Since ancient times, it has been known that man and medicine are complementary to each other. Where there is man there invariably is medicine. No animal takes any food item as medicine. An animal’s instinctive knowledge about the right food acts as a medicine in itself. Man, however, has been always interested in availing the dietary rules.
This tendency must have forced him to discover medicines While trying to defend the vegetarian style of food, one cannot help thinking of medicines, since they are closely related to each other. In general, a vegetarian remains naturally immune to certain diseases. Further, most of the vegetarian foodstuff that he eats does contain some medicinal ingredients and he does reap some benefits from them.
These indirect advantages are well known. Medicines made from plants have been in use for centuries. They are used all over the world. under different names and systems. In the West, they form an Eastern medical system. In Japan and Korea, ginseng, the root of a plant, is a basic ingredient in a number of highly effective medicinal preparations that have been used for years.
We in India describe our medical system as Ayurveda. This is no place for discussing the scientifically prepared medicines and their use. But it should be made known that some items from our daily food are identified as important medicines which help a vegetarian, directly or otherwise. For example, turmeric has several medicinal properties.
A pinch of turmeric powder mixed with warm milk is recommended as a cure for cough. Turmeric powder is used as a medicine to stop bleeding. A mixture of turmeric powder and salt is good for external use. A cup of tea laced with green or dry ginger, a clove, cinnamon and liquorice is pleasing and spicy to taste.
At the same time, it cures you of cough and cold. Similarly, a piece of green ginger mixed with freshly ground spices helps digestion. We take a slice of fresh lemon with our daily meals – obviously because that makes the meals more tasty. But as the lemon supplies plenty of vitamin C, we are benefited, perhaps without our knowledge.
The kadulimb tree is part of the backyard groves of the old fashioned houses. Its green leaves when added to a curry, make it tastier. At the same time, the leaves destroy the harmful radicals from the sweet oil used for cooking.
Perhaps, the origin of our modem knowledge of high density cholesterol and low density cholesterol can be traced back to the ancient wisdom of using the kadulimb leaves in vegetarian food preparation. Garlic has several medicinal properties. Its role in controlling heart disease has been scientifically acknowledged during the last twenty years only.
But for centuries, garlic has had its place in vegetarian preparations. It makes its presence felt in the garlic flavoured appetite stimulants like chutney, garlic oil, garlic green stems and phodani (cooking sauce made of mustard seed and oil or ghee). As a child cannot be given 72 / Good Health Magic, Vegetarianism garlic preparations orally, a “garland” of garlic cloves is placed round its neck as a cure for cold.
Further, it has been scientifically proved that the garlic phodani has sulphuric traces that remove the impure substances from the sweet oil. Vetch pods are a favourite vegetable. Recently, a medicinal preparation has been made from its essence to cure constipation. Of course, it is much better to eat the tasteful vetch than to spend on costly medicines.
Everyone likes to eat the sweet papaya which contains a component (papain) that helps digestion. Fenugreek is known as a vegetable. Its seeds are used in some preparations and in phodani to add taste. Diabetes can be brought under control if the patient eats about hundred grams of the fenugreek seeds.
In case of uncontrolled diabetes, the same remedy results in reduction of the usual course of medicine. Black berries with their seeds (jambul) and the honey gathered from the honey combs form the jambul groves help control diabetes but so far the exact dose has not been finalized.
Grapes and raisins are a good remedy for constipation. Amala, phyllenthus emblica, has been used in many medicinal preparations such as Chyavanprash, Moravala (a conserve of the amala fruits), pickles and a mouth freshener (Supari). It is a cure for acidity, a burning sensation in the chest and indigestion.
It is good for putting on weight and increasing physical strength. Chyavanprash is almost an all-purpose tonic, useful at all the stages in life. Pure ghee is taken after strong Ayurvedic medicine as anupan [that is a drink to be taken with or after medicine) to dilute its strong impact. It also acts as a carrier for transmitting the medical dose throughout the body systematically.
Further, a few drops of this “seasoned” ghee put in the nostrils may cure migraine. The ghee repeatedly cleansed with water (or, what remains of it after repeated cleansing) is useful for the running wounds. Water mixed with sweet smelling grass (wala) or rose water may be used with advantage in cases of deep-rooted kidney troubles.
Similarly, gulkand, a jam made of rose petals and sugar candy, is a cure for excessive body heat. In liver diseases, drumsticks and the tender shoots of the radish tree assist digestion. Gingelli oil is used both orally and externally in case of a child’s malnutrition, diy skin and minor skin troubles due to old age and winter.
Strengthened muscles and glowing skin are the benefits that the wrestlers reap, by massaging their bodies with mustard seed oil during winter. An investigation into the causes of longevity of the members of the Hunza tribe revealed that their longevity was linked up with their daily diet which contained cuprites and dates.
At the same time, it should be borne in mind that, throughout their lives, they had to put in very hard physical work daily, which included climbing and descending the hills. The average life expectancy of the members of this tribe, living on the borders of Russia and Afghanistan, is ninety, though many of them are centenarians.
The poet P.B. Shelley, who was also a vegetarian, mentioned that specimens of longevity have been more common among vegetarians than among flesh eaters. Good digestion is a key to happiness. It keeps one in a pleasant frame of mind, adding to the sense of well-being. On the other hand, constant belching and breathlessness make one uneasy and cause discomfort.
There are several useful items in the vegetarian foods that can cure these minor but disturbing health complaints. A pinch of asafoetida, half a spoonful of cywain, a spoonful of anise seeds and balant shopa may be mixed with different food items and used as mouth fresheners. Similarly, cumin seeds or a drink made from them are good for whetting the appetite.
Cucurbit gourd is a cure for disorders of bile and digestion. Also, being fibrous, it can absorb poisonous substances from the intestines. A sweetmeat like petha made from it tastes nice. For a diabetic patient or for one who does not like sweets, koftas made from cucurbit gourd or luffa are delicious.
Coriander and its seeds are a cure for body heat. Besides being a good mouth freshener, they can nullify the harmful effects of spicy meals. Pudina or mint is well-known for its medicinal properties. Pudina chutney is generally eaten with spicy snacks like samosas or pakodas. It is tasty and helps digest the spicy foods.
As P.B. Shelley has pointed out, constitutional diseases which have resisted other methods have yielded to the healthy vegetable diet. A vegetarian is, almost unknowingly, a recipient of plenty of benefits from the every day familiar items that form a part of his daily meals. This is in itself a strong argument for vegetarianism.