|Illustration of Euryale ferox from Curtis's Botanical Magazine (1812).|
Euryale ferox (also known as Makhana ( मखाना ) in Hindi, fox nut, foxnut, 'thangjing' in Meeteilon i.e. Manipuri, makhana, nikori (in Assamese), Onibas (Onibasu) in Japanese or gorgon nut) is the only species in the genus Euryale. It is a flowering plant classified in the water lily family, Nymphaeaceae, although it is occasionally regarded as a distinct family Euryalaceae. Unlike other water lilies, the pollen grains of Euryale have three nuclei.
Euryale is an perennial plant native to eastern Asia, and is found from India- found in Bihar,(Local name Makhana) and in Loktak Lake Manipur ( local name - Thangzing)] to Korea and Japan, as well as parts of eastern Russia. It grows in water, producing bright purple flowers. The leaves are large and round, often more than a meter (3 feet) across, with a leaf stalk attached in the center of the lower surface. The underside of the leaf is purplish, while the upper surface is green. The leaves have a quilted texture, although the stems, flowers, and leaves which float on the surface are covered in sharp prickles. Other leaves are submerged. In India, Euryale normally grows in ponds, wetlands etc. Recently the Indian Council of Agricultural Research have found out a technique for the field cultivation of Euryale.
The plant produces starchy white seeds, and the seeds are edible. The plant is cultivated for its seeds in lowland ponds in India, China, and Japan. The Chinese have cultivated the plant for over 3000 years. More than 96,000 hectares of Bihar, India, were set aside for cultivation of Euryale in 1990-1991. The plant does best in locations with hot, dry summers and cold winters. Seeds are collected in the late summer and early autumn, and may be eaten raw or cooked.
In India, in the northern (Punjab) and western parts of the country, Euryale ferox seeds are often roasted or fried, which causes them to pop like popcorn. These are then eaten, often with a sprinkling of oil and spices. In Mithila culture of Mithilanchal, makhana known as Makhaana in Maithili is an auspicious ingredient in offerings to the Goddesses during festivals and is used to show reverence and in cooking, specially to make a porridge/pudding called Kheer of makhana or 'makhaanak kheer' or 'makhaanak payasam' and Makhane Ka Rayta (Makhana Yougurt Blend). Makhhaan along with Paan (betel leaf),Maachch (fish) is symbolic to Maithil culture.
Evidence from archaeobotany indicates that Euryale ferox was a frequently collected wild food source during the Neolithic period in the Yangtze region, with large numbers of finds coming from the sites of Kuahuqiao, Hemudu, and Tianluoshan. The earliest recorded use of Euryale ferox to date was found in Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel, among artifacts of the Acheulean culture 790-750,000 years ago.
The seeds of foxnut are used in ayurvedic preparations. Fox nut alleviates vata and pitta dosha. It strengthens the heart and is very useful in anemia. Makhana increases quality and quantity of semen, prevents premature ejaculation, increases libido and helps in female infertility. It is an important ingredient of herbal preparations used for erectile dysfunction. It strengthens body and increases energy level. Because of its aphrodisiac properties it is grouped under vrishyadi varga. The herbs under this group are used in vajikarana therapy.
The texts of ayurveda describe properties of foxnut or makhanna as follows
“makhannam snigdhavrishyam cha garbhasamsthapakam param | Vatapitta haram balyam sheetam pittasradaahanut ||”
Makhanna increases stickiness of secretions by increasing moisture level in body. Hence it increases quality and quantity of semen and useful in impotence. It helps to increase the fertility in women and reduces vata and pitta. It strengthens the body and reduces burning sensation and quenches thirst. According to principles of traditional Chinese medicine fox nut or Makhana is used to strengthen spleen and kidneys. It is indicated in conditions like spermatorrhea, premature ejaculation, neuralgia, incontinence, chronic diarrhea etc. According to herbalists it is helpful in preventing early discharge of semen and restores sexual vigor in older men.( Because of this property the fox nut is categorized under Vajikarana dravyas in texts of ayurveda.) Makhana helps in conditions like arthritis, erectile dysfunction and premature aging. This herb has antioxidant properties and helps in digestion, rejuvenates respiratory system and prevents frequent urination. In Chinese, the plant is called qiàn shí (simplified Chinese: 芡实; traditional Chinese: 芡實). Its edible seeds are used in traditional Chinese medicine, where they are often cooked in soups along with other ingredients.
- Cronquist, Arthur (1981). An Integrated System of Classification of Flowering Plants. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 111. ISBN 0-231-03880-1.
- Flora of China, "Euryale ferox"
- Mabberley, D. J. (1987). The Plant-book. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-34060-8.
- "Euryale ferox - Gorgon Plant". International Water Gardener. Retrieved 2008-02-26.[dead link]
- Fuller, D. Q. et al.; Qin, L; Zheng, Y; Zhao, Z; Chen, X; Hosoya, LA; Sun, GP (2009). "The Domestication Process and Domestication Rate in Rice: Spikelet bases from the Lower Yangtze". Science 323 (5921): 1607–1610. doi:10.1126/science.1166605. PMID 19299619.
- Goren - Inbarand, N.; Melamed, Y.; Zohar, I.; Akhilesh, K.; Pappu, S. (2014-10-11). "Beneath Still Waters - Multistage Aquatic Exploitation of Euryale ferox (Salisb.) during the Acheulian". Internet Archaeology (37). Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- Fox Nut (qian shi)
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