Agathi Keerai or Humming Bird Tree leaves as it is called in English is made for Dwadasi Paranai (or the meal had on Dwadashi – the 12th day of the fortnight) after the fasting on Ekadashi. The velvety flower of this plant, when in bud, curves outward like a long beak; hence the name ‘humming bird flower’. In Tamil Nadu, we call it agathi poo. The plant (botanical name Sesbania grandiflora) is said to be named after Sage Agastya who specialised in ancient medicine. These leaves have got a variety of health benefits.
Both the leaves and flowers rank high in nutritional and medicinal value. But the flower is not easily available, as it is delicate and does not have a shelf life. It has to be cooked within a day of plucking.
Agathi keerai is highly alkaline and has cooling properties. Hence it is consumed when breaking fast on Dwadasi. It can cure stomach ulcers. It also removes toxins from the blood.
It is rich in vitamin A, calcium and iron. It also helps to relieve constipation as it has laxative properties. Being rich in Vitamin A, it is consider good for the eyes also.
The juice of these flowers put in the eyes is said to relieve dimness of vision.
Boiling Agathi leaves in water and drinking it kills the germs and bacteria in the stomach.
This keerai should not be taken often (can be taken once in 15 days) and those under medication should not take it as it will reduce the power of medicines.