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What is Kamala?

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  • Written By: Julia Neiman
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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Kamala is the common name for the tree Mallotus philippinensis, also known as Rottlera. The tree grows throughout tropical India, along the foot of the Himalayas from Kashmir eastward, in Abyssinia, China, Australia, and other places in the East. It is a small evergreen tree from the Spurge family that is believed by many to have medicinal properties. Kamala has been used by Ayurvedic practitioners for centuries and was mentioned in an ancient Indian text, Kurmapurana, from as far back as 1000 B.C.

The tree produces capsules or fruits the size of a small cherry, which ripen in February and March. The glands and hairs are collected from the ripe fruit and processed by crushing them or rolling them between the palms of the hand. Since ancient times, the capsules, which are thickly covered by a red powder, have been rolled in large wicker baskets to allow this powder to sift through into another container. Seed oil is also collected from the tree and used as medicine.

Scientific studies of kamala have found that it is rich in phenolic acid and phytophenols. It is believed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other therapeutic properties. It is used to kill and expel tapeworms and to treat herpetic ringworm and other skin disorders such as scabies and leprosy. The powder is used to treat eye diseases and legend says it is a powerful aphrodisiac.

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Kamala is also used in treating bronchitis, abdominal disease, spleen enlargement, and other illnesses. Its strong antioxidant and antiradical properties suggest that kamala may be appropriate for use as an additive for food and nutraceuticals. It is used in ghee and vegetable oil as a natural antioxidant.

There are other uses for kamala in addition to traditional medicine. The powder that covers the capsules is used to make a brownish-orange dye that is used for coloring silk and wool. The oil is used as a treatment for dry and damaged hair, and it is added to ointments to support healing. The seed oil is used in paints and varnishes, the seed cake is used as fertilizer, and the wood pulp is used to make paper.

One should use caution when considering kamala as a treatment taken orally. This herb sometimes causes nausea and vomiting. There is no specific information regarding the safety of the herb. As a traditional medicine, the drug has been found to sometimes be mixed with other ingredients, and should not be taken without consulting a qualified professional.

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