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India is the land of traditions with its roots in ancient science directly linking social rituals and scientific reasons behind them. In India, a cow is called ‘Gaumata’ or ‘Kamadhenu’ due to its nourishing nature like a mother. Kamadhenu is the name of the sacred cow who is believed to accomplish desired things. Panchgavya is a treasure of health benefits and medicinal properties. The Ayurvedic system of medicine has described the significance of using cow milk, ghee, urine, dung, and curd, each of which is termed ‘gavya’ (i.e., obtained from ‘Gau’ means cow) for the treatment of various diseases.
Cow dung is rich in several beneficial microbes like Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus, Bacillus, Streptococcus, Candida, etc. It also contains various nutritional components, including minerals, vitamins, potassium, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, cellulose, hemicellulose, mucus, lignin. Cow dung is used to degrade waste generated from the city and hospitals due to the abundance of different micro-organisms beneficial for waste degradation.
In rural areas of India, a dried cow dung cake is used as a source of energy for cooking food, decreasing the dependency on other sources of energy and is entirely environment-friendly, and ensures air purification by killing the microbes in the surrounding air. ‘Gobar’ gas (biogas) plants also serve as a significant energy source. They convert cow dung into methane gas, which is used as a source of energy for cooking and generation of electricity. Furthermore, the remaining residue is the best organic manure after converting most cow dung into methane gas.
Fibrous material obtained from cow dung is used for the preparation of papers. Recently, cow dung-based mosquito repellents have been among the best alternatives for synthetic mosquito repellants. Also, cow dung-based toothpaste protects against oral pathogens and improves oral health. The use of cow dung ensures more environment-friendly and cost-effective human activities.
The use of cow dung in agriculture is essential to maintain soil quality. Cow dung helps increase the population of earthworms, and also promotes and manages fertile soil with the presence of Eisenia andrei species of earthworm, showing an enhancement in the nitrification process. Fungal diseases are among the major problems in agricultural fields. The use of cow dung can restrict the development of such fungal issues due to Fusarium oxysporum, Fusarium solani, and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.
The use of pesticides, fertilisers, weedicides, and antibiotics in farming practices is hazardous to humans and animals, and leads to severe diseases such as immunosuppression, hypersensitivity reaction, and auto-immune disorders. Therefore, products obtained from organic farming have more demand as organic farming practices are devoid of harmful chemicals for crop production. High microbial count and nutritional value led to the cow dung as manure for farming practices in organic farms. Cow dung serves as the best replacement for these chemicals and ensures human and animal health.
Cow dung has also demonstrated anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects. It serves as a skin tonic and is found effective in treating psoriasis and eczema. The mixtures of crushed neem leaves and cow dung helps against boils and heat rashes. Cow dung has demonstrated that it can kill the malarial parasite and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The anti-fungal activity can be observed against Corprophilous fungi. Smoke liberated on burning of cow dung causes eye irritation and tears, which can help vision enhancement. The composition of cow dung, along with its uses, is summarised in Figure above. (Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, April-June 2022)