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Unlocking Health with Palash: The Traditional Indian Game Changer for Acidic Bodies!

Written By - Gaurang H. Motta

Research Support - Nandini Pednekar


As per a statistic published by Statista, about 32 percent of adults aged 30 to 44 years old reported having acidity and indigestion problems. The risk factors are age, body mass index (BMI), non-vegetarian diet (even high junk vegetarian diet), tea/coffee intake, tobacco, and alcohol consumption.


Why Alkalising the human body is important 

It's imperative to consider the prevalent issue of acidity (related to the gut) in modern diets and the necessity for alkalizing options. The most suitable way to do it is by designing an ideal diet but it’s quite a task for most of us with our high intensity schedules. While there is no exact alternative to a good diet, our traditional forest and agricultural produce offer a natural balance to counteract acidity, providing alkaline-rich foods such as cucumbers, gourds & palash. By incorporating these alkalizing options into our diets alongside nutrient-dense foods, we not only enhance our nutritional intake but also promote optimal pH balance within the body, fostering overall health and well-being.


Alkalising Palash flowers infused in water for daily consumption
ALKALISING PALASH FLOWERS INFUSED IN WATER FOR DAILY CONSUMPTION

The optimal pH balance within the human body typically ranges between 7.35 and 7.45, slightly alkaline (as confirmed by publications of the Indian Medical association (IMA) & All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). This range is crucial for maintaining the proper function of bodily systems, including digestion, circulation, and cellular activity. When the body's pH deviates too far from this range, it can lead to health issues.


Another forgotten traditional  Indian gem - Palash

For the past few years we’ve been on a journey to identify & document traditional Indian forest produce that we have forgotten to be part of our diets, especially for our nutritional requirements. 


One such ever present tree is Palash, commonly known as the flame of the forest. Palash holds great cultural significance and is revered in various regions of India. Its presence is abundant in states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, southern Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

“A tree highly revered in Vedic literature, it can also be described as the “cooling flame” because of its extremely cooling and alkalising properties. Therefore an extremely simple & neutral tasting solution to compensate for our acidic diets”.
The flame of the forest in full bloom at Deopada (Sahyadri Forest), Maharashtra
THE FLAME OF THE FOREST IN FULL BLOOM AT DEOPADA, SAHYADRI FOREST (MAHARASHTRA)

Our focus of research and documentation has been the palash flowers that bloom from February to April, just before the harsh summers. This is the magic of nature, providing us seasonally just when we would need it the most. 


Across many tribal communities in Maharashtra, you’d see pots of water with a few Palash flower petals which they sip on throughout the day. As per Ayurveda, Palash is prized for its cooling properties while also being used in cultural festivities like Holi. The Palash flowers are soaked in water to create vibrant natural colours which have no side effects and can combat summer bacterial infections.


Apart from being alkalising and cooling, medical research affirms its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Its flowers contain bioactive flavonoids that show antimycobacterial activity. 


Drinking water infused with palash flowers in summer can help prevent heat strokes.






Humans do not have the right of first access

The Palash tree also plays a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance by attracting pollinators with its blossoms, thus supporting biodiversity. Aniruddha Dhamorikar, an author and wildlife photographer in his barefoot notes mentions a beautiful observation,

“Most birds that have been feeding on Palash’s nectar carry a bindi on their foreheads – a saffron mark left there by the anthers of Palash’s strategically designed flowers. Appearing like a set of jaws, the flowers of Palash open outward from the branches, and their inflorescence creates a bed on which birds can land and feed. The birds require to reach inside the mouth of the flower for the nectar in a peculiar way, and while doing so, their crown (or throat – whichever way the flower or bird is oriented), rubs against the folded petal that enclose filaments carrying anthers and a style carrying stigma. As the birds try to reach further in for nectar, the filaments get exposed, and rub against the bird, transporting pollen with a hope that they will be cross-fertilized when the bird visits another tree to feed upon.”

Realising the significance of this tree in the natural world and for biodiversity, it is important that we are mindful to just take what it provides and not over-exploit it for our needs & wants.

The peculiar shape of the palash flower that entices birds to dip in completely to feed on its nectar.
THE PECULIAR SHAPE OF THE PALASH FLOWER THAT ENTICES BIRDS TO DIP IN COMPLETELY TO FEED ON ITS NECTAR
The delicious and cooling Palash tea made by Anant Bhoyar in Katol, Maharashtra
THE DELICIOUS & COOLING PALASH TEA MADE BY ANANT BHOYAR IN KATOL, MAHARASHTRA

An Organic farmer’s Take on Palash

This wisdom along with the focus on Palash’s alkalising & cooling properties have been reiterated by Anant Bhoyar, experienced and experimental organic farmer who has been working with palash flowers that bloom around his 16 acre farm in Katol near Nagpur in Maharashtra.

“He suggests blending Palash into teas with aromatic spices like cardamom or dry ginger powder, adding a delightful flavour profile. He even packs and sells his Palash flower tea mix which can be brewed with water or milk. It’s a welcome drink for anyone who visits his house, especially during the extremely harsh summers in his region of Vidarbha, Maharashtra.”
Kalpana tai from the Thakkar tribal community in Deopada, collecting Palash flowers.
KALPANA TAI FROM THE THAKKAR TRIBAL COMMUNITY COLLECTING PALASH FLOWERS IN DEOPADA, MAHARASHTRA

Why the urban lifestyle needs traditional Indian forest produce 

Owing to the current lifestyle that we live along with the plethora of easy to cook options available around us, typical diets across India seem to be moving towards a more acidic platter. Our food plates are usually more calorie dense than nutrient dense leading to various digestive health and nutrition related issues. 


A survey conducted by a leading online dairy platform in partnership with the Indian Dietetic Association, Mumbai to understand the digestive health of urban Indians highlighted that 7 out of every 10 people experience digestive health issues with acidity leading the list. 


This leads us towards medicines, antibiotics and supplements which might be helpful for the problem at hand, but at the same time have side-effects. 


While we explore modern medicine, it is important to look towards traditional Indian foods that are all around us and provide us the required nutrition while blending well with our food plates as well.


Palash, a tree most of us would have seen during our childhood visits to our native villages or on our road trips across India. This might be one of the very few trees most would even be able to identify, but have never thought of it as something that can be extremely beneficial to our well being.


Do share your personal experiences around the Palash tree or any suggestions you’d have about consuming this neutral tasting alkalising flower in the forms of teas or beverage mixes.


References -

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