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% of the world population experiences renal stones.
The importance of horse gram was well recognized by 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. Horse gram water was prescribed for treating jaundice.
Horse gram has been cultivated in India since prehistoric times. It is now 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 break-down 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 Kulattha 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, fiber, enzymatic inhibitors. The essential fatty acids in horse gram have been found to slow the onset of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. 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 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.
Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being, one should integrate physical, mental and spiritual health. According to her: “To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.”
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