by Alice Luker
Ayurveda, translating in Sanskrit as ‘life-knowledge’ travelled across the ocean from India to Sri Lanka thousands of years ago. Within the local community of Sri Lanka today it’s often considered an essential lifestyle practise, being an alternate form of plant based medicine, a means of preventing future inbalances known as ‘doshas’ and of meditation for both the body and mind.
I’m no expert in Ayurveda but over the past few years I’ve familiarised myself with the essentials that appear in most family homes as well as products with an Ayurvedic influence (inspired by, not pure ayurveda) that may spark an interest to an overseas visitor to try or buy for someone else.
Aside from purchasing practically every item from government owned handicraft shop Laksala over the last 10 years, there are only so many times I can present my friends with an elephant keyring or wooden spoon. The ideas below are all bought from local supermarkets found across the country- Cargills Food City, Keehls Super and Arpico. The best branches with a wider selection can be found in major cities and towns.
1 &2. Nature’s Secrets aloera moisturising cream & sandlewood scrub.
One of Sri Lanka’s most loved skincare brands with an ayurvedic influence is Nature’s Secrets. Not only are the products animal friendly and sourced/produced locally, the diversity of products has increased in recent years as well as a much needed updating of packaging. They also have a premium range called herbal heritage with ingredients such as turmeric and tamarind.
3. Siddhalepa herbal ayurvedic balm
One of the essential staples in a Sri Lankan household is Siddhelepa, an ayurvedic pain relief balm with a powerful scent of eucalyptus and cinnamon oil- a similar concept to Tiger balm. With its vibrant yet old-world packaging & heritage since 1934, it’s a fantastic product which simply works.
4 & 5. King coconut hair oil and virgin coconut oil.
Commonly used in Sri Lankan cooking and an ever increasing list of natural health and beauty remedies worldwide including hair conditioning and teeth whitening, virgin coconut oil is a truly multifunctional ingredient.
The king coconut oil, formulated specifically for hair conditioning is best used lightly in the daytime, or more generously as an intensive overnight mask (to wash off in the morning) for an intensive repair. Massage into scalp to eliminate dandruff and promote healthy growth- the vitamins and essential fatty acids nourish the scalp and help to remove sebum build-up from hair follicles.
NB both products solidify in cooler temperatures and require heating to return to their liquid state. Keep the king coconut oil in the shower and apply on towl dried damp hair.
The Kohomba plant is indiginous to Sri Lanka and can be found even in the driest of regions. The leaves have been used in natural ayurvedic remedies for thousands of years.
Another respected Sri Lankan brand found in the majority of Lankan households is Khomba, a mild herbal soap with a distinctive soothing scent of Margosa oil combined with the magical essence of Kohomba. Its basic but affordable at under $1.
7. Dilmah ginger tea
Made with two local products of Sri Lanka, Dilmah is one of the most established heritage tea brands in the country, with an evolving international presence. The inclusion of ginger makes the tea invigorating, detoxifying and good for the digestive system.
8. Pas panguwa tea
Dressed in slightly more exotic packaging than Dilmah’s tea with an intriguing concuction of 100% natural ayurvedic ingredients, pas panguwa is found in many shapes and sizes across Sri Lanka as a remedy for colds, headaches, body aches and fever.
9. Cinnamon Toothpicks
As one of Sri Lanka’s largest exports, cinnamon is available in a range of forms; from its natural state, oil, tea to flavoured toothpicks. My mum loves to buy these as unconventional gifts for friends in the UK.
And last but not least, Samahan! Another supermarket ayurvedic remedy which can be bought in packs like these or individually behind a pharmacy counter, a sachet (or two if your feeling brave!) can help to clear your sinuses and feel energised.
Thank you to my blogger pal Pratserie for helping with this article.