Charmaine D’Souza is on a mission to promote the use of natural herbs and spices to improve people’s well-being. As one of India’s top clinical nutritionists, in her 23 years of practising she’s built up a client list that includes some of the country’s most famous movie stars and wealthiest entrepreneurs. Bollywood celebrities such as Karan Johar, Neetu Singh Kapoor, Rani Mukerji and Yash Birla all rely on her for advice.
She maintains that natural ingredients can treat a whole host of illnesses, from minor ailments such as colds and headaches right up to life-threatening ones, such as diabetes and cancer. To impart this knowledge to the rest of the population, she has condensed her findings into a new book, Kitchen Clinic: Good Health Always, in which she shares her recipes with readers.
Speaking from her home in Mumbai, she explained what prompted her to write the work.
“The publisher wanted me to do a book about how I treat the Bollywood stars, including their case studies,” she recalls. “But I was not keen to do this, because it meant sharing a lot of confidential information that I wasn’t prepared to divulge. So I decided to come up with a book that anybody could pick up and utilise.”
Within the book, one can find a whole list of natural ingredients and which illnesses or conditions they are supposed to help.
For example, she says curry leaves are effective in treating premature greying of the hair, nutmeg can treat asthma, while turmeric can prevent arthritis and Alzheimer’s. The book also contains a list of recipes to deal with specific illnesses, such as diabetes, thyroid problems or prostate issues.
She says many of her methods come from ancient Indian wisdom that has been ignored for years, but is finally being recognised for its effectiveness.
“In the past, here in India we copied western medicine. But now we are realising that our own way of healing can be more effective,” she contends.
She points to the example of an indigenous Indian plant called the drumstick tree. “The leaves of this tree contain a lot of vitamin C, calcium and other minerals, but it’s a very cheap vegetable,” she explains. “Only the poorest people would eat it. But now its nutritional value has been realised, it’s available for sale as an expensive powder called Moringa and people are using it as an antioxidant. But people are importing this powder from the US, when it’s available everywhere in India.” Yet she makes it clear she is not telling people to totally ignore their doctor’s advice.
“I would never tell people to stop taking their medication, but it’s possible to wean them off it onto more natural replacements. Eventually they will not need them anymore,” she claims. “Of course, if someone has cancer, we wouldn’t say that natural ingredients can cure cancer.
“But while they are having radiotherapy or chemotherapy we can advise them what to eat. We would never say don’t have chemotherapy, but we can help alleviate the effects of it.”
Such is her fame – as well as a celebrity-packed patient list from India – that she also advises people from elsewhere in the world, including clients based in the UAE.
“Among people in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, diabetes and high blood pressure are very common because of their lifestyle,” she says. “Thankfully, most of my ingredients are available in the UAE, if not fresh then in powdered form. If you can’t find them in shops, they’re available on the internet.”
Because her recipes consist of ingredients that can be readily purchased, she believes she can make a real difference to everyone’s lives, not just the rich.
“You know, not all of us can afford a Mercedes, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to maintain your health,” she says. “You can buy a lot of ingredients in your supermarket that will keep you healthy.”
Kitchen Clinic: Good Health Always is published by Random House (India) and is available in bookshops now
Stay in shape the natural way
Increase your energy levels by drinking water that has been infused with star anise (five buds per litre).
To prevent colds, drink water that has been infused with two cloves and three green cardamoms (per litre).
To aid against memory loss, take one tablespoon of honey mixed with five strands of saffron and one powdered walnut daily.