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Bakula Tree

Bakula or Mimusops elengi has been too much in the news for its growing demand. The Bakula pushpa plant has lots to offer and is also called Indian Medlar or Bulletwood tree when it comes to therapeutic benefits. However, Indians aren’t stranger to its beneficial properties for hair care and skin care. Known as Bakula to us, back home, this tree finds mention in the ancient scriptures of Ayurveda as well as in Kalidas’ Megduta.

It is believed that Bakula flowers bloom when a sweet wine is sprinkled from the mouth of a beautiful woman on them. They are the harbinger of ‘basant’ or spring in India. The blooming phase of the flowers is from May to June. The flowers are small, about 2 cm in diameter. The flower has a crown coming out from the middle. The flowers would fall by morning, however, the fragrance remains as-it-is.

Bakula has fresh and sweet-smelling fragrance.  It is an evergreen tree and it has distinctive appearance due to its dark bark with deep fissures. The bark is red on the inside whereas the reddish-grey bark, which is hardy, makes for the outer part. Bakula trees grow throughout the country and have smooth and shiny leaves.

The flowers grow in bunches and are fragrant. They are white in colour with a yellow-ish tinge. The fragrance can be retained for years if the flowers are sun-dried and preserved well. The dried flowers are used to make necklaces and other ornaments by women. The fruits of the trees are oval-shaped and green in colour when raw. The fruits turn yellow on ripening. The ripened fruits are shiny and become grayish brown. They would have usually 1 or 2 seeds and are caustic in mature. The flowers bloom in April whereas the fruits develop in June.

Medicinal Uses of Bakula Tree, Bark, Fruits and Flowers

The flowers are used to extract a volatile oil while the fruits and seeds are used for their phytoactive compounds such as quercitrol, ursolic acid, triterpene alcohol, di-hydroquercetin and more. Even the bark of the tree has some complex compounds that can be used for various therapeutic benefits, hence Bakula tree found in various ayurvedic books as a medicinal plant.

Bakula fruits are believed to provide relief in diarrhoea and in dental problems such as caries and gum disease.  The tender stems are used as toothbrushes and the bark powder can be used as an exfoliator for teeth. Gargling with the solution of its bark powder and Acacia catechu is very beneficial for bleeding gums and swollen gums. It is also believed to have cardiovascular benefits, but there is no scientific data to back it up.  The flowers have anti-inflammatory and healing properties.

Bakula fruits also double up as a body tonic. It is believed to strengthen the nervous and cardiac system. According to Ayurveda, its fragrance relives in migraines and common headache.

Bakula Tree for Religious Purposes:

Bakula flowers are offered to Lord Ganesha during the 21-pushpa puja. The flowers are considered to be very sacred in Jainism and Buddhism.

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Kewda Flower

Kewda(Pandanus odoratissimus) orkevra or kewra fragrance is mainly extracted from the male flowers. Registered under the Geographical Indications (GI) of Goods Registration and Protection Act by GoI, Kewda is mainly produced in Ganjam district, Odisha. Though Kewda flowers and fragrance extract is found in all over India, the 90 percent of the production happens in Gopalpur, Jagannathpur, Brahmapur and Chhatrapur area of Ganjam district.

The flower grows on small trees and shrubs. The plant can be cultivated as well as can be seen growing in the wild in the coastal area. If you have been to any coastal area, you can see fresh flower bouquets made of kewda flowers, especially in Odisha. The tree or shrub can reach over 18 feet. The plant has aerial roots as well, these are formed especially when it is growing in the wild and need Oxygen.  It has thorns as well.

A fully developed kewda tree would produce spikes consisting of 30-40 flowers, each weighing about 6 inches.

Types of kewra flower:

The male and female flowers are produced on different plants. The male flowers are called Ketaki Viphala and female flowers are called Swarna Ketaki in Sanskrit. The plant flowers three times a year, in summer, monsoon and winter. July-September or monsoon season is the best time for the flowers to bloom, with 60 percent flowers growing in the season.

Male Kewra Flowers:

Male kewra flowers have rose-like sweet and fruity fragrance. Only the male flowers are used to extract fragrance.

Female Kewra Flowers:

Female kewra flowers have no fragrance and hence, left as it is to develop into fruits.

Use of Kewra

Kewra is used as a food flavour and in aromatic industry. It is also used in Ayurveda to provide symptomatic relief in diabetes, fever, joint pain, earache and to manage threatened abortion as well as psychiatric conditions. Kewda is very popular among medicinal plants.

Types of Kewra Extracts

Kewra Ruh (Oil)

Extracted from male flowers, it is 100 percent pure oil. 370 pounds of oil is extracted in bhattis by processing over 1,200 flowers. This is used in Ayurveda to heal degenerative diseases.

Kewra Attar (Perfume)

With only three to five percent of the kewra oil and the rest of sandalwood oil, it is mainly used in aromatic, perfumery and cosmetics industry.

Kewra Jal (Hydrosol)

The kewra jal is produced as a primary product from low-quality flowers or it is mainly a secondary product developed in the production of either oil or attar. Kewra water is only 0.02 percent of kewra oil. 20 flowers can produce kewra jal, which is mainly used to mildly flavour desserts like rasmalai, gulab jamun or rasgulla. Sometimes, it is also used to enrich biryani.

Kewra and Tobacco

Kewra oil is also used to prepare gutka.

Cosmetic use of Kewda

Women in India are used to keep kewda flowers in their clothes to mildly scent them. They also use them to braid their hair. People have been imitating them in gold and silver too.

Ganpati pooja with Kewda flowers

It is believed to be the favourite flower of Lord Ganesha. During festivals, Swarna Gouri Vrata and Varaha Mahalakshmi Pooja, it is offered to the goddesses.

Leaves of Ketaki Flowers:

Leaves are used to make mats, bags and basket while the roots are used to bind them together.

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Make way for trendy flower jewellery!

Floral jewellery and saree is one awesome combination. Taking your ethnic wear to a whole new level of style and class, floral jewellery helps you strike the balance between the dazzling bling of a Kanjivaram or Banarasi and subtle style. Besides, it doesn’t overwhelm you. If you are looking to stand apart amidst the glam and glitz, go classy and refreshingly subtle with flower jewellery for sangeet and other functions!

Shine at wedding functions with flower jewellery. Wear bracelets and gajra for a social event. It is not just us caught in the awe of flowers and it is not even a new-age fad. Men and women from ancient civilisations have been adorning themselves with flowers. Not so long ago, Chinese would wear tulips, chrysanthemums and poppies wear flowers on their heads. Hollywood celebrity Diane Kruger made her fragrant presence felt on a red carpet wearing an Indian gajra with her Western ensemble!

From Kalidas’ Shakuntla to Alia Bhatt in Two States, we have every reason to believe that flower jewellery is here to stay! Much earlier, when we hadn’t discovered gold or any precious metal to adorn ourselves, it was flowers, succulents and twigs that let us adorn our bodies on special occasions.

Even now, the tribes of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley weave pink buds into hair and wear large leaves as headgear. The famous photographer, Hans Silvester describes their flower jewellery as Natural Fashion and has also extensively covered them. He goes on to describe the swiftness of the nomads in creating headgear and flowers and how these extensions of nature provide a shield against the sun to the wearer.

The Flower Power!

Floral jewellery is light and easy to maintain. You can wear it with your summer dress while you are heading for a destination wedding. You can also team it up with the Kanjivarams and cotton sarees to bring out the best of your ethnic look. You can choose from real flower jewellery or dry flower jewellery. The former is perishable and can only withstand heat and exertion for not more than three to four hours. Anyway, the shelf life of flowers is reduced to half when they are separated from the branches. However, dry flower jewellery is a much better option as it is durable and you can easily wear it for years to come.

Like your sarees, flower jewellery is also versatile. You can wear it to any social occasion and flaunt it! However, keeping your blouse design and colour of the saree in mind, you would like to tweak the pattern a bit. For instance, if you are wearing a mandarin blouse, you would like to do away with flower necklace or garland. If it is a summer wedding, choose pastels and light colour. The prints and flower jewellery can be quite overwhelming while negating the standalone beauty of both styles. The idea is to stand out hence, it is better to ensure that last minute experiments with your wedding look or party styles have refrained and your order flower jewellery much in advance!

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Saffron Flowers (Crocus Sativus)

Saffron, which is known as one of the most expensive spices by weight, is derived from Crocus sativus or the saffron flower. The saffron strands are basically the crimson styles and stigmas of the flowers, which are collected and dried over a period.

Common Name: Saffron | Scientific Name: Crocus

This perhaps is the costliest spice in the world by weight and is believed to be first cultivated in Greece, followed by Eurasia, North Africa, North America and Oceania. Saffron’s unique taste and the hay-like fragrance are mainly due to the presence of chemicals such as safranal and picrocrocin. The golden yellow hue is due to a carotenoid pigment called crocin.  The spice isn’t a new discovery and in fact, in trade and use for over five millennia now. Iran is the largest exporter of saffron and accounts for over 90 percent of the spice of the world production.

The Saffron Flower in India

Saffron crocus or Crocus sativus is a perennial plant. The flowers bloom in autumn. The flower has always been a centre of attraction and research. The plant has been a part of the artificial selection in a quest to grow longer stigmas.  Apart from Greece, the credit to its extension to the other parts of the world such as in Eurasia goes to genetic monomorphic cloning.  Human intervention also becomes important because the flower is sterile and can’t produce viable seeds. They depend on human assistance to be divided and replanted. The flowers bloom in the month of October and are red-orange in colour. The flowers have a sweet, almost honey-like fragrance. Each plant would bear up to four flowers and each flower would sport a red stigma.

An average of 30 mg saffron can be yielded from a freshly plucked saffron flower. When dried, the quantity of saffron is reduced to only 7 mg. To yield 1 gram of dry saffron strands, 150 saffron flowers are needed and to get up to a kilogram of dry saffron strands, about 170,000 flowers are needed and which in turn, would require forty hours of manual labour.

Types of Saffron

The quality, colour and taste of saffron are different in every country and mainly depend on their method of picking and drying the stigma. Spanish saffron is milder in colour, flavour and aroma whereas Italian varieties are much better. The best, undoubtedly, is the Iranian saffron. Saffron flowers are now available in various boutique species in various parts of the world such as England, New Zealand, France and the United States.  The premium quality saffron is grown in organic content and has a high amount of compounds like crocin and safranal. Such types of saffron threads might also have a potent aroma, flavour and different thread shape.

Back home in India, Kashmiri saffron is the most popular. It is also known as Lacha or Mongra. It is very difficult to obtain given the crop failures, weather extremities and droughts. It has dark maroon hue, which is also the world’s darkest hue for the crop. No wonder, it also has strong aroma and colour.

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Yumthang Valley in Sikkim

A word of caution! Beware!

A trip to the Yumthang Valley or the Valley of Flowers in Sikkim can leave you in an enchanted state for days.

Valley of Flowers

This valley is a natural landscape filled with hot springs, yaks, rolling meadows and the Teesta river. It is as if, a painter has etched its expression of wild imagination on to the canvas of mother nature. Surrounded by the Himalayan range and located in North Sikkim, reaching here can be a daunting task for many. This is for good as well because such a thing that brings you unadulterated happiness and is capable to make you think that ‘you should be spending the rest of your life here’ or ‘what are you doing with your life stuck in the traffic or making money!’ shouldn’t be so accessible easily, for humans have a penchant to destruct even the most beautiful of things.

Where is Sikkim Valley of Flowers Located?

It is at an elevation of 3,564 meters, approximated 11,693 feet above sea level.  It is 150 kilometer from the state capital, Gangtok.

What’s the best time to reach the Yumthang Valley in Sikkim?

The valley is closed from December to March because it receives heavy snowfall during these months. Spring in the valley isn’t pleasant either. However, the hint of the beautiful season starts early, inn late February and by the mid-June, the flowers take over and envelopes the entire landscape.  To an artistic eye, it might look like a rainbow of flowers.

How can you reach the Yumthang Valley?

The nearest accommodation can be found in Lachung. There is also a forest rest house in the valley but you might need to check with the management if you are allowed to stay there and make a pit stop. However, the tourists can travel from all the way from Gangtok to Lachung to immerse themselves in the scenic sights. A direct stretch isn’t possible because the weather here is generally unpredictable, the road is bumpy and it becomes dark at 5:00 PM. You need at least two hours from Lachung to reach the valley, which is 125 km from the state capital.  After your trip, the day would be almost over and you would require an overnight stay at Lachung before returning to Gangtok. During your road trip to the valley, river Teesta would flow beside you in utmost serenity. You can totally forget the count of waterfalls and springs you would see during this trip.

What makes the Valley of Flowers special?

The valley hosts the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, which in turn is home to the over 35 species of rhododendron. The sanctuary is spread across 34 square kilometers Rhododendron is also the state flower. Besides, you can find iris, primulas, cobra lilies, louseworts, poppies and other flowers to keep you company. During summers, the villagers take their cattle to graze in the flowery green pastures, which is known as yaylag pastrolism. Yes, just exactly you saw in those paintings when you were a kid. Skiing is also available for the tourists during snowfall.

The valley happens to the situated in the tree line, which means an altitude level unsuitable for trees. However, on the contrary, you can see rhododendrons, Himalayan flowers, and trees making this valley of utmost picturesque.

Any possibility of degradation here can’t be overlooked, seeing how this place is giving in to commercialism so quickly.

Best time to visit Lachung/Yumthang

Plan your trip to Sikkim from April to May to see the rhododendrons in full glory. You can also plan your trip when Losar festival is taking place, from February to March.  This is also a good time because you can see the locals living their traditions, eating and drinking their traditional food. However, you would have to give the Flower Valley a miss.

Permits 

The whole area is under Army control due to the proximity to the China border. To visit Lachung and Yumthang, you need to take special permits from Gangtok Tourism office or at Chungthang Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s Office. However, it is advised to leave it to the tour operator’s office to make your trip hassle-free and easy.

What to carry 

You don’t have ATMs here, so, carry cash! Medicines for allergy, common cold and motion sickness is a must. Carry enough woollen clothes and rent an overcoat, gloves and snow boots from a local vendor.

The Himalayan Journal by Dr. Joseph Hooker compares Lachung and Yumthang to the valleys of Switzerland. If you are in India, it would be such a shame to never visit these places.

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Muggu Rangoli in Andhra Pradesh

Making rangoli on the various occasions is the best part of any celebration. Different states have the different pattern of rangoli and in Andhra Pradesh rangoli is known as Muggu. On different occasions, people love to make rangoli at the main door. Before making rangoli design ladies clean the floor and then draw the different patterns. They make rangoli in different festivals that include Diwali, Onam Rangoli, and Sankranthi. Anyone can draw rangoli and they draw rangoli with white and colored geometric pattern. Most of the people use white rice flour to draw the design and then they use color or flowers to decorate it.  If we talk about the typical rangoli of Andhra Pradesh then they draw eight-petal lotus design by the variety of patterns. This lotus design is also known as ‘ashtadal kamal’.

Muggu Rangoli Designs

People love to make rangoli at the entrance of the home to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. People believe that Goddess Lakshmi comes to the clean and well-decorated home on the Diwali festival. 

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Aripana Rangoli in Bihar

People of Bihar love to celebrate every occasion and Diwali are the big festival that people celebrate there. On this occasion, people draw rangoli on their floor. The famous rangoli art that people draw on the floors on different occasions in Bihar is known as Aripana. This is not only part of Diwali but there are many festivals in Bihar where you will be able to see different patterns of rangoli.  This rangoli don’t need any painting brush but people used to make rangoli pattern with their hands. They use three fingers to make any design. On the occasion of Diwali people decorate their homes with different things and also make rangoli.  To make Aripana patterns on the floor people use powdered rice paste using water, vermilion (sindoor),  and also different colors that include white, red, green, yellow and black colors.

Aripana Rangoli Designs

Rangoli has many patterns and it depends upon your skill that what type of rangoli you are going to make on the Diwali. Some people make simple rangoli designs and some love to make complex and big designs.

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Winter Season Flowers

Winter flowers in India are such a delight to lay your eyes on. India’s is a land of diversity, even if we are talking about the weather. We have Mumbai, which is so blessed to have no winters at all and on the other hand, we have Sikkim Flower Valley that receive snowfall, but also brings over 35 varieties of Himalayan flowers and rhododendrons. Besides, all over in North India and North East India, you have winter season spell throwing you off your feet and bedazzling you with the sheer charm of beautiful flowers.

Winter season flowers are in India are usually very colourful and look gorgeous juxtaposed against the dark and gloomy winter sky. These are annual plants that can be grown from seeds and propagation. These can be grown in containers, beds, borders or as an edging. The seeds should be sown in from October to November. There are plants that hibernate during December and January and starts blooming on the first hints of spring.  So, here we go!

List of Flowers in Winters in India

Alyssum: The flowers are generally white, but just so that you know no less gorgeous and breathtaking. These honey-scented flowers in full blooming phase grow and spread over the garden like a carpet. The plant is drought-resistant and a hardy. It grows up to 6 inches tall and produces blooms in a tiny cluster. The flowers are also available in purple, yellow, pink and salmon colours apart from white.

Snapdragon: It is an herbaceous perennial plant and is also called Antirrhinum. The flowers are called snapdragon because their mouths resemble a dragon’s mouth when snapped at the throat. The flowers are yellow, white or crimson in colour and popular with the gardeners because of their ornamental value. The plant and its cultivars are also considered to be a model organism in botanical research and their genome is being studied extensively.

Aster: If you are looking to pep up your garden with the fall flowers, aster is just the right flower you and can be the real start of your autumn garden! This long-stemmed flower makes for excellent cut flowers. The star-shaped flowers come in different sizes, hues and shapes.

Calendula: The medicinal benefits of calendula need no introduction. This wonderful yellow flower is usually called Marigold or Mary’s gold, due to their association with Catholic events in the ancient times. Romans and Greeks used the flowers to make crowns and headgears as well as in rituals. The flower is also used to enhance the flavour of cheese and salads. It works well as a bedding plant too.

Dianthus: The flowers are also called sweet William due to their sweet fragrance. The plant can be grown as an annual, a biennial or a perennial. It is perfect for beds, rock gardens, window containers and borders. The spicy fragrance of the flower has an undertone of cloves and cinnamon. It is a hardy plant and its flowers are also called the ‘pinks’ because of their colour. The plant is in the same family with carnations.

Pansy: Not only they have got one of the best colour flowers for the winter season but also they are relatively easy to grow. They were used to express ‘sweet remembrance’ in the 15th century. The flowers have three different colours, usually, white or yellow, purplish or blue. Depending on the climate or the texture of the soil, the colour of the flowers would change.

Petunia: Petunia flowers grow quickly and are available in a rainbow of colours such as red, white, yellow, pink and purple. The flowers are perfect for hanging baskets and planters. The plant is a hardy one and doesn’t need much care or extra maintenance. The seeds, however, need sunlight to germinate due to their small size and hence, it is advised not to cover them soil properly. Soil should be well-drained and little sandy.

Zinnia: Bringing a palette of rainbow colours to your garden, zinnia flowers are no-fuss and easy-on-maintenance. The flowers can be propagated directly from the seeds and the seeds should be sown between April and May for these fall flowers. Besides, the International Space Station succeeded in growing zinnia flowers in the space as well! So, why wouldn’t you have one of these flowers in the garden in the winter season in India?

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Flower Market in Kolkata

Mullik Ghat(Malik Ghat) flower market is yet another colourful and fascinating side of Kolkata. The City of Joy hosts this place that puts a myriad range of human emotions on a display. Just one hour in this flower market and you would see petals, flowers, and garlands in their full glory. The fragrance of thousands and millions of flowers at one place would overwhelm you along with the constant clamor of human sounds that start to feel like a dull, throbbing pain after a while.

Read about other flower markets here.

Mullik Ghat Flower Market

The typical day of flower market starts with the consignments dropped by the wholesalers who would hold an auction to sell the flowers to the retailers. The workers and retailers usually live in makeshift arrangement and bathe in Howrah river. Well, if you are really on time, you can see the local wrestlers exercising and practicing their art in the sand. Yes, exactly what you watched in the movie, ‘Dangal,’ this time for real!

A walk in Kolkata Flower market will leave you reeling in the fragrance of petals and garlands layered and mingled with human odour, emotions and conversation of sorts. Be watchful of not crashing into the onlookers, trolleys, and carts. It will be an observation of a lifetime watching those porters carrying flowers to their destination and bending underneath the weight of flowers. Talk about flower power!

It is also said that Mullik Ghat is not only the largest flower market in Kolkata but also Asia’s. While we don’t have any data to back this up, but this market surely is a strong contender given the trade value.  The market is a wonder on its own. At least 125 years old, it has literally risen from the ashes like a phoenix after being completely gutted in a fire. Like the old Calcutta, the market is in tatters, but this hasn’t stopped the market to be a thriving place for the odd 2,000 sellers, who come to the market to earn their livelihood at about 3 am on a daily basis.

Be it for wedding décor, festivals or temple rituals, you have flowers for your every need! Wholesalers in Kolkata flower market also send flowers to the rest of country and abroad. You also have sellers and vendors sitting on the sidewalk, who would shout out to sell their wares. Besides, roses, tulips, carnations and chrysanthemums, you can also see vendors dealing in fake flowers and glossy leaves.

How to Reach Kolkata Flower Market?

You can reach the flower market by local train. You can also hire a private transport like a cab or an auto.

Things Tourists should be Watchful for:

It is a narrow market with narrower lanes. Take care of your belongings. It is not advisable to take your kids or toddlers along with you.

It can be really sweaty and hot in Kolkata. So, catch the market as early as you can.

The street can be really busy, with vendors and porters carrying their loads you don’t want to become a hurdle in their way.

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We have a list of wonderful colorful flowers in the autumn season. Below, you can find some beautiful list of flowers to grow in autumn season.

Autumn Season Flowers in India

Autumn is the season before winters and after summers. The season brings you the best of flowers and colours to lay your eyes on! No wonder, Albert Camus has referred to Autumn as a season where every leaf is a flower! Arena Flowers brings you the lowdown on top autumn flowers in India. Read on!

List of Flowers in Autumn Season

Dahlias

Spectacular, that’s the only word that comes to mind when dahlias are mentioned! Grown as a perennial herbaceous plant, dahlias are closely related to daisy, sunflower, chrysanthemums and zinnia. The flowers are a native to Mexico and now have spread across the world. Reportedly, the flowers now have over 40 varieties. The plant is an annual blooming plant and the flowers don’t have any fragrance. It is the composite head or the shape of the flowers that attract its pollinators, bee and beetles. The flowers are available in a range of colours, but not in blue. The flowers look wonderful in a cut flower arrangement.

Camellia

Everything about camellia flowers is amazing. Be it the brilliant red-pink flowers or shiny foliage, camellia flowers are meant for the brightness you needed in the season. The flowers are large and quite varied. The flowers grow in different forms but the major types of the flowers are single, formal double, anemone, informal double and semi-double. It is said that camellia flowers are difficult to grow and hard to maintain, however, their growth mainly depends on their planning. If you have been careful and patient enough to plant this shrub correctly, the maintenance efforts for taking care of the plant would be significantly reduced.

Hibiscus

Also known as the Chinese Rose, its origin is still unknown. However, many believe that it was first originated in India. They prefer bright sunlight to grow. The flowers are bright red in colour and known for their medicinal benefits. The plant is an evergreen shrub and bushy in nature. The orange-tipped red anthers add to the beauty of the flower. Hibiscus tea is very popular and is a known anti-depressant. Its tea also helps in hypertension and menstrual problems. Latest scientific reports also show that hibiscus can also lower high cholesterol levels.

Chrysanthemum

These flowers are available in a rainbow of colors. Also, called the ‘pom-pom’ flowers, these are the tropical flowers that also happen to belong to one of the largest flowering families, Asteraceae. The flowers look beautiful in containers and window pots too. The flowers also have known medicinal benefit. Chrysanthemum tea is believed to be an anti-depressant and has sleep-inducing properties.

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