Zizira explorers have been hearing a buzz about Sohdanei – that it is used for curing many an ailment and could also help people shed weight! We decided to find out more by talking to people in Meghalaya who are knowledgeable about herbal medicines. *pronounced Sawh-da-ney (as -ey in they)
Botanists call it Garcinia pedunculata. In Assamese it is Borthekera. In Hindi, Amalvet or Avetasa. It is a wild tree with a thick and corky bark, growing up to about 20 meters high. The trunk is fluted (having parallel grooves), branches are short and spreading.
Leaves are lanceolate (lance-shaped) with stout midribs. Flowers are pedunculate, i.e., they cluster on a peduncle or stalk. The fruit is 8-12 cm in diameter and globose (round, flattened at the top – like apple) with a fleshy aril (seed covering).
Studies have revealed many organic compounds (tabled below) present in the plant:
|Plant Part||Organic Chemical Composition|
|Main flesh of the fruit or pericarp||Benzophenone, pedunculol and cambogin|
|Heartwood or stem||Benzophenone and xanthone|
|Rind||hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a natural anti-obesity agent|
Sohdanei also has high content of polyphenols, flavonoids and ascorbic acid which are natural anti-oxidants and anti-aflatoxins that help prevent coronary heart diseases and atherosclerosis. There are claims that it has a number of medicinal benefits – right from being an anti-diarrhoeic, to anti-diabetic to being anti-flatulent!
Our team of explorers met a local medicinal practitioner and his wife of Lummawbah, Shillong who love to share their knowledge of herbal medicines to help people heal. I met him at his residence in mid-September of 2016 . He was kind enough to share his knowledge about Sohdanei.
Sohdanei grows wild in the Ri-Bhoi region of Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. It ripens fully in spring (April to mid-May), which is the correct time to harvest. Though it can be eaten raw, the fruit is usually cut into slices and sun-dried and stored.
To make a decoction take 2 or 3 slices of dried Sohdanei in a pan. Add a glass of water, 1 or 2 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt and bring it to boil. Let it simmer for about 7-8 minutes. Allow it to cool. Strain through a muslin cloth and drink. It’s that simple.” Said Bah.
‘Bah’ is a respectful way of addressing seniors in Khasi, the language of Meghalaya. Besides cure and control of diseases Sohdanei protects internal organs like liver, kidneys and pancreas. That may be why it is very effective in combating food poisoning or any poisoning. In poisoning cases more slices are boiled, with only salt added.
Sohdanei decoction also completely detoxifies the system affected through wrong use of drugs. Raw garcinia can also be preserved by boiling the slices in a little-salted water. Stored properly in an airtight container the boiled fruit can stay up to one year.
To combat obesity, Bah advises a combination of the decoction and exercise – walking,and jogging. Another way to consume Sohdanei is to chop into smaller pieces, pop a couple in the mouth and keep till they soften and then wash them down with a glass of plain water. It will be rather sour though! So, be prepared for the tanginess.
Many stories of cure abound. One person I spoke to was Kong Ris, 35, a mother of three, from Phlangwanbroi, near Mawsynram. For many years she suffered from gastric problems. Indigestion, nausea, vomiting, gas and so on.
Sometime in the winter of 2014, the acidity became too unbearable for her. She looked sick – as she weighed just 37 kilos and her face was discoloured by dark, ugly pigmentation. Her blood pressure plummeted. “Almost a walking corpse, I decided to go to the hospital.”
I was doubling with pain when I reached the hospital. A few tests later the doctors delivered another deadly blow: calculi (stones) in my gall-bladder.” Said Kong Ris.
Unconvinced, she went for a second opinion to another hospital. Results confirmed the same. She was to take the prescribed medicines. She was advised to drink lots of water and return after a month for a follow-up.
Two days into the medication, her condition worsened, and she became bedridden. Then a relative told her about Bah and his wife who could help suggest herbal medicines. I decided to try him" she said, "anything, just to get rid of that unbearable agony."
She came to Lummawbah the following day, and went back with a packet of Sohdanei.
As soon as I reached home I hurriedly pounded two slices of Sohdanei and boiled them in a glass of water, a teaspoon of sugar and a little salt.”
She gulped the decoction down, and slept, peacefully, for the first time in many months! She continued having the herbal decoction, as prescribed. Before the packet was over, barely three weeks later, she was fit as a fiddle.
I just could not believe it!" she said, "after so long I could go about my daily chores without the dread of pain in the pit of my stomach, without the sour eructation rising out of my gullet..."
Then time came for her for her follow-up at the hospital. Looking at the latest test reports the doctors were astounded.
You no longer have stones" they said. "What did you take?" She replied she took lots of water, as advised!
Her gallstones had disappeared; gastric problems were gone too. Her complexion glowed again. Other women from the village wanted to know what cream she used! She regained her weight. It’s a healthy 48 Kg now. Bah attributed this change to Sohdanei's beneficial and protective properties for internal organs. Kong Ris' 'miracle cure' literally brought the entire village to her doorstep.
She willingly referred many of them to the healer, and brought packets of Sohdanei for others from Shillong. Sohdanei not only heals, it also enhances taste. Add some of it into your dals, curries, and teas and feel your palate go a-tickling! Or make a cooling sherbet. What more can we ask for? These God-given, natural cures are safe (used through a certified practitioner) and inexpensive.
Zizira will continue to explore and bring you such reports and stories about naturally grown, unique produce of Meghalaya. And, if convinced then create a market for them through our eStore
Disclaimer: The use of Sohdanei for medicinal purposes is a suggestion and not a prescription. Persons with medical problems are encouraged to consult their physicians for expert advice.
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