Does Tulsi has environmental benefits too?

Recently there was a news item in Times of India which had the same heading as that of this particular post. The news claimed

(Around two decades back Dada Dham, a socio-spiritual organization brought together a team of botanists, ayurvedic scholars and environmental enthusiasts to study the environmental benefits of tulsi.)

NAGPUR: Ayurvedic medicinal values of Tulsi are well known. Our ancient scriptures have enumerated the medicinal benefits of tulsi. Its extracts are used widely for curing common ailments like common cold, headache, stomach disorder etc.

But the environmental benefits have been comparatively unknown. Around two decades back Dada Dham, a socio-spiritual organization brought together a team of botanists, ayurvedic scholars and environmental enthusiasts to study the environmental benefits of tulsi.

Now the next claim from an “eminent botanist” that the report does is startling indeed.

“Tulsi gives out oxygen for 20 hours and ozone for four hours a day along with the formation of nascent oxygen which absorbs harmful gases like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide from the environment,” said Shyamkant Padoley, an eminent botanist.
How would the tulsi plant (Ocimum tenuiflorum) do this? Is it anatomically so different that it is capable to do this? How does the plant regulate this 20 and 4 hour cycle?  I would really like to know. How is that no other plants have this cycle? How did they detect presence of ozone, what detectors they used? What mechanisms in presently known cycle of photosynthesis account for this cycle? And if this is part of the standard photosynthesis process, then all plants should have it. This seems fishy, and a most preliminary search did not yield any positive result. All of them talk about production of oxygen and not ozone, as reported by Padoley. And if this is indeed true, it might lead to change in our conception of the photosynthetic cycle.
And if the ozone report is to be believed at all then this is what ozone does to you quote from Wikipedia article on ozone:
Ozone is a powerful oxidant (far more so than dioxygen) and has many industrial and consumer applications related to oxidation. This same high oxidizing potential, however, causes ozone to damage mucus and respiratory tissues in animals, and also tissues in plants, above concentrations of about 100 parts per billion. This makes ozone a potent respiratory hazard and pollutant near ground level.
There is evidence of significant reduction in agricultural yields because of increased ground-level ozone and pollution which interferes with photosynthesis and stunts overall growth of some plant species. The United States Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a secondary regulation to reduce crop damage, in addition to the primary regulation designed for the protection of human health.
There is a great deal of evidence to show that ground level ozone can harm lung function and irritate the respiratory system.Exposure to ozone and the pollutants that produce it is linked to premature death, asthma, bronchitis, heart attack, and other cardiopulmonary problems.
Ozone is air pollutant, green house gas.
To summarize this is that ozone is NOT GOOD for us at ground level! It may do us good in upper atmosphere to block UV Rays, but down here on ground it is bad. And if this claim of ozone production by Tulsi is true why is the campaign of “Tulsi lagao pradushan hatoa (Plant tulsi, remove pollution)” which follows in the article is being implemented?

Padoley, member of technical committee, ministry of environment and forest, NewDelhi, and forest tech committee, also read a paper at the International Conference on Occupational Respiratory Diseases at Kyoto in 1997 where cyclo oxygenate, an enzyme only found in tulsi was labelled for the first time. This enzyme regulates the entire mechanism of oxygen evolution. (emphasis added)

This again I am unable to understand. It says this enzyme is “only found in Tulsi”, and it also “regulates entire mechanism of oxygen evolution”. One can agree that a particular enzyme is found in a particular plant, but if this enzyme controls “entire mechanism of oxygen evolution”, how do other plants regulate their mechanisms of oxygen evolution.

Dada Dham initiated a campaign ‘Tulsi Lagao Pradushan Hatao’ in 1987 under the guidance of Narendra Dada, the institution’s head. It was under this campaign that the above mentioned panel of experts was formed. After finding out the environmental benefits of the plant, Dada Dham organized a number of programmes like street plays, nukkad sabhas and lectures to propagate the use of the plant.

Dr Dattatraya Saraf, an ayurvedic doctor and expert said, “The plant enriches the environment with oxygen almost 24X7 and also absorbs other pollutants.” He further added that if the size of the plant can be increased, the environmental benefits can be increased.

This statement that “plant enriches the environment with oxygen almost 24X7” is in contradiction to statement by above Padoley regarding 20 and 4 hour cycles. Which one is to be believed? And mind you this is just appearing a few lines later, this is either very poor editing and reporting, or hogwash to the public.

“That is why we want to urge scientists and concerned authorities to make research on the issue of increasing the height of tulsi plant. If big trees can be converted to bonsai plants then big tulsi trees can be possible too,” said Kishor Verma, PRO of Dada Dham.

This is another statement that I would like to contest. Did they compare the rate of oxygen production vis-a-vis to other plants. That is to say simply did they have any control sample? And does making “tulsi tree” make any sense (can one really do it is another question), will it really increase oxygen making capabilities, is it a linear relationship between these two variables? The water is completely muddy in this !

He also citied the research and work by other organization in support of tulsi’s environmental benefits.

“The forest department of Uttar Pradesh, with the help of an organization called Organic India Limited, Lucknow planted lakhs of tulsi saplings around Taj Mahal to protect its surface from industrial emissions. This step has yielded positive results,” Verma said.

“We are just asking the administration to take notice of these extra ordinary benefits of tulsi and take steps for utilizing them. Even simple steps like planting tulsi plants on road dividers, parks etc can bring a difference,” said Verma.

The reporter and also the editor make no effort to correct these glaring inconsistencies in the report itself, forget about doing nay research on the topic, or verifying the claims made by these people. Maybe this was like the paid news that is talked about a lot these days.

What I find here i that the agenda of what is to be done was already set, the conclusions were already drawn, by our ancestors, written in black and white in ancient texts. The point was only to justify what they were doing, and trying to provide a “scientific basis” of what they already believed to be true (for whatever reasons, mostly religious, and presence of a religious organization in this sort of confirms this).

A good example of  pseudo-science and bad science reporting.

Candy Shops for Bibliophiles 1

I am a bibliophile. You can read about it here. Well in this series I will give information about the old, used book seller markets that I have visited so far.

I will begin with my hometown of Nagpur [नागपुर] where I started collecting books. The old book market in Nagpur is in the heart of the city near Variety Square, Sitabardi [सिताबर्डी]. There was a old cinema named Variety when I was a kid, now this has been replaced by a multiplex. Very near to this is the Maharaj Baug Zoo [महाराज बाग प्राणीसंग्रहालय].

Now this place is not only the heart of city but also the heart of India, literally speaking. The Zero Mile [label 6 in the map] is just about 200 meters from this place. The Zero Mile in Nagpur is supposed to the geographical centre of India. See the map below.


Initially the book sellers were quite spread around this area, with book shops being setup on either side of the road, but now they have been restricted mostly to the western side [right side of the road if you start from Variety Square towards Zero mile] of the Residency Road and a pocket on the eastern side of the road. Now since a flyover is constructed here you an get down the flyover and park the vehicle just in front of where the major book sellers are situated. Morbhavan [मोरभवन] the Depot for City Bus is just 100 meters from Variety Square. Also this is very near to the place where shooting incidence of Gowari tribals happened some years back. There is a memorial for this just after the book shops end. And you can see a Giant Orange telling that you are in the Orange City.

But I recommend that you start from the Sitaburdi Police Station which is at N-W corner of Variety Square [label 1 in the map]. Keep walking and you will see some book shops on the pavement and footpath of the road. Much further ahead just as the walls of the Patwardhan High School end, you will find about a dozen or so shops, well stacked with books of every kind.

Here are some of photos from my last trip.


The most abundant books that you will get here, as is the case with any other used books shop are the ones required for degree/diploma courses. Mostly these are second grade books written with just one intention of passing the exams the likes of VBD, Pragati etc. And of course there are books for various types of exams. And then there are host of magazines which find there way here.

But to get some really good stuff you will have to hunt through what seem like endless stacks of books. Then suddenly like an epiphany you will find a gem of a book. As far as Mir/ Russian publication books are concerned Delhi and Bombay are dying out, I have not found many in these cities so far. But Nagpur is an exception. Everytime I go there are Mir/Russian publications always to be found.

Apart from the Russian publications some times I have found quite some good books here. After all I began my collection from here. A few of the notable books that I have brought recently from here include the Flora of Marathwada Vol 1 and 2, Handbook of Optics Vol 1 and 2.

Mostly you will have to bargain for the prices that the book sellers quote. They will decide the price by seeing you and your interest in the book. A good way is to start at the halfway mark. But it depends on how seriously you want the book. A good strategy is to take more than one book and then bargain, this way you probably will get it cheaper [cheaper by the dozen?].

As soon as you enter this arena, many of the sellers might call you, to their shops, it can be a bit intimidating if you are not used to it. But anyways they mean no harm.

Just on the opposite side of these sellers is one of the oldest book stores in Nagpur, the Nagpur Book Depot [label 2 in the map]. You can just go there and see if can find something interesting there. They give about 10-15% discount on the list price.

Along this side of the road there are two further old/used book shops, which might harbour some gems. So don’t miss them when you go back to variety square.

Best time to go is on a lazy afternoon. The shops don’t open too early in the morning so don’t go too early. They stay on till the daylight allows the books to be seen. Open on all days of the week.

In the next part of this series we will explore some of the old book shops in Pune.

Till then happy book hunting…

Of Bibliophilia…



Well the other day while surfing the net I found some thing about me. Something about the things that I do has been so clearly defined,I never even wondered that there could be people who have defined and categorised terms like this one.

See this and you will understand. [Or is it this?]
This is one attribute that I certainly have. Collecting and reading books is a passion that I nurtured from my childhood. The ones that I had and read in my childhood were the comics. I read a whole lot of them, covering entire series. So when I went to collect `old’ comics at the Sita Bardi old book sellers, I did got interested in the other books they were selling. So I started buying them also. Initially the budgets were very low, so….
The major ones that I brought in this time were the Russian published Mir titles. I collected a lot over the years and they form one of the most prized collections that I have.
When I shifted to Pune visiting the Deccan `bridge’ became almost a ritual. Almost all the books I acquired during my stay in Pune were brought from Mr. Prabhakar and co. I don’t even have a photo of these guys, maybe next time I go, I will get one…


Update: This is the photo of Mr. Prabhakar that I took in the last trip..

I became one of the regulars there. And so were others….
Also another incident happened in Pune, which really made me in this regard. Me and Samir went to a certain prestigious library, where we were told by the librarian “We don’t need people like you in our library.” Well this really changed my attitude towards possession of books. Books are the key to the code of that knowledge, why it should not be open to all in a free society…
Ebooks are going to change this. You don’t loose an e-book when you give it to someone.
There is another thing that is a bit strange which has happened with me many times. It is cannot be certainly be put in rational sense. The idea that I have is that books call me! Yes you read it right. I many times feel incredibly attracted towards a book when I see it. I mean,  I feel that I have to have this book, there is no compromise….  I don’t know how to explain this, but the books that I have got by this `intuition’ have proved to be immensely useful to me one way or the other. They have at times opened an entirely different world altogether for me.
Some of the titles that I got by this `intuition’ are Larry Collins, Dominique La Pierre – Freedom at Midnight, Douglas Hofstadter, Daniel Dennett – Mind’s I, Martin Gardner – Why’s of a  Philosophical Scrivener among others.
I did not know before that such books even exist. Let alone their content. But when I saw these books I felt this very strong `urge’ that the book is saying, “Take Me with You.” Maybe you are wondering that this guy is nuts, maybe I am but this is what I have experienced.
My life is taking me westwards, literally. Nagpur to Pune, now Pune to Mumbai. Further west is the sea, where do I go from there?
Leaving Pune among other things I had one pain of leaving `the bridge’. Because I had become addicted to go there. Even if I had less money, had no other work, I had to go there. I dunno, maybe it had become an OCD.
Also another thing that I want to tell is about what I feel when I am going through a stack of books at the book seller. I have got used to the shops that I visit frequently so that I know where to look what I want. In exhibition it is  many times much more messier, as the organizers themselves don’t know what the stock of books is. Also when I scan a set of books I look for certain features that I cannot describe, maybe it is like the irrational Logic of Scientific Discovery which Karl Popper proposes. But here again I can find books which others cannot spot.
When I came to Bombay, I became a regular at the Fort and Matunga areas. It has been quite some months since I have visited Matunga, but fort I do frequent a lot.
Each time I go I have another subject or theme  which is added in the books that I look for. The broader subjects include
Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, Electronics, Chemistry, History, Philosophy, Art, Education, Science fiction, psychology and so on…
Also with the ebooks, this collection has been taken to altogether another dimension, now I have about 7000 e-books [and counting]. In this case maybe the bibliomaniac definition is true for me.
Try these and I hope that you won’t be disappointed
ALL CREDITS TO THE ORIGINAL UPLOADERS!!
Space [both mental and physical] really becomes a problem when you have such more books to handle than you can. Anyways it has been and I guess will be a problem for me throughout my life. But I am happy that I have this problem.
Till then wish me another book…

Old Ex Libris for me!