Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tropical Medicinal Plants: Thumpa, a vanishing beauty


Thumpa (Leucas aspera, Dronapushpi, Gumma Bhaji, Karukansoli, pansi-pansi, paysi-paysi, sipsipan, sula-sulasihan) is part of my childhood memories in Kerala, India. The plant can grow up to a height of two feet depending on the species. The bell-like flowers are normally white. In fact, in Malayalam, the native tongue of Kerala, thumpa flower is a synonym for pure white.


Thumpa used to grow wild all over the place. Even children knew it had medicinal value. The most common usage was in case of any skin problems. If you touch a poisonous weed or plant and there are itching and/or skin eruptions, take a few thumpa leaves, crush them in your hand and apply to the affected part. The relief is almost immediate.


The medicinal properties of Leucas aspera are accepted in all the areas where the 100 species of the plant grows (Indian Subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, China, Pacific Islands, South America, and Africa). The main uses of the plant are in treating psoriasis and other skin conditions, painful swellings, snake bites, insect stings, and coughs and colds. It is said that a decoction made from the plant hastens menstruation.


In some countries, Leucas aspera is used as a fragrant herb in cooking. It is also a natural insecticide. In Kerala, the plant is burnt to ward off mosquitoes.


What used to grow wild in our area and many parts of Kerala started disappearing about four decades back. We found that the use of chemical manure and pesticides was the cause. About twenty five years back we shifted back to organic farming. The thumpa plants returned to the scene as you can see in the photographs I took in Olavipe.



Click on photos to enlarge. Copyright reserved.

Leucas aspera can also be cultivated commercially. Seeds can be ordered online. Dry, sandy soil and full sunlight are required. The suggested planting distance is 12 to 15 inches apart. You could also have a few clusters of Leucas aspera in your garden, either on the ground or in pots.

These are great plants to have in the vicinity residential houses.

Also see: Amorphophallus, a medicinal plant with unique flower



3 comments:

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Very useful information.

:) The thumba poovu is also used as a yardstick for measuring whiteness colloquially, especially cooked rice!

Abraham Tharakan said...

Raji, it is the same in Kerala. The famous poet Kunchan Nambiar sang centuries back "thumpa malar polorannavum" - rice like thumpa flower.

Medical Billing Software said...

Good to know of it...so what are the medicinal qualities and what are it's curative abilities?