Njavara Rice - Health Benifits
प्राणिनां पुनर्मूलामाहरो बलवर्णौजसां च।। (Su. Sam.Su 46/3)
Food is the cause of strength, complexion, and vitality of all living beings.
Importance of rice in Indian history & culture
Rice has been mentioned in Vedas including Yajurveda and Rigveda. Because of its life-nourishing qualities, rice is an indispensable part of many Indian rituals as it signifies prosperity, fertility, and abundance. Many of the Indian festivals like Onam, Pongal, and Bihu coincide with the harvest season of rice. Offering rice to deities and traditions like throwing rice over married couple signifies good fortune and luck while in annaprashana, the first feed of newborn is prepared by boiling rice in milk, undoubtedly proving the significance of rice in Indian culture.
A monocot, rice is the staple food of almost half of the world population. The cultivation of rice is estimated to have started about 6500 years ago and there are two domesticated and about twenty-two wild varieties available. Found in warm, tropical and aquatic conditions and depending on the variety, rice provides a varied amount of energy, fiber, protein, and minerals and is the most cultivated grain of the world.
Rice in Ayurveda
Numerous varieties of rice are mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts under the category of Suka dhaanya, which is again categorized into Sali and Vrihi. Among Vrihi Dhanyas, Sastika rice, also called as Njavara is considered as the best, as quoted in the revered text Ashtanga hridaya:
“षष्टिको व्रीहिषु श्रेष्ठो ।“ Ashtangahrdayam Sutram Chapter 6.
It is believed that Njavara grown in upland areas is more potent in qualities.
Recently Njavara was granted the geographical indication tag status and has been in cultivation for more than 2000 years for its immense health benefits.
Sastika rice in Ayurveda
Sashti in Sanskrit means sixty, which indicates the quick maturing span of Sastika rice, which is sixty days. Called Njavara in Dravidian languages, it is truly a medicinal wonder grown especially in Kerala, because of its unique healing properties. Mentioned in Ayurvedic texts as being unctuous, sweet in taste, cold in potency, easily digestible, invigorating, pacifying all three dosas and providing stability, Njavara rice is an unpolished variety and is extensively used in various Ayurvedic treatments. Njavara is considered so exotic, it is often equated to gold by farmers.
स्निग्धो ग्राही गुरुः स्वादुस्त्रिदोशघ्न: स्थिरो हिमः ।
षष्टिको व्रीहिषु श्रेष्ठो गौरश्चासितगौरत: ।। (As. Hri. Su 6/6)
Sastika is mentioned to be of two types, white variety, and blackish white variety; of which white one is considered superior. Used traditionally in many forms because of its proven health benefits, Njavara is acclaimed in the management of neuromuscular diseases and auto-immune disorders. During the Karikadaka season, Ayurveda’s special monsoon therapy to rejuvenate the body, rice gruel made of Njavara rice, fortified with a mixture of herbs, called Karkidaka kanji or Marunnu kanji is used to provide strength and immunity against ailments common during the monsoon. Nourishing and easily digestible, it is an indispensable part of the monsoon therapy as it aids in the cleansing process. Sastika tailam extracted from the bran of Njavara rice is beneficial in neurological conditions and the wasting of muscles.
Njavara rice is comparatively more expensive as it is a low yield crop and is usually cultivated in very restricted areas. It is known as ‘gold with fragrance’ as it can fetch a good price for farmers because of its limited availability and amazing benefits.
Health benefits of Njavara rice
- Njavara rice gruel made with milk helps in improving lactation
- Good weaning food for infants, especially those with low birth weight as it helps in gaining weight
- Also called the rice which heals as it heals internal wounds
- Njavara rice paste is effective in psoriasis and skin lesions
- Loaded with Vitamin C, Njavara also boosts the immune system
- Rich in antioxidants
- High in proteins and rich in fiber content as compared to other rice varieties. Thus, it aids in digestion
- It is rich in flavonoids and oryzanol which possess anti-inflammatory activity
Therapeutic uses of Njavara in Ayurveda
Ayurveda uses Njavara rice in two major procedures: Njavara kizhi and Njavara theppu. Njavara rice is cooked in medicinal decoction and cow’s milk and tied into boluses. These boluses are kept on optimal temperature by repeatedly dipping in a hot mixture of herbal decoction and milk and are used to gently massage over the body. Njavara theppu is another modification of Njavara kizhi, for elderly and children who cannot withstand much heat, in which instead of the boluses, rice paste cooked with an herbal decoction is directly applied over the skin and massage is done in a specific manner. Both these procedures are extremely rejuvenating, improve complexion, calm the senses and are helpful in neurological conditions and relieving arthritis.
Recipe Using Njavara Rice
Paal Kanji (Rice gruel)
- Njavara rice- ½ cup
- Milk- ½ cup
- Water- 3 cups
- Salt- as per taste
- Grated coconut-1 tbsp
- Cumin seeds- ½ tsp
- Wash the rice and soak it for about half an hour
- Drain and add rice along with three cups of water in a pressure cooker
- Pressure cook for three whistles and simmer for five minutes
- Once pressure is released, open the cooker, stir and mash the rice lightly
- Add the milk and boil for some time to acquire the desired thickness
- Roast the cumin seeds and grated coconut till it becomes aromatic
- Add the coconut-cumin mixture to the gruel and add salt to taste
- Serve hot along with green gram (Cherupayar thoran)
1. Is Njavara rice the same as red rice?
Yes. Njavara rice or Navara rice is the same as red rice.
Typically grown in Kerala, the Njavara rice is well known for the multiple health benefits it possesses. Njavara rice is even mentioned in ancient scriptures like the Vedas.
Navara rice benefits include a major source of nourishment for babies and helps them maintain a healthy weight after they have stopped breastfeeding.
2. Is Njavara rice good for diabetes?
While there have been no conclusive studies on whether Njavara rice helps in diabetic treatment, a broth made from it is safe to consume for patients with diabetes.
When it comes to rice diabetics can consume, it is viewed on the basis of the Glycemic Index. To explain this, the higher the Glycemic Index score of rice, the faster blood sugar levels will increase, which is detrimental to diabetics.
While normal white rice has a Glycemic Index of around 75, Njavara rice is closer to 60, making it safe for diabetics to consume.
3. Is Njavara rice good for daily consumption?
If you’re wondering what is Kwath in Ayurveda, or Kwath powder, in particular, they’re herbal powders of Ayurvedic significance enriched with the goodness of herbs. This powder is used to prepare Kwath or Kashayam that is often taken internally to address various health ailments, enhance the digestion process, and boost immunity.
4. Is Njavara rice good for babies?
Absolutely. Porridge or kanji made out of Njavara rice is extremely beneficial for babies, especially when they are in the weaning phase.
It is not only nourishing but also helps babies that are underweight. Njavara rice further benefits babies as it is a source of iron. Finally, since it is low on the Glycemic Index, it takes time to break down and can keep the baby’s stomach full for a longer period.
5. Which is the healthiest type of rice?
There are three varieties of rice that are known to be the most nutritious.
Brown rice (helps with diabetes, blood sugar levels, metabolism, and weight management)
Black rice (helps with certain cancer variants)
Red rice or Njavara rice (helps with heart diseases, reduces inflammation, and increases immunity in the body)
Each of these rice types has a unique set of nutrients that help the body in many ways. Be it curing ailments or bringing about a balance to nutrition and health, these identified types of rice have multiple benefits and are the healthiest.