Rakthashali, with red husk and grain, is acclaimed from vedic times onwards as a medicinal rice variant and an auspicious grain for vedic rites. Studies conducted on the nutritional significance of this Rakthashali in medications coupled with documented indigenous knowledge of traditional and Ayurvedic medical practitioners and focused academic papers to conserve ethnic wisdom revealed amazing advantages of this grain. Besides being a functional food for promoting lactation, Rakthashali is acknowledged therapeutic value in the treatments of allergies & skin ailments, uterus related problems, gastro intestinal problems, liver, kidney, and nerve disorders encouraged us for commercial cultivation.
Rakthashali has been on the verge of extinction as the old land races are considered uneconomical compared to the new generation of short duration rice varieties. Commercial cultivation was frowned upon as the seeds are low yield. The special position this rice variant occupied from time immemorial and mention of it in ancient ayurvedic texts about its power to redress imbalance in the tridosha, (vata, pitta, kapha). Research finding that endurance to disease and infections is high among people using such traditional food also encouraged us. We ventured for cultivation, using natural farming methods. Intense studies on the methodologies of growing traditional Rakthashali varieties in the past for use as food and medications gave us the requisite backups. Agriculture with zero chemical fertilizers raises many eyebrows in our times. Cultivation of low yield seed using only nature given organic manures has been indeed a challenge.
Traditional varieties had unique nutritional and medicinal qualities. These varieties are almost in the verge of extinction as the old land races are considered uneconomical compared to the new, short duration varieties. Traditional food system and its significance to health is lesser known to the new generations.
Rakthashali has occupied a special position since time immemorial and is highly valued as they have the power to redress the imbalance in the tridosha – vata, pitta and kapha. In the past, many traditional red rice varieties with specific qualities were grown organically for use, as food and in medications. Rakthashali has been specifically used in increasing milk secretion in lactating mothers. It is offered along with fenugreek and salt or sugar to promote lactation.
Rakthashali is used in different forms in food and medications. The rice porridge is recommended in all ailments as it is nourishing, easily digested and assimilated in the body. The rice gruel is an energizing drink and is a good diuretic. The water left after washing rice is used as a base in mixing of all the medicinal ingredients in medications. The paste of rakthashali is used for external applications as in skin allergies and for detoxification of the body. The use of rakthashali as food and medicine and in external therapies is enumerated below:
Rakthashali as food and medicine:
In promoting lactation
- Beaten rakthashali rice, ajwain, coriander seeds, mustard, jeera, garlic dry ginger, red chili and pepper are dried well in the sun. It is ground to a smooth paste to make a thin batter by addition of boiled cooled water, brought to boil and cooked on a low flame till thick. Grated coconut is fried and jaggery, ghee and coconut milk is added to the above mixture and cooked for an hour, cooled and bottled. This medicine is served daily one cup (200 gm) in the morning and evening.
- Fenugreek and raw rice is roasted separately and powdered. Coconut milk is extracted thrice. The 3rd extract is added to the powder and boiled. When cooked the 2nd extract is added along with jiggery stirred well followed by 1st thick extract of coconut milk. It is cooked on a low flame till it leaves the sides of the vessel. Ghee is added to it and removed from the heat. This can be stored for 15 days and is ideal for nursing mothers and relieves from backache.
- Hand pounded raw rice is cooked and used with pepper or seasoning of garlic along with ghee or in the form of rice gruel for a period of one month 2-3 days after delivery to promote lactation.
- Parched rice in the form of ganjee or sweet preparations (ladoo) is used after delivery. This improves the secretion of saliva and also beneficial in relieving indigestion problems.
In various ailments
- To the water left after washing of rice, seasoning is added and then boiled well with addition of salt and jaggery. Prior to being served thick coconut milk is added. It improves appetite, detoxifies the body and beneficial in liver and blood disorders.
- Hand pounded or semi polished rice is cooked in thick cow’s milk with addition of salt, sugar or jaggery, ghee and cardamom powder. When the mixture turns thick it is evenly spread on a plate smeared with little thick milk and served on cooling. This is beneficial for patients after recovering from illness, acidity, the aged, the small children and those with general weakness. It improves appetite when taken in small quantity and can be frequently consumed during summer.
- For Asthma (breathlessness) one spoon of latex of Calotropis is added to 200 gm of raw rakthashali rice soaked in water for 3 hours. It is ground to a paste and made into roti by adding sesame oil. One roti a day for 3 days is recommended.
- Small rakthashali paddy with grains is washed in water, ground and strained. Cardamom powder is added to it and heated followed by cumin and sugar. This drink is given to patients having cholera once in 2 hours.
- The inner portion of the bark from a big tree of Terminalia arjuna or Ficus religiosa is taken and dried in shade and pounded to make a churna (powder). On any of the pournima (full moon) night around 200 gm of old rakthashali rice is pound and made into ganjee to which 1/3rd liter of cow’s milk, little jiggery or caster sugar is added and cooked. The nice kheer is placed in copper plate and mixed with the churna prepared and exposed to the moonlight for minimum of 4 hours. This is used the next day in an empty stomach. This is effective for patients with asthma or respiratory problems and should be continued for at least 3-4 times on pournima days for complete cure.
- Rakthashali ganjee prepared from old rice (stored for more than 2 years) taken with addition of ghee relieves from constant hiccup problems.
- One handful of rakthashali flakes is mixed with tender coconut water and left for half an hour. To this castor sugar or plain jiggery is mixed and consumed as brunch. This should be taken twice a week for 2 months. This makes the body strong and resistant to infections.
- To overcome irregular headaches with a rise and fall with the Suryastha rakthashali ganjee prepared the previous night is taken the next morning with curds on an empty stomach for 3-7 days.
- The pulp of pumpkin with seed (2 seeds for 1 year old child) is ground to a paste with fresh red rice gruel (1/2 glass). Castor sugar/ jiggery is mixed to it and consumed in the morning. This can also be taken in the form of Halu (milk) kashaya. This facilitates proper development of brain nerves in children.
- In children suffering from burning sensation of the urine, rakthashali is mixed with curds to which smashed banana and jaggery is added. This is given 2-3 times a day for effective results.
- Paddy is soaked overnight and ground with water and strained in pure cotton cloth. The paddy milk extract is mixed with cow’s milk and stirred with addition of ghee, sugar and cardamom and brought to porridge consistency. This is beneficial for digestive problems, children having epilepsy, weakness with a long term illness. This helps in rejuvenation of energy and to build stamina. One tumbler of porridge is equivalent to one meal.
In external medications
- One spoon of turmeric powder and 4 spoons of raw rakthashali powder is mixed with water to a paste and cooked to a thick paste. This is thickly smeared on the wound or put in a cloth and tied on swollen portion at night. It is then washed the next morning. This is effective in case of severely smashed and bruised wounds with swelling and pain and with stones and thorns inside.
- For deafness occurring in the later stage (not by birth), salt mixed with rakthashali gruel is poured into the ears for some days as a remedy.
- Rakthashali flakes are soaked in coconut water till it ferments well. It is then ground to a paste and applied on the foot during evening for an hour. This should be continued for 1-2 weeks. This relieves cracked sole and pain.