There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
Tea is one beverage that is loved far and wide, all across the world.
In the early days before the British introduced Tea as we know it today, the Khasis used to drink a popular beverage that they made from a wild plant.
This plant is also well-known as one of the twenty-two herbs the Khasis use to commonly used to treat 'Niangsohpet', that is, infantile diarrhoea or neonatal jaundice.
This herb is called Shiah Krot or Smilax Ferox.
Let's get to know more about this local herb.
What is Shiah Krot?
Shiah Krot is a wild perennial creeper that climbs on large trees. Its roots are hard, hairy, irregular in shape, and rough in appearance.
The thorny looks of the roots gave it its local name Shiah Krot. 'Shiah' means thorn in Khasi.
Some villages also called it 'Soh Krot'.
Scientific Name: Smilax Ferox (Kunth) Smilacaceae
It can be found in temperate climate zones and grows in all seasons.
The best location where you can find Shiah Krot is close to riversides, and on steep slopes.
Locally, this plant is used to make tea. Boiling the roots gives out a brownish-red colour and a mildly sweet flavour. Traditional healers consider it a valuable herb to make a medicine called 'Dawai Niangsohpet' to treat infantile diarrhoea or neonatal jaundice.
A Brief History on Shiah Krot of The Khasis
In olden times when tea leaves were unknown to the locals, Sha shiah Krot or Shiah Krot tea was a popular beverage.
The people dug the roots of Shiah Krot from the forest, washed them in the river and left them to dry in the sun. When dried, they kept them in bamboo baskets or 'shang' for a second drying in the 'ryngien' or hanging bamboo shelf that hung above the fireplace. The smoke from the fire below gave the roots a smoky flavour while retaining the medicinal properties.
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Some villagers still drink this tea and even mix it with milk.
The locals would sometimes crushed and ground the sun-dried Shiah Krot roots in a stone mortar and store them in containers. They preserve and continually use them to make tea and medicine for their family.
After India's Independence in 1947, villages in the valley of Sohra recall an English missionary coming to Katarshnong and the tribal community did not have any beverage to offer. Sha Shiah Krot was the only item they had in their house (Source: NESFAS)
Types of Shiah Krot
Shiah Krot are of two types, identified by their leaves.
- Large leaves – This particular Shiah Krot is more important and is considered having medicinal properties. On boiling the roots in water, it gives out a beautiful brownish-red colour.
- Small leaves – This particular Shiah Krot is considered to be an ordinary one and does not have any medicinal property. The water obtained from it is plain in colour.
Uses of Shiah Krot
The roots and young leaves of Shiah Krot are edible.
The young and large leaves of Shiah Krot are used by most villages to make vegetable curry. We can also mix it with fruits or vegetables to make salads.
The water that comes out of the boiled roots can be used as
- Supplementary to tea, especially for people having health issues.
- Juice when mixed with other fruits.
- Medicinal water for cleansing the face, especially for people with pimple problems.
- Shiah Krot medicinal water can be applied to the navel of newborn babies to prevent bacterial infections.
- A tasty hot beverage when mixed with ginger.
Two typical Meghalaya beverages — Cha Khoo and Sha Shiah Krot — are a big hit among visitors. Their acceptance level has risen manifold since they were re-discovered by women self-help groups and marketed (Source: NESFAS)
How to Make Shiah Krot Tea?
Sha Shiah Krot or Smilax Ferox tea gives out a brownish-red colour. The locals love this herbal tea because of its mild, refreshing, fruity taste and a light feeling.
If you happen to get Shiah Krot roots from the local market, this is how you can prepare the tea:
- First, cut the roots into smaller pieces.
- Wash them thoroughly in clean water at least 3-4 times.
- Sun-dry them for one or two till they dry completely.
- Take one teaspoon of dried and ground Shiah Krot.
- Boil them in 2 cups of water till it gives out a brownish-red colour.
- Strain leaving behind the roots.
- Add sweetener if preferred and enjoy your cup of Shiah Krot tea.
Reuse the roots several times to make several cups of tea.
Health Benefits of Shiah Krot
Shiah Krot has medicinal properties that are beneficial in many ways.
Here are a few of them:
- It helps in fighting and resolving gastric problems. For people who consumed tea, they can lessen the problems by drinking Shiah Krot tea/ water.
L F Ruse, a botanist who studied Northeastern flora between 1922 and 1935, reported on many medicinal plants used by the tribals. He referred to Parvifolia and Smilax ferox (called soh krot locally), the root of which are "ground and the extract mixed in water" to treat stomach disorders.(Source)
- Consumption of junk food is very common, especially amongst children and youths. Drinking Shiah Krot tea helps clean away all the carbon and fats of the junk food present in the body.
- The locals believe it can even help strengthen the bones of young babies as they start walking.
- It also helps people with heart problems, asthma and in maintaining an excellent digestive system of the human body.
- Cleanses the skin and free you from pimples.
Even though Shiah Krot was locally known as a poor man's tea, except the traditional healers, not many people know about it anymore.
A few initiatives have been taken by the government of Meghalaya along with other Self-help groups to revive the uses and benefits of this wild plant and prevent it from extinction. It is being promoted and served on a few food events and restaurants in Shillong.
Zizira believes that this traditional knowledge about these plants needs to be learned and shared. We are discovering and doing our bit to create awareness and promote less its forgotten.