We learn from Naini Setalvad that flowers aren’t just pretty to look at; they are also pretty useful for keeping us in the pink of health
The oncoming spring heralds the festival of Holi. It is a celebration of the victory of good over evil, commemorating the saving of Prahlad (legendary son of a demon king) from the fire meant to destroy him. Since flowers are blooming all around, people rejoice the next day by playing with colours derived from flowers that are dried and crushed into powder.
Flowers are a visual treat, and their fragrance—a pleasure. Flowers are so healing; I am always prescribing flower-based remedies to people: hibiscus, rose, chamomile, parijat, tesu, coriander, and marigold are some of the flowers I commonly use to ease symptoms of various ailments or to just pep up my clients or calm them down.
• Hibiscus: The red hibiscus flower is offered to Avighna, also known as Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. Let me share with you how this flower also enables you to overcome obstacles in your health. I suggest to my women clients to sip on a hibiscus drink; it helps to regulate their menstrual cycle and prevent cramps that may occur during this period. It also works as a diuretic for all and is a good source of vitamin C.
Culinary use: Dried hibiscus petals can be used as a garnish over food.
• Marigold: The marigold flower is an integral part of various ceremonies in the Indian tradition. Yellow-orange in colour with small florets for petals, its botanical name is Calendula. I swear by the miraculous effects of this flower on varicose veins. Take the petals of the flower, which can be either yellow or orange. Add water to them and bring it to a boil. Strain and sip on this water to see how the pain from the inflamed varicose veins reduces day by day. Application of marigold petals, heated in sesame oil mixed with the homoeopathic calendula ointment further aids in reducing inflammation caused by varicose veins. Added benefits of consuming marigold petals are that they contain carotene which can be converted into vitamin A in humans.
Culinary use: Dried and crumbled petals can replace the expensive saffron strands, adding a unique flavour to your dish.
• Coriander: That garnish you see on your vegetables and dals? It is not a leafy green or herb but a flower! Not only is it edible, but it also provides loads of micronutrients and antioxidants. The coriander flowers aid the body by maintaining blood sugar levels. Plus these flowers contain K vitamins, which guard our heart and aid in blood clotting. My favourite green juice is actually the coriander flower juice which I would recommend for everyone to have daily.
Culinary use: In all foods.
• Roses: The sheer fragrance of the petals instantly uplifts your spirits. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but the petals also help to reduce anxiety and release pressure. Sip on a simple rose petal infusion throughout the day to keep yourself calm and focussed. In the form of rose water, it has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce the redness of irritated skin.
Culinary use: Rose petal extract in water with a bit of stevia and a dash of lemon will beat the blues and refresh you instantly.
• Saffron: Also known as kesar, the ‘king of spices.’ However, it is actually a part of the saffron flower. The stigma or styles of this flower is what gives us the not-so-humble kesar strands. Every winter, as the temperature drops, I look forward to sipping on a saffron infusion or my favourite kahwa (spiced tea) without any added sugar (processed or natural). It warms me up and prevents inflammation of the throat as well as clears the bronchial tracts. The deep red hue of saffron indicates that it is loaded with antioxidants, boosting your immunity, and gives lustre to your hair and eyes. A single strand of this will suffice.
Culinary use: It tastes delicious in your rice preparations as well as herbal infusions.
• Chamomile: If you are low, having mood swings, depressed, stressed, or having problems like high blood pressure, insomnia, or water retention, my go-to remedy is a chamomile herbal infusion. Simply boil the leaves and let them steep till the colour changes to yellow. Keep sipping on this infusion throughout the day.
Culinary use: The leaves of this flower may be chopped up and stirred into curd, and the petals can be used as a garnish.
• Kesudo: Also known as tesu or flame of the forest, this flower is soaked in water to make a deep yellow colour used for playing ‘Dhuleti’ or Holi. I grow this plant in my kitchen garden as it controls pollution in the air. This flower is a coolant and a skin cleanser, and I would strongly recommend sipping on a cool infusion of the dried flower. Simply throw in a handful of these dried petals into your jug and drink it throughout the day.
Culinary use: Sip on the herbal infusion after meals to improve digestion and to allow smooth bowel movements.
• Parijat: Commonly known as night jasmine, this wonderful and fragrant flower prevents arthritis and joint pains. Soak the petals in water overnight, boil, strain, and drink this water.
Culinary use: Add it to your rice or stir-fries; it will give an amazing fragrance.
Flowers please your eyes as well as your body. Don’t miss out on all that they have to offer.
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