Friday, November 16, 2007

Kai Vaidhyam/Paati Vaidhyam - Grandmother's remedies

When Kodi’s Mom chose the topic of the month as ‘Alternative medicine’ the first thing that came to my mind was my Paternal grandmothers home made remedies for common illnesses like the common cold, stuffed nose, headaches, cold and sore throat. Winter is looming around the corner, the temperatures are dropping pretty fast and toddlers and preschoolers bring an assortment of germs back home from their day care/preshcool. There is gloom in the air and everyone around the house has a blocked nose, cough or fever. My grandmother was an expert in brewing up some home remedies for certain illnesses like these and I would like to share them with you.

Stuffed Nose: One of the most frequent problems during cold weather – for this my grandmother used to resort to a treatment called ’pathu’. This is a paste like preparation that is applied to the nose, throat and forehead and clears up blocked noses in a jiffy. There is a staining potential involved so make sure that your toddler (over 1 year) is wearing an old dress and protect the pillow cases also by laying some old towels on it. On a rough stone, rub a piece of turmeric and collect the paste on a ladle as shown. Mix a teeny bit of sunnambu (calcium carbonate? taken with betel leaves and betel nuts) with it. Heat the watered down mixture until it boils and you are left with a thick paste. When it is still warm apply on the child’s forehead, nose and throat. Let it dry up for a few hours. You can later take this off by wiping with a wet towel. It does involve some work but I can vouch for its healing power. I have tried it many times with my twin daughters and it offers great relief to stuffed nose and head colds in toddlers in the age group of 1 to 3.

Cough: For dry coughs drink a glass of warm milk mixed with panamkalkandu (Palm sugar crystals). I usually stock some during India trips but I am sure you can find palm sugar here in some of the Asian markets. For coughs accompanied with phlegm – mix a pinch of turmeric powder and add some crushed black pepper (2 or 3 pepper corns is sufficient) to a cup of warm milk. For toddlers you can skip the peppercorns and just add some turmeric powder to the milk they drink.

Mouth ulcers: This one is a constant problem in our house with hubby getting mouth ulcers very often in the winter. He is one of those types, who hate going to the doctor or taking pills. It is actually easier for me to get medications into my daughters than trying to make him take a B-complex pill. My MIL had an excellent cure for this. Manathakkali (Black nightshade –courtesy wikipedia) leaves when used along with our regular spinach in cooking is a wonderful way to get rid of these painful ulcers. It grows in abundance in our garden but is generally considered a weed here in USA. My MIL also makes manathakkali vathal (a pickled version of the green berries of the Manathakkali plant). This has a longer shelf life and can be shallow fried with a little bit of ghee and can be eaten as a side dish with curd rice. My granny’s cure for mouth ulcers is to rinse the mouth with a little bit of gingelly oil.

In her post Kodi’s Mom mentioned fenugreek seeds as a cure for menstrual pain and I use it often for that purpose. Recently I read an article about the effect of fenugreek in lowering cholesterol (elevated cholesterol levels is scary but is becoming quite common in the Indian community living here). I use it daily in my sambhar seasoning and also add a spoon of fenugreek to the urad dal/rice that I grind weekly for my idlis/dosas.

Garlic: This is another thing that is commonly found in our kitchens and is renowned for its cholesterol lowering properties. My Mom, used to add this regularly in my post partum diet as it increased milk production in lactating mothers.

I hope you find some of these remedies helpful!


Kodi's Mom said...

hey we use panankalkandu too! and you have manthakkali in your backyard?!! I am all green now..for those delicious black berries... :)

Asha said...

Great post! Except cloves and honey, I didn't know anything!:))

Rachel said...

hey that was an interesting writeup along with a picture!

Thanks for the tips..Was familiar with the honey part!

Jayanthi said...

Wow! Amazing post!
I'd love to try that manathakkali vathal with curd rice! My mouth is watering. I wonder if I can get that vathal in desi markets. I have some older posts on my blog that may be of interest to you and your readers of this post-
1. Oil Free Racam to sip for sore throat- colds.
2. In addition to your newly known to me remedy for fenugreek (methi), I have some additional uses for fenugreek (ayurvedic) at
I will be posting the link to this post on my front page at
Keep it up!!! Wonderful!

Sandeepa said...

I don't know about the plant very interesteing

Also i thought fenugreek is only for diabete, if it is for cholesterol too I shall start using more

mummyjaan said...

Very useful. The milk and turmeric/peppercorns are used widely in both my in-laws and mum's family.

mnamma said...

@Kodi's Mom: they are yummy isn't it? those and unripe guavas are one of my favorites :) We saw the manathakkali plant in one of the farms here and brought back some of the berries. So these plants sprout every summer in our garden now and die during the winter. And Enjoy your vacation!

@Asha and Rachel: Thank you Asha and Rachel.

@Jayanthi: Thanks Jayanthi. Good to see you after a long time. Will check out alaivani.

@Sandeepa: Yeah I was surprised about the cholestorl lowering property of fenugreek also when I read the article. And a little bit regularly can go a long way thats why I include it in seasonings.

@Mummyjan: Thanks Mummyjan. Haldi milk is such an easy remedy for cough :)

Dee said...

ditto remedies at my home too :)...and I have manathakkali in my frontyard!...Chintu strew a few by accident and the plant started flourinshing and I am not complaining :)

swapna susarla said...

WOW those are great tips.I don't know these much home remedies rae available.thanku very much.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

I really want to know what "manthakkali " means ... may be a pic of the same will help.

Thanks for the tips ... I add fenugreek in the dosa dough and sambar too :)

Kay said...

Cantaloupe's amma (what a sweet name, btw!), here's a picture of manathakkali

I love eating them directly from the plant from our garden backhome.

Kay said...

And one more of the ripe berries

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

Thank you for the pics Kay ... I have seen these plants. As a kid, ate those berries with delight ... I didn't know they had medicinal value.

mnamma said...

@Swapna: You are welcome Swapna!
@Cantaloupe's Mom: yes CA - it is the same plant from which we plucked berries and ate them when we were small :) Those and unripe guavas were some of my favorite snacks.

@Kay: Thanks Kay for providing the picture. The wikipedia picture didn't show it very clearly I guess :)

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