December 2011


Time tested home remedies
December 2011




Sri Lanka has a rich tradition of home remedies. Even though the country boasts of a sophisticated medical care system dating back to the times of ancient monarchs several centuries ago, 
time tested home remedies have come down the ages, passing from one generation to the next. The average Sri Lankan has so much faith in these that even in the modern era a young mother will not hesitate to try a simple treatment on her infant baby that her mother or her grandmother gave her when she was a child.

Words: D. C. Ranatunga

The little one starts sneezing and shows signs of getting a cold. 
The mother would soon boil a pot of water adding a few grains of coriander. Once it's well boiled she pours it into a cup and lets it cool down. The baby is given a teaspoonful at regular intervals. This ‘kottamalli' (Sinhala term for coriander) treatment is the accepted remedy for young and old alike. The adult is given the coriander drink steaming hot.

FOR A COLD WITH A TOUCH OF FEVER, AN EFFECTIVE FORM OF TREATMENT IS INHALATION OF 
THE STEAM RELEASED FROM A POT OF BOILING CORIANDER AND LIME LEAVES. You sit on a low stool with 
the face and head well covered to ensure that the steam does not escape. Then you start inhaling the steam for 
a few minutes until you start perspiring. You come out in a bath of sweat, get into bed, cover yourself feeling much relieved. Soon the temperature goes down.
Using warm water for drinking, washing one's face and later on for baths until the cold completely goes away is the accepted treatment. Vegetables accepted as ‘cooling agents' are avoided.

CRUSHED GINGER OR LIME JUICE WITH NO WATER ADDED IS TAKEN AS SOON AS ONE FEELS UNCOMFORTABLE WITH A STOMACHACHE. For diarrhoea, the accepted remedy is to starve. Instead of the usual rice and curry meal, ‘lunu kenda' - gruel made mixing rice with water and a little salt added, is given in the form of a thin soup.

Another effective ‘meal' when one is suffering from fever or diarrhoea and solid food is not given, is a mix of ‘karapincha' (curry leaf), garlic, tamarind, dried cinnamon bark and cumin seed with a touch of pepper added to water and boiled well. The thin soup is known as ‘thambung hodi' (cooked gravy).

"Worms attacking the teeth" is how the ordinary folk crudely describe decaying teeth. Toothache is a very common ailment. When one starts suffering from a toothache, the first thing he or she does is to place a piece of cotton wool dipped in ‘kurundu thel' - cinnamon oil - on the tooth. WASHING THE MOUTH WITH SALT WATER MIXED WITH VINEGAR ALSO HELPS.

For tonsillitis or inflamed tonsils, a slice of lime with a little pepper powder is gently rubbed on the tonsil to allow the phlegm to come out. Gargling with warm salt water eases throat irritation.

For tonsillitis or inflamed tonsils a slice of lime with a little pepper powder is gently rubbed on the tonsil.

BUDS OF ‘SAMAN PICHCHA' FLOWERS IN A CUP OF WATER KEPT OVERNIGHT ARE USED FOR FATIGUED EYES.

Fruits play a vital role in home remedies. ‘Beli' fruit is ideal for constipation. So are bananas and papaw. These are readily available in 
Sri Lanka with most of the home gardens having a tree or two.

Pomegranate juice, just like lime juice, helps in controlling diarrhoea. King coconut is given to avoid dehydration. Pomegranate juice mixed with bee's honey controls vomiting. Boiled ‘beli' leaves and dried ‘ranavaraÌ„' leaves are popular drinks to quench the thirst.

GREEN LEAVES ALSO PLAY A SIGNIFICANT ROLE. ‘KOLA KANDA' - GRUEL MADE USING A VARIETY OF GREEN LEAVES IS A VERY POPULAR MORNING DRINK. Once strictly a home-made preparation, it is now served even in five-star hotels. 
A mixture of green leaves is pound with scraped coconut and the extracted juice is boiled along with rice and water. The hot drink with a piece of jaggery is an ideal starter for breakfast.

‘Gotu kola', a home garden crop is used as a home remedy for numerous purposes. ‘Gotu kola' juice is taken early morning as a remedy for catarrh. Another variation for the same illness is a mix of ‘gotu kola' juice and crushed red onion.

Hiccups sometimes can be a real irritant. A particular variety of banana called ‘ambul kehel' (though ‘sour banana' is the literal translation, it is not all that sour) has proved to be an effective remedy for hiccups. Dried ginger mixed with jaggery is also taken.
For swellings, ‘rath handun' - red sandalwood - ground to form a paste mixed with lime juice is applied. For cuts and bruises a proven remedy is the pulp of the mature ‘koÌ„maÌ„rikaÌ„' (aloe) leaf.

FEMALES CONSCIOUS OF THEIR COMPLEXION EITHER DRINK BOILED ‘SUDU HANDUN' (WHITE SANDALWOOD) OR APPLY THE PASTE ON THE FACE. IT IS ALSO CONSIDERED A REMEDY FOR PIMPLES.

Often taken for granted or missed by many, these home remedies in fact play a major role in fashioning the culture and lifestyles of the majority of Sri Lankans; and even though they should be practiced with caution and care these practices are well worth being taken into the technologically advanced, science-led future.