Native herbs, not weeds

Summer in south India is a 3 month affair of ferociously hot days and warm nights. There is no escape from the sweat and extreme dryness during the summer months.

Many plants thrive in this hot and dry weather. Neem, Tamarind, Palm, Gulmohar, Mango, etc shed their leaves before summer begins. After a month or two, new leaves begin to appear. By mid summer, they are filled with dense leaves, flowers and even fuits.

Aavaram poo (Senna Auriculata / Matura tea / Ranawara) is one such plant. It is a short shrub with yellow color flowers. It grows well on dry lands with minimal or no water. It is usually cast away as a weed. Surprisingly, every part of this plant has a health benefit to humans.


Yellow avaram flowers can be dried in sunlight, and added to boiling water. This drink helps control diabetes. Dried flowers are a good scrub for the skin. If you are looking for a home made face scrub, look no further than a mixture of turmeric, besan (chickpea flour) and dried avaram flowers.

Leaves and roots of this plant bring down fever and also help cure constipation and urinary infections. Parts of this plant is used in native medicines across India, Sri Lanka and Africa.

Aloe vera is another surprising plant that can easily pass for a thorny weed, but is actually a medicinal plant. It grows in wild bunches.. and can be spotted in India along boundaries of farmlands and rocky terrains.


Aloe leaves have small thorny scales on the margins. The thorny margins can be cut away using a knife and the leaves are split open. A gel like substance fills the inner part of the leaf. This gel can be squeezed out with a spoon. It is good for the skin. It removes tan, cleanses the skin and also make skin soft.

One note of caution while using Aloe. When the leaves are harvested from the Aloe plant, they should be left standing on a cup or plastic sheet. A pale yellow fluid oozes out of the leaf. This fluid can cause irritations, so it should be allowed to drain before splitting the leaf open to collect the aloe gel.

Native medicine in India has used aloe since many centuries to reduce body fat, remove fat tissues etc. Latest fairness creams and cosmetic products too use aloe in their products.

Do you have one of these plants growing by the roadside in your locality? Protect it, for you never know when they might come in handy.







Remember flowers from the backyard?

Hybrid Roses, Hydrangeas, Plumeria,  etc are the must haves for any flower lover’s garden today.

About 15 years back, not many of us knew the names of these exotic variety of flowers. There were another host of flowers then, which were synonymous with daily life.

Come, let us take a walk together looking out for the much loved flowers that have been growing in our gardens…, from as long as we can remember 🙂

Kanakambaram” flowers..Commonly known as Priyadarsha in hindi. These flowers do not have a fragrance, but their bright colours made them the top contender for decorating long slender hairstyles.

In terms of frgarance, nothing can beat the “malli” or Jasmine flower pandals… Many houses have jasmine flower shrubs next to the fence or the boundary wall… the long slender stems crawl up a supporting pandal or wall, and are soon covered with dew drop like flowers. Their fragrance during the night is heavenly 🙂

Arali” or Nerium flowers are the next… they come in pale pink or pure white colors. Long leaves and tall shrubs are characteristic of these flowers. They are widely used for pooja and temple worships.

Shenbagam” or Golden Champa (Michelia Champaca) flowers… Their fragrance is striking and is even known to attract snakes (though not sure if snakes have noses or can smell.. I guess it is another old grandmothers tale). Yellow champa trees are more common than the rarely found white champa.

There are many more to this list. Evenings were spent in hand picking these flowers, stringing them together, and then storing them away wrapped in a damp cloth. As kids we used to look forward to decorating long plated hair styles with these stringed flower garlands 🙂

Lets hope these flowers continue to be grown in our backyards, to bring joy and dreams.