During the festive season that’s just concluded, you wouldn’t have failed to notice the golden heaps of marigold flowers just about everywhere. Did you know that they’re not just decorative — that you can also eat them? Those of you who have seen the Mira Nair film Monsoon Wedding may remember the quirky character of Dubey, played by Vijay Raaz, who (even in his lovestruck state) munches, sometimes absent-mindedly, on random marigold flowers. The fact is that marigolds as well as many other flowers commonly found in India are packed with health benefits that people are waking up to. Find out how you can sip and snack on these bountiful blooms.
Marigold tea, which is mildly detoxifying, can nourish the skin, act as an internal antifungal agent and soothe the intestinal tract. Due to its antimicrobial and antiseptic qualities, marigold is an effective remedy for sore throats, gingivitis, tonsillitis and mouth ulcers. Gargling with marigold helps soothe the mucus membranes of the throat whilst easing pain. Studies suggest that glycoproteins and nucleoproteins present in this flower support skin healing.
The cheerful cooling bloom — shoe flower, jabakusum, jaswandi — is a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; is low in calories, high in fibre and aids weight loss. It is high in vitamin C, benefits both skin and hair (you’ve doubtless heard about Jabakusum hair oil), improves the elasticity and production of collagen, boosts the immune system, prevents anaemia and balances the acid and alkaline ratio in the body. Hibiscus, especially the single-petal red flowers, can even be eaten fresh off the plant, maybe lightly seasoned as a side dish with rice as many old-timers prefer.
You’ve probably seen pictures or maybe even sipped on the lovely blue tea that’s made from these flowers. That’s right, the blue pea or butterfly pea flower, which you can find trailing along garden fences, is the source of this Instagrammable infusion. But it’s not a modern-day fad; the flower, known as Shankhpushpi or Aparajita, has been renowned for ages as a memory booster, and is especially sought as a tonic before exams. Blue pea, used as a food colouring in Southeast Asia, is known for antioxidant properties, and may also help in weight loss and better blood sugar control.
Rose petals help the body maintain healthy cholesterol levels; rosewater reduces inflammation, soreness and is a natural coolant. It's a mild sedative, enhances the body’s natural immunity and promotes a healthy heart. You’ve probably heard of or had the preserved version of rose petals — gulkand; you can also make rose jam, syrup, tea or refreshing sharbat.
Chrysanthemum tea is widely consumed among the Chinese — a meal in a proper Chinese restaurant is not complete without free-flowing chrysanthemum tea. The flower contains chemicals called flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and it is also believed to increase blood flow to the heart. Ideally, it is recommended that you drink the tea twice a week. In traditional Chinese medicine, chrysanthemums are used to treat fever, cold, headache, dizziness, and swelling, as well as chest pain.