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Sunday, 1 March 2015

GROWING CHINESE LEMON LEAVES, INDIAN BORAGE OR CUBAN OREGANO AND ITS MEDICINAL USES

I can still remember the day when my ex-colleague gave me a few stalks of Chinese Lemon Leaves or Indian Mint Leaves. It was after the Chinese New Year festive holidays many years ago, should be more than 10 years. I started with a very bad sore throat, after that followed by a very persistent cough. My colleague knew that I have been coughing for a long time. The doctor even stopped giving me anymore medication. He told me that it was a chronic cough and I had to be very careful to avoid food that would irritate my cough and aggravated my cough.

During the day, many hours would go by without a cough from me, but once the cough started, I just couldn't stop coughing. My throat would suddenly get very itchy and the cough would continue. In the night, I would be sleeping soundly up to midnight, suddenly my cough would start. I coughed so much till my diaphragm hurt and even my bladder leaked.

It was the first time I have seen these Lemon leaves. She told me that the leaves are good for healing cough. Since I have been coughing for so long, I was willing to give it a try. Following her instructions, I took the leaves back home during lunch break. I plucked off two or three of the bigger leaves, rinsed them under runny tap water, heat the leaves on both sides on the dry, hot frying pan. I was supposed to pound the leaves and squeeze out the juice and drink it. But I needed to rush back to office, so to save time, I put the leaves in my mouth, chewed on it. Urghhh! I quickly spat out the pulp because of the strong taste which I do not know how to describe. I forced myself to swallow whatever juice was in my mouth and drove back to my office.

I went back to work and totally forgot about the leaves and of course my cough! Hey! What happened to my cought? I suddenly realized that I did not cough the whole afternoon, not even once since I came back to work after lunch break! My throat felt fine, there was no irritation or any itchiness. From then on, my cough was totally gone!
The first thing I did when I reached home that day was to plant the stem cuttings. I broke off the lower, bigger leaves from the base of the stems and stuck them into the soil in a pot. I watered the stems and from then on, they grew into healthy plants.

This plant has many names. Some of its names are Chinese Lemon Leaves (Leng Mong Yip in Cantonese), Indian Mint Leaves, Broad Leaf Thyme, Cuban Oregano, Indian Borage (Karpooravalli), etc. Its scientific name is Coleus Amboinicus Lour.

It is an herb and its leaves are fleshy, succulent and hairy. They give out a very strong, pungent smell when they are touched. My hubby doesn't like the smell of this plant and in fact, wanted me to get rid of the plant. The leaves are broad, soft and hairy, feeling somewhat like velvet.
This plant grows well in any kind of soil, especially with good drainage. It needs plenty of sunlight and it loves the sun. It is also drought resistant and hardly any fertilizer is needed. It is an evergreen and a very hardy plant. It is easily propagated from stem cuttings. I think it can even be propagated from a leave stalk. I have not seen any shoots growing from this leaf stalk yet. Now I am keeping watch to see if it can indeed grow from the leaf stalk. Can you see the black soil and the roots of the leaf in the above and below picture?
The underside of the leaf is more hairy and has very noticeable veins. One day, I noticed roots growing from the leaf stalk that I left behind in one of the flower pots in my garden.
I grew my first plant in a pot in my side garden. It grew healthy and was branching all over the place. I uprooted the whole plant and propagated another plant outside my house. Very soon, the second plant also grew healthy and was crowding out my lily plants. I trimmed the second plant and at that time the rainy season started. I do not know whether I over trimmed the plant or was it due to the excess rainfall, my plant died.

My third plant was grown from stem cuttings taken from my sister's garden. It is now growing very well and matured enough for me to harvest some of its leaves for boiling herbal drink. I like the taste of this herbal drink and it is also aromatic. Whenever I feel a slight discomfort in my throat, I will drink this herbal drink to ease my throat and prevent any possible cough. Sad to say, my hubby did not appreciate this herbal drink. He complained it has a kind of smell and taste. So each time I boiled this herbal drink, I will share it with the two young ladies who are my neighbours. They love and appreciate this drink.
The more experienced older folks claimed that these Lemon or Mint Leaves have many medicinal uses especially in the treatment of cough, chronic cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, rheumatic pain, flatulence and other digestive problems, hiccups, skin ailments, menstruation pain and cramp. It is also claimed to have liver protection property, etc. Here, I would like to advice those who have not tried this and are wanting to try this plant for treatment. First, try it out in small dosage to check for any side effect because most or some alternative treatment or traditional treatment with any herbal plants has its side effect, depending on individual's body. So far, through my own experience, I have not encountered any side effect.

From my own experience in treating my chronic cough, I found that the raw juice from the crushed leaves is effective in healing my cough. But of course, the juice doesn't taste nice.

Suggested homemade remedy:

Cold/Nasal Congestion
  • Break or crush leaves to smell the leaves to bring relieve to congestion.
  • Add some crushed leaves to a small basin of hot water, hold face over the hot steam to bring relief to congestion.
Cough/Chronic cough/Sore Throat
  • Pound a handful of leaves, extract or squeeze juice, drink concentrated juice, or if preferred, add a little water to juice and drink.
For now, I prefer to boil the leaves with other ingredients to make it a more tasty herbal drink. I do not need to wait till I have a sore throat or a cough to boil this drink. Whenever the weather is hot or whenever my throat feels dry, I will boil and consume this drink.

Some of my Indian friends used these leaves as cooking ingredients.
How I boil my herbal drink.
Ingredients:
  • A handful of Lemon or Lime Leaves about 8-10 big leaves. Rinse both sides of the leaves under running tap water to remove any dirt.
  • 2 pieces of compressed, dried sweetened tangerines (kat paen in Cantonese, can be bought from any Chinese medical shop). Rinse them and cut them into smaller pieces. (Please refer to picture below, its the orange ones with sugar coating).
  • A few pieces of sweetened honey dates. These too can be bought from Chinese medical shop or Chinese grocery shop. Rinse and break or cut into pieces. (Please refer to picture below, its the brown ones with sugar coating).
  • Place all these ingredients in a pot of water, about 4 to 5 soup bowls. Once the water started to boil, lower the fire to slow boil. Amount of water depends on the concentration you prefer, according to your taste. Slow boil for 30 to 40 minutes or even more. Sometimes I will slow boil for about an hour.
  • There is no need to add any sugar or sweetener because the dried tangerines and dried dates are sweetened ones.

He who is full loathes honey,

but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

(Proverbs 27:7, New International Version-NIV)

27 comments:

  1. Wow this sounds like a really useful plant! I'm glad it helped your cough

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    1. Yes, Aimee, that's a handy plant to keep in my garden.

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  2. I love using natural remedies for colds, flu and some ailments. Thanks for sharing, Nancy.

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    1. Hi Linda, I appreciate your comments. God bless.

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  3. how nice to have a home remedy that works!

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    1. Hi Tex, I appreciate your comments. God bless.

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  4. What a strong testament to this plant. It is God's medicine!!

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  5. How nice if i am having this right now... Me having cough now... :(

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    1. Hi Sharon, I hope you are feeling better now? Do take care.

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  6. Nancy, I am familiar with this plant! My aunt gave me this plant many years ago and also told me that it is good for cough. Unfortunately, I neglected the plant and it is no more :( Yes, I remember the smell was quite strong.

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    1. Hi Phong Hong, yes, that's why I dare not neglect it anymore. Have a good day.

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  7. Is this the same as pudina leaves?

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    1. Mun, it is not pudina leaves. This is thicker and bigger.

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  8. Ah this is a plant I've been planning to plant. Must go bug my mum for the cuttings. I dislike the taste actually, but it does seem to work for coughs.

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    1. Yes, better to boil with kat paen & mut choe, it will taste better.

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  9. Like you i had chronic cough and worsen during my trip to Paris last year because it was so cold. Stumbled upon some info on this plant and I bought it from the Sg Buloh nursery. It really worked whoeever had chronic cough would understand how relieved I was aftr drinking the water seep with the leaves. I have since planted many pots and hope they will grow healthily.

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    1. Hi, Thank you for your comments. We know how valuable this plant is and it is good and wise to keep them handy in our garden.

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    2. I am currently pregnant and weather in switzerland left me coughing nonstop for the past weeks. I bought cough and flu meds as prescribed by doctor and it didnt work. Then i took a bunch of the stalk steep in hot water and breathing the steam with towel over my head. It work wonders. I really hope more households will plant this as it is good for children and pregnant ladies.

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    3. I am glad to hear from you about your experience with this plant. This is something new to me, even breathing in the steam works wonders. I agree with you that every household should have a pot of this plant, it is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

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  10. I had a lot of this plant in my house but the last few months they started to die one after another and now only few plants remaining, moreover the colour of my plants is now light green and not so beautiful as yours. I am disappointed and do not know what to do, I started stem cutting today and i will wait for results, I hope it will work . I forget to tell you that i live in sultanate of Oman , my be the hot weather is the problem.....Thank you for your valuable informations.

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    1. I think it could be due to the hot weather. I think the leaves turning light green is due to insufficient water. I wish you the best and hope the plants will grow well.

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  11. Did you get a plant from the Cuban oregano leaf with the roots?

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    1. Hello Mitchie, my plants are grown from stem cuttings. It grows easily from stem cuttings.

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  12. Thank you for sharing. I have had a plant for many years and thought it was some kind of OREGANO, not much more. I have given it to my dogs in their food as a spice, like pesto. I have eaten it myself, as I tried it like pesto : oregano + oil + onion (instead of garlic) The sauce tastes great. And now O know it is so good for throat. THANK YOU!!!!

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    1. Thank you, dear for sharing about how you have used it as a kind of oregano. Very interesting. Have a good day!

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  13. Hi Nancy,

    I've been looking for this plant but I'm not sure how to identify it properly cos the people selling the potted plants also didn't really know whether it was oregano or something else. I did take some pictures of it. How can I show you the photo? Please advise. :)

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