Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge
Vol. 7(4), October 2008, pp. 679-682
Indigenous herbal coolants for combating heat stress in the hot Indian Arid Zone
Suresh Kumar*, Farzana Parveen, Sangeeta Goyal & Aruna Chauhan
Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur 342003, Rajasthan
Received 25 August 2006; revised 5 December 2006
In view of continuous hot weather in eight months a year in arid western Rajasthan, desert dwellers have developed
strategies to cope excessive heat. These include use of plants as herbal coolant for human body. An appraisal of such herbal
coolants in western Rajasthan revealed use of 30 species of angiosperm belonging to 30 genera and 24 families. In the paper,
common & botanical names and uses of 30 taxa as herbal coolant has been described.
Keywords: Indigenous knowledge, Herbal coolants, Heat stress, Indian arid zone
IPC Int. Cl.8: A61K36/00, A61P17/10
Inconvenience to desert dwellers because of
continued prevalence of high air temperature touching
45.5ºC during summer is not too difficult to imagine.
In fact mean maximum temperature during April-June
varies from 38.3°C to 42.9°C and is often 45.5°C1. In
order to survive such high ambient temperature,
inhabitants in desert have evolved combating
strategies, including use of local plants in a specific
manner. These plants can be called as a ‘coolants’, i.e.
their use allows human body to cool down by way of
metabolic adjustments, such as recycling of body
water or enhances evaporative loss due to increased
perspiration and evaporation. These may also reduce
intake of high water requiring diets. However, use of
wild plants as food and vegetables during famine in
the Indian desert has been reported besides their
medicinal importance2-5. Though some researchers
have cited 25 species of 19 genera and 14 families as
sources of food in acute crisis, information about
economic and food plants of arid zone did not
mention the cooling effect of plants6-8. Life support
species as famine foods were reported from 60
species of 44 genera9. A detailed account of 116
species belonging to 99 genera and 52 families as a
source of household, traditional and commercialized
remedies was described from western Rajasthan10.
Medicinal and miscellaneous uses of plants by Bhils,
Nats, Kalbelia and Raikas in Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and
Nagaur revealed 78 such species of 71 genera and 42
families11,12. Information on 6 useful species emerging
from ethnobotanical surveys by Botanical survey of
India, Arid Zone Circle also included information of
cooling effects of plants and hence was used as
second source to compare with present findings13,14.
There have been sporadic attempts in the past and a
comprehensive survey and documentation of
information on herbal coolants was, therefore,
required. The study presents findings of a survey of
such plants in western Rajasthan.
Extensive survey of vegetation in 11 districts and
ethnobotanical investigation in 4 districts, viz.
Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner were carried
out. Authentic information on plants used by local
villagers for quenching thirst and also having cooling
effect was noted during survey. The information was
primarily gathered from the village elders conversant
with surrounding plants, their local names, parts used
and preparation of herbal drink. The plants were
collected from the nearby fields, grazing lands and
some time from local market and identified15.
Voucher specimens have been deposited in the
Herbarium of CAZRI, Jodhpur. The plants are
arranged alphabetically with their botanical name,
English name, Hindi name, local name, family, and
their uses as coolant. This information was compared
with literature on the earlier works and then new
information is marked with asterisk (*)12-14.
INDIAN J TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE, VOL 7, NO. 4, OCTOBER 2008
The information collected from western Rajasthan
revealed that a total of 30 taxa are externally used as
coolant, by applying the juice of plant to the body or
taking herbal drinks as described below:
Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa (Rutaceae)
English: Bael tree, Bengal quince
Local: Bil patar; Hindi: Bilva, Bel
Uses: Fruit pulp drink has cooling effect. Pulp of one
fruit is mashed in 1.5 l water and 200 ml is taken once
Asparagus racemosus Willd. (Liliaceae)
English: Garden Asparagus
Local: Narkanto, Satawar; Hindi: Satawar
Uses: Two or three fresh tuberous roots are eaten raw
once daily to give cooling effect and strength*.
Boerhavia diffusa Linn. (Nyctaginaceae)
Local: Santi, chinaware; Hindi: Punarnava
Uses: The aqueous extract of root acts as coolant
during summer season.*
Calligonum polygonoides Linn. (Polygonaceae)
Local: Phog, Phogro; Hindi: Phog
Uses: Aqueous paste of whole plant is given orally to
the person who took heavy dose of opium. It gives
cooling effect to the body. A dose of 50 gm flower
buds in 100 gm curd is effective in sun stroke.
Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsumara & Nakai
Local: Matira; Hindi: Tarbooz
Uses: Fruits pulp sweet and refreshing. During
summer, 250-400 gm of fruit pulp eaten each time
cools the body and quenches the thirst.
Cocculus hirsutus (Linn.) Diels. (Menispermaceae)
Local: Bajar bel; Hindi: Jamti ki bel
Uses: Paste of leaves applied on forehead and eye lids
in the morning have cooling effect and cures
headache. Mucilaginous paste of 10-15 leaves in
100 ml water is taken as one cooling dose.
Convolvulus auricomus A. Rich var. Volubilis
(Clarke) Bhandari (Convolvulaceae)
Local: Rata bel, Ratanjot
Uses: Infusion or decoction of whole plant in 500 ml
water is taken orally with sugar as a cooling drink.
Corchorus depressus (Linn.) Christensen (Tiliaceae)
Local: Cham gash; Hindi: Bahuphali
Uses: One tea spoon of dry powder of whole plant is
taken orally with goat milk in the early morning to
reduce the heat surges felt in the body. Butter oil and
wheat floor should be avoided while taking this
Crotalaria burhia Buch - Ham. (Fabaceae)
Local: Shinio; Hindi: Jhamo, Khip
Uses: Roots of one plant boiled in water and its
filtrate taken orally, makes a good coolant*.
Cucumis callosus (Rottl.) Cong. (Cucurbitaceae)
Local & Hindi: Kachri
Uses: One teaspoonful seeds have cooling action
especially in bilious disorders.
Cyperus rotundus Linn. (Cyperaceae)
English: Nut grass
Local & Hindi: Motha
Uses: Powder of 2-3 dried bulbs taken with water
gives cooling effect.
Ficus racemosa Linn. (Moraceae)
English: Cluster fig
Local & Hindi: Gular
Uses: Fruits mashed in 200 ml water, sieved and
filtrate with sugar is taken as cooling drink once daily
during summer season*.
Grewia tenax (Forssk) Fiori (Tiliaceae)
Local: Gangren; Hindi: Gondni
Uses: Handful of fruits eaten by the villagers to
quench thirst during summer season*.
Lepidagathis trinervis Wall. ex Nees (Acanthaceae)
Local name: Pathar phor buti
Uses: One teaspoonful seeds soaked in water with
some sugar and crushed to make up 250 ml of water
make a good cooling drink.
Majorana hortensis Moench. (Lamiaceae)
English: Sweet majorana
Local & Hindi: Murwa
Uses: 2-3 spoonful seeds soaked in water for
5-6 hours. Mucilaginous water taken with some sugar
SURESH KUMAR et al.: INDIGENOUS HERBAL COOLANTS IN THE HOT INDIAN ARID ZONE
Maytenus emarginata (Willd.) Ding Hou
English: Thorny staff tree
Local: Kankero; Hindi: Baikal
Uses: Fruits used to quench thirst. Ash of leaves used
to heal up soresand wound, gives cooling effect*.
Mollugo cerviana (L.) Seringe (Molluginaceae)
Local: Chirio ro khet; Hindi: Parpat
Uses: One teaspoonful seeds boiled in water and
filtrate taken orally to keep body cool during
Neurada procumbens Linn. (Rosaceae)
Uses: 1 teaspoon dried powder of whole plant given
with goat’s fresh milk or water early in morning to the
patient suffering from heat stroke during summer
season. Also a good tonic*.
Ocimum americanum Linn. (Lamiaceae)
English: Hoary basil
Local: Bapji, Ramtulsi; Hindi: Vantulsi
Uses: 2-3 teaspoonful seeds soaked in 250 ml water
for a few hrs mixed with sugar is taken during
summer as a cooling agent. Seeds are also taken with
buttermilk in summer for cooling effect.
Opuntia elatior (Willd.) Mill. (Cactaceae)
English: Prickly pear
Local: Hatha-Thor; Hindi: Nagphani
Uses: Pulp of one ripe fruit eaten to cure burning
sensation in the stomach to give cooling effect.
Oryza sativa Linn. (Poaceae)
Local: Sawal; Hindi: Chawal, Dhan
Uses: After heavy dose of opium (25 gm), rice grain
raw is taken to decrease the temperature of body.
Decoction of grains is a pleasant, demulcent
refrigerant drink in fever*.
Polygonum plebeium R. Br. (Polygonaceae)
Uses: Decoction of root of one plant taken as cooling
Portulaca oleracea Linn. (Portulacaceae)
English: Common purslane
Local: Luni, Kulfo, Hindi: Khursa
Uses: Fresh leaf juice is an effective thirst quencher.
Stem juice is applied externally to relieve prickly heat
and cools the burning sensation on hand and feet.
Plant sap is applied on the body during scorching heat
of summer for relief in blister and boils.
Salvadora oleoides Decne. (Salvadoraceae)
Local: Mitha Jal; Hindi: Bara Pilu, Jhal
Uses: Sweet edible fruit eaten raw has cooling effect.
Sisymbrium irio Linn. (Brassicaceae)
Local: Asalio Hindi: Khubkalan
Uses: One teaspoonful seeds soaked in a glass of
water overnight are given to children as a cooling
drink during summer.
Tamarindus indica Linn. (Caesalpiniaceae)
Local: Aamli, Hindi: Imli
Uses: Juice prepared from 50 gm fruit pulp with
jaggery and water is useful in heatstroke and fever.
Leaf infusion is effective coolant in bilious fevers.
Trianthema portulacastrum Linn. (Aizoaceae)
Uses: Juice of young roots gives cooling effect.*
Vetiveria zizanoides (Linn.) Nash (Poaceae)
Local: Khas; Hindi: Khas, Gandar
Uses: Roots are crushed in water to make a cooling
Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Marechal. (Fabaceae)
English: Moth Bean
Local & Hindi: Moth
Uses: Tender pods are used as vegetable. Chapatti’s
prepared from seed flour is kept on the person’s head
to reduce the effect of heat during summer*.
Ziziphus nummularia (Burm.f.) Wight and Arn.
English: Wild jujube
Local: Bordi, Borti; Hindi: Jharberi
Uses: Paste of bark and leaves gives cooling effect on
burnt portion. Filtrate of fruit decoction is used to take
bath for curing fever caused due to heat stroke during
Of the 30 taxa described of showing cooling effect
belonging to 24 families of angiosperms, 20 are
perennials and 10 are annuals. Amongst perennial
INDIAN J TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE, VOL 7, NO. 4, OCTOBER 2008
species, 5 are trees, 6 shrubs, 4 climbers, 3 herbs and
one each sedge and grass. Nine herbaceous taxa and
one grass constitute 10 annuals. These are eaten either
raw or taken as decoction, infusion, juice of plant part
or in dried powdered form. Some of the most
commonly occurring plants being used as coolant
are Salvadora oleoides (fruit), Corchorus
depressus,Trianthema portulacastrum, Portulaca
oleracea, Convolvulus auricomus, Majorana hortensis,
Maytenus emarginata, Sisymbrium irio, Grewia tenax,
Asparagus racemosus, Citrullus lanatus, Cucumis
callosus, Cocculus hirsutus, Mollugo cerviana,
Cyperus rotundus and Lepidagathis trinervis. This
analysis reveals possibility of validating same of these
as herbal drinks.
The use of 12 species as coolant is being reported
for the first time1,12-14. In addition to the plants
mentioned above, some commonly used cooling
herbals include juice of unripe mango (Mangifera
indica Linn.) mixed with jaggery and salt, known as
pana is used to treat heat stroke during summer. Lime
water and juice of onion are also used. In remote rural
areas of desert neither mango nor lime are available,
so their use is restricted only to the urban areas. In
remote rural areas, the pulp of Imli (Tamarindus
indica Linn.) and butter milk flavoured with roasted
cumin powder (Jira) and common salt are very
popular as cooling drinks during summer months of
April to July. It is pertinent to mention that with onset
of rains, vines of Cucumis callosus (Rottl.) Cong and
Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsumara & Nakai spread
over all types of landscape. Their fruit become major
source of coolant in the month of September-October,
which is known as second summer in the desert. Thus
herbals as coolants are used as per season of their
availability to optimize their utilization. Quantity of a
plant used in preparing a dose and frequency of its
usage varied from place to place and person to person.
It therefore, requires pharmacological validation
before actually using them.
Authors are thankful to the Director, CAZRI and
Head, Division of Natural Resources and
Environment, CAZRI for facilities. The financial
support from the DST, New Delhi through the DST,
Government of Rajasthan is gratefully acknowledged.
The local inhabitants of desert regions are also highly
acknowledged for providing useful information.
Authors also thank the staff of Plant Ecology Section
for assistance in field work by Shri Abhay Singh,
late Shri Teja Ram and Shri Prema Ram, in
computerization of data and typesetting by
Shri Harish Purohit and in drawing works by
Shri Virendra Harsh.
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