Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Touch – Me – Not!

Mimosa Pudica or Touch-me-not is a small weed that grows abundantly on our farm.  Tiny compound leaves with a small lavender coloured ball like flower, this plant droops down and closes its leaves on the slightest touch!  Even a drop of water falling on it elicits the same response. 

The last few weeks of the monsoon has our farm looking lush green – some places are difficult to walk through because of the tall grass and weeds. 

A peacock strolls through the greenery

  We systematically cut patches of it for the cows for their late evening snack, but the weeds seem to grow faster than we can cut them.  One of the main tasks during this time is picking the fallen arecanuts.  The people who harvest the arecanuts cannot climb the trees during this time as the tree trunks tend to get slippery.   So we have a lot of fallen arecanuts which if  not picked and put away to dry, would sprout or rot away.  By itself picking arecanuts is a pleasant task and not as strenuous as picking coconuts.  But the nuts being small, they are difficult to pick and we have to stick our hand into the grass and weeds to reach them.  

Can you spot the fallen arecanuts...can you see the Touch-me-nots?

This is when the touch-me-not plant makes its presence felt – for you see, the plant has sharp thorns all along the stems.  The locals call it ‘Naachi-Mullu-Gida’ which translates as ‘Shy Thorny plant’.  So I have a lot of people advising me to get rid of all the naachi-mullu-gida  because it is of no use and only a trouble while working.  But on the other hand I had heard from quite a few people that it has medicinal properties – although none could specifically tell me what it was useful for.  Anyway, we were soon to find out!

Late one evening, Vivek returned home from some visit that he had gone out for.  He had used his bike and while parking it near the compound wall, the bike slipped slightly on the gravelly mud and he placed his hand on the compound wall for support.  But the rains had loosened some of the top most stones, the stone gave way and his hand rested on the next layer of stones under the fallen one.  The next thing he felt was a sharp stinging pain on his hand!  He called out to me asking me to get a torch quickly.  I rushed out with the torch –“Something has bitten me badly – shine the light here just check what it could be” he said.  Fortunately, we could spot it – it was a scorpion – with its tail still furiously upright ready to deliver another sting if necessary.  It had been disturbed out of its resting place and was obviously furious!

Tail upright - ready  to sting - pic clicked on a different day of a scorpion that we caught in a plastic box to be released far into the forest

Now What?  From what we had heard or read about scorpion stings -we knew that it could be extremely painful, with the pain lasting for over 24 hours in some cases. My maids’ mother had been bitten a few months ago and her description of her mother writhing in pain the whole night was not a pleasant one.  None of them had known any antidote or medication for it and she had suffered the agony.

We went into the house and as a first level treatment, Vivek washed the sting under running water.  I racked my brains trying to remember if I had read or heard any remedy for this.  I did the most obvious thing that came to my mind- I googled it – nothing more than what we already knew; and the detailed description of the pain – Vivek was already experiencing it.  Surely there has to be some local remedy.  I opened up my folder of Medicinal plants and Herbs -gosh when did I collect so much information – a lot of which I had still not read! Some of the valuable books on traditional remedies were scanned copies and a search would not work on it.  

A wealth of information collected over the years !

I randomly opened some files :

Medicinal Herbs of India

Traditional remedies of Kani tribes of Kottoor reserve forest, Agasthyavanam

Documentation of folk knowledge on medicinal plants of Gulbarga district

Medicinal Plants of Karnataka…….

And some more.   I raced my eyes over the pages searching for Scorpion bites.  …..and then suddenly I noticed the pdf file on Mimosa Pudica – the touch me not plant .

Mimosa Pudica A High value medicinal plant as a source of Bioactives for Pharmaceuticals.  Read the heading.  The first few pages looked like they were straight out of an Organic Chemistry text book. 

Remembered Organic Chemistry lessons when I saw this page!

But just after that was a paragraph titled Folk Medicine Use:  And here I found the precious sentence – In folk medicine various parts of the plant are used as an antidote to Scorpion and snake bites!!! Yes this was something that we could try.  It was more than half an hour since the bite and Vivek was sitting quietly with his eyes closed.  No the pain is not too much he said. 

  I called out to Yogesh and asked him to quickly get some nachi mullu plants.  It was close to 9 pm, he took his torch and went into the farm.  During the day in the bright sunshine, you can see these plants everywhere, but  at night, in the darkness?  But he was back soon holding a bunch of plants yanked out of the soil.  I quickly washed the soil off the plants, chopped them roughly with a pair of scissors and put them into the mixer.  Then  I took a big lump of the paste and applied it on the sting.  I kept the rest of the paste aside to reapply after some time.

I went back to the kitchen – I had to give Yogesh his dinner.  The dogs and the cat also had to be fed.  Normally  I call out to Vivek to help with  keeping our cat Kippi’s  food bowl with kibble in her favoured place,  she is a fussy one – she decides her eating place and refuses to come to the window sill which is the place that is easiest and out of reach from the dogs.  Today she wanted her meal upstairs!   I set out our dinner, and sat reading some more of the research paper on Mimosa Pudica, thinking that Vivek could rest a little longer before we had our dinner. 

Within a few minutes, he walked in.  “It is quite amazing” he exclaimed. “The pain is actually reducing!”  Wow, this was good indeed. A really good helpful remedy that probably has been forgotten by the locals over the ages.  By next morning the pain had completely gone.

An amazing remedy indeed!



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