It’s surprising how many superfoods you can come across on a small island like Sri Lanka. Most of these treasures can be found in the average villager’s garden, and if they’re missing a couple they will surely know which neighbor has it in theirs. The uses and benefits of these herbs, vegetables, and fruit are usually passed by word of mouth, used in Ayurvedic medicinal practice. The average Sri Lankan uses these incredible natural gifts to cure ailments and strengthen their immune system.
Moringa, locally known as murunga, grows like a weed, with trees around every corner on the island. Nutritional analysis shows that moringa leaves are very high in protein and contain all the essential amino acids associated with a well-balanced diet most uncommon in plant food. These leaves are a great source of vitamins and minerals and deliver powerful nourishment that boosts the immune system. They are being used in Third World countries across the globe to fight malnutrition. With 7 times more vitamin C than oranges, 4 times more vitamin A than carrots, 4 times more calcium than milk, 3 times more potassium than bananas, and twice as much protein as yogurt, this is one of the most nutritious leaves in existence.
Polpala‘s uses are endless. It is known internationally by its binomial name aerva lanata or simply ‘mountain knot grass’. The plant consists mostly of roots and is completely edible. The liquid extracted from polpala is an antioxidant and is commonly used for treating diabetes. In Ayurvedic tradition, polpala tea promotes the production of urine and stimulates kidney function and is extremely beneficial in purifying the kidneys, the bladder, and the bile duct. The drink is recommended for pregnant women because it helps maintain the body’s metabolism. The juice of the root is given to patients with liver congestion, jaundice, stomach pain, and indigestion and can be used to treat headaches.
This humble leaf is found in just about every curry made on the island. Apart from imparting a wonderful flavor, curry leaves are packed with carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins C, A, B, and E. Whether consumed in food or blended into a juice, the leaves help your heart function better and fight infections. Is your hair damaged and lifeless? Curry leaves strength in the hair shaft, reducing hair thinning and addressing dandruff head on. Known to help improve digestion and alter the way your body absorbs fat, curry leaves can aid weight loss. ‘Used in the treatment of diabetes, these delicious leaves affect insulin levels in the body and reduce blood sugar. Packed with antioxidants, curry leaves prevent the oxidation of cholesterol that forms LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). This in turn helps in increasing the amount of good cholesterol protects your body from conditions such as heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Sri Lanka is the largest producer of cinnamon in the world, so much so that Ceylon cinnamon is known as ‘true cinnamon. The smell and flavor come from the cinnamon bark. Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties that ward off disease and fight fungus, viruses, and bacteria. Cinnamon is good for your heart and helps lower bad cholesterol. A sprinkling of cinnamon powder on your food helps to stabilize blood sugar and just the smell of it can boost your cognitive function and improve memory. Ayurvedic practices say cinnamon can eliminate headaches and even relieve migraines and can be combined with honey to alleviate arthritis.
If you’re feeling mentally drained, maybe you could use some more turmeric in your diet. Turmeric is what adds a zing of yellow to otherwise green and earth-tone curry. There are many supplements that claim to make you smarter, but turmeric can actually cross the blood-brain barrier. It is known to increase the growth of neurons in the brain, fight the degenerative processes of the brain, and help combat the pathological effects of Alzheimer’s disease. The ‘curcumin’ property in turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and is commonly used as a treatment for clearer skin. Chances are, if you’re healthier and smarter, you’ll be happier. Studies have proven that it is as effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression as Prozac. Find out for yourself.
VIRGIN COCONUT OIL
There are many types of coconut oil on the market. Don’t be fooled by the yellower version of this oil, which is completely different. Virgin coconut oil is clear because it’s cold pressed to ensure all the natural attributes are retained in the final state. The saturated fats in coconut oil are unique and give your body a quick boost of energy. When consumed, virgin coconut oil is said to have therapeutic benefits for the brain, reducing the incidence of Alzheimer’s and epilepsy. Cholesterol-related risks such as heart disease have been found to be lower in populations that consume more coconuts. Fatty acids in virgin coconut oil destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Coconut oil can even be used as a mouthwash and has kick-started a new trend in oral health referred to as ‘oil pulling’. Virgin coconut oil is a natural moisturizer and is great for your skin and hair. An all-rounder, this oil is healthy, affordable, and delicious too.
The bale fruit is round with a hard greenish shell that turns yellowish when ripe. Its consistency is smooth and woody. bale can be picked up at every village market and is used by locals for general health. Ayurvedic literature speaks of the bale as a treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, worms, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, chronic fever, nausea, vomiting, gastritis, and bleeding disorders, to name a few. Surprisingly, all parts of the bell tree possess medicinal qualities. The flowers are boiled to make a drink to improve skin complexion. If you want to stay sharp and boost your concentration, reach for a bale fruit.
Gotu kola is a popular herb that has been used in Sri Lankan food and Ayurvedic practices for centuries. Recently it has gained popularity in the West, sold as capsules for health benefits. Locally, this little leaf is consumed fresh with a sprinkling of lime, fresh coconut, and onion to make a symbol. Gotu kola contains chemicals that decrease inflammation and blood pressure. it is used to treat infections, heal wounds, and improve circulation. This is one of the rare superfoods that enhances your mental health, improving your memory while also reducing fatigue and anxiety. It has been used as a treatment for psychiatric disorders and Alzheimer’s.
SOURSOP, known locally as anodha, is a tropical fruit with green leathery skin and a stark white fleshy centre with shiny dark seeds. Potently sweet and sour, this fruit is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. The leaves, roots, bark, and seeds have been incorporated as a traditional remedy for centuries. Soursop is gaining popularity for its cancer-fighting properties, helping to eliminate the free radicals in the body and keeping a number of infections and disorders at bay. A cup of tea made from soursop leaves, drunk regularly, helps to relieve inflammation of the back muscles. Soursop fruit juice, if consumed twice daily, can help resolve kidney ailments, liver problems, and urinary tract infections.