Wel Penela for body aches and pains


By Shari Jayawardhana

Cardiospermum halicacabum, better known as Wel Penela (Sinhalese) or Kottavan / Modikkottan / Mudakattan (Tamil) is a creeper widely distributed in tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia. In English it is called Balloon Vine / Love-in-a-puff / heart pea / heart-seed. The generic name, Cardiospermum, meaning "heart seed", refers to the plant’s pea-sized dark brown seeds which bears a white heart-shaped spot on its surface. The species name "halicacabum" is derived from the Greek word meaning "salt barrel" and refers to the rotund fruits. The plant belongs to the Sapindaceae family which is found mostly in tropical regions. The plant can be seen growing as a weed along the roadside and rivers in countries such as Sri Lanka.

Wel Penela is an annual or sometimes perennial herb which is very common in the low country of Sri Lanka. It is a small delicate, smooth, climber. Its leaves are alternate and the leaflets are coarsely toothed. The leaflets on the sides are smaller. The tiny flowers are white, standing in flower stems of 5 to 10 cm in length. It is not the flowers that are showy but rather the inflated seed capsules, which give it the common names ‘love in a puff’ or ‘balloon vine.’ The roughly 3 cm long lantern-like green balloon fruit contains seeds which are heart-shaped with white markings. Every part of this plant, including the young leaves, roots and seeds, can be used as medicine to treat various alignments.

Cardiospermum halicacabum is a pain killer. It promotes the production of urine, increases bowel movement, assists in digestion and possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Wel Penela is used for the treatment of back pains, joint pains and general body aches in Ayurveda medicine. It is also used to treat hemorrhoids, nervous disorders, chronic bronchitis, headaches (leaves crushed and inhaled), fever, skin diseases, sores and wounds (as a poultice). The power of the plant lies in the leaves although the entire plant is used in Ayurveda medicine. The tender, young shoots are used as a vegetable and for fodder. A decoction of the Cardiospermum halicacabum roots are given in half tablespoonful doses twice a day for bleeding piles. A paste of the leaves is a dressing for sores and wounds. It is used in rheumatism, lumbago, nervous diseases and as a demulcent in arthritis and in dropsy. It is used for the treatment of skeletal fractures in Ayurveda. The juice of the herb is used to cure ear-ache and to reduce hardened tumours. The leaves are applied as a poultice for skin eruptions. They are coated with castor oil and applied on swellings and tumours. It is also used in preparing an oil for infants when they find it difficult to breathe through the nose. The oil prepared from the leaves acts as an effective external application for arthritis and other painful conditions of the body. The leaves can be crushed well, ground and applied over the lower abdomen of the women after giving birth. It helps in expulsion of waste products out of the uterus. For dandruff, the leaves are soaked in water and then crushed well. This water is used in cleaning the hair. The oil prepared from the paste of the leaves and gingelly oil can be used as a hair tonic and cure for dandruff. The decoction prepared from the whole plant can be given in the dose of 20 to 30 ml for constipation and abdominal discomfort.

Wel Penela is a cooling drink when prepared as a canjee. It can be prepared similar to gotukola herbal drink (kenda). The Wel Penela drink can be taken in the morning as an accompaniment to the regular breakfast. In the local market, a variety of products including hair gels, creams, shampoos (anti-dandruff) and body sprays are manufactured using this herb. In the global market, the herb is used in pharmacology. Medicines for hay fever, allergies, sneezing, watery eyes and other allergies are manufactured using Wal Penela. The herb is also used to manufacture ointments for skin ailments such as swelling, scaling, blisters, burning and pain.

It is recommended that Sri Lanka conducts more research into the health benefits of Wel Penela in order to produce innovative products that have a demand in the global market. One avenue that can be looked into is the manufacture of exclusive dermatological products for the export market. Medicinal ointments to relive eczemaand psoriasis and other common skin diseases can be produced using Wel Penela. Dermatologically tested medicinal shampoos and conditioners to treat dandruff and other scalp related problems can also be manufactured using this herb.

The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment or care.

(The author has completed two Masters Degrees in Public Health at the University of Queensland in Australia. She is a freelance writer. Email her on shariwitt@gmail.com or visit her blog http://sharijayawardhana.weebly.com)

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