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Let sleeping dogs lie

Sri Lanka wonder drugs

Sri Lanka has a long history of ‘Ayurvedic’ medicine. This is one of the oldest organised medicinal systems of treating the human body. Ayurveda means ‘the knowledge for long life’ and about 80% of Indians use it regularly.

Ayurveda stresses the use of plant-based medicines and treatments. Complementary medicine has long been dismissed by the clinical establishment but things are coming back around for the traditional approach. The Sri Lankan government has now established a Ministry of Indigenous Medicine to revive and regulate the practice.

Sri Lanka
Cinnamon sticks drying

Oak-ray Ayurvedic village

We visited the Oak-ray Ayurvedic village in Matale and were shown around by a very well educated botanist. He explained how the myriad of different herbs and spices together with the Ayurvedic system of massage can treat many different conditions. He even did a short demonstration  on us, I never turn down an Indian head massage.

We saw examples of the array of plants and spices and were told what ailments they could treat. For example, you may think putting coconut oil on your hair is the thing to do to make it lustrous and Cheryl Cole-like. Well it is, BUT only if it is from the RED coconut. If it is from any other type of coconut you will just end up with a greasy barnet, he chuckled. Of course he didn’t use the phrase ‘greasy barnet’ but it was the equivalent in Si Lankan.


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Looking for the Red Coconut

Sri Lanka – wonder drugs

Sri Lankans brush their teeth with Sandalwood. Sandalwood is also frequently used in skin products as it is great for dry skin.  There were compounds for high blood pressure, low blood pressure and sun burn (aloe vera) Ayurvedic medicie has cures for insomnia, stopping smoking, toothache, kidney stones and allergies. It can tackle constipation, stomach  ache, weight loss and stress. There were also rather a lot of products for wrinkles which I though best to try out in my own clinical trials. I purchased a pot of saffron cream for this very purpose.

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Potions and lotions

Cinnamon is a product of Sri Lanka and is also used in many remedies. Production of cinnamon is a labour intensive and highly skilled process. It involves manually paring thin layers of soaked bark from the cinnamon tree, rolling them together and then drying them into what look like very long thin cigars. We watched the cinnamon man demonstrating this skill. I’ll never take my mulled wine ingredients for granted again.

Sri Lanka
Stop smoking potions

Gems and jewels of Sri Lanka

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Sri Lanka was its gorgeous gems. Ever since I read the stories of the Arabian nights and Aladdin’s cave when I was a girl sparkly precious jewels have held a fascination for me.

Sri Lanka’s gem industry has a very long and colourful history. Ratna-Dweepa which means Gem Island was its original name. Marco Polo wrote that the island had the best sapphires, topazes, amethysts, and rubies in the world.  Ptolemy the 2nd century astronomer noted the beauty of the Ceylon Sapphire.

Records from Persian sailors show  that they brought back “jewels of Serendib.” Serendib was the ancient name given to the Island.

Gems TV

I love gemstones and have been an avid fan of Gems TV, the first dedicated jewellery channel in Europe since its launch in 2004.

I bought my first Neptune Topaz and my first Tanzanite ring from there. Going into a gem emporium for me is like a kid going into a candy shop. In Sri Lanka it’s  an experience which is the equivalent of enough sugar to put me into a diabetic coma. The most valuable sapphires are the darkest blue ones but they come in all sorts of dazzling colours which are so pretty they don’t even look real

Sri Lanka
Gems of Sri Lanka

There are many different colours of sapphire, not just the famous blue ones. Pink ones, yellow ones, orange ones and green ones are also available. There are star sapphires and cats eye Sapphires. They are all very beautiful.  It is an even more extraordinary thing, when you see the rather dull looking rocks they are mined from. The sparkling white sapphires are stunning and second only in hardness to diamonds. In fact, diamonds are comparatively common next to the rarer larger sapphires.

Lady Diana’s engagement ring, an 18 carat sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds was from Sri Lanka a fact of which the Sri Lankans are very proud. Only a particular caste are allowed to make the beautiful jewellery of Sri Lanka. The expertise is handed down through the generations.

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