Millets Benefits, Qualities, Varieties, Research, Recipes

By Dr Renita D’Souza
Millets are small seeded gluten-free cereal. Its high protein content makes it a good energy booster. They are good source of antioxidant and improve digestive health, respiratory functions, detoxifies the body, improves immunity, prevents degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s diseases, diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer etc
Read – Barley (Hordeum vulgare) – Qualities, Uses, Remedies, Research

Introduction

A research study have mentioned that consuming millet grains (kodo millet) 6 times every week is considered as wholesome diet for postmenopausal women with high cholesterol, blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. (read related)

In some parts of Asia and Africa, use millet as main food component. It is also used to prepare beverages, bread, porridge and snack foods. Millet is an alkaline forming food and balances the pH of the body.

Millets are often referred to as ‘coarse grain’ or ‘poor people’s crops’. They are cultivated all over the world. They are small seeded, round in shape. They are cultivated in less fertile soil, require less water and resistant to pests and diseases.
Read – Chickpea (Bengal gram) – Qualities, Uses, Remedies, Types, Research

Benefits of Millets

  • Diabetes – The magnesium content in millets helps to promote healthy blood sugar level (read related)
  • Cardiovascular diseases – Millets reduces the cholesterol level and prevents cardiovascular diseases. The magnesium content in millets reduces the frequency and effects of migraine and heart attack.
  • Obesity – The studies show that consuming high dietary fibre food prevents incidence of obesity. The Vitamin B3 content of millet helps to reduce cholesterol level.
  • Celiac disease – Millets are gluten free and hence used in patients suffering from gluten-sensitive enteropathy
  • Cancer – The phenolics content in millets helps to prevent the risk cancer. (read more)
  • Inflammation – Millets are good source of antioxidant and thus stimulate wound healing, prevents tissue damage and pre-aging symptoms.
  • Prevent Gall stones – The insoluble fiber content of millet helps to prevent gall stones (read more)
  • Gastric Ulcers – Its anti acidic property and high fibre content reduces the risk of gastric ulcers and relieves constipation.
  • Childhood Asthma – consuming millet reduces the risk of childhood asthma by about 50%.

Medicinal Qualities

Millets – Trinadhanya

In Ayurveda, millets belong to the group of Trina dhanya varga (group of grains produced by grass like plants)

Synonyms
Trinadhanya, Shudra dhanya, Kudhanya

Qualities
Taste – sweet, astringent
Vipaka (taste conversion after digestion) – pungent (katu)
Virya (potency) – slightly hot (kinchith ushna)
Ruksha – dry in nature
Kleda shoshakam – dries up excess body moistness
Badda vitkam – constipating in nature
Avrishyam – non aphrodisiac
Effect on Tridosha
Vatakrth – increases vata dosha
Pitta rakta kaphaapaham – Balances pitta, kapha dosha and blood tissue
Read – Ayurveda Mahodadhi Dhanya Varga – Types Of Rice

Cooked Millets Uses

Trina dhanoudana, Uses

Well cooked millets are light to digest, appetizing and carminative in nature. Excess intake can increases vata dosha.
Uses
Breathlessness
Splenic disorders
Liver disorders
Gudagata vikaras like haemorroids, fissure, fistula etc.
Read – Rice Combinations With Pulses, Vegetables, Grains, Soups

Nutritional Values

Nutritional Value of Millets
Millets contain carbohydrates – 60-70%, proteins – 7-11%, fat – 1.5-5%, crude fiber 2-7%. They are good source calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, polyphenols and protein.

Millet Recipes

Different recipes are prepared from millets.
Appalu – It is a crispy snack prepared from pearl millet and bengal gram.
Samaipayasam – It is a sweet (kheer) preparation.
Korramurukulu – It is crispy savoury snack, prepared from foxtail millet and bengal gram flour. (read more here)
Beverages
Sur – It is a finger millet based fermented beverage.
Madua – Finger-millet-based beverage prepared in Arunachal Pradesh.
Oshikundu – It is prepared by fermenting pearl millet meal (mahangu), malted sorghum, bran and water
Koozh – It is prepared by fermenting millet flour and rice
Read – Ayurvedic Wheat Noodles: How To Make? Benefits

Wrong food Combination

  • Consuming chinaka (Proso millet) and other grains along with milk, curd, buttermilk, oil etc can cause ekakushta (psoriasis) read related
  • Kangu (Foxtail millet) along with milk are mutually contradictory. (read)

Indigestion by Millets

Indigestion caused by kangu (Foxtail millet) is treated by Mantha (churned curd/supernatant of buttermilk)
Read – 120 Remedies For Indigestion Caused By Specific Foods

Varieties, Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals
Millet contains phenolics, lignans, β-glucan, inulin, resistant starch, phytates, sterols, tocopherol, dietary fiber and carotenoids.

Varieties of Millets
Pearl millet – Pennisetum glaucum ( Sajjai, Bajra)
Finger millet – Eleusine coracana (Ragi, Mandua)
Kodo millet – Paspalum setaceum (Harka, Kodon)
Proso millet – Penicum miliaceum (Baragu, Barre)
Foxtail millet – Setaria italic (Navane, Kangni)
Little millet – Panicum sumatrense (Same, Kutki)
Barnyard millet – Echinochloa utilis (Oodalu, Sanwa)
Sorghum – Sorghum spp.
Guinea millet – Brachiaria deflexa
Browntop millet – Urochloa ramose
Teff – Eragrostis tef
Fonio – Digitaria exilis
Job’s tears – Coix lacrima-jobi
Read – Adlay millet Coix lacryma-jobi: Benefits, Research, Remedies

Sanskrit Verses

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most of the dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.

Finger millet – Ragi Benefits

Botanical Name – Eleusine coracana

Vernacular names

Hindi Name – Ragi, Marwah, Mandika
Bengali Name – Marwa
Gujarati Name – Nagli, Bavto
Kannada Name – Ragi
Marathi Name – Nagli, Nachni
Punjabi Name – Mandhal, Mandhuka
Tamil Name – Ragi, Keppai, Kelvaragu
Telugu Name – Ragi codhi
Read – Wheat Uses, Health Benefits, Side Effects: Complete Ayurveda Details

Uses

  • Ragi is a good source of natural calcium and iron.
  • It strengthens the bone and prevents fractures.
  • It is a good diet for diabetic patients because of slow release of sugars in blood.
  • Due to its high fiber content it reduces the cholesterol level, relieves constipation, bloating, flatulence and prevents colon cancer.
  • It is a nutritious food, rich in calcium, proteins, aminoacids, minerals and vitamins, hence considered as beneficial diet for infants, aged and pregnant women.
  • It improves the breast milk production.
  • It is used in anemia, prevents malnutrition and degenerative diseases. It increases the hemoglobin level. (read)

Finger millet Wine

The wine prepared finger millet (Madhulika) is heavy to digest (guru), causes bloating and aggravates Kapha dosha. This reference is found in Charaka Samhitha Sutrasthana 27th chapter.

Chinaka (Proso millet)

Proso millet is a nutritious gluten free crop and a good source of energy. Studies show that proso millet contains high iron and protein content than wheat or rice (a)

In Ayurveda, it is known by the name Chinaka. It is considered as a variety of kangu and possess similar quality. Proso millet is one of the commonly cultivated millet.

Botanical Name – Panicum miliaceum
Family – Gramineae

Uses

  • Proso millet has high content of Vitamin B3 (niacin) and hence used in Pellagra, a condition characterized by dementia, diarrhea and dermatitis caused by deficiency of Vitamin B3.
  • Traditionally it is consumed while recovering from illness and post pregnancy.
  • The husked proso millet grains are cooked like rice, gruel or eaten whole.
  • They are also made in to flat bread (roti).
  • Used to make Tabbouleh (Mediterranean salad) and fermented beverages (A).
  • Proso millet is used as birds feed and as livestock feed in developed countries.
    Read – Green Gram (Mung bean) Qualities, Uses, Remedies, Research

Vernacular Name

English Name – Indian millet, Brown-corn millet, Common millet, French millet, Grand millet, Millet panic (grass), Proso millet, Russian millet, Hog Millet, Broomcorn millet, Red millet
Hindi Name – Chena, Chinna, Chaina
Bengali Name – Cheena
Marathi Name – Varivava, vari
Gujarati Name – Chine, China, Cheno
Kannada Name – Baragu
Tamil Name – Panivaragu
Telugu Name – Varigalu, Variga
Punjabi Name – Cheena
Odia – china bachari bagmu
Spanish Name – mijo comun
French Name – millet commun, millet des oiseaux
Germany – Echte Hirse, Echte Rispenhirse, Rispen- Hirse
Italy – miglio nostrale

Controversy

The word ‘Chinaka’ is also considered as a variety of camphor (karpura) and known to be as artificial camphor.

Sanskrit Synonyms

Chinaka, Kakakangu, Sushlakshna,
Shlakshnaka

Morphology, Distribution

Morphology
Proso millet are small seeded annual crop. It grows up to 30 to 100 cm tall.
Leaves are alternately arranged, linear and slender covered with fine hairs. Seeds are 3 mm long, 2 mm wide and oval in shape. They are enclosed in a smooth husk which can be white, yellow, red and can also be in gray, brown or black colour. This crop matures in 50 – 90 days and does not require more water. Roots are fibrous and shallow.

Distribution
Proso millet is cultivated in China, India, Nepal, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Middle East, Turkey, Romania and the United States.

Classical Categorization

Bhavaprakasha Nighantu – Dhanya varga
Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Dhanya varga
Read – Importance Of Diet (Pathya) For Specific Diseases

Kangu (Foxtail millet)

Botanical Name – Setaria italica
Family – Gramineae

Foxtail millet (kangu) is a good source of magnesium. It is good for heart and prevent diabetes.

Vernacular Names

Sanskrit Name – Kangu
English Name – Foxtail millet
Hindi Name – Kanguni, Kagani, Tanguni
Bengali Name – Kanguni
Marathi Name – Kang, rala
Telugu Name – Koralu, Korra
Tamil Name – Thinai, Kavalai, Kambankorai, Nuvanam (millet flour)
Gujarati Name – Kanga
Kannada Name – Navane, Navanakki
Punjabi Name – Kangni
Malayalam Name – Thina
Nepali Name – Kaguno

Medicinal Qualities of Kangu

Taste – sweet, astringent
Ruksha – dry in nature
Guru – heavy to digest
Ruchya – improves taste
Virya (potency) – cold
Bhagna sandhana – heals fracture
Brumani – nourishes
Dahagna – relieves burning sensation
Vaajinam – good for horses

Effect on Tridoshas
Decreases kapha dosha
Increases vata dosha
Read – Bad Food Combinations And Solution As Per Ayurveda

According to Nighantu as mentioned in Bhojana Kutuhalam, Kangu promotes union of broken body parts, aggravates vata, nourishes the body. It is heavy and dry, alleviates kapha and is especially healthy for horses.

Sanskrit synonyms

Kangu, Priyangu, Pitatandula, chinaka

Varieties of Kangu

1. Black (krishna) variety
2. Red (laal) variety
3. White (sitha) variety
4. Yellow (pitha) variety
Yellow variety is considered to be the best.

Classical categorization

Bhavaprakasha Nighantu – Dhanya varga
Raja Nighantu – Shalyadi varga
Dhanvantari Nighantu – Suvarnadi varga
Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Dhanya varga
Shodala Nighantu – Trinadhanya varga

Controversy

Priyangu (Callicarpa macrophylla) is a different herb which has Kangu and Kanguni as its synonyms.
Read – Priyangu Callicarpa macrophylla: Uses, Research, Remedies

Shyamaka (Barnyard millet)

Botanical Name – Echinochloa esculenta
Synonym – Echinochloa utilis
Family – Gramineae

Vernacular Name

Sanskrit Name – Shyamaka
Hindi Name – Sawa, Sav
Bengali Name – Sawa, Shamula, Shyamadhana
Marathi Name – Jangali sama, Samula, Bhagar
Kannada Name – Samai, Savai, Oodalu
Gujarati Name – Samo, Samoghasa
Telugu Name – Odulu
Tamil Name – Kudraivali pillu, Kuthirai Vaali

Medicinal Qualities, Uses

Taste – sweet, astringent (kashaya)
Laghu – light to digest
Ruksha – dry in nature
Snigdha – unctuous (according to Dhanvantari and Raja Nighantu)
Shoshana – causes depletion of tissues
Potency (virya) – cold
Sangraahi – absorbent in nature
Visha doshanuth – used in poisoning and toxic conditions
Effect on Dosha
Increases vata
Balances kapha and pitta dosha
Read – Navara Rice (Shashtika Shali) Qualities, Uses, Remedies, Research

Uses

  • Shyamaka is used as treatment for over nourishment i.e brimhana. (ref – A.H. Su 14)
  • Traditionally it is considered as beneficial diet in diabetes (read)
  • It is one of the best diet used in rheumatoid arthritis.(read)

Sanskrit Synonyms

Shyamaaka, Shyamaka, Shyama, Tribija, Avipriya, Sukumara, Rajadhanya, Trinabijothama.

Research
Antiproliferative activity – A study conducted on Phyotchemical content and antiproliferative activity of Proso millet have concluded significant cellular antioxidant and antiproliferative properties of proso millet. The phenolic acid content in Proso millet contributes to its anticancer activity. The study also showed that consumption of Proso millet improves general health.
Anti diabetic Activity – A study conducted to evaluate the effect of foxtail millet (Setaria Italica) based diet on blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. The result concluded that consumption of foxtail millet based diet for 30 days controls the blood glucose level.

Ayurvedic medicine

Ayurvedic Medicines with Millet as Ingredient
Sri Sri Tattva Ojasvita Ragi – Used as a daily herbal health drink for all age groups.

Classical Categorization

Bhavaprakasha Nighantu – Dhanya varga
Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Dhanya varga
Dhanvantari Nighantu – Suvarnaadi varga
Raja Nighantu – Shalyaadi varga
Shodala Nighantu – Trinadhanya varga

Click to Consult Dr Renita D’Souza

Opinion by Gary:
I think the best varieties of millet for general use are kodo and barnyard. Like barley and gavedhuka were once main grains, it seems those higher in fiber are more suited to the modern lifestyle. Finger, foxtail, and other varieties having become popular, I think it is because many used to be active, like farmers, and needed the energy (such as from rice or urad dal) for work. Most do not live that life anymore.

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