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Medicine In Your Backyard

A lush herb garden easily adds a touch of brightness – both to your home and to your health!

By Lavanya Donthamshetty

Any idea what a ‘perandai‘ (edible stemmed vine) is? Can you differentiate between ‘kandanthippili‘ (Long pepper in English, Tippali in Hindi) and a regular twig?

Three weeks ago, I signed up for a cookery contest, along with my sister-in-law. The topic was ‘Grandma’s Recipes: Homemade medicines’ and as we sat about discussing what to do, my mum showed us what looked like a parcel of short twigs. Even as we were cackling about making a merry fire with it, mum started explaining about the wonder condiment called Long Pepper.

Amongst its many uses, it can relieve you of body aches, menstrual pain, fever and general malaise.  It is gentle enough to be given to children and has no side effects. The rasam made with this herb is an excellent cure-all for all kinds of aches and pains, feverish symptoms and head cold. If you are feeling under the weather and need a pick-me-up, then the kandanthippili rasam is the way to go, we heard.

Typically, I didn’t really believe mum 100% but two days later, when she had a bad case of the chills, she had the rasam made with long pepper for dinner and blow me if she wasn’t right as rain the next day!

As for ‘perandai‘ a type of cactus, I have a feeling it will become the best friend of many. Ladies, this medicinal plant has the power to reduce your body fat! In the words of my old yoga teacher, the ‘thuvaiyal‘ (spiced mash) made from this wonder plant will ‘melt’ the fat off your bones! Melting fat off bones might be a tall order but research suggests that the plant has many medicinal powers and has been a staple of Siddha medicine since forever. Containing large doses of vitamin C, carotene A and calcium, the plant can even heal fractures!

And the absolute best bit about this plant? You can grow it in a pot in your tiny balcony! My jaw dropped when my mum showed me her massive plant sprouting from a tiny pot in her terrace. Imagine having such an amazing plant literally at your finger tips, ready to work its magic on you next time you over-indulge during Diwali or when you suffer from indigestion!

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We checked out mum’s herb garden and were amazed at what we found there. I am talking about regular garden-variety (pun intended!) herbs and plants, those that need just a small pot and a hand span of space to thrive. Wonderful things that can cure you of  ailments like common cold, cough, aches and pains, throat infections, digestive issues, PMS and much more.

Mum started simply with just a pot of tulsi (Holy Basil) and betel nut leaf. Now our small terrace garden has karpooravalli (pathar choor or Mexican mint) to cure the most stubborn of coughs, omavalli – a personal favourite as it helps bid adieu to tummy aches, ginger, mint and perandai.

Isn’t it such a pity that modern life and technology has made us unaware of such gems in our own backyard? But when all we need to have an herbal garden is a smallish space that even the most urban of dwellings can provide, then there’s nothing (but a brown finger!) that is stopping us from growing them in our own back yard (balcony? sit-out?) is there?

To get you started on your herbal remedy journey, here is my family recipe for Kandanthippili Rasam. Mix it with rice and ghee or drink it as soup to gain maximum comfort.

Kandanthippili Rasam


Kandanthippili (Long Pepper) – 20 gms
Black pepper – 1 tablespoon
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Dried red chillies – 3
Toor dal/Thuvaram paruppu (Red gram dal) – 1 teaspoon
Tamarind – lemon-sized ball
Salt – to taste
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Curry leaves
Ghee – 1 tsp


Soak the tamarind in warm water.

While it is soaking, get the rasam powder ready. Dry roast the kandanthippili with black pepper, cumin seeds, red gram dal and dried red chillies in a hot kadai , on a low/medium flame till fragrant. Cool. Powder. Keep aside.

Squeeze and strain the tamarind pulp. Add salt and boil it well.

After the raw smell of the tamarind disperses, add the herb-enriched powder.

Warm 2 teaspoons of ghee in a small kadai; drop in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves.

Drizzle over the rasam and serve piping hot.

* Photo Credit: Amandaism Art


About the Author

Lavanya Donthamshetty

Mother, writer, foodie, margarita lover, Lavanya is the exception to the rule that women are multi-taskers. She loves travelling and the top spot on read more...

7 Posts

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