Marod Phali: All You Need To Know About The Medicinal Spice
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Amongst the many indigenous and decidedly ‘exotic’ plants that provide ingredients that act as spices, the marod phali – or jonkphal or ainthi – as it is also known, is perhaps a lesser-known and fascinating one. It is known to be a medicinal plant with twisted green pods that are dried and powdered, along with the bark of the shrub, to treat ailments like intestinal infections and skin issues. Interestingly, the pods of this plant are also effective while giving traditional medicine to newly born babies.

The pods of the marod phali or Mriga Shringi (deer’s horn) plant can also be found utilised in the famous buknu masala – a spice blend used mainly in chaat dishes – around Haridwar, Banaras, Kanpur, Moradabad and Khajuraho. This buknu masala blend is also used as a seasoning spice blend that is applied over ghee rotis and enjoyed with chai for breakfast. Also known as the East Indian screw tree, this sub-deciduous plant is a wild species found mainly in the forests of Central and Western parts of India.

Rich in antioxidants of therapeutic importance, the pods are also used medicinally to help develop physical toughness and endurance in individuals. The pods of the plant grow facing two different directions and are referred to as valam piri (left twist) and idam piri (right twist) in Kerala – where the extract is used to treat colic ailments in adults and children. Referred to as murud shenga in Maharashtra – as a reference to the crimping patterns on the outside, where it is also used in a medicinal capacity for new-born babies, in order to improve their gut health before feeding them solid foods.

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The medicinal properties of these wild pods are also instrumental in treating developmental disorders in children. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the marod phali pods are capable of balancing the vatta (air) and kapha (phlegm) in the upper and lower parts of our bodies. Along with aiding in blood purification, it also helps regulate the use of sugar molecules in the intestine. For external use, a paste made with the marod phali pods and bark can soothe skin irritation and lighten pigmentation. It is believed that ancient folk medicine also used the pods from the plant to treat snake bites. The quinolone alkaloid and tannins present in the astringent spice can be particularly beneficial to those suffering from the passing of loose stools and diarrhoea.