-by Sheela Rani Chunkath
Chyawanprash is a well known and popular ayurvedic preparation. Equally effective but less well-known is Agastya Rasayana. The preparation is extremely effective for asthma, bronchitis, chronic coughs, colds and hiccups.
It contains the roots of ten plants and these are called dasamula in Sanskrit. I was so fascinated by these plants that I decided that I would grow them. The dasamula is divided into the greater and lesser dasamulas, with five of them being trees and the other five being small plants or creepers. One would have thought that it would be quite easy to get hold of these five trees.
I really had to search for three of the five; With Premna corymbosa (Munnai in Tamil), Oroxylum indicum (Peruvaagai in Tamil) and Stereospermum tetragonum (Paadiri in Tamil) not being available anywhere in Chennai. Only Vilvam and Kumizham were available and I had to get the others from the Forest Department of Karnataka.
It would be nice if these trees are more easily available so that we could plant more of them and the raw materials required for any ayurvedic or siddha drug preparations do not become scarce. Some more concerted efforts need to be taken to popularize the knowledge and propagation of medicinal plants and trees. Many of our landscape gardeners have become slaves to western traditions and plant useless trees. With the kind of biodiversity that India has, each garden could be unique by choosing from among the 100s of native species we have. Next time you want to plant a tree, plant a medicinal tree. My desire is to have all the ten dasamula trees and shrubs planted in one place and be able to show them to interested people. In my garden I have just planted them and maybe in a year or so they will be worth visiting.
I really got sidetracked with the dasamoolam plants. Agastya Rasayana is also a rejuvenative preparation as it contains Terminalia chebula (Haritaki in Sanskirit and Kadukkai in Tamil). Many of the ingredients used in Agastya Rasayana such as Pippalli, Bala, Bharangi, Kustha etc. are found in other ayurvedic prepartions also.
Atamagupta and Apamarga are two herbs which are not so widely used but are used in this preparation. Atmagupta is called Poonaikali in Tamil, and as Cowhage in English or Mucuna pruriens in Latin. The seeds are used as an aphrodisiac and also as a nervine tonic. Apamarga is called Naayuruvi in Tamil. This plant called the prickly chaff plant get entangled in your clothes when you go walking in untended gardens, canal banks, forests etc. I never thought that this weed had important medicinal properties. It is astringent and useful in treating piles, boils, skin eruptions and colic. In fact, one villager was complaining that government programmes like tank and channel desiltation works often end up only in getting rid of fodder and medicinal plants growing in the channels.
With the monsoons setting in, Agastya Rasayana is a handy preparation to have at home. Its primary taste is astringent because of Kadukkai. The jaggery added to the preparation, however, makes it taste sweet. If you think you are starting a cold or cough this is a good prophylactic -- one or two tablespoons twice a day would be the dosage for adults. Those who have sensitive digestion should start with smaller doses as Kadukkai in the preparation has a laxative effect.
--- The writer was earlier Health Secretary, Govt. of Tamil Nadu and is currently, Principal Secretary and Chairman & Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation. She can be reached at Sheelarani.firstname.lastname@example.org. Earlier articles can be accessed at http://arogyamantra.blogspot.com/