Raees Khan, 45, a Bhopal gas tragedy survivor from Nawab Colony was in pain for last several days. Every joint in his body was racked with pain by constant manual labour, but Khan had no time to go to a doctor.
So he simply decided to visit a neighbourhood community garden of medicinal herbs and took some Nirgundi (Vitex Negundo) leaves, crushed them to extract its juice and consumed it. He also heated up the leaves and applied them to his aching joint and felt a lot better.
Fourteen-year-old Kapil Saatya of Shri Ram Nagar — a locality affected by contamination of the toxic waste from the abandoned Union Carbide factory —applied fresh aloe vera and turmeric from the community medicinal herbs garden in the locality to treat a leg wound.
As a community health volunteer, Saatya encourages people in the locality to use herbal medicines, grown in community gardens or their own backyards and pots to treat small ailments.
The medicinal herbs gardens are maintained by the community members with the help of the Sambhavna Trust Clinic.
The Sambhavna Trust Clinic —a charitable trust founded in 1996 to treat victims of the pesticide plant accident using a mixture of Western and traditional Indian ayurvedic medicine—treats tragedy survivors as well as residents of the areas affected by the contamination due to the toxic waste left by the Union Carbide.
According to the clinic’s records, more than 4,000 gas accident survivors have found succor for their minor health problems by the use of fresh medicinal herbs and plants during last six years.
More and more people spread over 13 gas tragedy and contamination affected areas are making use of the medicinal herbs in the community and private gardens, said Masarrat Jehan, one of the six trust workers who train health volunteers from the affected areas to grow, take care and use herbal and medicinal plants.
“We have developed three public and two private gardens in different localities and distribute package of 15 common herbal and medicinal plants that people could easily use and grow,” said SM Nasir, another health worker.
Medicinal herbs and plants like Tulsi (basil), Giloy (tinospora cardifolia), hibiscus (Gudhal), lemon grass, drumstick (sahjan), mehendi (henna), neem apart from aloe vera, Nirgundi and erandi (castor) are grown in the gardens.
Sakina, a health volunteer from Annu Nagar says that people have slowly realized the good effects of the herbs and using it more and more.
“They are easy to use. You crush them, take out juice, boil them with water or simply heat up the leaves and apply on sore areas,” she says.
Dr Mrityunjay Mali, Ayurved expert working with the Sambhavana Clinic says that the concept is to avoid use of unnecessary medicines for small ailments.
“Use of herbal/natural medicinal plants is safe and easy as also extremely cheap. It is good for personal and community health. For example, instead of chloroquine, herbs like Chirayta and Giloy could be used for prevention of malaria,” Dr Mali said.