associated with it. It also acts as a digestive, a stimulative and antipyretic specially when the fever is due to digestive upsets.

42. Shunthi, coriander, deodar, ringanii (Solanum indicum) and dorali (S. xanthocarpum)
A decoction is effective in all types of fever.

43. Shunthi and gaanthi haldii (turmeric nodes)
This is to be mixed with old jaggery and is employed in curing feeble digestive power and asthmatic coughing.

44. Shunthi and kacanaar (probably, a Bauhinia species)
This is a specific for goitre.

45. Shunthi ghrita
This is specially used in cases of Amavaata or torpor of the bowels. Here the bowels become numb and inactive. This is the result of indigestion. It is usually accompanied with pain in the joints, swellings and a flatulence or bloating of the belly because of collection of morbid gases in the abdomen. If the patient attempts to lift anything the joints of his fingers and the feet may not work properly. His stools are red and small in quantity and he feels very weak.

This is how it is to be prepared. Take one ser of cow’s ghee, one paav of dry ginger, powder nicely, strain through a piece of thin cloth and add four sers of water. Cook them all together in an iron vessel on a medium fire. When the water evaporates completely and the ghee alone remains, remove the mixture from the fire, cool, strain and store. Give this ghee morning and evening to’ the patient with goat’s milk.

This will remove the aberrations of gas and phlegm caused by indigestion, augment the digestive fire and eradicate the distressful pain at the loins that characterise this affliction.

Some household tips for an effective use of ginger:

The list of several combinations of ginger given above and the diverse medicative effects for which they are all famous, represent a piece of knowledge meant mainly for the physicians, though everybody is welcome to utilise it.

Here we give a number of useful tips that many housewives are actually employing with excellent results. Readers are invited to add other recipes they use, for a knowledge of ginger is very widespread with many unwritten local nuances.

Consuming wet ginger stimulates and augments gastric activity. It is this profusion of secretion that is responsible for the increase in digestive power which invariably follows an intake of ginger. In fact, it is a desirable practice to chew a bit of wet ginger after every meal. This will obliterate the risks of indigestion, gastric ulcers, flatulence and distension due to gas collection etc.

Regular use of ginger also pacifies the aggravation of pitta.

As ginger is also an effective antiseptic agent this habit prevents worm infestation.

Other home remedies are:

(1) A sure cure for getting rid of anorexia or tastelessness in any affliction of fever, is to put a bit of wet ginger, four to five cumin seeds and a little quantity of sugar candy together in the mouth, chew and suck the juice.

(2) Take a teaspoonful of the juice of wet ginger, two teaspoonfuls of lime juice, an equal quantity of the juice of pudiinaa or mint leaves and six teaspoonfuls of honey. Mix them together and take three times a day. This measure proves beneficial to patients of many diseases such as rheumatism, persistent vomiting, indigestion, constipation, sore throat, hoarseness of voice and bronchitis.

(3) A simple cure for headache is to take a bit of wet ginger, grind it in water and apply this paste to the forehead. Cover yourself in a warm sheet or rug, lie down and sleep. This will result in profuse perspiration and the headache will disappear.

(4) If you are feeling uneasy and the whole body is fatigued due to taking bath in cold water or getting drenched in the rain prepare a decoction of wet ginger. Add sugar to it and take this decoction thrice a day. Your uneasiness and distress will vanish.

The same decoction is an ideal medicine for running nose as well.

(5) A teaspoonful of the above decoction, mixed with a decoction of methi leaves taken with honey is a beneficial drug for alleviating kapha. It proves very useful for persons suffering from consumption, cough and asthma.

(6) In cases of hoarseness of voice and the consequent difficulty in speech, place a bit of wet ginger, one clove and a crystal of salt in the mouth. Chew well and suck the juice.

(7) Administering seven to eight drops of fresh juice mixed with honey or milk to young children cures the afflictions of their stomach and intestines.

(8) When one consumes green leafy vegetables, there is a tendency to gas formation. Taking wet ginger along with one’s meals relieves it.

(9) Take a piece of dry ginger. Burn and powder. Add salt and rub your teeth with it as wi th tooth powder. This will soothe toothache.

(10) Take an inch of dry ginger and a teaspoonful of cumin seeds. Crush them together and powder. Drop this powder in about four cups of boiling water. Let it boil for five minutes and filter. Drink this decoction in a luke warm state instead of water. This relieves indigestion.

(11) Another recipe for indigestion is as follows: Take about hundred grams of coriander seeds and twenty five grams of dry ginger. Roast them together to a red colour. Pound, sieve and store the powder in a bottle. In case of indigestion add two spoonfuls of this powder with one teaspoonful of powdered jaggery to a cup of boiling water and let it simmer for two minutes. Filter the decoction and take it along with milk.

(12) Take an inch of wet ginger. Grind it well in water. Mix it thoroughly in a cup of water and then filter. Add honey and lemon juice. This is one more method to get rid of indigestion.

If you adopt the procedure of chewing well and eating a bit of wet ginger with a few crystals of salt, you will avoid the very possibility of having indigestion.

(13) Mix a teaspoonful of freshly prepared powder of dry ginger in a cup of milk. Taking this in the mornmg for a week, cures jaundice.

(14) Take a teaspoonful each of salt, dry ginger, cumin seeds and sugar. Mix and grind them together to a smooth consistency. Add this powder to hot water, squeeze a quarter lemon and drink. This will stop stomachache.

(15) One more recipe to mitigate stomach ache is as follows: Prepare a decoction of coriander seeds and dry ginger and then drink it fresh. This also brings down the bloated belly caused by indigestion.

The number of tips for an effective use for ginger, both fresh and dry is by no means exhausted by the account given here.


Ginger is of great value as simple household remedy as well as to the Ayurvedic, Yunani, Siddha and Chinese physicians. It is our duty to derive maximum benefit from this easily available plant.


1.Svoboda, Robert and Lade, Arnie. Tao and Dharma. Twin Lakes, WI; Lotus Press, 1995.
2.Krishnarnurthy, K.H. Ginger and Turmeric. Delhi; D.K. Fine Art Press.

Foot notes:
The modern equivalents of the measurements used in the text are:

1 rattii = 1 gunza (seed of Abrus precatorius). 16 cataak = 1 ser.
8 rattii = 1 masha. Paav = 1/4 of ser.
10 maasha = 1 tolaa. cataak = 1/4 a paav.
1 tolaa = 10 grams.


Jambira (Nimbu, Citrus medica)


Dr. K.H.Krishnamurthy

 Lemon forms an important citrus fruit. Citrus fruits were domesticated from their wild ancestors in eastern and southern Asia. Some have been under cultivation for the last 3,000 years even for reasons other than eating.  Citron (bijaura in Hindi) for example, was planted in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon for use in cosmetic water and pomade (ointment for hair) and not for its edibility. There are nearly 100 species in the genus Citrus but only a few are of commercial value and well-known.

Citrus plants are thorny, aromatic shrubs or small trees. Their leathery, evergreen leaves are dotted with glands.  Though the leaves look simple they are actually compound; a single leaflet with a joint between the leaf blade and the stalk. The white or purplish flowers are solitary, emerging in great profusion and often very fragrant. Though tropical plants, they form an important commercial crop of the temperate regions. The rind of all the citrus fruits yields a valuable essential oil. It is not much known that the dried waste pulp provides an excellent cattle feed. Other important by-products are: citric acid, pectin (useful in jelly making) and various glucosides.

Lemon is a native of South-east Asia, grown there for ages. It has been cultivated in Europe since the days of the Greeks and the Romans. The tree is small with short spines and large, white or purple, sweet scented flowers.

In this article, we will confine ourselves only to the lemon which is botanically known as Citrus medica. It is cultivated widely all over India, specially the warmer parts. There are many cultivated varieties, varying in the size and shape of the fruit. The four major varieties are:

1.  Citrus medica proper. This is the citron (maa phal in Hindi). The fruit is large and oblong, obvoid or somewhat irregularly shaped. The rind is thick and characteristically thrown into irregular swellings

or warts on the surface. It is less sour and best relished with an admixture of sugar.

2.  Var. limonum. The lemon (jambra or pahainimbu in Hindi). The stalk of the leaf is winged. The fruit is ovoid, yellow and distinctly mamillate. The rind is thin and the pulp, abundant and very sour.

3.  Citrus medica, Linn. var. acida (the sour). This is the sour lime (nimbu or kaagzinimbu in Hindi) of India.  Here, the leaflets are elliptical-oblong. The flowers are small and so too is the raceme on which they are borne.  The petals are usually four. The fruit is mostly small and ovoid. The rind is thick or thin. The pulp is pale and very sour. This is the common lemon and very widely cultivated all over India.

4.  Var.  limetta. The sweet lime of India (mthaam tphal, m thanimbu in Hindi). Here, the fruit is globose, 3-5 inches in diameter. The rind is thin, smooth, adhering to the pulp. The juice is abundant, sweet but not aromatic.

Citrus medica Linn.Var. acida. (acid lime, bergamot orange, sour lime of India.)


Of all the citrus fruits, this is most often used medicinally and as a household remedy. There is a proverb in Hindi: ‘If one eats a lime every day and grows tulasi in the house, physicians and druggists will curse their fate and the God of Death will not show his anger in the house.’

The ancient classics like Charaka Samhitaa and others describe matula ga (bijaura) and jambra but not lime which is just regarded as a variety of the former.


Sanskrit: Karunaa; Mahaalunga; Maatulang. English: Citron; lime. Hindi: Maaphal; Nimbu; Bengali: Chholongonebu, Maharashtrian:  Kaagdilimbu; Mahalung; Kannada: Maadaladahannu. Telegu:  Maadeephalamu. Malyalam: Maadalana-takam. Konkani: Maavalinga.

Parts used

The parts used are: the root, leaf, seed and fruit. The fruit juice  and oil  from  the  rind  as  well as from flowers  and  leaves are used medicinally.


Lemon juice contains 7-10 % of citric acid, phosphoric and malic acid, citrate of potassium and other bases, sugar, mucilage and shes. Lemon peel contains a volatile oil, 5 to 8% hesperidine, a bitter crystalline glucoside chiefly in the inner white of the rind and 4 per cent ash. About 5-9% of citric acid is available from a hundred c.c. of lime juice or 30 grains of citric acid in one ounce of the juice. This also contains 10.6% of carbohydrates, 1.5% protein, 1.0% fats and 17 calories of energy. Every 100 gm of lemon contains vitamin A (26mg.) and Vitamin C (63mg.). Besides these, potassium, magnesium, chlorine and many other minerals, citrates, malates and tartrates are found.

General actions

The fruit is cooling and refreshing. Its juice counteracts scurvy, due to being rich in citric acid. The pulp is acid and bitter. The juice is converted into alkaline citrates, potassium salts and phosphoric acid in the blood. Citrates are partly oxidised into carbonic acid and water. Potassium salts and phosphoric acid act upon the red blood corpuscles. They precipitate uric acid, thus promoting a formation of urinary stones. Citric acid is a natural antiseptic against fermentation in the stomach and the bowels.

Ayurveda specifies the properties of lime as follows:

It is light, acidic, sweet in vipaka (post-assimilation), pacifying all the 3 doshas but slightly promoting pitta. It is appetising, stimulative, digestive, regulative (anulomaka), quenching thirst, germicidal, purifying (blood) and good for the heart and the eyes. It is useful in warding off the effects of poisons; feeble digestion, indigestion and constipation; also cough; skin diseases; burning sensations and diarrhoea. Its most useful property is its germicidal and anti-fermentation nature.

Lime helps in removing the wastes from the body easily through all the excretory organs as the skin, lungs, intestines and kidneys. It is very effective for cleansing of the liver. It is important that lime juice should be taken separately and not along with other food. Its maximum effect is seen when taken on an empty stomach.

How does one take lime juice?

For medicinal purposes, avoid unripe, half ripe or artificially ripened fruits; they are harmful. Select only the fully ripe fruits. Warm the fruits a little as this softens the rind and pulp within, so that the aromatic oil as well as the acidic, nourishing salts can be pressed out easily. If the limes are fresh, they can be preserved for

a considerable time by placing them in wet sand or water. Taking lime juice with the juice of other fruits, e.g. grapes is still better. If other citrus fruits are not available, lime juice can be taken with pure water. Sucking the juice alone is not advisable as it generates heat. The juice is to be taken on an empty stomach either in the early morning or in the evening. Taking it in the afternoon, especially after meals is harmful. Some say that a still better way of deriving maximum benefit is to administer a mild purgative, clean the digestive system and then take the lime juice. In digestive disorders, it should be taken only for a hungry stomach.

A very tasty and beneficial way of taking lemon is as follows: equal quantities of fresh lemon, ginger, radish and onion juice are mixed to make 1/2 a litre in all. Equal quantities of all the 5 salts (bia lavana or black salt, Romaka lavana or lake salt, saindhav lavana  or rock salt, samudra lavana or sea salt and sauvarcha lavana or  sonchal salt)  are stored in a bottle and kept closed for seven days. Taken after meals in a dosage of about 5-6ml. with an equal quantity of water confers many benefits and gives a unique taste.

As fresh lemon is not always available, its juice can be extracted and stored in a bottle with some almond oil. It can be preserved in this way for a very long time. When required, remove the oil, use the juice and replace the oil again. Or, take 1 paavs (250ml.) of pure mustard oil and fill the bottle with half a ser of lime juice. For years together, the juice will remain fresh. This oil can be used for local application in cases of eczema and other skin diseases.

An especially beneficial way of taking lime juice is as follows: mix the juice of 2 to 4 lemons in 1 to 1.5 paavs of comfortably hot water and drink by sipping it slowly in the morning on an empty stomach. You can add honey if you like. If taken regularly for sometime even an extremely chronic disorder of the blood can get totally eradicated. This also removes constipation, tastelessness and feeble digestion.

Cures with lemon juice

The medicinal uses for lime are so many that one can almost speak of a lime therapy. An idea of its multifarious utility is given below.

1. Fever

(i)  In cases of the fever of malaria, influenza and the like, take lemon juice, mix with an equal quantity of water and keep it in a bottle. In another bottle, prepare a mixture of 1 drachm of potassium bicarbonate and 3 ounces of water. Add a big spoon of each in a cup and give it as a fresh drink. This is to be done three times a day.

(ii)  Slice a lime into two, an hour before the onset of fever. Sprinkle on one half the powders of black pepper, saindhav salt and alum, 4 rattis each. Warm this half on a fire and let the patient suck the juice. After half an hour, the other half of the lemon should also be taken similarly. The fever should subside the same day. In case it doesn’t, the recipe may be repeated. This is a very beneficial procedure for all seasonal fevers.

(iii) To prepare a lemonade for every type of seasonal fever, take 5-6 limes, remove the skin, cut and place in a porcelain vessel. Pour 30 tolaas of boiling water over this. When it cools down add sugar candy or country sugar in any desired quantity. The patient can drink this as much as he likes. This is a very tasty drink that will also ward off vomiting, thirst, distress and obstructed motions.

(iv) Another recipe for seasonal fever is to take 2.5 tolaas (in small sips) of the juice mixed with an equal quantity of a decoction of ciraayata.

(v) For malaria, lime juice is taken with strong, milkless tea.

(vi) A large-sized fruit is cut into 4 to 5 pieces, kept in a vessel and cooked over a low fire with three glasses of water till the water is reduced to one third. This is then removed, cooled, strained and drunk before the onset of the fever. This is believed to be effective for warding off malaria.

(vii)  In case of the fever of influenza, the juice of one fruit in a cup of lukewarm water taken with saindhav salt and the powder of trikatu is beneficial.

(viii) In cases of excessive temperature, vomiting, thirst, etc. lemon juice to which sugar is added can be given without any hesitation.

(ix) If the fever is due to pitta, a lime is cut, black pepper and sugar candy powder sprinkled over the cut surface and the fruit sucked.

(x)  If it is a kapha fever, saindhav salt is used in place of sugar candy.

(xi)  A dosage of 4 to 6 drachms of this juice is a useful and refreshing drink in smallpox, measles, scarlet fever and others where a hot dry skin is accompanied with much thirst. The drink is advantageous in cases of haemorrhages from the lungs, stomach, bowels, kidney and other internal organs. It is also useful against rheumatism and rheumatic fevers.

(xii)  Hot lime juice is useful for colds and mild influenza. It is preventive of influenza as well as any tendencies to pneumonia.

(xiii)  Lime juice, ginger juice, rock salt, black salt and sonchal salt are mixed in equal quantities and warmed.  This is used as a snuff for expelling phlegm in fever complicated by pains in the head, throat and chest.

(xiv) Add to a teaspoon of lime juice an equal quantity of white onion juice. Taking this three times a day helps to cure malaria.

2. Dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera

(i) For dysentery or diarrhoea due to indigestion, administer sweetened lime juice.

(ii)  Onion juice and a little cold water with lemon juice is also useful.

(iii)  If vomiting accompanies diarrhoea, mix camphor with the sweetened lemon syrup and administer at hourly intervals.

(iv)  For ordinary dysentery, an enema is given with lime juice and water.

(v)  A lime can be cut, sprinkled with salt, or trikattu powder, heated over cinders and sucked. If one uses hin gvash ttaka curna instead of the trikatu, it is still better.

(vi) Lime juice is very efficacious against dysentery and diarrhoea due to kapha. Even a patient who has lost all hope can be cured in a day by giving lime juice upto 50 tolaas throughout the day.

(vii)  If there is too much mucus and twisting pains, administer 11 tolaas of  lime juice and 20 tolaas of milk just warm from the udder. The mucus will get expelled, the pain and burning sensations will disappear.

(viii)  For cholera: one part of onion juice, two parts each of pudina (mint) leaf juice and onion juice are mixed and given at intervals of half an hour.

(ix) Or, mix onion juice with lime juice sherbet along with a pinch of camphor.

(x) For quenching thirst during cholera, cook 2 tolaas of  saindhav salt  in 4 sers of water. When this is reduced to a half, remove from the fire, cool, strain and add 3 maashaas of lime juice. Store in an earthen vessel, to be given at intervals.

(xi) The juice of 2 limes daily, prevents cholera.

(xii) Gargling with lime juice and water mixed in equal quantities  is beneficial  for overcoming the violent side-effects of  diarrhoea  when jaamalgota or Croton tiglium is taken.

3. Indigestion, stomach pains, vomiting and constipation


(i)  In a wide-mouthed porcelain vessel make alternate layers of lime juice and saindhav or ordinary salt. Close the vessel and keep it for a few days. The use of this preparation removes all untoward effects of indigestion  and kindles the digestive fire. It also relieves anorexia.

(ii)  Small pieces of wet ginger, mixed in saindhav salt treated with lime juice stimulates the digestion and relieves any indigestion and constipation.

(iii)  To check vomiting due to fermentation in the stomach, sucking a lime sprinkled with sugar and pepper powder (if thirst is more intense, use only sugar powder) is helpful.

(iv) Equal quantities of lime juice and water can also be used to combat vomiting.

(v) Alternatively, 3 maashaas of lime juice or 1 tolaa each of clear lime water and honey can be used as 20 drops given thrice daily. This wards off indigestion, stomach pain and vomiting. It is also an excellent medicine for infants who vomit milk repeatedly. The dosage for an infant is ten drops three times daily.

(vi) Another recipe is to soak 15 raisins in the juice of lime overnight, squeeze the raisins in the morning and take as a drink.

(vii)  For constipation, mix 1 tolaa of lime juice, 10 tolaas of water and 1 tolaa of sugar. If taken regularly for a few days at night the bowel resumes its normal activity.

(viii)  A glass of plain lemonade (no sugar) taken hot or cold before breakfast and at bedtime is an excellent cleanser of the stomach and bowels.

(ix)  Take a medium-sized lime fruit, squeeze its juice fully and add to it half the quantity of pure castor oil.  When taken orally it is a good remedy for twisting colicky pains of the stomach.

(x)  If suffering from abrupt indigestion, take a teaspoonful of lime juice in water to which a pinch of eating soda is added. You will soon feel the relief.

(xi)  Lime juice always promotes hunger. It will cure distress and pains in the stomach that arise from indigestion. It will also stop colicky pains in the belly and the vomiting common during pregnancy.

 4. Scurvy

This disease results from a deficiency of Vitamin C.

In scurvy the gums become spongy and weak. Bleeding starts and the teeth become loose. Anaemia may appear as well as glandular reddish clots on the scalp.

(i) Lime is an ideal medicine for scurvy. Eight parts of water mixed with one part of lime juice once a day relieves the condition. This is also good for rakta pitta whose typical symptom is nose bleeding.

(ii) Another recipe for bleeding is; 20 tolaas of water, 1.25 tolaas of sugar mixed with 2.5 tolaas of the juice of  a  well-ripened  lime, administered morning and evening.

(iii)   4 ounces of lime juice, 60 grains of chlorate of potash, 6 grains of quinine, 2 ounces of sugar and 4 ounces of water should be mixed and given as 1 ounce 3-4 times a day. This is particularly effective against scurvy.

The wholesome dietary articles for scurvy are lime, pomegranate, jaamun, aamalak, orange and tomato.

5. Urinary disorders

(i) In case of difficult urination, it is beneficial to give lime juice mixed with yavaksar (a corrosive preparation made from burning barley), which reduces the acidity of urine.

(ii) For syphilitic wounds which are excessively painful, apply a paste prepared by rubbing black harad in lime juice on them.

(iii) Mixing a teaspoon of lime juice to a cup of tender coconut water and taking this twice a day is a good way to get rid of scanty urination.

(iv) To get relief from severe urinary burning, squeeze half a lime into a cupful of boiling water. Add a spoonful  of honey  and  drink slowly.

6. Diabetes

(i)  For diabetes, extract the juice from 20 tolaas of lime fruit, and drop in it cottikaundi (varattika). Strain it in the morning and give it as a drink daily for seven days.

(ii)  Weak lemonade is preferable to plain water for relieving the thirst of a diabetic patient.

(iii) For urinary stones, take 6 maashaas of lime juice, 4 rattis of shorakalami and 1 maashaa of ground sesame in cold water – once or twice a day for 21 days. The stone will melt. The decoction of kulathi daal (Dolichos  biflorus  or  horse gram) is to be taken as a salutary adjunct.

(iv) Another recipe is to take the juice of 2 lime fruits a day.


7. Cough, throat pain, catarrh


(i)  In case of chronic cough where the phlegm is thick and comes out with great difficulty: take a lemon, enclose it within a wet cloth and place it in warm ash for some time. Remove it when still hot, squeeze

out the juice, add pure honey and administer 3 maashaas each time, three times a day as an electuary (lehya – to be licked). The phlegm will then come out easily.

(ii) Taking lime as such or warmed up as above mixed with pure  honey, 2 or 3 times a day clears almost all the throat afflictions.

(iii) If pure honey is not available, gargling well with a mixture of 1 part juice and 4 parts hot water cures throat pains.

(iv) In case of catarrh or common cold and running nose, drinking the juice of lime cooked in warm ash as above, will stop the flow immediately.

(v) A slit fruit sniffed frequently stops a running nose.

(vi) For a bad cold, the juice of 2 limes in a pint of boiling water, sweetened as required and taken at bedtime is a magical cure.

(vii)  Take a cupful of warm water and squeeze a whole lime into it. Add 4 teaspoons of honey, one fourth teaspoon of salt and stir well. Give this to patients suffering from violent tonsillitis. It is advisable to drink this sherbet slowly. Drinking this daily at night will prevent colds and catarrh. This will also ensure a freedom from indigestion.


8. Headache


(i)   For headaches, a lime is cut, warmed and applied on the head and temples. Do not expose the head to direct wind.

(ii)  Another useful and quick remedy is to drink a very strong tea mixed with lime juice or pulp in place of milk.

9. Skin diseases

(i)  The  juice of 1-4 lime fruits mixed in 1 to 1.5  paav of comfortably hot water with pure honey taken regularly in the morning on  an empty stomach for a few months relieves chronic skin diseases and blood disorders.

(ii) Lime juice and the oil prepared from jasmine flowers applied over any skin lesions is helpful in all types of skin diseases.

(iii) Rubbing the skin with a piece of lemon and taking a bath with lime juice and salt brings out the lustre of the skin.

(iv) In case there are spots and freckles, any eruption, pus formation: or infection causing itching: rubbing with a lime peel helps.

(v)  Or, grind a piece of lime in juice, prepare a hot poultice and tie over these areas. Beneficial effects are seen in a few days.

(vi)  If there is an infection on the scalp, itching, hardness of the skin or dandruff, take equal quantities lime juice with mustard oil and apply. Wash the scalp with curds. Within a few days, a cure is brought about.

(vii) For boils on the head: prepare a mixture of 1 tola each of lime juice and coconut oil, add 3 maashaas of camphor and wash.

(viii)  For dark spots, freckles and wrinkles on the face, apply lime juice mixed with honey and also use olive (jaitun) oil regularly.

(ix)  Or, take 5 tolaas of lime juice, 5 tolaas of pure glycerine, 15 tolaas of rose water and 1 maashaa of borax.  Mix and store in a bottle. This is to be applied daily on the face at bedtime. Boils, eruptions, pimples, dark spots, roughness etc. all disappear and the face becomes beautiful and lustrous. This is an excellent germ-killer and also improves the complexion.

(x) Or, make a mixture of the juices of lime, tulasi and kali kasaundi (Cassia occidentalis) and keep them in the sun on a flat plate. When it becomes thick, rub it on the face.

(xi) Or, mix milk and the powder of kalaunji (Nigella sativa) in lime juice. Apply this at night and wash the skin with hot water the next morning.

(xii) Or, sprinkle and push navasadar powder (Sal. ammoniac) with your fingers into cut lime and rub this on the face for seven days. All freckles on the face will disappear.

(xiii) Or, rub a little soap over the cut surface of lime and apply on your face in the morning. Within a few days all disfigurements disappear and the face becomes beautiful.

(xiv) Or, mix turmeric and lodhra (Symplocas racemosa) powder in lime juice and apply as an ointment. This removes the wrinkles on the face within seven days.

(xv) Even the spots of smallpox can be removed by rubbing lime juice in which murdashan is finely ground.

(xvi)  For itching, eczema, scabies and even leucoderma, lime has its uses. Itching disappears on rubbing lime juice mixed with turmeric and mustard.

(xvii)  Take 2 tolaas of lime juice and 5 tolaas of jasmine oil. Keep them in a porcelain vessel and pound well.  A white coloured ointment is formed which is to be rubbed in at bedtime. The next morning, mix wheat husk with lime juice and apply on the body.  Then take a bath in hot water. This destroys dry eczema.

(xviii)  Or, apply a mixture of multani soil and the powder of black pepper in lime juice and take a sun bath.  After an hour or two, bathe in fresh water.

(xix)  Otherwise, massage in a mixture of mustard or gingiley oil with an equal quantity of lime juice and take a hot water bath. Both the above methods [No. (xviii) and (xix)] are also good for eczema.

(xx) Here are specific remedies for scabies.  (a) Mix 10 tolaas each of lime juice and gingiley oil. Heat this mixture on a low fire, add 1 tolaa of bee’s wax and 2 tolaas each of country camphor and saffron (kesar).   When the oil alone seems to remain, remove from the fire and strain while still hot. When it cools, add 3 maashaas of chrysophanic acid, mix well and store in a bottle. Scratch the skin affected by scabies and apply this mixture. Benefit will be soon seen.

(b) Mix sulphur, borax and kaatha in lime juice and apply.

(c)  Or, simply scratch the area 2 to 3 times a day and rub in lime juice.

(d)  Mixing sulphur powder with lime juice and applying over the affected parts cures scabies, itching and particularly psoriasis.

(xxi)  To prevent cracking of the skin during winter, add a few drops of lime juice to the cream of milk. Apply this gently over the face and wash you face after 15 minutes. Your skin will become supple and will not crack.

(xxii) Take a cupful of good quality milk and boil it well. Squeeze a whole lime fruit into it. Add a teaspoonful of glycerine to this milk. After half an hour apply this mixture on the face or to cracked feet or rough palms. It is best to do this before going to bed at night. The skin becomes supple, lustrous, soft and healthy.

(xxiii)  Another cosmetic use of lime juice is as follows: mix lemon juice with coconut oil and gently massage your skin with it. The skin becomes soft and lustrous.

(xxiv)  Grind young leaves of lime along with turmeric into a fine paste. Apply this as a face cream. Pimples will vanish and the lustre of the face will heighten.


(xxv)  Take lime leaves, tender neem leaves, tender mango leaves, calotropis (ak) leaves, tulasi leaves and also the leaves of bael or bilwa. Boil them all together in water and decant. Add this to comfortably hot water and take a bath. After the bath, remove all moisture from the body by pressing well with a dry cloth. Sprinkle sandal powder all over and rub it in. This is an excellent measure for all types of itching and for the maintenance of a healthy skin.

(xxvi) There are many useful external applications of lime. In cases of scabies, psoriasis, itchings and many other minor skin afflictions, take equal proportions of tumeric, tulasi leaves, salt, cow’s urine and lime juice.  Grind them all to a fine paste and apply twice a day. Improvement can be soon seen.

10. Eye diseases

(i)  In conjunctivitis (abhishyand) or eyesore, when the eye becomes very red and painful, a bit of opium and alum powder are sprinkled over the cut surface of lime and tied over the eye. Along with this, a drink of lime juice in which sugar candy and saindhav salt are mixed is also given repeatedly. This obviates eye afflictions due to pitta.

(ii)  Or, fry 10 tolaas of alum in an iron vessel, add 3.5 tolaas of opium and go on adding 40 tolaas of lime juice little by little. Keep stirring till the juice is dry and prepare pills. When required, a pill can be rubbed in water, heated a little and applied all around as well as a little inside the eye. This is an excellent medicine for

eye pain and early stages of cataract (dhalaka) where there is a great flow of tears.

(iii)  Another simple method is to rub lime juice well in an iron vessel with an iron pestle and apply this thickened juice as an ointment for the eye. This will remove the redness of the eye as well as any burning and pain.

(iv) For cataracts: take 2 tolaas of the seeds of shirish (Albizzia lebbeck) and prepare a fine powder (in a mortar). Go on thinning this with lime juice, till the juice of ten fruits is used up. This can be applied in the eyes like a colyrium. The patient should also orally be given triphalaa powder at night.

(v) For haziness of vision and cataract, take a piece of turmeric in a porcelain vessel and squeeze the juice of one whole lime over it. Cook this till the juice is fully absorbed. Repeat with another lime. When 7 limes get incorporated in this way, grind the turmeric to a fine paste. Mix an equal quantity of any colyrium (e.g. surma).  This is to be applied at night with the colyrium needle. This recipe is from Yunani.

(vi) In cases of early cataract, put some drops of fresh lime juice into the eye daily at sunrise. If one keeps doing so, the cataract slowly dissolves and the power of vision improves.

(vii)  Tying lime halves sprinkled with turmeric and alum powder (sometimes with opium and sugar) over the eye and removing them after 2 hours in the morning and night proves beneficial for redness of  the eye, burning, pain and early cataract.

(viii)  Washing one’s eyes with water in which a few drops of lime juice are mixed cleans them well and augments their shine.


11. Diseases of the mouth, gums and teeth


(i)  Mix 10 tolaas of water in 10 tolaas of fresh lime juice and keep gargling. This will cure any peeling of the skin or sloughing of the mucous membrane of the mouth and swellings of the gums. Usually this is a sign of stomach upset and feeble digestion. Therefore this should also be corrected. Cleaning the stomach can be done  by taking 1-2 tolaas of lime juice on an empty stomach in the morning. In extreme cases, even 12 ounces of juice can be given.

(ii)  If one makes a habit of daily rubbing a little lime over the gums and the teeth, there is no possibility of scurvy, pyorrhea, swellings of the gum and dental caries.

(iii)  In case of bad breath: mix one part of fresh lime juice with two parts of rose water and gargle in the morning and evening. Thereby the teeth also get cleaned and pyorrhea is prevented.

(iv) Lime juice with an equal amount of water is also an excellent gargle for bleeding gums and mouth ulcers.

(v)  For cracked lips as in winter apply a mixture of glycerine with lime juice.

(vi) Mix eating soda (sodium bicarbonate) and salt in equal proportion. Add lime juice and clean your teeth and gums with it. They will become strong and clean. Bleeding, if any, will also stop.

(vii)  Dry the rinds of lime fruit well. Burn them and powder. Mix salt well with this powder and store. This constitutes an excellent tooth powder.

(viii)  For toothache: grind 2-3 cloves well and mix them with lime juice. Gently rub on the painful gums and teeth.

(ix) For pyorrhea: prepare a paste of sandalwood by grinding it with a little quantity of water. Mix this paste in hot water and stir well. Add some lime juice to this water and gargle. This removes any foul smell of the mouth and also renders the gums strong.

12. As an energising tonic

(i)  Clean and soak 20 raisins in a glass of water. Squeeze the juice of one whole lime in it and keep out in the open air. Next morning, after defecation, chew the raisins well and drink the water. This is a very efficient tonic, as well as a beneficial remedy for chronic constipation, piles, many stomach and gas troubles. This is also an excellent tonic for students.

(ii) Cut a well-ripened lime fruit into 4 pieces, squeeze 1 piece into milk kept in a porcelain vessel and drink  immediately. After 7-8 minutes, take another cup of milk, similarly squeezing into it another piece of lime.  Consume all the 4 pieces like this. Continue this in a similar way for a month. Hunger increases, chronic  constipation disappears and the body gets rejuvenated.

(iii)  Take ajawan in any desired quantity in a vessel and fill in it lime juice to such an extent that its level is an inch higher than ajawan. Cover it with a very fine cloth and place it in the sun. When it gets dried, refill a similar quantity of lime juice. Do this seven times and store it safely. 10 maashaas of this medicine should be taken daily for promoting strength.

13. To promote hair growth

(i)  The powders of the fruit of amalak or finely ground gram daal are mixed in lime juice. This is then applied on the head before bathing. Through regular use of this recipe the hair become firm and black with shine to them. Excessive hairfall also stops.

(ii) To reduce hairfall, rub the scalp with a peel of lime.

(iii)  Grind an aerial root of banyan in lime juice and apply on the scalp. After some time wash the hair with water mixed with lime juice. Then apply coconut oil and comb the hair. This also stops hairfall

and renders the hair long.

(iv) Or, mix the juice from 3 lime fruits with half a ser of coconut oil and boil. Store this in a bottle and use the oil only for hair dressing. This makes the hair black and dense. Hairfall stops. This also removes head lice.

(v)  Before taking an oil bath, rub the head with soap nut powder in which lime juice is added and then wash.  This removes any dandruff from the scalp. The hair also becomes soft and glossy.

(vi) For the same purpose, dry some pieces of lime, powder them and mix this powder with soapnut and use this for a head bath.

14. Digestion


Digestive disorders

(i)  For stomach ache: take 1 teaspoonful each of table salt, dry ginger, cumin seed and sugar. Grind them well.  Add this powder to half a cup of hot water. Squeeze a lime in it and drink.

(ii) Taking lemon along with meals is better avoided as it aggravates kapha. A little bit of its juice along with wet ginger and saindhav salt before the meals promotes appetite, hunger and digestion.

(iii) Squeeze half a fruit of lime into half a cup of cold water. Add a teaspoon of well powdered cumin and cardamom. Stir this mixture well and keep taking a sip once in 2 hours. This will stop all stomach upsets and quieten the tendency to vomiting.

(iv)  Take a drachm each of lime juice and water, mix 2 drachms of sugar to form an excellent linctus or lehya  for dyspepsia and vomiting. But lime should be avoided if it is a case of acid dyspepsia and gastric trouble.

(v) An addition of lime juice to sauces, soups, gravies or stews, rice and pulses after cooking adds to the flavour and helps the digestion.

(vi) Half a lime fruit squeezed in of a little water taken in case of heartburn relieves distress.

Still more uses of lime juice

There are many other uses of lime juice. An idea of them is given below:

(1)  Lime juice in a dosage of half an ounce calms down hysterical palpitations.

(2)  Lemonade or orange ale made of oranges, lemons and limes is a valuable drink for gout, rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica and neuralgia, etc., as it diminishes the acidity of the blood; the citric acid being converted into alkaline carbonate in the blood. For pains such as backache and neuralgia, the parts concerned are rubbed with a cut lime.

(3)  Take tender leaves of lemon and grind them into a smooth paste. Mix this paste in gingiley oil and boil that oil well. This oil now becomes a very effective medicine for joint and muscle pains. Apply the oil over the affected parts and massage well. The pain soon disappears. 

(4) Lime or lemon eaten daily with salt is very beneficial in case of splenic enlargement.

(5)  Lemon or lime juice with an equal quantity of olive oil beaten with an egg-beater or fork is said to be a good substitute for cod liver oil.

(6)  There are many toxic effects of poisoning with croton oil seeds, castor seeds, and the fresh root of cassava  (mandioc  or  tapioca plant). A drink of 4 to 5 ounces of fresh lime juice at a time diluted with an equal quantity of conjee (boiled rice water) or plain water gives immediate relief to the purging, vomiting and other urgent symptoms of all such poisonings. In all cases of poisoning, lime juice should be tried first. Some relief will immediately ensue.

(7)  Lime juice works like magic for scorpion stings. Place a crystal of potassium permanganate at the region of the sting. Pour a drop of lime juice over it. Within ten minutes the burning sensation and the severe pain will disappear.

(8)  Externally for relieving the irritation of mosquito bites, chilblains, etc., a local application of lime juice is more effective than anything else. If applied to the skin at bed time it is said to protect one from mosquitoes.

(9)  A local application of 5 parts of lime juice, 4 parts of impure carbonate of potash, 3 parts of copper sulphate and 4 parts of borax is useful for warts and tumours.

(10) Oil expressed from the rind of the lime fruit is called bergamot oil. An essential oil from the flowers and leaves is used to adulterate pure Bergamot oil. Both the oils are useful as efficient, stimulating liniments or as thinly applied ointments.

(11)  A simple measure for safe delivery, without much pain, is to let the expecting mother take a glass of lime juice daily.

(12)  For an aching ear, mix an equal quantity of the fresh juice of tulasi leaves, lime juice and gingiley oil.  Boil them well and cool. Place a few drops of this mixture in the ear when it is luke-warm. Do so twice a day for a couple of days.  The pain will subside.

(13)  Some drops of warm lime juice mixed with water when placed into an ear which is aching and giving out a discharge of pus is a simple expedient to stop any discharge.

(14)  Make it a point to use lime along with a meal of fish. This helps digests small fish bones in case they are still remaining.

(15)  It is an admirable practice to include a bit of lime invariably along with cooked tuwer daal for easy digestion.

(16)  Taking honey and lime juice in equal quantity together prevents headache, chest pain, sensations of burning in the chest, stomach upsets and dizziness.

(17)  A cup of buttermilk with the juice of 1 lime on waking improves health and promotes facial lustre.

(18) Washing ulcers with lime juice brings quick relief because of the antiseptic property of the lemon.

(19)  Children suffering from diptheria are relieved greatly by gargling with lime juice.

(20)  A medium-sized lime fruit; wholly squeezed into a cup of cold water, taken daily for 4 to 5 days will eradicate burning sensations in the chest.

(21)  Lime fruit is a sure medicine for joint pains. Mix equal quantities of lime juice and castor oil and massage the affected parts with this mixture.  The pain will disappear. If in the meantime, keep consuming a teaspoon of lime juice added to a cup of hot water and honey, the relief will be quicker.

(22) Taking a teaspoon of lime juice along with a well-ripened plantain fruit (banana) and honey proves beneficial against jaundice, dysentery, diahorrea and piles.

(23)  Lime juice is advantageously taken in during sea-sickness, vomiting during travelling, tiredness, headaches and shooting pains in the head, burning sensations in the chest and whooping cough.

(24)  Take about 30 juicy lime fruits, cut each into two. Fill these halves with table salt and dry them for a fortnight in sun. Powder these dried pieces and store the powder in a dry tightly closed bottle. Take a teaspoonful of this powder daily in the morning and on an empty stomach. If taken for a month it prevents  high  blood pressure.

(25)  In case you feel upset in a motor journey and cannot tolerate either the smoke or the smell of petrol, smell a few crushed leaves of lime. You will feel alright.

(26)  A wonderful property recently discovered from the lime rind is that it can protect one from the deleterious effect of radiation. Scientists in Florida have successfully experimented on mice and shown

that this can protect them even from atomic radiation. It has now become a practice in the US to powder lime peels and mix this powder with most food.

(27)  The powder of shade-dried lemon rind is useful against insanity and confused states of mind. Take 6 maashaas of this powder, soak it overnight in 40 tolaas of water, add sugar candy in the morning and give it as a drink.


Thus, even ordinary plants and herbs have a potential to relieve illness and suffering. This knowledge should be available in every household. Every country has its own special usage of the fruit. The above is an incomplete compilation from the Indian subcontinent.



1.  Krishnamurthy, K.H. Bael, Wood Apple, Lemon, Castor. Delhi; Books for All.

2.  Nadkarni, K.M. Indian Materia Medica. Bombay; Popular Prakashan Pvt.Ltd.,1976.

3.  Sivarajan,  V.V., Balachandran Indira. Ayurvedic drugs and their plant sources. Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta; Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 1994.

4. Bhandari, Chandraraj. Vanaush adhi Candrodaya. Varanasi;  Chaukhambha Sanskrit series, 1970.



This information is meant to create an interest in our traditional medicinal plants.  It should not be used indiscriminately but under expert guidance.



The modern equivalents of the measures used in the text are:

1 ratti = 1 gunza (seed of Abrus precatorius)

8 rattis = 1 maashaa

10 maashaas = 1 tolaa

1 tolaa = 10 grams

1 ser = approx. 1kg = 16 catak

1 paav = 1/4 ser.


Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy, a botanisst and Ayurvedic scholar is presently doing work on medical linguistics, botanical wealth of Raamaayana and a translation of Bhela Samhitaa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>