Medicinal Herb Garden
Sambhavna has an organic Ayurvedic herbal medicine garden. The garden produces fresh herbs for the Ayurvedic medicines dispensed by the clinic, trains people in organic gardening techniques, educates community members about growing and using medicinal herbs, and demonstrates a home-grown alternative to expensive, pharmaceutical healthcare.
Imagine a lush green garden surrounded by shady trees and shrubs. Beneath this shady border, worms are at work making rich, dark compost for use in the garden. Walking paths meander through the beds of more than 100 varieties of medicinal plants. Hand-painted signs help you identify the plants and their uses. Around the large pond you see plant species that like water. Entering the small grove of trees next to the pond you follow a small stream up to a short waterfall. The sound of the water gurgling over the rocks tempts you to pause for a rest on the bench. Once still, you notice the dragonflies flitting over the water, and are amused by the chipmunks running around the trees and stones. Continuing up the path towards the clinic you pass several women doing Yoga for relief of breathlessness. You pass the medicine-making workshop where the plants harvested from the garden are being made into Ayurvedic medicines. Reluctant to leave, you head back down toward the Tamarind tree for a last lingering view of the beautiful garden.
In starting this garden we faced many challenges. The garden site was formerly used for a brickmaking operation, hence the red clay subsoil has needed a lot of improvement. We planted a ‘green manure’ cover crop to begin this soil-enriching process. Bordering the garden is an open sewage ‘nalla’, completely choked with plastic bags and rubbish. During the monsoons, this overflows onto the land. We have to pick plastic bags out of the soil all of the time, less so than previously though.
The largest tree on the property is a lovely old Tamarind. The tree is still standing tall despite the fact that the soil around its roots has been severely eroded. We built a protective wall around its base, and filled it with soil and good compost to help protect this tree, which is our favourite place to sit in the shade and cool off while working in the garden.
Dampness sets in as we reach the middle of the rainy season here in Bhopal. The early rains come as dramatic afternoon thunderstorms blowing fast across the landscape. The afternoon and evening rains cool everything down and make the nights quite pleasant for sleeping. Some days the sun glares down through the thick humid air enough to dry washing. Compared to the parching dryness and dust of the winter and hot seasons, the humidity in the air is welcome. And the thirsty earth bursts forth in a bright green lushness, luminous against the dark grey skies.
As quickly as they come, the rains go. And the overabundance of water just as quickly dries up. The pond fills up with water, and supports cypress grass and lotus. The lotus flowers look quite beautiful in the early mornings, thrusting their deep rose flowers, crisp, clean and new, toward the sky. Lots of frogs leap into the water as you walk around the edge, and red-orange dragonflies dance their dance above the surface.
Around the boundary of the clinic are dozens of trees now, many grown from cuttings: Nirgundi (Vitex negundo) a beautiful shrub used for relief of headache, rheumatism and fever, with anti-cancer activity; Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia) a climbing vine good for fevers; and bougainvillea whose thorny branches are an important part of the live fence, and whose hot pink flowers provide colour even during the droughts. We also have Shikakai (Acacia coccinia) a thorny vine good for the hair, fragrant (and thorny) Indian roses, Karonda (Carissa carandus) a thorny shrub, and Henna shrubs (Lawsonia inermis), among other species.
Some of the trees we have planted so far include leguminous nitrogen fixers, good for biomass and tasty vegetables, medicinal fruits, and trees with medicinal leaves and barks. These include Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna), Palash (Butea frondosa), Ashok (Sarraca indica), Neem (Azadiracta indica), Cassia spp., Gulmohar (Delonix regia), Babul (Acacia arabica), Amla (Emblica officinalis), Amaltas (Cassia fistula), Bel (Aegle marmelos), Ber (Zizyphus jujuba), Peepul (ficus religiosa), Banyan (Ficus bengalensis), tamarind, lemon, banana and papaya.