Organic Living - Books to read

Sanjay & Co., Mumbai
Tarla Dalal

Home remedies have been effectively used for thousands of years in the treatment and prevention of illness. For generations, we have been using herbs from our kitchens, farms and forests to reduce pain, heal wounds and cure illness.

For many centuries, India’s wide variety of herbs, spices and plants have played a great role in the accumulation and advancement of ancient medicinal knowledge. They are becoming increasingly popular again because they are easily available at low cost and there are no side effects. When compared to modern/ allopathic medicines that can greatly weaken the immunity system in due course of time, home remedies have and added advantage i.e., they help our body mechanisms to fight disease.

The people living in modern cities are exposed to continuous chemical bombarding, from infancy to old age. The use of home remedies can check this unnecessary and dangerous synthetic drugging which could develop resistance to antibiotics from over use and un-ethical use, thereby making them ineffective when actually required.

This handy book (136 pages) comprises home remedies for 20 common ailments with 4 to 6 remedies for each ailment; because every individual reacts in a different way, and therefore, a remedy that may be helpful to one individual may not be effective to other. However, the author cautions that the remedies are not replacements for medical advice from the physician.

The book contains home remedies for acidity/ heartburns, anaemia, common cold and cough, calcium deficiency, constipation, diabetes, diarrhoea, fatigue, fever, headache, insomnia, pimple, sore throat/ throat pain, stomach-ache/ indigestion and other few illness. Take for example the home remedy for common cold: a “Kashayam” called as “Cold Reliever”. It is prepared from spice powder, misri (khadi sakhar) and milk. The “spice powder” contains the seeds of coriander (dhania), cumin (jeera), fennel (saunf) and fenugreek (methi). Our grandmothers have given a similar kashayam to us when we were suffering from severe cold in our childhood and we all know that it is effective remedy.

Mrs. Tarla Dalal, the author, is “Padma Shri” awardee and over 4 million copies of her cookbooks have been sold. She is the first to launch a bi-monthly food magazine, “Cooking & More”.


National Book Trust, India, New Delhi
Laeeq Futehally

Gardens are said to be “lung spaces of crowded cities”. Keeping that in view, in this standard book on gardening, the author makes an attempt to discuss some of the considerations in laying out and developing a garden like social, aesthetic, horticultural and environmental. These have to be carefully balanced by those whose responsibility is to create satisfactory environments in our country.

However, the book does not deal with the many-dimensional problems faced by those in charge of laying out and maintaining public gardens in India. It is not a handbook of horticultural information.

The book contains 8 pages of colour-photos and 24 pages of Black & White photos with foot-notes to drive home the issues presented by the photos. It also contains useful insights for domestic gardener.

The author is an ardent nature lover and freelance writer. Her life-long interest in garden design found fulfilment when she was in charge of landscaping and planning the two gardens of Powai and Vihar near Mumbai.

National Book Trust, India, New Delhi
J. S. Pruthi

This popular book covers the nomenclature, description, distribution, composition and uses of 86 spices. The book has also been translated into several Indian languages.

The various uses of spices in foods and beverages as flavourings, in medicine, and in perfumery and cosmetics are described in the book. It also covers the PFA quality standards for spices, as well as lists of other national (Agmark, ISI or BSI) and international (ISO) standards for spices, their products and their methods of test.

In ancient times, spies ranked with precious stones in the inventory of royal possessions and were monopolised by the few. Even today, spices and condiments play an important role in the national economies of several spice producing, importing and exporting countries. There is considerable volume of international trade in spices.

India is considered to be the “Home of Spices”. It is one of the major spice producing and exporting countries of the world. From 1980 to 1996-97, the increase in the foreign exchange earnings, by the export of spices was 1,200%.

Despite the tremendous importance of spices, India has not produced a single publication (until 1975) which covers information of general interest to the common man on all the 80 spices. Fortunately, now, we have this book which gives wealth of authentic information on 86 spices.

National Book Trust, India, New Delhi
Sukanya Datta

This book offers a startling new perspective on the world of plants, presenting an atypical point of view that ignites a sense of wonder as it explores the plant world.

For example, the exclusively nector-feeding honeyeaters, like flowerpeckers also pollinate the flowers they feed on. Along with parrots, the honeyeaters are responsible for the pollination of most  of the flowering trees and shrubs in Australia. The close relationship between the birds and the flowers cannot be overestimated. Hummingbirds, orioles, shrikes, weaverbirds, sunbirds, honeyeaters, honeycreepers and other birds play a stellar role in pollination. Some flowers seem to be perfectly adapted for pollination by birds. For example, the bird of paradise flower.

The colours of the flowers serve to attract the birds to the copious supply of nectar at the base of the corolla’s tubes. The nectar of the bird-pollinated flowers is much weaker than that of insect-pollinated flowers. Researchers are of the opinion that insects are probably not attracted at all to bird-flowers.

Thus, plants form alliances, may be even friendships, with other plants and with birds and animals too. They wage war against enemies, using chemicals to delineate territory which they defend ferociously. They employ mercenaries. They use subtle strategies for survival, recruiting agents to suit their purpose. Secrets of plant life as uncovered by modern science reveal that plants lead lives far from being silently mundane. The word “extraordinary” would sum it up aptly, as explained in this book. 

Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Pippa Mukherjee

This book describes and illustrates some of the beautiful and useful common trees of India. These trees are seen by road sides, in parks and countryside.

The book is written in a very simple language . A simple glossary has been given at the end of the book. The author rightly claims that it is meant to create interest and not to confuse either a child or a non-botanist with complex scientific terms.

The book presents 41 trees with excellent photos and illustrations. Hence, it can create an awareness and interest in both young and old alike. It also lists most important uses of trees for man, animals, birds and, most vitally, for the environment.

Some of the trees presented in this attractive book are: Neem, Badam, Babool, Coral Wood, Silk Cotton, Palmyra Palm, Flame of the forest, Casurina, Coconut Palm, Canon-ball, Gulmohar, Rain tree, Banyan, Peepal, Drumstick, Temple tree, Mast tree, Tulip, Mango, Tamarind and Teak tree.

National Book Trust, India, New Delhi
S. K. Jain

“Medicinal Plants” by S. K. Jain presents about 100 medicinal plants of India. It includes only authentic information based on pharmacological and other experimental work.

In olden days, many people believed that medicinal plants had miraculous properties like bringing the dead back to life. As times changed, people started weighing everything with reason and several of earlier beliefs seemed unsound. As a result, the use of medicinal herbs declined.

Until 1950, few of our medicinal plants had been subjected to scientific testing and experimentation. Consequently, it was difficult to state with certainty for or against the claims of their efficacy.

Now, this book deals with important medicinal plants of India, narrating their authentic medicinal properties in a lucid manner. The book has become very popular with two revised editions (latest one in 1996) and several reprints. For each plant, botanical name along with names in several Indian languages is given in the book and this has made it very useful.

National Book Trust, India
Sharadini Dahanukar and Urmila Thatte

For those who wish to understand what Ayurveda is, this book written by Sharadini Dahanukar and Urmila Thatte does just that and perhaps more.