Friendly plant: Calotropis gigantea/procera- caution: has poisonous parts – safest use: for joint pains and swellings

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Hindi: Arak, Ak

Description: A perennial, large-leafed (about 8 cms wide, and 10-20 cms in length) woody shrub, with soft down on the underside of leaves. It has upward facing, five-petal clusters of purple-white flowers. When you break the leaf or stem, white, sticky, milky latex dribbles out. This grows wild through the length and breadth of the plains of India , especially on wastelands.

Warning: Highly poisonous plant. Learn to use it only under expert guidance.

Uses: Its latex is used in snake bites, by dripping it on the cut till it continues absorbing it. Two to three leaves are swallowed in case of a snake bite.

The root bark is used in bronchial asthma fits, and the dried stem twigs are burnt to produce smoke, and used to cure a headache.

A Nath once dug up its roots and told me that they use it for tooth pain and caries, and once treated, the problem never recurs. But another source said that the milky latex coming into contact with a loose or good tooth can cause it to come off completely.

The milky juice is applied over painful joints and covered with turmeric. It is a fairly common practice in villages of Rajasthan. A safer method is to heat the leaves on an iron skillet (tava) and tie it to affected site with a clean bandage or cloth strip, though this method is said to give only temporary relief.

In diseases of spine and nervous system, the latex is applied on the spinal cord and covered with turmeric.

The cottony seeds that Calotropis procera produces in great abundance are used for stuffing pillows. It is said to help insomniacs sleep better.

R K Chandrika

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