Thambili - blood purifying wonder

by Shabana Ibrahim
In the tropics coconut is one of the most versatile trees. Perhaps the only part of this tree that has no practical use is the root ball.

"Thambili", (king coconut) short in stature and commonly found in Sri Lanka, and the nuts of which Sri Lankans regard as a "living pharmacy" is the most versatile and medically practical form of the coconut plant available. Sri Lankans sell and consume thousands of them on a daily basis.

In almost every Sri Lankan home irrespective of class, a king coconut palm swaying soothingly in the breeze is a common sight. Another familiar sight are the bunches of king coconuts displayed for sale in many wayside kiosk throughout the country.

These nuts come in many varieties, the most commonly found being the "red dwarf" (kaha thambili, commonly referred to as gon thambili). The other variety is "ran thambili", a smaller variety containing about forty nuts in a bunch.

"Kurumba", the green coloured young coconut that is easily available in the villages is cheap and popular.

Compared to the aerated waters that are usually artificially coloured and flavoured, the natural coconut drink refreshes and purifies the body. In many Sri Lankan ayurvedic remedies the king coconut has been prescribed to cure many ailments related to impurities in the system.

The king coconut is a well-known source of carbohydrates, vitamin E, iron, calcium and phosphorous. It also has a high dietary soluble fibre and appreciable amounts of protein and fat. In relation to all this the king coconut is a pharmaceutical wonder that has a cure for almost every ailment.

King coconut water has been used from time immemorial as an ayurvedic cure. One of the most common cures is a mixture of "aralu" powder (myrobalan) added to the water of one king coconut. This concoction acts as a very effective laxative. This blood purifying wonder was discovered centuries before the modern chemical and herbal alternatives.

This "aralu brew" according to Sri Lankan ayurvedic practitioners (also known as veda mahattayas) has the necessary properties to "expel heat from the body" therefore resulting in a feeling of freshness. This feeling of freshness according to the veda mahattayas is due to the brew’s ability to balance the body’s electrolytes.

King coconut oil (thambili thel) promotes hair growth andran thambili water is used as an eyewash. King coconut water is also proven to be an effective antidote to counteract the strong side-effects that some of the modern drugs may have on the body.

The water of the king coconut is naturally sterile and therefore it is a good substitute for saline. In World War 2 both American and Japanese military doctors injected king coconut water into a patient’s veins instead of sterile glucose solutions.

Countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Fiji and the Philippines have started to popularise the use of this all-purpose-wonder "drug" and have now started to process and preserve it for export.

Sri Lanka has now started to package the palatable coconut water into tetra packs that are being exported. Coconut water has a nutritive energy value of 17.4 calories per 100gm and 0.1g protein, 0.1g fat, 4g carbohydrates, 0.02mg calcium, 0.01mg phosphorous and 0.5mg iron.

Dr. D. P. Atukorale, the well known cardiologist, has stated that tender coconut water has the medical capability of being used to feed infants suffering from intestinal disturbances, oral rehydration, to keep the body cool, to apply on the body to prevent prickly heat and summer boils and also treat the rashes caused by small pox, chicken pox and measles. He says it’s a good tonic for the old and the sick.

It also increases the flow of urine and can be used as a blood plasma substitute because it is sterile, pyrogen — free and does not destroy blood cells. It also contains organic compounds that have growth promoting properties. According to Dr. Atukorale ayurvedic concepts believe that "it is unctuous, sweet, increasing semen, promoting digestion and clearing the urinary path".

However, the doctor also added a word of warning stating that if tender coconut water were to be injected intravenously, it would cause hyperkalaemia (high level of serum potassium) in patients with poor kidney function because it contains a high potassium level of 290 mp%.

Therefore with this word of warning in mind it is best to remember that tender coconut water is best avoided in cases of hyperkalaemia such as renal failure, acute adrenal insufficiency and in patients with low urine output due to haemolysis following blood transfusions and also in cases of viper bite victims because the serum potassium level is very high.

However, the benefits of king coconut water surpass the disadvantages as the water is a healing miracle that has a cheap and effective way of curing diseases.