The Cactus familiar to deserts is also grown in gardens. Some Indian Cactii like the Euphorbia nerifolia Linn and a type of Opuntia Tournex Mill cacteae have miracle powers as a Lightning Repulser apart from Medicinal uses.
Snake God Cactus:
The Euphorbia nerifolia Linn is known by it’s more common name as the Manasa plant. Manasa, incidentally, is a Snake Goddess worshipped by Hindus all over Bengal and Bangladesh. The Sanskrit name is Snuhi and in Hindi it is Sij. Having a Manasasij in and around one’s house in Calcutta and Bengal Towns and villages is considered auspicious. It is supposed to keep off poisonous snakes and wards off Lightning hits ! Hindus offer puja to this Cactus, particularly on Manosa Puja day which usually falls around August. I have a big Manasa tree in my backyard, having considered it to be an ordinary Cactus at the time of planting it.
Lightning Repulser Cactus:
A variety of Opuntia Cacteae, belonging to the Prickly Pear family is considered a Natural Lightning Repulser. It resembles a miniature trident and at times looks like a man standing with both hands raised ! Having planted a few around my house more as a fencing to ward off cattle, I now find it’s use as a Natural Lightning Repulser quite interesting. The other variety of Opuntia known locally as the Nagfas in Hindi and Kanhari in Sanskrit, resembles a snake with a raised hood. No wonder it is called Phani Manasa in Bengali. However, it is the Trident variety of Prickly Pear having triangular shaped stems that serve as the popular Lightning Repulser. Normally during Thunderstorms featuring High Voltage Lightning strikes, people of Calcutta switch off their Fridge, Computers and disconnect Cable TV-connections.
Opuntia Cactii (Prickly Pear): The syrup of the cactus made from the milk of the triangular stem is considered a remedy for the worst type of coughs including Whooping Cough. The white latex like secretion is also considered a Constipation Reliever.
Euphorbia nerifolia Linn (Manasa Sij): The white milky latex of this cylindrical prickly plant is considered a good medicine for Gout patients, and those with Stomach/ Digestive Disorders. The roots when chewed provide protection against Dental Bacteria and Caries. In severe type of Ear Aches, leaves of Manasa and leaves of Calotropis gigantia R. Br. known as Akunda in Bengali/Hindi and Alark in Sanskrit are crushed together first. Then it is put in burning charcoal to produce an oily secretion which is inserted inside the painful ear at lukewarm temperature. The root extract when mixed with certain Indian Herbs also cure snakebite poisoning. The tree’s milky white latex (few drops) when consumed also brings out sticky phlegm in chronic cases of Cough. Turmeric paste when mixed with the latex is applied to Bleeding Piles, Fistula etc., offers immediate relief. Indian Ayurvedic practitioners advise the use of this plant’s products with the utmost religious reverence for better results.