Medicinal Plants Used for Water Purification – An All Herbal Approach

Today you have different kinds of water purifiers to purify drinking water. There was a time in the past when these water purifiers were not available. People during those times used local methods to purify water. The use of certain herbs was one of them. In fact, these techniques are effective even today.

Why are herbs useful for purifying water?

Herbs are renowned for their anti-bacterial properties. Ayurveda uses herbs like Tulsi, Neem, Amla, and wheatgrass for purifying water. The process involves drying and extracting of the leaves and fruits before using them for purification. Here is a list of some medicinal plants used for water purification.

1.  Tulsi – Basil leaves

The Holy Basil (Tulsi) is a sacred plant and one of the most commonly used plant in Ayurveda. Tulsi is primarily used in treating respiratory diseases; however, research has found out that it has also got strong anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties and is effective against pathogens causing infections in human beings.

To put it in simple words, Tulsi is a herb with multipurpose uses such as being used as a medicine for treating cough, cold, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, skin diseases to being used as a detox agent.

Tulsi can also be used as a purifying agent. A handful of basil leaves can purify drinking water. Put some Tulsi leaves in a PET container filled with contaminated water. Keep it in the sun for about 6 hours. You will find that the UV radiation from the sun can kill the pathogens in the water. The Tulsi leaves take care of the sediment impurities. They can also be used to remove fluoride deposits from water.

2.  Neem leaves

Neem is known by the name Azadirachta indica and grows vigorously in Indian subcontinent. Neem like Tulsi has medicinal properties and is used to treat many diseases.

Some of the common ailments that could be treated using Neem are skin ulcers, fever, gum disease, stomach upset, cardiovascular disease, etc. It can also be used as a immune booster and an appetite enhancer.

Neem leaves can do the same job that Tulsi leaves do; however, there is a difference in the fact that Tulsi leaves give a sweet fragrance to the water, but Neem leaves can make the water bitter to taste. 

A word of caution, Neem or Tulsi leaves cannot eliminate all pathogens. Few harmful pathogens may still survive and can cause health issues.

3.  Amla – Gooseberries and Vettiver

Amla is an Indian gooseberry, its scientific name is Phyllanthus emblica. This fruit is rich in vitamin C and minerals and can be consumed in its raw state. It taste a bit sour initially followed by a sweet taste. Amla is also widely known for its medicinal qualities and is used in Ayurveda for thousands of years.

This fruit can help in reducing the TDS levels considerably. In addition, gooseberries can enhance the taste of water. People living in Kerala and Tamil Nadu know the effects of gooseberries or ‘Nellikai’ for purifying water.

Similarly, Vettiver can do the same job for you. These roots are available in plenty in rural Tamil Nadu. Vettiver is used as a flavouring agent because they emit a sweet fragrance.

4.  Thettankottai – Clearing nut

Strychnos potatorum is the botanical name for clearing nut tree and its seeds are used in traditional medicine such as Ayurveda for various ailments like diabetes, skin disease, kidney stones and eye diseases. In fact, it being an effective hypoglycemic compound, further pharmacological studies is likely to take place for considering clearing nut in the treatment of diabetes.

Apart from clearing nut being used as a medicine, it is also used in India as a water purifier. These nuts are extremely useful in removing sediments and turbidity from water. The purification is a unique process. You have to rub the insides of the storage vessel with these seeds. Fill the vessel with water and leave it for some time. The paste from these seeds is a natural coagulant thereby ensuring that the sediments settle down at the bottom.

5.  Cilantro – Coriander

Coriander is a herb which we most often use in cooking. The leaves are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. The coriander leaves can be used for high blood pressure, skin inflammatory conditions, mouth ulcer and digestive problems. It also helps in heavy metal detoxification.

In addition to coriander leaves health benefits, it can also be used in purifying water. You can grind them and use it as a carbon filter by letting water pass through it. Alternatively, you can place some cilantro leaves in water and leave it overnight. This is an effective herbal water filter.

We have seen five different kinds of herbs that are extremely useful for purifying water. There are other seeds like Moringa seed, jackfruit seed, and Java plum seed (Jamun) that play an equally effective role in purifying water. Passing water through banana peels and plant xylem can also help in removing impurities. Aquatic plants like water lilies are very useful in temperate climates as they can remove carbon dioxide from water. Hence, the water becomes less acidic and tastes better.