Thoothuvalai, Solanum trilobatum, is a climber shrub. It is a well-branched plant with plenty of green leaves. Its stems are thorny with a slight woody base. Even though it is a climber shrub it is found as a creeper also. It grows in dry land in bushes. Here are the various benefits of thoothuvalai.
It is generally harvested from wastelands where t grows spontaneously under rain-fed conditions. Even though it is found in wild forest lands it can be grown in cultivable lands too under proper irrigation.
It is propagated by its seeds. The seeds can be initially sown in pots and then transplanted once it grows by about two feet. It can be cultivated in house gardens.
Role in Siddha medicine
It is a highly valuable herb according to Indian system of Siddha medicine. In south Indian households, it is used as a green leaf in culinary in addition to its innumerable uses for its medicinal properties.
The herb provides leaves, flowers, and fruits for consumption. But the entire plant is useful in Siddha medicine preparations.
It has a bitter taste and pungent smell.
How to consume Thoothuvalai
The leaves are cooked as any other green leafy vegetable and consumed as a food. The leaves are also added to other food preparation for it adds to the taste. In culinary only, the leaves are used. But all other parts of the plant has medicinal properties and are extensively used in the preparations of various medicines.
Every part of the plant provides specific health benefits which are briefly mentioned here to appreciate the medicinal values of the plant. Research studies have confirmed that the herb contains sugar, saponins, flavonoids, alkaloids, tannins, lipids, cardiac glycosides and terpenoids which are useful I providing various benefits to human health.
Health benefits of Thoothuvalai
The leaf of the plant has the potential to cure deafening of ears, psoriasis, disorders of the skin, itching, throbbing, internal body pain, and indigestion. The leaf when consumed as a green vegetable regularly enhances the overall health besides providing vigor and manliness. It is even claimed that it can improve the clarity in the thought process of the mind. Extract from the leaves can be used as ear drops to cure ear related disorders and inflammations. The juice is a quick remedy for wheezing and cough, particularly in children.
The unripe fruit of the plant cures disorders relating to the intestines and gut and also improves the bowel movement facilitating excretion of waste material from the body. Consuming the cooked unripe fruits removes all phlegm and mucous related disorders in addition to reducing gastric problems. Siddha system of Indian medicine claims that all disorders due to three bodily evils and humor on regular consumption of the unripe fruit. (Disorders caused by vaata, pitha, kaba excesses) Fully ripe fruits of the plant have the property to cure phlegm and related disorders. It also provides relief from chronic cold and asthmatic conditions and problems of sinusitis (1). The fruit reduces the phlegm formed in the chest beside curing dropsy. It is administered as an antidote for snake bites.
Flowers of the plant on regular consumption can enhance skin health other than providing overall strength to the body. It has amazing anti-aging properties. It ensures youthfulness even in elders.
Individual parts apart, the whole plant can be used in various food preparation or exclusive medicine preparations in order to improve the overall health of a person. Consumption of preparations from the plant immensely benefits the eyes by providing relief from all types of eye disorders.
Health benefit derived from the plant are discussed here based on the indigenous system. Modern medicine has not come out with significant research-based reports on the ingredients and properties of the plant or its part.
A number of research papers have been published by various scholars from different Indian universities on the chemical constituents and their bioactivities and properties of the plant in providing various health benefits.
However much of the studies are based on the effects of the chemical compounds from the plant on animals only. Effect of these compounds on humans is yet to be conclusively established.
One such study has found out the presence of sobatum, solamarine, solasodine, solaine, glycol and disogenin in the plant and its parts. The study also reveals the presence of phytochemicals. Further, it confirms that the plant has antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, anti-cancer, hemolytic, ant diabetic, immunomodulatory, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and oviposition activities. It is reiterated that all published studies have experimented with the properties of the plant only on animals and not on humans.
With the above caution in mind, we may look at some of the health benefits provided by the plants and its part recommended by the traditional system of medicine like Siddha and Ayurveda. They are:
It cures a common cold and cough normally due to weather conditions. Infections in the nose, sore throat, nasal blocks, lings, and chest are cured by consumption of the herb in the form of extract or decoction or simply as a leaf vegetable. It is more useful in addressing these disorders in babies and growing children. Its effect on adults is also equally good. A chronic cough in people of all ages is cured by consuming the dry powder from the leaves by mixing it with milk.
It is suggested to continuously use the powder of the herb by mixing with honey for the treatment of chronic asthmatic conditions. The powder mixed with honey not only cures asthma but also regulates the voice and increase appetite. Anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of the herb provide relief from all respiratory disorders in children and adults in the natural process.
Extract prepared by boiling the raw leaves in water is consumed to treat problems due to sinusitis and bronchitis. It soothes the throat and food pipe by removing the infections.
To treat Tonsillitis
Tonsillitis caused by infection of the tonsils, which are lymph nodes in the back of the throat, mostly affecting babies and young children is cured by consumption of the extract mixed with milk or hot water or by mixing the powder with honey (2). The herb or its extract is mixed with other ingredients like ginger and licorice as an alternative form of medicine.
To manage Diabetes
Diabetics can consume the extract of the plant to balance their blood sugar levels. Since the herb has anti-oxidant properties, conditions leading to diabetes are prevented with regular consumption of the extract.
Potential for cancer cure
It has the potential to prevent and cure cancer particularly in the lungs since it has anti-carcinogenic property. Periodical consumption of the products derived from the herb at least twice a week could prevent the formation of cancer in the mouth and stomach (3).
Any infection or other types of damages to the liver are prevented and cured by the antioxidant and hepatoxicity properties present in the herb.
Stomach pain and disorders of the stomach including acidity are cured by regular consumption of the extract prepared from the herb (4). In addition to this, it eventually prevents conditions leading to constipation and keeps the overall health of the body in good condition.
Calcium deficiency treatment
Deficiency of calcium in the body can be treated by consuming the cooked leaves from the herb regularly. It can balance the calcium levels in the blood and body and enhance the strength of the teeth and bones. But one has to consume this as a regular diet at least for about two months to derive the desired benefit (5). This is particularly helpful for those who cannot take calcium supplements to balance the calcium levels.
Consumption of the flowers on a regular basis can enhance memory power. Moreover, the herb products are found to be useful in addressing ear related disorders including hearing loss or deafness.
The herb is considered to be a natural steroid in Ayurveda. It is recommended to enhance the overall stamina and strength and health of a person in addition to enhancing the mental abilities by preventing memory loss.
Extracts from the herb or just from the leaves are known to increase the fertility in men. The extract is also used as an antidote to treat snake bite (6). It has the potential to completely neutralize the effect of poison in the body caused due to snake bite.
How to consume Thoothuvalai?
Siddha system of medicine recommends the use of the medicines made from parts of the herb to cure tuberculosis. It is also used to treat all disorders related to the lungs. In this system, the power of the herb is mixed with ghee from cow’s milk and consumed regularly.
South Indian households have been judiciously using the leaves of the herb in their cuisine. Traditionally, it has been used to treat various respiratory and stomach disorders, particularly in children over a period of time (7).
In spite of the health benefits traditionally derived from the herb practically, modern medicine requires appropriate clinical research. These studies are to confirm its potential by identifying individual properties and benefit of each chemical compound present in the herb (8). Studies are being conducted and with time, it is sure to find its place in modern medicine particularly in childcare.