Friday, May 25, 2012

The Herbs-I (Yorkhung & Santu-Tero)

Two days back, a relative has arrived from hometown. Our guest being very courteous by nature, he brought us some YORKHUNG( Zanthoxylum alatum) and SANTU-TERO (Litsea cubeba) literally tree pepper in tanii.There may be little variation YORKHUNG/YORKHANG and SANTU/SANII-TERO.  Out of my curiosity, I browsed internet to collect more information on Yorkhung and Santu tero. It was unbelievable, that the simple herb found in back home has such an international market value. From various sources I came to learn that these simple seasonal herbs have got many medicinal properties which our forefathers might have never ever learnt. We only use these herbs in our traditional delicacies, that too SEASONAL. These herbs are mostly harvested during April to June.

YORKHUNG( Zanthoxylum alatum)
Wikipedia describes YORKHUNG as herb –which has a unique aroma, and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black, white or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth that sets the stage for hot spices. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, second edition, p429 they are not simply pungent; "they produce a strange tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electrical current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue). Sanshools appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once to induce sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive. So theoretically may cause a kind of general neurological confusion."
YORKHUNGZanthoxylum alatum)

            Above described tingling sensation of YORKHUNG is called as hardo in Tanii, literally YORKHUNG’s running effect on the nerves of one’s tongue. That’s why in Tanii, it is always adviced to take care while consuming delicacies made out of YORKHUNG. If consumer is not careful enough he/she may be ended up with AARI-AHA (difficult to breath). Taniis use this herb in delicacies like- YORKHUNG-pillaha, YORKHUNG & Hikhu chutney, PIKKE etc. It can be preserved for future used in dry form; the best way is to store grinded dried YORKHUNG in airtight container. 

This herb is widely used by Orientals in their cuisines and delicacies; its name varies from place to place:
Chinese - huājiāo (literally "flower pepper") also known as Sichuan Pepper
Japanese -sanshō
Konkani - tephal 
Nepali- timur 
Tibetan- yer ma 
Bhutan - thingay
Korean- sancho
English –Toothache tree

Some unknown facts about YORKHUNG
From various sources of internet, YORKHUNG is a deciduous Shrub growing up to 13ft of height. The flowers are dioeciously (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). That mean the plant is not self-fertile.Therefore, both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
YORKHUNG Shrub (Source-Wikipedia)
            The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

YORKHUNG has also got medicinal values to cure certain ailment and diseases like Asthma, Bronchitis, cholera fever, Fibrositis, indigestion, rheumatism, skin diseases, toothache etc.
  •      The seeds and the bark are used as an aromatic tonic in the treatment of fevers, dyspepsia and cholera fever
  •     The fruits, branches and thorns are considered to be carminative (controls gas formation in stomach)
  •     Toothbrushes are made from the branches or twigs
  •     The fruit contains 1.5% essential oil and it can purify water

SANTU TERO literally pepper tree( Litsea cubeba)
SANTU TERO Litsea cubeba)

             If you follow this link  one researcher named Geoth Lyth has mentioned various medicinal properties of the santu tero. Also, other researchers from China and Japan confirmed that SANTU TERO have carcinostatic and antitumoural properties and have potential to treat cancer and tumours. Apart from it numerous of medicinal properties, it is used for seasoning many Asian culinary. It is even used in making particular flavor of pastry too.  Those are the all good properties of  SANTU TERO

               In Tanii, this herb is used as seasoning varieties of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, makes chutney etc. Many other people, mostly Orientals used the same in their culinary, making aromatic oil and also used as flavours for pastries. 

   Some unknown facts   

  • Fresh SANTU TERO  can make you sleepy-if consumed in large quantity.
  • Both SANTU TERO  and YORKHUNG are found in two form. One type is believed to be in its origin form while another is know as "Nema" bo SANTU TERO-its scent is bad, nearly smelling like PARO PAI. And about Yorkhung-its variety is same as of above mentioned. Original one is known as Yorkhung-Yorje and other type is called as SIITII-Yorkhung (Literally elephant Yorkhung, due to its larger size).

   When I browsed further, I came across this sell ad from ebay.

·         Health & Beauty > 
·         Natural & Homeopathic Remedies > 
·         Aromatherapy
100% Pure Litsea cubeba Essential Oil, Price- $11.59

Last but not the least, from various sources, I have already seen that these two herbs-YORKHUNG AND SANTU-TERO are of economical importance, now one question is coming repeatedly in my mind-can we Tanii in particular and Arunachalee in general  think about cultivating these herbs? As per the climatic and soil condition requirements,Arunachal seems to be suitable in the both. I heard about the existing of some YORKHUNG trees somewhere at NENCHALYAN. And also seen local people of POTIN area cultivating SANTU-TERO in large scaleAlthough marketing of products could be little problematic ( due to lack of proper transportation system and storage facilities), otherwise cultivation of such herbs can earn  good return to a cultivators. 

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