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Fragrance that's familiar

A herb that can scent your garden



PLEASING THE SENSES The oil from the herb Marikozhundu is used to perfume a range of products PHOTO: K. ANANTHAN

Marikozhundu (Artemisia pallens), another of those sweet-smelling herbs, is invariably mentioned along with marugu. It has even inspired film lyricists (Madurai marikozhundu vaasam is one of the more popular numbers) to come up with romantic numbers.

Commonly called Davana, the herb has its origin in India and its essential oil is used to perfume a range of products. It belongs to the Compositae family.

Seeds and cuttings

This annual is mainly cultivated for the leaves and flowers. It is grown from seed and cuttings and reaches maturity in four months. The plant is woody in the lower part of the stem, but with yearly branches.

Davana possesses alternate pinnasect leaves (leaf which is divided into opposite pairs of lobes cut almost to the midrib in narrow divisions) or palmatisect leaves (the green tissue is divided into several segments not fully separated at the base).

It bears numerous small flower heads and ranges in height from 30-120 cm depending on the species. The plant can also be grown in pots.

The flowers are devoid of colour but the silvery white silky covering of down gives the foliage a grey or white appearance. Davana is also useful as a border plant and for use in rock gardens.

Placed in a closed room, even a single stalk can work wonders, spreading its fragrance to every nook and corner.

The extract of the flower heads and fresh leaves is the Davana essential oil. The oil is brown in colour with a fine scent. It finds use in perfumeries and as an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent.

Soothes chapped skin

Davana oil soothes rough, dry and chapped skin and stimulates the endocrine system. It is also claimed to destroy internal parasites. Several species of Davana yield essential oil and some are used as fodder.

Davana has two distinct varieties — in one, the plants are short in stature and flowering sets in early, while the other grows to a height and flowers late. Marikozhundu is found in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Davana is widely used in Iraqi and Indian folk medicine for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.

SUBHA J RAO

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