The healing power of ‘desi’ seeds
The star of this week’s column is the humble fenugreek, or methi seed, famed in Ayurveda for improving lactation among new mothers and hair quality among women and men. This is why your grandmother ground up the seed and slathered it on your hair as a child, so that you could get lustrous locks. And this is why we soak fenugreek seeds in water overnight—if possible in a copper pot—and drink it first thing in the morning. Think of it as our culture’s Rogaine rolled into one seed.
These days, I use fenugreek seeds not for my hair but on my forehead. My goal is to press my third eye into submission or, rather, flowering.
This “third eye” point between the two eyebrows is considered powerful in most healing systems. It is supposed to stimulate the pituitary “master” gland. The Chinese call this point yin-tang, and it has a powerful effect on sinus headaches and facial rejuvenation. Some acupuncture practitioners needle this point to reduce wrinkles. Hindu women wear their bindis over this point.
At nights, just before going to bed, I sprinkle some fenugreek seeds in the space between my eyebrows and keep them in place using Band-Aid. Since I sometimes wrap my oiled hair in a towel at night, the effect of my bandaged forehead underneath the white towel looks like a turban gone ghastly wrong. No matter.
Pressing seeds—mustard, fenugreek, peppercorns—over this point helps stimulate the master gland, according to the ancients.
Seed therapy is based on two interesting concepts. One, it believes that the whole body can be condensed into the hand, feet or ear. Specific points in our hands and feet correspond to different organs. The thumb, for example, is considered to be the head. Placing two flaxseeds or a few rice seeds just below the top of the thumb—where the eyes would be in the head—will help relax the eyes after a long day spent staring at the computer. You can keep them in place with Sellotape or Band-Aid and sleep with them overnight.
A Korean therapy called Su Jok (the word means hands and feet) uses acupuncture, acupressure and seeds in this fashion. The overarching theme is called “zones of correspondences” by practitioners: Larger body areas are linked to smaller ones. The hands, feet and ears are most potent and pretty much the whole body can be plotted on them.
Second, seed therapy uses the notion of “like cures like,” or similia similibus curantur, as they say in Latin. Walnuts are good for the brain because they resemble the brain. Kidney beans are supposed to help the kidney. So if you have a kidney stone, you could bandage a few kidney beans over the area in your feet or hands which relates to the kidneys. Some sleep overnight with these seeds strapped on, but others take them off after 20 minutes.
Which seeds you use is up to you. Larger seeds can be used for larger organs (pumpkin seeds for the stomach, apricot seeds for the intestines) and smaller seeds for the smaller organs. Or buy A Guide To Su Jok Therapy by Jae Woo Park for more details.
I’ve noticed that the seeds blacken and shrivel after use. Then again, I am a believer in these systems. Even if you are not, what do you have to lose? At night, just before you go to sleep, massage your ears with a little cream. It is deeply relaxing and one of the zones of correspondence. Massage your hands. If you find any point that is tender, that is the location where you put a small seed and make it stay in place using medical tape. Have a good sleep and see if you feel better the next morning. Seeds, after all, have pure potential—they are holders of the life force.
Shoba Narayan uses green mung beans a lot in her seed therapy. Write to her with your tips, tricks and short cuts. She blogs at Shobanarayan.com, tweets at @shobanarayan and Instagrams at #shobanarayan.