Wilt, canker, rust, decay, burns, pathological and fungal diseases - anything can hit a tree in our locality. What else can we do other than letting it die?
“Have you ever thought of killing a man just because he has got a disease?” asks Binu Kottayam, a school teacher, environmentalist and a tree doctor.
“First, we should clean the affected area, touch them with love and care, then apply the medicine, bandage the wound up to six months using clean cloth, and they will be perfectly healed,” he says.
Yes, you heard that right! Binu has proved that trees, even the huge ones which are more than a century old, and have been adversely affected, can be brought back to life by practicing Vriksha Ayurveda (tree Ayurveda).
He says that the practice is not new and that it had been followed by a few even until 50 years ago in Kerala.
But how did Binu embark on this mission?
“Saiva saint Kanaapan, Chanakyan, Charakan and Kautilya have written about Vriksha Ayurveda. In the Mahabharatha as well, this treatment is mentioned. Books in Malayalam have been written compiling all this information about Vriksha Ayurveda. I've been an environmentalist for the last many decades, I was pained to see people chopping diseased trees. Lightning hit trees were also abandoned and cut off, that is when I started learning about Vriksha Ayurveda in 2010,” he explains.
Binu says that trees have a soul and a life. It was in 2014 that his first attempt to treat a tree took place.
He treated the famous ‘Kovil Plavu’ a jackfruit tree in the compound of Ponkunnam Puthiyakavu Devi Temple in Kottayam district.
“The tree was around 130 years old. Earlier, Tamils from neighbouring areas of Tamil Nadu used to come here to pluck the huge jackfruit from this tree. It needed two people to carry one jackfruit - the fruits were so big and heavy! Then lightning hit the tree and one side of it completely burned down. The temple authorities decided to chop it. That's when I came to know about it and visited the tree," Binu recounts.
He recalls that he asked for six months' time from the temple authorities to try out what he had learned on his first "patient".
Step 1, he believes that whoever lives in the tree should be fed and that they too should wish for the tree's long life.
And so, Binu would keep sweet rice flour beneath the tree so that all the insects, ants and birds would come to eat it.
“The next step was to clean the burnt portion. For any treatment to have immediate effect, it should be done with love and care. For this tree, I made a mixture of cow's milk and dung, hay powder, ghee, lay from paddy field, honey, banana and the mud from the termite habitats. This mixture was applied to the affected portion and then I used a cloth bandage to seal the area,” he says.
For six months, milk or water had to be poured on the bandaged portion.
At the end of the period, the result was unbelievable, says Binu.
Fruits started appearing on the tree once again in the next season.
"In 2015, just one fruit appeared but in the last two years, it has given lots of fruits," he says.
Since then, Binu has treated several trees, all of them more than a hundred years old. These include gooseberry trees, Anjily tree, also known as Aani (Artocarpus hirsutus), and Neem trees. All the trees that he treated started giving fruits or flowers again, says Binu.
“The treatment for each tree is different. For some, cow's milk is necessary and for some others, buffalo milk is needed. There are also treatment methods using meat and fish. Fish or meat should be left in water and allowed to decay. After keeping this for five days, the rotten fish or meat has to be buried near the tree's roots. Many of the diseases are treated this way," says Binu.
He adds that meat treatments are prescribed in Vriksha Ayurveda and that they're very effective.
However, Binu laments that people are not very interested in curing trees since they have to procure the raw materials needed to make the medicine for the trees.
"I can only do the treatment. Those who own the tree should spend for the medicine. People hesitate to do that. This is a time when humans don't care about each other, then how can we expect them to take care of trees?" Binu asks.
Edited by Sowmya Rajendran