by Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne
Aldo’s timeless designs have bewitched many fashionistas and brides for decades. The famous designer who hails from the salubrious hills of Kandy, has not lost his sparkle and his love for creating and not even his age has diminished his verve. Having heard of him decades ago and seeing some of his unique designs kindled my curiosity but the legendary designer remained elusive. This was until the year 2017 when I interviewed Bryony De Fonseka, the multi-talented wife of Lasantha De Fonseka of Tiesh by Lakmini fame. Upon interviewing them, I had found a gem (pun intended) which was the fact that Bryony was the niece of Aldo and was closely connected to his work. I was thrilled when Bryony was keen to organize a rendezvous but it took two years to actually meet Aldo in person and I was in awe!
After all, Aldo’s contribution to fashion is colossal and the fact that his work is celebrated from generation to generation lays claim to his boundless passion to enhance the beauty of the wearer; from brides, to models, celebrities, foreign nationals and many others from various ethnic backgrounds. His fame had spread far and wide.
At the interview were his beloved nieces, Bryony and Annemarie, who had been his assistants and his source of pride and joy as they flaunted many of his creations at various milestones in their lives. Recollecting his journey was a cause for much gaiety among the uncle and nieces who had been instrumental in causing quite a stir with their eclectic designs. Aldo began his illustrious journey into the world of designing through the sheer love for it, after all,his nimble fingers and creative flair could not be suppressed. Hence, it began for the young school boy, yet in his teens who stitched to his heart’s content and was thrilled when he gradually gained a fan following. His eye-catching designs gained momentum and he expanded his portfolio to include bridal designs, wardrobe designs for stage drama and movies and haute couture for many reputed fashion shows among others. His customers included the celebrities of yesteryear and even the more recent star-studded casts of the island. His popularity spread internationally, even among the Sri Lankan diaspora living overseas.
In an era, when designing and stitching your own clothes were common place and retail was unheard of, Aldo shot to fame as his designs were appealing and unique. His signature were the Kandyan bridals which had traditional motifs and included the best of our heritage intertwined with a modern touch, making it a family heirloom even to be passed from mother to daughter.
Continuing a tradition
Currently, Aldo enjoys relative ease as an octogenarian and refrains from stitching but his mind is sharp and his creativity and meticulous attention to detail is sharper. He enjoys overlooking the design element of the stitching which continuous unperturbed as many who appreciate the value of quality above all else seek him even though he prefers to remain aloof from the limelight.
Aldo was also instrumental in designing the wedding saree for my mother-in-law, Lalani who is the wife of the famous rugby player, Viper Gunaratne (Sr.) which adds a sentimental value to the article.
Sri Lanka’s Great Opportunity. Gotukola
by Emme Haddon
Almost every culture from the ancient Egyptians to the native Americans possess a wealth of herbal medicinal knowledge which has been passed down from generation to generation. According to the World Health Organisation, 80% of the world’s population rely on traditional herbal medicines as their primary source of health care. 74% of the modern medicines were discovered as a result of the study of plants used in traditional medicine. The current global boom in sales of alternate herbal remedies and supplements is driven by a growing awareness for preventative healthcare methods and consumer demand for healthier and more natural products. People no longer blindly accept something as being safe just because a doctor says so.
The number of information-hungry patients has increased dramatically, around 66% of US adults go online to research their conditions, as do more than half of all Europeans. According to Nutrition Business Journal, the Covid-19 pandemic alone has fuelled an estimated 25% increase in immunity boosting supplements in 2020, up from 8.5% growth to $3.3 billion overall. The global size of the herbal remedies and supplement market was projected to reach USD 86.74 billion by 2022.
The latest reports suggest that this figure may double as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the face of increasing strains of microorganisms developing resistance to drugs, as patents on existing drugs expire and the promise of huge profits from potential prescription drugs and herbal supplements, both Big Pharma and Big Herba are ramping up their search of the natural world for molecules they can extract and patent as new prescription drugs or market as the next best-selling ‘superfood’ supplement. This kind of bioprospecting is by no means new. Willow bark has been used as a traditional medicine for more than 3500 years.
The ancient Sumerians and Egyptians used it as a remedy for aches and pains. Detailed references are made to it in the Vedas and later by Hippocrates for its efficacy in relieving fever and pain. However, the active agent in willow bark, salicin, which would later form the basis of the discovery of aspirin, remained unknown. It was several thousands of years later, in the late 1800s, that researchers in Europe identified salicin (after Salix, the genus of the willow tree). This led to the creation of aspirin the world’s
best-selling drug, by German chemist Felix Hoffmann. Shortly afterwards Hoffmann produced a second famous drug: diacetylmorphine, also known as heroin! Ayurveda, “the Mother of all Healing”, considered by many scholars to be the oldest healing science, originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. It stems from the ancient Vedic culture and for many thousands of years was taught in an oral tradition by accomplished masters to their disciples. Some of this knowledge was later set to print in ancient Ayurvedic texts. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “The Science of Life’ wherein the body, mind and consciousness work together in maintaining balance. Great emphasis is placed on prevention and encouraging the maintenance of good health through close attention to balance in one’s life, right thinking, diet and the treatment of illness through lifestyle practices and the use of herbal remedies.
The cause of disease is viewed as a lack of proper cellular function due to an excess or deficiency of an individual’s vata, pitta or kapha dosha and the presence of toxins. In Sri Lanka, Ayurveda, the official term used to denote collectively all the traditional medical systems, encompasses Ayurveda, the predominant system which came to the island from India with Buddhism 2,500 years ago, Siddha, Unani, and Deshiya Chikithsa. Deshiya Chikithsa is the earliest system of medicine Sri Lanka and has existed before the advent of Ayurveda. The term “traditional medicine” thus largely overlaps with the term “Ayurveda.”
Sri Lanka has a continuous written history. Stone scripts as early as 250 BCE, ancient texts together with remaining ola palm leaf texts, offer an insight into the intricacies of traditional food preparation which are based on ancient Ayurvedic principles of health. The nutritional basis of ingredients, methods of preparation, and their suitability for consumption depend on the patient’s physiological condition, as well as the environment and climate, are intricately interwoven.
For most people in Sri Lanka, a sambol or mallum, green leafy accompaniments to rich, spicy dishes, is a must have. They may not be aware of the exact nutritional value of these healthy and delicious greens but as children they will have been told to eat them up because they are good for them!
Centellia Asiatica, is a small perennial herb native to Asia and naturalized in many parts of the world including the US and Africa. It is mentioned in ‘Sushruta Samhita’, one of the earliest Ayurvedic medical texts, and for thousands of years has been famed for its Ayurvedic medicinal properties. In traditional Chinese herbal medicine, it is known as one of the “miracle elixirs of life” and in India, Centellia Asiatica is sometimes referred to as “Tiger Grass” due to the fact that wounded tigers would roll themselves in it. However, it is most often referred to by its Sinhalese name “Gotu Kola.”
In Sri Lanka gotu kola thrives in the marshy, shaded areas of the wet and intermediate zones but has established itself as an integral part of home gardens. An invaluable herb, having little taste or smell, with white or light purple-to-pink flowers and small oval fruit, it has throughout history been an integral part of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine and traditional medicine. It is commonly used as a juice, tea, or green leafy vegetable in dishes such as gotu sambol and gotu kanda, a nutritious herbal porridge based on ancient indigenous and Ayurvedic principles of well-being. Highly valued for it nutritional components of vitamins A, B2, C and iron, potassium and calcium, it is so popular that supermarket shelves now offer it in chopped, ready-to eat packets along with instant gotu kola kanda.
Long before the term “superfood” was coined, gotu kola was referred to in Ayurveda as the “herb of longevity”, standing out as having no equal in the treatment of general debility and decline. With its distinctive fan-shaped leaves, often described as being brain-like, it conforms to the “doctrine of signatures”, an ancient belief that herbs resemble the part of the body that they provide nutrients for and are used to treat.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is famed as a “medhya rasayana” with a rejuvenative effect on nerves and brain cells, that improves brain function, boosts memory and prevents cognitive deficits. It is also known as a powerful wound and skin disease healer and a blood purifier with gastroprotective qualities.
Studies continue to demonstrate the science behind gotu kola’s efficacy in traditional medicine. A nootropic which supports circulation to the brain whilst nourishing the nervous system, it is also a powerful adaptogen and antioxidant. It has also demonstrated anxiolytic, anti-convulsant, neuritogenic, antispasmodic, astringent, cardiotonic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic qualities. It is easy to understand why in Ayurvedic medicine it is considered “a pharmacy in one herb”.
Its remarkable cognitive, neurotropic and neuroprotective effects highlight its potential to modulate disease processes involved in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease in addition to treating conditions such as schizophrenia, epilepsy and strokes.
In today’s highly competitive society, nootropics, from the Greek nous (“mind“) and trepein (“to bend” or “turn“), literally meaning “mind turning’, often used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), have gained popularity with students seeking to improve cognitive function, boost memory, focus, creativity, and motivation. Statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association suggest that someone develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds. In 2019 Google searches for “nootropic” reportedly averaged 110,000 per month, reinforcing the fact that cognitive health is a cause for real concern across age demographics.
According to the current analysis of Reports and Data, the global nootropics market was valued at USD 1.96 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach USD 5.32 billion by the year 2026, at a CAGR of 13.2%
Whilst extracts of gotu kola phytochemical compounds may one day be the next miracle drug in the fight against neurodegenerative conditions, creating a new medicine is a long and rigorous process that takes 10 or more years from discovery to market at an estimated cost of around $2.6 billion. In contrast, herbal medicines and food supplements aren’t generally subjected to the same stringent testing requirements.
Alone or in combination with other nootropics, of which Sri Lanka has several, a simple decoction of fresh or dried gotu kola leaves, leaf-based juices, extracts in the form of tinctures and capsules of dried powdered leaf, offer an array of proven health benefits:
* boost cognitive function, enhances
memory and enhance performance
* provides protection of brain cells from toxicity and may protect the cells from forming the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s
*helps reduce anxiety and stress and helps with insomnia
*acts as an antidepressant
* supports vascular health reducing problems with fluid retention, ankle swelling and circulation
* is anti-ageing, promotes collagen production and rejuvenates skin, hair and nails
* reduces scarring and the appearance of stretch marks
* its anti-inflammatory properties may be useful in treating joint inflammation, cartilage and bone erosion
* Its antioxidant effects are immune
* suppresses the toxic side effects of drugs on liver and kidneys
Modern-day scientific research has yet to catch up with what has been known to sages and vaidyas, whose focus has been on the healing benefits of nature, for thousands of years but this is changing. Advances in science and information technology are making it easier for the pharmaceutical industry to uncover new insights into diseases, to identify and isolate specific phytochemical compounds, and to review the explosion of biological data that has already been published in peer-reviewed biomedical journals.
The World Health Organisation has recommended that medicinal plants be used more effectively in healthcare. Sri Lanka is uniquely positioned to exploit and market its own natural resources in the pursuit of global public health. There is very real global demand and there is a very real opportunity.
Emme Haddon has lived in the West Indies, France, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the UK. She has lived in Sri Lanka for 7 years. She has run various businesses and has set up a successful on-line clothing operation. She has a great interest in Sri Lanka’s plants and herbal medicines.
Nelli – On the cusp of becoming the world’s next top superfood
by Emme Haddon
FACT NOT HYPE: A nelli a day keeps sickness at bay! The humble little nelli fruit is the second richest natural source of Vitamin C on the planet and is an antioxidant powerhouse.
The Indian gooseberry tree, Phyllanthus emblica or Emblica officinalis, is considered the most important medicinal plant in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha, traditional systems of medicine. Whilst all parts of the tree are used medicinally, it is the fruit, known as amla in India and nelli in Sri Lanka, that is considered the most important. In one of the oldest ayurvedic treatise’s dating back to 2 A.D, nelli was regarded as the most potent and rejuvenating fruits supporting anti-aging and longevity. With an astounding 600 – 700mg of Vitamin C per tiny fruit – 160 times that of an apple – nelli is the second richest natural source of Vitamin C on the planet, and with an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) value of 261,500 it is an antioxidant powerhouse. When combined with 2 other fruits, aralu and bulu, in the ancient formula of “Triphala”, its ORAC value is an astounding 706,250 making it the 3rd highest antioxidant on the planet. It’s time that the old adage, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, is replaced with a nelli a day keep sickness at bay. When we hear the word superfood, images of blueberries, acai and turmeric, generally come to mind – nutrient-rich foods considered particularly beneficial for health that regularly feature in top-10 lists of superfoods. Blueberries contain around 9mg of Vitamin C per 100g so you would need to eat around 600g to get your Vitamin C RDI (recommended daily intake). In contrast, one little nelli fruit provides an incredible 1000% of your Vitamin C RDI. On the ORAC scale, nelli scores 56 times higher than blueberries and more than double that of the much-flouted acai berry. Interestingly, the antioxidant activity of nelli is reported to be between 4 and 10-fold higher than Curcuma longa, commonly known as turmeric, one of the world’s top-selling superfoods. If any food deserves to be elevated to “superfood” status, it’s nelli! Phyllanthus emblica, a small to medium-sized deciduous tree native to tropical South East Asia, frequently described as being a reservoir of nutraceuticals with efficacy against multiple diseases, is a known indigenous medicine in 17 countries. Eating nelli is excellent for the functioning of the circulatory, digestive and exocrine systems. There is hardly any disease for which nelli has not been used either singly or in combination with other ayurvedic herbs – the list is endless. Nelli has been the subject of countless scientific studies which have identified the presence of pharmacologically important active compounds, bioactive metabolites, such as alkaloids, phenols, flavonoids, terpenoids, glycosides and saponins. It shows enormous potential for a wide-array of applications:
*Potent immune booster
*Potent antioxidant & free radical scavenger
*Gastro-intestinal issues including heartburn, diarrhea &constipation
*Prevention and treatment of hyperlipidemia
*Anti-aging cell rejuvenator
*Repairs & promotes healthy hair, skin, eyes & nails
grows naturally, in a wide range of soils, in both dry and humid conditions of the dry and intermediate zones. Although it can tolerate moderate salinity, it is best cultivated in a pH range of 6-8 with reasonably fertile, well-drained, loamy soil. It is a versatile multipurpose tree with every part having some value – it provides fruits, medicines, dye and tannins, wood, fuel and green manure.
In India, where nelli is well-established as a rich crop, orchards are intercropped with moringa, guava, and coconut, as well as pulses, vegetable and other medicinal crops. Although nelli is highly nutritious, due to its extremely sour and astringent taste, it is used more in cooked and preserved foods, drinks and Ayurvedic medicines. Whilst there are some small-scale orchards, in Sri Lanka nelli has not been commercially exploited and is generally cultivated as an isolated tree in home gardens. In order to meet its Ayurvedic medicinal demand for nelli, Sri Lanka is estimated to import over 50,000 kg of dried nelli each year.
Nelli is also popular in traditional juices, pickles, candies, shampoos, conditioners and hair oils. There is immense potential for nelli, globally, as a dietary supplement in the form of tablets, capsules and powders, liquid extract and pulp in the nutraceutical, food and beverage, personal care and cosmetics markets.
The global herbal medicine and supplements market is booming and is projected to reach USD 411.2 billion by the year 2026. Rising awareness of nelli as an antioxidant-rich nutraceutical with proven health benefits relating to reduced risk of heart disease, high blood cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, weight loss, anti-ageing, cell damage, inflammation and immune-strengthening, is anticipated to drive the product demand.
In 2018, the nelli powder extract sector led the global market with a value of USD 22.61 billion and is projected to reach USD 37.2 billion by 2026 whilst the food & beverage segment accounted for USD 12.40 billion of revenue. Currently, Asia Pacific holds the largest market share of about 29.91% with India exporting to Japan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Korea and more recently Germany, Netherlands and the US.
Europe is expected to expand at the fastest CAGR of 5.35% by 2025. Big Herba are always on the lookout for the next superfood. According to the Harvard Institute, elevating a food to the superfood state generally translates into super sales: in the United Kingdom alone, the value of this market exceeds a billion dollars. Consumers are willing to pay more for foods and supplements that they perceive to be healthy with science backing up health claims. Until recently nelli was relatively unheard of outside of Asia.
In Sri Lanka, many consumers appear happy to splurge huge amounts on trendy, imported laboratory-created health and nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C “gummies” whilst the astounding benefits of nelli as a functional superfood, not just an Ayurvedic medicine, appear to be forgotten or unknown by many.
The world, however, is waking up to vast array of health benefits nelli has to offer. It’s only a matter of time before nelli makes it on to the world’s top-10 superfood lists. Science is confirming what has been known in Ayurveda for millennia. There is a real opportunity waiting to happen but is Sri Lanka ready?
Emme Haddon has lived in the West Indies, France, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the UK. She has run various businesses and has set up a successful on-line clothing operation. For the past 7 years she has lived in Sri Lanka where she has been able to pursue her passion for natural medicines. She has a great interest in Sri Lanka’s plants and herbal medicines.
Cinnamon Life pledges accommodation for Sri Lankan Olympic contingent
As a way of appreciating Sri Lanka’s Olympic team for representing the country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, Cinnamon Life will be hosting the contingent at Cinnamon Grand Colombo.
Cinnamon Life, which is Sri Lanka’s first ever integrated resort will host the entire contingent on full board complimentary basis, in adherence with all necessary COVID-19 health and safety protocol stipulated by the Tokyo Olympic organizers within a special dedicated floor at the Cinnamon Grand Colombo.
Commenting on the initiative, Krishan Balendra, Chairman – John Keells Holdings PLC noted: “Even amidst the challenging times the travel and tourism industry continues to face, Cinnamon Life recognises the need to support our national Olympic team and has agreed to provide accommodation for our Olympians and support staff on complimentary basis. We will extend our fullest care to give them the right state of mind with all necessary comforts to enable them to perform their best. Sports bring out national pride in any country and we believe that this gesture will assist to play a part in showcasing the talent of our national athletes to the world.”
Sri Lanka will be represented by nine athletes and 17 officials at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, who will compete in nine sporting categories namely Athletics, Badminton, Equestrian, Gymnastics, Judo, Shooting and Swimming.
Concluding, Krishan Balendra stated “With the vision of being the trendsetter in the hospitality industry, Cinnamon Life provides service offerings which go beyond traditional hospitality. We are trying to be pioneers in innovative solutions affecting the lives of all our stakeholders and are proud that a Sri Lankan brand that is invested in the growth of our nation, was chosen to ensure the needs and safety of our national athletes. As a responsible corporate citizen, we pledge to care for the nation’s people and communities through the practice of our core values: caring, trust and integrity. Offering complimentary accommodation for the national Olympians is a form of giving back and showing our appreciation for their dedication and commitment to represent our great nation.”
Originally scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9 August 2020, the Games had been postponed to 23 July to 8 August 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be Sri Lanka’s eighteenth [18th] appearance at the Summer Olympics, with the exception of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. The Sri Lanka team will consist of nine  athletes; four  competing in the men’s category; five  competing in the women’s category.
Minister of Sports, Namal Rajapaksa stated, “We are very keen to ensure the wellbeing of the athletes and aim to offer them the best comforts to boost their confidence and motivation as they prepare to represent our nation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We chose a great Sri Lankan brand and appreciate the generosity and hospitality of Cinnamon during these difficult times in helping our national Olympic contingent for the upcoming Olympic games. Support from local corporates for the development of sports is something to admire and acknowledge, as we need to build more athletes and sportspersons, and this would undoubtedly help to improve the growth of this talent in our country.”
Further commenting on the gesture, President of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka, Suresh Subramaniam stated, “I am indeed privileged to be a part of Sri Lanka’s Olympic committee. I am truly heartened to know that big corporates in Sri Lanka have defied all barriers and joined hands with us to support Team Sri Lanka. This is what you call true team spirit.”
Cinnamon Life is the largest real estate development project in modern Sri Lankan history and considered a significant vote of confidence in Colombo’s trajectory forward as an economic and tourist hub. The integrated hotel and mixed-use development beckons a new era of work and play in the city, with the office tower, a 30-storey A-grade workspace and 427 residential units in the heart of Colombo. It is linked to an 800-roomed five-star Cinnamon Hotel and a mall spread across five levels, housing iconic international brands and exclusive dining experiences. Cinnamon Life is the largest private investment in Sri Lanka to date and is scheduled to open by mid-2022.
For further information contact:
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Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts
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