A.V. Purushothama Kamath, a horticulturist propounds the goodness of herbs like a few others. ‘Gurukul,’ a farm owned by him, in Kochi, spreads over one and a half acres and is home to more than 1,800 rare medicinal flora. “We have oxygen, trees, and birds. There are so many good things on earth, still. It is our duty to look after them. For that our interests in gardening is enough,” he says.
Both his father and grandfather were agriculturists. “Few years back I came to know about some rare medicinal plants that were facing extinction and I wanted to do my bit to save some of those varieties. That’s how I started,” he says.
To his delight the last few years have seen a growing interest in gardening herbs. These can be grown easily in regular perennial flower beds or in pots indoors or outdoors. They are adaptable to different weather conditions. Some are pest resistant and some have pretty blossoms too. Those of us who are not into growing them too know about the goodness of garlic, mint, basil and such herbs. All three of these are classified as culinary and flavourful and are strong enough to treat various health issues.
Thulasi is one of the most important herbs. Apart from it being used to cure various ailments such as common cold and fever, it has other healing properties. It is a natural mosquito repellent and helps to replenish the ozone content in the air.
“All plants have their own medicinal properties which directly or indirectly help us. Earlier, thumba used to be found everywhere in Kerala. But now we can hardly find the plant.
So, having a herb garden at home mean an investment for the future,” says S. Sitaraman, environmentalist.
Kerala is home to rare medicinal plants like, garudapacha, samudrapacha, keezharnelli, pinari etc. believed to be a remedy for a wide range of physical ailments. Other extremely rare species like Koduveli, Kallurukki, Kalloovanji, Ekanayakam etc. are also found here. “I prefer giving saplings of medicinal herb as gifts for ceremonies like house warming,” says Kamath.
“There are lots of duplicates among these exotic plants. They are often mistaken for the original species. Even with 40 years of experience I still get confused in identifying plants. At the same time I feel that today’s generation is showing some interest in gardening.
The mindset of people has changed from the time I started out when many opposed the idea,” he says.
Most well-equipped local nurseries have a garden solely devoted to herbs. “We can find many of these plants in our surroundings and on our local pathway. The fact is that we consider them useless weeds,” says Unni, a herbs grower.
Even Dashapushpam - Vishnukranti, Karuka, Muyal heviyan, Thiruthali, Nilappana, Kayyonni, Poovaamkurunila, Mukkutti , and Uzhinja are in the verge of extinction.
Today, there are various methods to conserve plants and trees. Many think that space is a constraint but the idea of bonsai helps many to reconsider. It is like an ornamental plant, at the same time they can preserve the plant.
There are literally thousands of useful herbs that grow wildly and ones that we could grow, but they need suitable conditions to tend the different varieties. With their rich medicinal properties a herb garden literally means having a first-aid box at home.