Maryam Booti is believed to provide relief for many medical ailments and pains | Photos by the writer
Maryam Booti is believed to provide relief for many medical ailments and pains | Photos by the writer

As she approached her third trimester, she started getting more concerned, rather scared! It was her first pregnancy. Since conceiving, she had heard many contradictory stories about how some women would smoothly breeze through the various stages of labour and be back on their feet in no time. On the other hand, what remained a pregnancy with absolutely no issues would turn into a debilitating, recovering experience of a few months for some.

One thing was constant among these sweet stories and horrific experiences: the severity of the pain at childbirth is described by each and every woman as a pain comparable to almost nothing else in the entire world. With that on her mind, she pooled up enough courage to discuss her fears and apprehensions with her mother.

Her mother gently held her hand and took her to the corner of the room to the cabinet. From the top shelf, she picked up something which was packed in a decades-old newspaper that had gone yellow, wrapped in an old crumbling plastic bag.

She had bought it many moons ago from a roadside seller on the streets of Medina in Saudi Arabia and never had the need to use it. She handed it over to her daughter, saying: “Maryam Booti will help you. Use it at the right time and it will surely rid you of the pain.”

The Maryam Booti or Rose of Jericho plant is believed to have miraculous pain-management and medicinal properties

This article does not challenge any religious considerations, if any, nor contest any probable empirical studies against the role of Maryam Booti in different ailments and health-related conditions. Rather, the article is simply written to provide you with the basic knowledge of what Maryam Booti is all about, especially with relation to gardening, its plants and the associated beliefs.

The plant of Maryam Booti is scientifically known as Anastatica hierochuntica, which is from the family Brassicaceae. The Maryam Booti is indeed a uniquely popular plant known with many common names. These names include, but are not limited to, Nabi Booti, Rose of Jericho, tumbling mustard flower, Mary’s Flower, St Mary’s Flower, Flower of St Mary, resurrection mustard and Maryam’s flower.

Maryam Booti is a light brown to grey-coloured plant of the desert. It is a hardy plant, which may survive harsh extremes of weather. There are hardly any fertilisers available in the desert for the plant, so the maintenance requirement for this plant is also negligible.

The branches of Maryam Booti uncurl with exposure to moisture
The branches of Maryam Booti uncurl with exposure to moisture

During rain, the dry-rooted plant opens up its branches and sheds its seeds on the soil. In favourable conditions, better soil and availability of moisture, these seeds turn into seedlings and start to grow. The green plant has white flowers, which are pollinated by insects.

This small plant, due to its unique healing properties, is very popular and grown in various regions, including North Africa, Middle East, and South Asia. Once the rainy season is over, the branches of the plant dry off, curling inward to form a tight ball, and close itself in a manner that it looks like a dried flower, which is usually sold commercially. This dried plant may also have the seed pods within.

The hardy seeds within the fruits on the Maryam Booti may remain dormant for many decades, but they also have the tendency to germinate quickly with water exposure. Indeed, the uniqueness of the Maryam Booti begins with exposure to water only. The dormant, dried plant for decades magically begins to uncurl, expand and opens up with exposure to moisture.

Many medical ailments and pain-relief management protocols were tagged with uncurling of the Maryam Booti plant due to moisture exposure. There was a strong belief that, when a woman is undergoing labour, the Maryam Booti should be placed in a bowl of warm water near her. As the plant uncurls and expands, it provides support to the woman during childbirth.

Sometimes, the woman also takes a sip from the water in which the Maryam Booti is kept, to expedite and smoothen up the labour further. The herbal plant is full of minerals and elements. It is believed that a few of these minerals, in combination, may help the smooth contraction of the muscles to further streamline pregnancy concerns.

Although Maryam Booti is not for oral consumption, it has been touted as a relief option for other medical issues as well. Apart from labour pains, the plant is also believed to provide relief in conditions not limited to epilepsy, cold, uterine haemorrhage and even to stimulate menstrual cycles. It has antibiotic properties, making its solution a disinfectant. It is also believed to be effective in different gastrointestinal issues, and from mouth ulcers and nausea to even stomach cancers!

Once the dried plant is fully expanded, it does not provide for flowers and green leaves anymore. However, the seeds within can be used to grow a new plant again. As the water exposure ends, the plant curls back to its original form once again.

Please send your queries and emails to doctree101@hotmail.com. The writer is a physician and a host for the YouTube channel ‘DocTree Gardening’ promoting organic kitchen gardening

Published in Dawn, EOS, February 28th, 2024

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