A convincing claim of Ayurvedic medicine is its wide acceptance in this country for more than 20 centuries, offering alternatives for the easing of many ailments that defy allopathic treatment. Thus, Sri Lankans take the common cold in their stride, with a hot, comforting gruel of coriander and root ginger or a pungent herb tea called Peyawa. Stubborn coughs are cured with a brew of thorny katuwelbatu (solanum xanthocarpum), coriander and delicious marmalade of wild oranges, green ginger and honey.

Sri Lanka has a great variety of plants that can be used as effective beauty aids. In fact, plants that you see growing by themselves in your patch of garden or even in a flowerpot, could be very effective beauty aids. The common plant karavila (Memodica charantia) is not only a health giving vegetable, especially good for those suffering from diabetes and for lactating mothers, but can also improve your complexion. Its leaves, crushed and applied on skin infections of parasitic origin, are very effective. It’s said, Karavila leaves can be crushed and the juice massaged into your scalp to give you a healthy head of hair and prevent hair loss and baldness.

Another herb that is excellent for healthy hair and stops premature greying is Olinda. Botanically known as avrus precatorius, an oil prepared with Olinda seeds, together with sesame seeds and coconut milk, will stop early greying and improve the thickness of the hair. For lustrous and shiny hair Nelli juice along with a little lime juice makes an instant shampoo. Turmeric powder or kaha (safron) ground to a paste can also be used as a hair wash and acts as a cleanser also eliminating dandruff.

For an effective hair tonic, a decoction of Seenidda (acacia concinna) makes an excellent hair wash. Lunuwilla can be used as a substitute. Both herbs promote the growth of hair, kill lice and do away with dandruff.

Kikirindiya (eclipta prostrata) prevents premature greying. It also cures skin diseases and the herb can be used internally as well as externally. A very beneficial hair oil can be made from eclipta alba or ranwan kikirindiya as the base. Margosa leaves, ground and mixed with raw turmeric or saffron powder is a good remedy to remove blackheads. It should be applied as a paste on the face at night.

To get rid of spots and pimples on your face, apply a paste of Suduru (cummin seeds) over the pimples. Also a paste of Sadikka (nutmeg) mixed with a bit of milk is a good remedy for getting rid of those spots and pimples. For a smooth and healthy complexion, a paste of Rathandum (red sandalwood) and Kaja (turmeric) mixed with milk is highly beneficial. Eating shoe flowers as a salad is also said to improve the complexion.

For bright and healthy eyes and to get rid of tiredness and eyestrain, you can use thin slices of cucumber placed on the eyes for 15 to 20 minutes. Thin slices of Bandakka (ladies fingers) can also be used for the same purpose and over-ripe tomato slices as well.

Meanwhile, a few drops of bees’ honey applied at the corner of the eyes where wrinkles tend to appear is beneficial. Gentle tapping of the skin with a tomato in this area also helps.

For cracked dried heels on your feet, rub a bit of ghee into them and stale rice ground with rathmal pods. Komarica ground with cold water, rubbed on your heels each day can make them smooth once more.