Vallarai ... multiple uses
ACCORDING to Charaka, foremost exponent of Ayurveda, Centella asiatica belongs to the group of herbs that help maintain youthful vigour and strength. Called Vallarai in Tamil, it improves the mind's receptive capacity. It is capable of improving a person's memory power, physical strength, voice, complexion and digestive power. The herb can be made into different chutneys and eaten by diabetics and those who suffer from anaemia. Extracts of the plant are being used in the commercial production of face creams and anti-wrinkle creams.
Vallarai should not be confused with Brahmi (Bacopa monieri). Vallarai has been studied extensively and most of the properties have been borne out by research.
The plant grows naturally on the banks of streams and ponds and near rice fields.
It can be grown without much effort at home. Plantlets can be planted in the garden or in a large pot that is placed in the shade. The plant requires profuse watering. It gives off tender creeper-like shoots, which will soon cover the pot. The leaves can be harvested within three months.
The leaves can be dried and powdered. A quarter teaspoon can be taken daily as a general tonic by adults.
Chutneys can be prepared by sauteing two or three handfuls with a little oil and grinding it with a teaspoon of roasted urad dhal, roasted mustard seeds, one red chilli (or two pepper corns) and a little tamarind. The leaves can also be used in sambar. They can be cut and added to wheat flour while making chapattis. The leaves are slightly bitter.
Vallarai can be got from your greens vendor, but wash it well before use.
The herb can be propagated by cutting the new shoots which have roots attached to them and transplanting them in a new pot.
For saplings and further information contact: The Medicinal Plant Development Area, Forest Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, Pulleri, Chengalpattu. or Centre for Traditional Medicine and Research, Chennai. Telephone: 4415993, 4405583
The writer is Chairperson, T.N. Pollution Control Board
Text and picture by SHEELA RANI CHUNKATH
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