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Grandmother of the jungle: This Kerala tribal woman can prepare 500 medicines from memory

She lives in a small hut with a palm leaves roof in a tribal settlement, deep in the forest of Kallar in Thiruvananthapuram district. Lakshmikutty, a 75-year-old tribal woman is a poet, poison healer and teacher at Kerala Folklore Academy. With medicinal herbs and plants surrounding her small hut, hundreds trek to the forests to visit Lakshmikutty, who offers herbal treatment for poisoning. But it’s not only medicine that she has to offer but she also helps calm those affected with her gentle words, which can last for hours. All her knowledge on herbal treatment, she says, was passed on from her mother, who worked as a midwife. And with neither Lakshmikutty nor her mother making a written record of the medicinal plants and their uses, the Kerala Forest Department has decided to compile a book based on her expertise. “I can prepare about 500 medicinal treatments from memory. Till now I have not forgotten them. But people come here for poison treatment mainly snake or insect bites,” she says.

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