Aloe has a very long history of use. The sap was used medicinally by the Greeks and Romans, who obtained it from the island of Socotra. The Greek physician Dioscorides recorded the use of the leaves to treat wounds in the first century AD.
Aloe had reached England by the 10th century, where it appears to have been one of the drugs recommended to Alfred the Great by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. In the early part of the 17th century, the records of the East India Company show payments for aloe being made to the King of Socotra, who held a monopoly on the production of drugs from the Socotrine aloe.
It is not known whether the Socotrine aloe obtained in Greek and Roman times was from wild or cultivated populations. Today, however, African aloe (both Socotrine and Cape) is collected from wild plants, while in the West Indies, the plants are laid out in plantations like cabbages.
To prepare Aloe vera for market, the leaves are cut near the base of 24-36 year old plants. The resulting latex is collected and concentrated to the consistency of thick honey. A true concentrate produces a clear, translucent gel, which can be applied fresh, or it can be commercially converted into a more expensive ointment.
The gel can also be fermented to produce a tonic wine, to which honey and spices are added. In India, this is used to make a drink called kurmara or asava to treat anaemia and digestive and liver disorders.
The gel can also be inhaled in steam, and the powdered leaves can be used as a laxative. There is a danger that the huge tonnages of gel now sold in the developed world will mean that aloe is regarded as a cure-all for any ailment.
Britain ruled India not for nothing. They exploited the abundant natural resources as well its simple folks. They earned huge profits by exporting tea, opium and cotton to Europe. They employed the Indians like Africans as labors in many of their colonies overseas where there was a shortage of labor for cultivation.
Opium obtained from poppies grown in the fertile valley of Ganges in Bihar was considered of high quality because of its high alkaloid morphine. It was traditionally grown in this region since the times of Mughals who were heavy users of it and many of their princes are known to become addicts.
Opium poppies yield valuable alkaloids used as medicines. Medicines produced from opium poppies include morphine and codeine. Its cultivation and production is strictly controlled because opium poppies are also used to make illegal and highly addictive drugs such as heroin.
It has many names such as Opium poppy, common poppy, garden poppy, chessbolls in English, Kas-kas, kashkash, aphim, afim, afyun in Hindi, Ahiphenam, aphukam, ahifen, chosa, khasa in Sanskrit, Posto in Bengal, Aphina, khuskhus, posta in Gujarat, Abini, gashagasha, kasakasa in Tamil. Its botanical name is Papaver somniferum Family: Papaveraceae, the poppy family.
The plant has flowers with papery petals that can vary in colour from white to red or lilac with a darker purple base. Fruits – a rounded capsule topped with the disc-like stigma remains. The liquid that is obtained from the fruit capsule by making cuts with a knife contains morphine alkaloids which are dried to produce raw opium.
Opium is used to manufacture medicinal drugs like codeine and morphine, and for illegal drugs such as heroin. Seeds – small and black, dark blue or yellow-white. The seeds are edible and tasty and are used in bakery products such as poppy-seeded bread.
Opium flourished in the Arab world, as in Islam opiates were not prohibited in the same way as alcohol. In the 7th century, the Islamic cultures of western Asia had discovered that the most powerful narcotic and medicinal effects could be obtained by igniting and smoking the poppy’s congealed juices.
The history of opium poppy use is relatively recent in South Asia. Arab trade and the expanding world of Islam are assumed to have introduced knowledge of the opium drug to the Indian subcontinent by the 12th century.
The first records of its cultivation appear in the 15th century and refer to Malwa as a centre of production. The Sanskrit words ahiphena and the Hindi afin are derived from the Arabic word ofyun to denote opium.
The advent of the Europeans had a significant impact on the future of the opium poppy in India. The Dutch now introduced smoking opium in a tobacco pipe to the Chinese.
As the decline of the Mughals began, the State lost its hold on the monopoly and the production and sale of opium was controlled by merchants in Patna. In 1757, the British East India Company which had by that time assumed the responsibility for the collection of revenues in Bengal and Bihar, took over this monopoly.
In 1773 the Governor-General, Warren Hastings, brought the whole of the opium trade under the control of the Government.
In the late 18th century the British East India Company was expanding its sphere of influence in India. East India Company began sending large quantities of opium to China through Hongkong. The profits were very high.
The Chinese had become addicted to opium consumption and country began to weaken both in terms of moral and economics. The Imperial court tried to ban the use and import, but British would not heed. Also they were not directly in the picture. It was the ships owned by rich Indians which carried out this trade.
They reached near Chinese shores and moored in the sea and speed boats owned by smugglers unloaded the opium for taking illegally to the shores. The poppy growing was mostly confined to three centres: Patna Opium from Bihar, Benaras Opium from Uttar Pradesh and Malwa Opium from central India.
The Chinese authorities attempted to suppress the smuggling of opium which was debilitating the country and reversing its formerly favourable balance of trade. Their confiscation and destruction of illegal opium sparked the First Opium War in 1839.
British warships defeated the Chinese who signed the Treaty of Nanking paying a huge indemnity and ceding Hong Kong to the British. A second Opium War was fought in 1856 when the French and British combined to bring the Chinese to heel and opium import in China was thus legalised. Not until 1910 did the opium trade between China and India cease.
The unripe seed pods of the opium poppy contain a group of alkaloids known as opiates that are often used as sedatives. The alkaloids can reduce pain, alter mood and behaviour, and induce sleep or stupor. It is a narcotic and potentially highly addictive.
In traditional medicine opium was made from the air-dried milky latex or juice from the unripe seeds from poppies. The quality of opium would vary depending on whether black or white seeds were used.
Opium from India contained not only high levels of the alkaloid morphine but also the alkaloid codeine. This could explain why it was traditionally used to relieve pain and to suppress coughs. The presence of another alkaloid called papaverine in the seeds could explain why the extracts relaxed muscles and reduced stomach and respiratory spasms.
The seeds were also used in Ayurveda and Siddha medicine. They were cooked and ground with sugar and cardamom seeds and used to treat diarrhoea, coughs and asthma. Extracts of poppies were used to treat fevers, tuberculosis, liver and kidney problems as well as diseases of the urinary tract.
Unlike the unripe seed capsules of opium poppies, the ripe seeds do not contain narcotic chemicals. They are used in many forms of cooking. The seeds can be cooked in water with oil and salt and served with rice where they provide a nutty flavour. They are also blended with tamarind into a curry paste. In confectionery they are sprinkled on sweets and are added to baked goods like breads and cakes.
There are many chemical products which find use in different unconnected areas. For example Carboxy Methyl Cellulose (CMC) which is used in ice creams as well as viscosifier in drilling fluids. Similarly Linseed oils are used in Drilling fluids as well as ice cream. In this article we are talking of another multiutility chemical which has found uses in diverse fields. It is a versatile chemical and called Chitosan.
It is derived from Chitin which is obtained from the shells of prawns. Many groups of amide are reduced selectively to amine groups to tailor made the required chemical.
Application of Chitosan in Oil Fields :
As the demand for hydrocarbons knows no limits, technologies have been developed to reach at the places in the reservoir where earlier it was not possible to reach. Technologies have made the horizontal penetration of the producing formations to expose large area to production. These are called drain-holes. Thrust is also nowadays on exploiting oil shales, coal bed methane and the latest hot cake is the methane trapped as hydrates in the frozen water.
Production stimulation with acids is done. Acid is diverted to the zones of interest by plugging off the zones of no interest with polymers. One such chemical which is used to make the thick gel to divert the acids is called Chitosan.
This chemical has the beauty of yielding a very thick gel in water in acidic conditions and loses all the viscosity when the mixture is made alkaline.
Bandages of Chitosan
I read another wonderful use of this chemical. It is being used to make the bandages for the wounded personnel in the battleground. Most of deaths occur due to excessive bleeding. Chitosan has the quality to clotting the blood very fast. Secondly it is a strong antibacterial agent. This is also very much desired to ward off the infections in the unhygienic conditions prevailing in the battleground.
These bandages were used in Iraq for the first time. I wonder how many uses a chemical can have. In the sixth episode of “Brave New World” hosted by the great mathematician Stephan Hawking, the use of this chemical to clot the blood immediately was shown. You can watch this video of its bandaging properties.
I first went to Silchar in 1987 in connection with my job posting there. It is a border district of Assam with Bangladesh. It is in the Barak valley and very poorly connected to rest of India. Most of outside people who go there are from Defense, Government employees and tea garden managers who are entitled to airfare from Kolkata.
Air journey reduces the tiring circuitous journey by train through upper Assam which takes at least 2 days. It takes about an hour and for most of its flight, airplane flies over Bangladesh.
I boarded a flight from Kolkata which was the sole flight in a day. The airports in Assam are make shift structures built at the time of world war by the British for sending the military personnel and arms to the front to confront the Japanese forces. There is no facility for night landing and in the foggy days during winter.
Anyway the plane landed safely after circling over paddy fields and lush green bamboo groves and tea gardens. The airport is about 28 kilometers away from the Silchar town.
I took a taxi which soon was running on the sinuous road amidst the hilly slopes. It was a beautiful sight to behold. All around were tea bushes on the slopes of hillocks. There were teak trees interspersed in the gardens. The womenfolk were picking up the selected leaves and putting them into the baskets hanging on there shoulders. We north Indians have only heard about these things but this was before my eyes as I was amidst this. This was my first encounter with the tea gardens.
During my 4 years sojourn there, it was almost a daily routine to go to far off oil rigs and roads ran almost throughout the lush green paddy fields, along the river on which there were boats in which fishermen caught the iconic Illish (Tenualosa ilisha) fish which is considered as the most delicious fish and Bengali folks are crazy for it and never ending tea plantations.
In fact our oil rig was located in the tea gardens itself. So these were the plants whose leaves are sent all over the world. Most people in the world drink tea.
My second encounter with tea gardens was in the upper Assam. Again there were tea gardens running along the roads for miles and miles and never seem to be coming to an end. The area where we were located was called Sibsagar which, once upon a time was the capital of Ahom Kings who reached the valley from the south eastern side, most probably from Thailand. On the way to Jorhat from Sibsagar one encountered the Tea Research Institute at a place called Toklai. It is learnt that experiments are on to create a tea variety which will combine famed aroma teas of Darjeeling and rich brew teas of Assam.
British knew the potential of area for growing teas. As such the wild tea plants in Assam, India, do not produce a palatable brew. The credit goes to the British whose commercial interests led to the identification of local bushes which tasted like Chinese tea and the local people were drinking it although they did not know the present name. It all changed in the 19th century when the cultivation of tea began in the planned manner. Sir Joseph Banks was among observers of tea plants growing wild in the hills of Nepal in 1788.
In 1815 it was noticed that the people of Assam drank a tea from locally growing plants, but identification of these as tea plants proved inconclusive. In 1823, a Major by the name of Robert Bruce had also learnt of the existence of tea in Assam and sent samples to the East India Company’s Botanic Gardens at Calcutta, who declined to confirm that the samples were tea. Lieutenant Charlton, who was on service in Assam in 1831, sent plants to the Agricultural and Horticultural Society in Calcutta with the observation that the leaves were drunk as an infusion in Assam, and that they tasted of Chinese tea when dried. Charlton’s plants were also denied official recognition.
It was not until Christmas Eve of 1834, when Charles Alexander Bruce, Robert Bruce’s brother, sent samples to Calcutta, that the true identity of the plant was finally confirmed to be tea, or more accurately, Assam tea. It is now known botanically as Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Subsequently there was huge controversy between Charlton and Charles Alexander Bruce as to which of them was the first to ‘discover’ the tea in India.
It was found that tea could be manufactured from Assam tea shrub leaves which was in some ways superior to China tea. Tea planting became popular and there was great demand for land and seed. Thus seed gardens were established with whatever seed was available in many cases. Some were pure China, some pure Assam and some were deliberately inter-planted with both types. Thus Indian hybrid tea was formed, which has great variability and vigour. This was undoubtedly the most important event in the evolution of the commercial tea plant.
Benefits of tea
Tea is good for health as contains many anti oxidant molecules.The latest research into how we live our modern lives often shows how things like pollution or too much sun can be harmful to us. Intermediates that arise naturally during chemical process, called free radicals, can challenge our normal healthy state. Free radical damage has been implicated in diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancers.
It is thought that by regularly consuming foods and drinks that are rich in substances called antioxidants that act to ‘soak up’ these free radicals we can help ensure we have sufficient resources. As well as fruit and vegetables that are good sources of these substances, you can help increase your daily antioxidant intake by drinking tea. That’s because tea is widely known to be rich in a particular group of antioxidants called flavonoids.
For example, there is about eight times the amount of ‘anti-oxidant power’ in three cups of tea than there is in one apple, and every time you brew up in a cup or a pot for up to one minute you about get 140 mg of flavonoids. Who’d have thought something that tastes that good can help maintain your health!
In some districts of West Bengal, India, arsenic is found in the unacceptable levels making the water unfit for drinking. It has been shown that both black and green tea reduced the elevated levels of lipid peroxides and protein carbonyl seen with arsenite poisoning. Both teas showed protection against the decline in antioxidants, including catalase, glutathiones, and superoxide dismutase (SOD), as well as against genotoxicity (Sinha D et al, Antioxidant potential of tea reduces arsenite induced oxidative stress in Swiss albino mice, Food Chem Toxicol, January 2010). For full article click here.
In our colony at Dehradun, on the boundary of a park a vine has spread itself. On the intervals of few days, it bears profuse beautiful purple flowers in bunches. The morning sunlight passes through the delicate newly opened buds giving them a slightly reddish hue. The bunches over the gate seem as if someone has decorated the place.
I took many pictures and was very pleased to post them on the FaceBook expecting a few likes and comments from friends. Then I began searching Google for the name of this vine and after some efforts narrowed down my search to these flowers. But still I was not sure. The vine is strangely called Garlic vine. Its botanical name is Mansoa alliacea. In Bangla it is called LataHow much Land does a Man needs Parul. I saw now resemblance between a plant and a vine. After reading I came to know that its leaves when crushed release a smell akin to the garlic.
Native to South America, Garlic Vine is one of the most rewarding, flowering vines that you can grow. It can either be described as a shrub or a vine since it produces numerous woody vines from the root that grow only 2-3 m tall and form a shrub-like appearance.
It produces bright green leaves up to 15 cm long. Its compact habitat and pretty continuous flowers make it a popular ornamental plant in gardens in the tropics. Flowering twice a year you will find it quite often covered with flowers. Flowers start off purple with white throat and change to a lighter shade of lavender with age. Eventually fading to almost white. You will see 3 different color of flowers at the same time on the plant.
It can be grown in containers and should be trimmed after the flowers are gone.
It is a very common and well respected plant remedy in the Amazon for the pain and inflammation of arthritis and rheumatism, as well as, colds, flu, and fever. Some capsule products of the leaves are sold in stores in Brazil and Peru, and it can be found as an ingredient in other various multi-herb formulas for cold and flu, pain, inflammation and arthritis in general. The use of ajos sacha is just catching on in the U.S. market; a few products are now available and it is showing up in several formulas for colds and arthritis here as well.
Man’s penchant for getting drunk is much older than keeping himself clean. I mean the use of alcohol and other substances obtained from plants which give high is much older than the invention of soap for cleaning the body.
But it is not only the humans who feel the need to get a high but many animals also are similar.Johann Hari, who is the author of book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” has spent 25 years observing the behaviour of animals when they are alarmed or in grief. He began his research after going through the findings on this subject by Ronald Siegel. For example,
Siegel had planted “Silver Morning Glory” a plant containing powerful hallucinating chemicals in a pen of Hawaiian mongoose. The when tasted it leaves felt disoriented and avoided the plant altogether. But there happened a tropical storm which destroyed the den, filled it with mud and left the female dead. The male returned to the plant and ate its leaves to get blasted out of mind. After that Hari began his research and found more evidence.
For example, in Vietnam, he found that prior to bombings in the Vietnam war with America, the buffaloes never chewed on opium plants. But when the bombings began, the water buffaloes ate the opium plants. They became dull and dizzy to escape their thoughts like mongoose. Similarly, bees fell to ground in a temporary stupor after sampling the numbing nectar of certain orchids. Birds gorge themselves on inebriating berries, then fly with reckless abandon.
His more observations are given below : “Cats eagerly sniff aromatic “pleasure” plants, then play with imaginary objects. Cows that browse special range weeds will twitch, shake, and stumble back to the plants for more. Elephants purposely get drunk off fermented fruits. Snacks of “magic mushrooms” cause monkeys to sit with their heads in their hands in a posture reminiscent of Rodin’s Thinker. The pursuit of intoxication by animals seems as purposeless as it is passionate”
Giloye as its called in India is a vine. Its scientific name is “Tinospora cordifolia”. Common names are Heart-leaved moon seed, guduchi. It is an herbaceous vine of the family Menispermaceae indigenous to the tropical areas of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
If you happen to see a Giloye vine climbed on a tree and claiming the branches, you will think that ropes are entwined over the branches. No leaves. But these are beautiful ripe fruits on it. Most of the time it shows no leaves. Usually it entwines the trees and creeps up. It grows up abundantly in dry regions of North India. The berries are ripe in May June.
These is a forest near our home which has it growing abundantly. Parrots like its ripe berries. I think they know its benefits better than us.
It is sometimes called Amrita which means “Forever Alive” because it can live for ever. Even if you think that the vine has dried up, it shows up leaves in a surprising manner.
This herb is of great medicinal value in Ayurvedic Medicine. It has been found very useful in the treatment of fevers, digestion and increases the platlets in the blood. It increases immunity and eases the respiration. More details of Its health benefits are highlighted in the auyurvedic website.
Note: First image is taken from Wikipedia. Rest of the images are my own
It was when Russia was USSR and soviet state was pushing hard to become at par with US. A top erstwhile spy told that Russian Soviet dictator Stalin, used to spy on the visiting world leaders like Mao to know their hidden personality traits. They even used scientific methods for this. Soviets used to analyze the excreta for Potassium and Amino acid tryptophan to know the state of mind of the leaders. Tryptophan is used by animals for synthesis of proteins essential for growth. Studies indicate that it acts as an antidepressant.
For example, if they detected high levels of amino acid Tryptophan,“ he explained, “they concluded that person was calm and approachable”. On the other hand, potassium ion regulate the blood pressure. The diets rich in Potassium help reduce the high blood pressure. But a lack of potassium in poo was seen as a sign of a nervous disposition and someone with insomnia.
There is no doubt that USA laps up the talent from all over the world. US leads the tally of Nobel prize winners which were introduced in 1901 and Economics prize introduced in 1968. Since then 585 Nobel prizes have been awarded to 922 winners out of which only 49 are women. Youngest and oldest
Youngest person to receive the Nobel is Malala Yousafzai who received it at the age of 17 years in 2014. Although she belongs to Pakistan, her country may hardly be happy over her winning it. Oldest Nobel laureate is Leonid Hurwicz of US who received the Nobel in 2004 for economics at the age of 90 years. Countries at the top of list. USA:
Medicine: 101 U.K.
Medicine: 32 Germany
Medicine: 17 France
Medicine: 11 Sweden
Medicine: 8 Major areas of research leading to Nobel
In physics is particle physics and in chemistry is biochemistry. Research in genetics most hot topic and in economics it is micro economics. Nobel winners of Indian origin
Ronald Ross: Medicine 1902
DNA decoding is a powerful technique. It is a molecular level investigation tool about the life. It has helped the life scientists to say with confidence that at the molecular level, all life is identical to 99.9%. The remaining 0.1 % is all which is responsible for the vivid diversity of life.
According to one report, Neanderthals, our distant cousins, used natural drugs to alleviate the pain and diseases. 50000 years ago, they were depending on the natural cures. The ancient fossil of jaw had been studied genetically and it has been found that genetic material collected from the plaque of teeth belonged to oral bacteria and leaf pieces of medicinal compounds.
They have found methanobrevibactor which indicates abscess. These bacteria damage the teeth and cause severe pain.
Also DNA material belonging to the bacteria Enterocytozoon bieneusi. These are intestinal bacteria and cause diarrhoea.
Populus trichocarpa Popolar tree pieces which contain salicylic acid which is an ingredient of aspirin the pain killer. It would have been effective against the pain in abscess.
Penicillium rubens are food fungus and source of medical penicillin. This natural antibiotic would have been effective against gut parasites.
Most of the material has been published in the Times of India newspaper.