Thumba Flower is another example of a native plant slowly departing from our households and villages. Like Krishnakireedam (pagoda flower), its white flowers were once unavoidable during Onam Festival. It is also widely popular as a taste enhancer, especially when added to rice dishes.
However, although fewer in number, it is still found commonly in Kerala. Below you can see a few photos clicked from the premises of my house.
It belongs to the family Lamiaceae. In English, it is Common Leucas.
Apart from it, Karinthumba (Anisomeles malabarica) and Perunthumba (Leucas cephalotes) are also close relatives from the same family.
Thumba grows to a height of 30 to 40 cm on average. It is an erect herb with hair-like projections all over the leaves and stem.
Leaves are lanceolate with pointed tips. They can be somewhere between 3 to 6 cm long and 1 to 1.5 cm broad. They appear hairier underneath compared to the upper side. The leaves have glucoside content.
The flower is white. It resembles the shape of feet. It looks like a bilabiate.
The flowers grow from whorls which occur at the tip. They are nearly spherical.
As a native herb, Thumba has been popular in Ayurveda, folk-medicine, and Naturopathy. It is also said to have antifungal properties [ref1]. It may be helpful for curing fever and constipation.
Apart from medicinal applications, Thumba has always been an ingredient in Indian culinary as a taste enhancer. Thumba Rice and Thumbapoo Payasam are famous in Kerala.
Sanskrit: Dronapushpi, Chitrapatrika
Hindi: Chotta halkusa
Tamil: Thumbai, Thumbaichedi
Bengali: Daruna phoola
Scientific name: Leucas aspera