Monsoon Special: Unveiling The Mysteries of Maddu Thoppu
Image Credit: Justicia Wynaadensis

In the dark months of the monsoon, when the soil is wet and aromatic, the clouds are rolling in, and the sunlight is scanty, the locally known maddu thoppu or aati soppu is believed to start to brew and gain medicinal powers after one whole year, from mid-July for 18 days before it is harvested for aqueous extraction. When the vibrant green leaves and stalk brew in boiling water to release medicinal properties and turn the water a deep violet to purple colour, you will know that it was harvested at the right time of the year.

Maddu Thoppu is a shrub that grows in the Western Ghats Of India, specifically in the Kodagu district of Karnataka and the Wayanad region of Kerala. It is scientifically called Justicia wynaadensis and is believed to gain 18 medicinal properties when it begins to brew on the first day of the kakkada, aati, or ashada month of the Hindu calendar, which started on July 17th this year. Most often, it is known to begin in mid-July and be ready for harvest by August 2nd or the 3rd on the 18th day.

"In Coorg, Kakkada Padinett is a day looked forward to. We forage and collect stalks of the plant, or we visit the local markets to buy them. A brew is made by boiling the leaves and stem, which are then extracted and used to make a variety of dishes. Madd kool and Puttu are the more familiar and preferred ways of using the extract," says Anjali Ganapathy, Chef And Founder of Pig Out, who is a culinary curator and is known for hosting remarkable Kodava culinary experiences.

She continues to add, "Personally, it wasn’t until I started cooking and learning about Coorg cuisine that I began to appreciate this magical plant and its unique flavour. As a kid, I thought it tasted too much like cough syrup and leaves. Today, I look forward to this purple brew in its many avatars. I started out, planning to make a payasa or payasam, but when I actually made the brew for the first time myself, watching the deep purple colour seep into water and my home smell like a mix of wet earth and plants... It felt like an injustice to not try the extract as it was. So I poured myself a cup, sweetened it with a little palm jaggery, and replaced my evening coffee."

This is the only time in the whole year when this shrub is harvested, and the extract is used for cooking delicacies like maddu payasam, puddings, cakes, and more. Also, the plant develops a unique aroma and flavour during this period. To create the extract, the stems and leaves of Maddu thoppu are boiled in ample fresh water, resulting in a uniquely medicinal aroma and a captivating range of colours, from shades of magenta to deep purple and even a potent indigo hue. On the 18th day, maddu kool, or payasam, is eaten by all early in the morning on empty stomach.

"Maddu Thoppu, or Justicia wynaadensis, grows in plenty as a shrub around the humid-tropical belts of Kerala and Karnataka. For ages now, the farmers have consumed maddu thoppu to boost their immunity, and the microbial effects of this medicinal plant fight various pathogens that spread widely during the monsoons," says Chef Avin Thaliath, Co-founder and Director of Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts, on his Instagram as he prepares a mocktail with lime, sugar syrup, and the extract of Maddu thoppu.

This extract serves as a base for various delectable dishes, including maddu kuul, where rice is cooked in the extract; maddu payasa, a delightful sweet rice pudding, and maddu puttu, an unsweetened rice cake perfect with ghee and honey or a drizzle of jaggery syrup. When the leaves and stems are boiled in water at other times of the year, they do not turn purple in colour, as they would not have gathered the medicinal values. It is one of those factors that might leave us in awe of nature.


"My favourite preparation is the maddu payasa. I get maddu thoppu from our family home in Coorg. It grows wild on our plantation. I also like having it as a mild tea. The extract is quite potent and an acquired taste. Experiments have been with iced lollies and jello..But I’m a nostalgic eater when it comes to certain foods, so I haven’t steered too far from the classic when it comes to madd toppu," says Anjali Ganapathy.

While ashada is considered an inauspicious time of the year when no festivals, weddings, or any such prosperous events take place, it is nature's play to provide the people with its bounty of health in an auspicious manner during the same time, for everything takes place methodically and goes by a procedure that has been followed meticulously for many generations.

The Kodava community and the people around this region boost their health by consuming delicious desserts made from this purple elixir, while, this plant is also used as an external application to treat rheumatic swellings among the Karuchair tribes of Tirunelli Forest in Wayanad District of Kerala.


Studies have shown that Justicia wynaadensis contains flavonoids, phenolics, saponins, and proteins in aqueous extracts that exhibit higher medicinal properties. Research has identified 24 compounds in the methanolic extract, including vitamin E, all contributing to its medicinal benefits. The plant's diverse health advantages are evident, with varying levels of phenolics and flavonoids indicating its potential for promoting immunity, skin protection, brain function, blood sugar regulation, and cancer prevention. Additionally, Justicia wynaadensis has been recognised for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumour properties, further enhancing its positive impact on human health.

Despite its numerous health benefits, Justicia wynaadensis remains relatively unknown to many. If you do visit Coorg during this time, you might be lucky to try the delicacies prepared from maddu thoppu, as it is generously shared by all. Many people send the trimmings of the plant to their family and friends in nearby cities like Mysore and Bengaluru via mail or parcel them off with known people who might be travelling to deliver. Of late, with growing popularity, the liquid extract of maddu thoppu has been bottled and sold for a few months during the season by a few local vendors. However, its consumption presents a promising natural remedy to combat various diseases and maintain overall well-being. And yet, most people are not even aware of its existence.

When asked about creating awareness about maddu thoppu, chef Anjali says, I find today’s audience is very open to experimenting with and learning about the cultural, environmental, and food habits of communities and their cuisine. They respect the integrity of a dish in its purest form and also embrace it in new avatars. Having said that, I've not had the opportunity to introduce maddu thoppu and its benefits to a larger audience yet. I hope to do so once I can preserve the medicinal extract without compromising or losing its properties."

Recipe For A Delectable Monsoon Delight

There are many drinks and desserts that have been prepared with maddu thoppu, like puddings, cakes, mocktails, and more. But payasam is a hearty dish that is most popularly prepared as it is perfect for the monsoon season, especially when served with a dollop of ghee and a dash of honey.

Maddu Kool Payasam:


    250 g of raw rice

    2 litres of Maddu thoppu extract

    250 g of sugar or Jaggery

    2 cups grated coconut

    2 tablespoons of split cashew nuts

    2 tablespoons of raisins

    1/2 cup ghee

    1 teaspoon of salt

    Honey for topping


Maddu thoppu extract:

Take a large pan half-filled with water and place it on the stove over medium heat.

When the water is hot, add the maddu thoppu, including the stem, and let it cook on medium heat for about 1-1/2 hours.

Strain and reserve the vibrant-coloured liquid, discarding the leaves. The maddu thoppu extract is now ready to be used.

Payasam Preparation:

Add raw rice to the maddu thoppu extract and cook until the rice becomes soft.

Stir in the coconut, jaggery (or sugar), and salt, continuing to cook while stirring.

Once the mixture is ready, add cashew nuts, ghee, and raisins. Mix well and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve the delicious maddu kool payasam hot and drizzle with ghee and honey according to your taste preferences.

Enjoy this delightful monsoon treat with family and friends!