By Maneka Gandhi*
Last week I came across a short clip on You Tube of two Chinese brothers who play the most beautiful music on instruments made of vegetables (But more on that another week). It set me thinking about the wonderful things you could do with vegetables and grain apart from eating them.
For me, eating good quality food means fresh vegetables. Fruit and grain are important for health. But can you also use food to heal or beautify yourself without eating it?
Here are some naturopathic remedies available in your kitchen.
Potatoes can be used to draw out any infection. Potatoes can be used for cuts or bites that have become infected, particularly around or beneath the nails. Place a slice of raw potato over the infected area holding it in place with tape. Leave it on overnight, and replace with a fresh potato during the day. It will usually draw out the pus within 1-3 days. I used a potato to draw out a wasp sting and it worked immediately.
Raw cabbage leaves, help bruising and aid circulation; Applied directly they can give excellent relief to mastitis.
Onions are high in sulphur so they have a detoxifying effect. Put half an onion in a room when painting to decrease ill effects from the paint fumes. A raw onion helps in cases of ear infection. Use half a small onion and place it over the ear, securing it with a cloth. Leave it on for several hours to draw out the infection.
Honey treats slow healing and infected wounds such as leg ulcers. The quality of the honey is particularly important. Ideally use Manuka honey or organic raw honey. Apply it directly onto the wound and it stimulates new tissue growth. It has strong antibacterial and antimicrobial action, effective against even Staphylococcus aureus a particularly virulent bacteria.
Oats are great for soothing dry, itchy skin. Take a handful of dry porridge oats and wrap them on a muslin cloth (or loosely woven kitchen cloth). Tie a knot so no oats escape and put the wrapped oats in a warm bath. The moistened oats have a soothing and healing effect, giving relief from the itchy spots of chicken pox, and sunburn.
Sniffing fresh lemon juice to cure a hangover always cheers people up after a night of overindulgence
Put the ground skins of lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit after allowing them to dry, about three or four days for twists. Store in a glass bottle and use as soap.
Use papaya skins, as well as pulp, to rub on the bottoms of your feet. The enzyme papain helps break down inactive proteins and removes all of the dead skin cells.
Bring potato peels to a boil for about 30 minutes and then strain out the peels. Use this water to rinse your hair after shampooing. It will gradually and naturally darken your hair.
Sprinkle sugar on the flesh side of banana peels and use as a soft, exfoliating loofa. Rub gently all over your body and then rinse in the shower.
For a skin tonic, rub orange or grapefruit peels on your face (avoiding your eyes) and then gently rinse with warm water.
Rub the fleshy part of an avocado peel on your face for a rich moisturizer.
Potato peels can reduce puffiness around eyes. Press the moist side of the fresh peels to the skin for 15 minutes.
Potatoes retain cold and heat. So depending on what you need, you can make a nice compress out of a potato to help an aching body part. Just put it in the freezer to make it cold, or warm on a tava to get it hot. Your back or knee will thank you later!
Rice also does a great job of retaining heat. Make a small pouch or fill a sock with rice, put it in the oven or microwave for a few seconds and you will have something to soothe those aches and pains away.
Milk can make a great hair conditioner. Pour about 1/8 of a cup of milk over hair after shampooing. Then, rinse out.
Hard-to-remove stains on hands come right off if you rub your hands with a potato.
In fact, potatoes are a natural way of fading away those dark spots on your face. Blend peeled potatoes in a blender and apply them on your face. Give a gentle massage. Then do peeling for 5 minutes and rinse off with clean water. For facial blemishes, use cold potato juice as a daily facial rinse. Potatoes are wonderful for treating sun burnt skin. Place cold potato slices on the affected areas or simply dab potato juice on the spot.
Potatoes are a natural skin lightening agent. Apply a mask of grated raw potato on your face and rinse off with water after 30 minutes. Using this on a regular basis will make your face smooth, clean and bright as well as reduce facial swelling. You can also apply a mixture of lemon and potato juices to lighten your skin naturally. This acts as mild bleach for your skin and yields quick results.
If you have dry skin, mix a grated potato with half a teaspoon of curd. Apply it on your face for 20 minutes and then wash it off. This will act as an anti-ageing mask to hydrate your skin from within. It will also help to replenish moisture into dry skin to iron out fine lines effectively.
Potato can be used as a natural facial cleanser. Cut one cucumber and one potato into medium pieces. Blend these in a blender for 20 seconds. Add one teaspoon of baking soda and a little water to the mixture. You can use this mixture to clean your face.
For rashes, itching sensation and insect bites place a slice of raw potato on the affected area for a few minutes several times a day for quick relief.
To remove puffiness apply a mixture of cucumber and potato juice around the eyes.
Potato peelings can be used to restore grey hair. Boil potato peelings in a pan in water that is just enough to cover them. Strain the water in a tumbler or a glass. Use this water to rinse your hair after shampooing it. This will darken your hair back to its natural colour. This should be followed for every alternate hair wash to get best results.
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which can help smooth rough skin patches.
Lemons act as a natural skin bleach and softener. Used on rough elbows, knees, or foot calluses, lemon can help even out skin colour and make skin softer and more supple.
Pineapple contains a powerful enzyme that helps eliminate dead skin while protecting it from free radicals.
Strawberries are a natural tooth whitener.
Watermelon helps to soothe sunburn and makes minor skin repairs by encouraging tissue regeneration.
Banana can help restore life to dull looking hair. Simply mix it together with a little bit of olive oil to make a natural paste. Apply liberally throughout the hair before it is shampooed. Comb the mixture through with a hair pick or wide-tooth comb. Let it sit for 20 minutes to one hour (covered or uncovered). Shampoo and rinse. Your newly revitalized hair should bounce with more elasticity and glow.
*About the author: Maneka Sanjay Gandhi is a Member of Parliament and leader of animal welfare movement in India. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org