Interest in the therapeutic effects of natural plant-based remedies is historical and medicinal plants have been valued for millennia and all over the world to prevent and treat ailments especially as they are safe, cost-effective and less painful. Kulath ki daal, or kulthi is one such legume which has been found to play a vital role in the treatment of kidney stone disease.
It is estimated that about 12 per cent of the world’s population experiences renal stones, also called renal calculi. The importance of horse gram was well recognised by the folk medicine as a potential therapeutic agent to treat kidney stones, urinary diseases, piles, common cold, throat infection, fever, lowering cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels etc. Horse gram water was prescribed for treating jaundice.
Horse gram, native to the old world tropical regions and has been cultivated in India since prehistoric times. Nowadays, horse gram is cultivated in southern Asia, mainly from India to Myanmar, for the poor. It is also grown and used as a forage and green manure in many tropical countries, especially Africa. In India, it is the most extensively grown pulse in Uttarakhand and south India, especially Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Several scientific studies over the years have confirmed the use of this legume in breakdown and anti-calcifying effects on kidney stones. A recent study published in the Journal of the Association of Physicians of India in 2010 compared the effect of Kultha and potassium citrate on 47 patients with renal stones. It was concluded that Kulattha can be used to reduce the recurrence of calcium oxalate stone and had better results than the use of conventional potassium citrate.
Besides its effects on renal calculi, it has been found to reduce the risk of various other diseases due to presence of non-nutritive bioactive substances such as phytic acid, phenolic acid, fibre and enzymatic inhibitors. Essential fatty acids in horse gram have been found to slow the onset of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Horse gram seeds have also been recently shown to prevent atherosclerosis in animals and may be a potential functional food for prevention of high cholesterol and heart disease.
Human clinical trials have shown that flavonol and quercetin found in horse gram help in reducing blood pressure, improving endothelial function for beneficial cardiovascular effects, and decreasing the intensity of knee osteoarthritis and asthma. It has also been found to be useful as a hypoglycaemic agent and, therefore, may have a potential role in management of diabetes. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have found that unprocessed raw horse gram seeds not only possess anti-hyperglycemic properties but also have qualities which reduce insulin resistance.
Rich in protein, iron, calcium and polyphenols and consumed by the poorest section of the society, this popular indigenous pulse needs to be recognised and explored further as a source of nutrition and nutra-ceuticals compounds.