Friday, October 21, 2016

Medicinal Herbs - losing its importance

Manchhhilu (Aconitum patulam)
As a child I lived in a remote place called Bhangtar under Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag. In those days when we had a cut on our body parts, our parents and elders would collect plants called lanyiru (a term in tshangla, a widely spoken dialect in East Bhutan) (botanical name: Rubia cordifolia.) The plant leaves were rubbed and squeezed to stop the bleeding. It would heal the wound. A plant named Juung in tshangla (botanical name: Curcuma longa) heals stomach ache and diarrhoea. People in the villages make use of these herbs to cure illnesses before the advent of modern medical service (though some people still have confidence in local medicine).  Today some elder people continue to use herbal medicine and cure others as well; one of them is meme Karchung, resident of Bangtsho village in Dewathang. He is known as a local doctor and the people of Dewathang go to him to treat certain illness such as stomach pain, fracture, wound, etc. There are few such people left and it has become very crucial for us to preserve this knowledge. LME students study about local herbal medicines with the help of meme Karchung. They have made field trips in the forest to study and recognize local herbs and also collect them.  
The following are some herbs collected by the students:

Botanical name
Local name
Adhatoda Vasica
 Leaves are mixed and boiled together with Artemisia to cure wounds.
Rubia cordifolia
Leaves are beaten and used to cure wounds.
Aconitum patulam
Leaves to be boiled to wash the body to heal the wounds.
Enteda gigantea
Kolokpo Ru

Cures wound.
Phytolacca acinoso
Cures stomach-ache. We soak the tip of the creeper in the hot water and drink it.
Curcuma longa
 Cures diarrhoea and stomach ache.
Leaves are squeezed to stop the blood oozing and also to cure wounds.
 Kiling sey
Cures the cracks of the heel. Used as soap in the past and  also anti-leech.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Richness of nine traditional grains: Lebi (soya bean) to tofu

Ms. Pema Lhadon with students 
Students washing soya bean 
As a part of learning lesson under the topic, “Traditional Ecological Knowledge” the students learned about the nine traditional grains, domestically known as drunagu. One of the nine grains is soya bean or lebi in Sharchop (eastern dialect). This grain had appeared in the traditional folk tale of four greedy friends narrated by Meme Karchung, one of the older men in the Bangtsho community, Dewathang. The folk tale was about four friends who were very poor, had nothing to eat and had weakness in their body parts such as tiny neck, fragile leg, thin cheek and delicate chest. One day, when they went out looking for food, they found soya bean seeds. They were very greedy and wanted to eat all the soya bean seeds.

The story of soya bean continues with Ms. Pema Lhadon, an entrepreneur who visited Chokyi Gyatso Institute (CGI) to train its monks in tofu making in an effort to provide more nutritious food. It was opportune for our students to actively participate in seeing the relationship between classroom learning and application of that knowledge in our daily lives.
Pema said, “Soya bean has higher protein than meat (40% and 20% in meat), and carbohydrate with less fat. It contains small amount of all vitamins except potassium. Besides, soya bean is locally grown and it is free of chemicals, thus avoiding all health risks due to consumption of chemicals. It also contributes to local economy and prevents cash outflow”.
Students enjoying TOFU
We could understand the nutritional value of the traditional grain and its impact on our health. While few students seriously took down notes of what the expert was sharing and the process that was unfolding, rest of the students actively and joyfully engaged in the entire process of making tofu by cleaning dishes, rinsing the soaked soya bean, extracting milk out of ground soya bean, straining water from the warmed soya bean milk and of course relishing the final product (TOFU) with a great sense of pride, knowing well that it is good for their health. It helped broaden their outlook towards traditional grains as being important for food and nutrition sufficiency of our community.
Soya bean milk 
The process also involved learning the value of not wasting any part of the food. Distributing the soya bean paste that remained after the extraction of its milk, students were asked to concoct their own recipes from it.
Later in the evening fifteen different kinds of dishes were made by students, in groups and as individuals. Most of dishes were made using common daily Bhutanese ingredients, viz. chilli, salt, oil, onion and tomato. Bhutanese chilli pickle (eazay) was the most common dishes. One of the students had made porridge; another fried the paste with sugar. Adding different flavours like sweet, salt and spicy, students had tried their best to make their food delicious.

Learning was indeed a great joy for the students. CGI plans to give tofu twice a week. Monks will make it from our own soya bean! 

Dishes made out of soya bean paste