Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Guide: Learn the properties of local plants

The Zayed Centre for Herbal Research also provides information to visitors about the medicinal properties attributed to common spices, herbs and plants that grow in the UAE, as well as the ones that are toxic.
Apple of Sodom plant, which is grown at the Zayed Center for Herbal Research in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National
Apple of Sodom plant, which is grown at the Zayed Center for Herbal Research in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National

Besides serving as a hub of knowledge and research, the Zayed Centre for Herbal Research also provides information to visitors about the medicinal properties attributed to common spices, herbs and plants that grow in the UAE, as well as the ones that are toxic.

“One of the most common plants you find next to homes is known locally as Al Ashkhar (Calotropis Procera or Aiton), also [called] Apple of Sodom, where the whitish [sap] contains calotropin, which in some parts of the world is used to make arrow poison,” says Fatheya Abdullah Al Marzooqi, the awareness section head at the centre. She regularly guides visitors through a special garden of toxic and non-toxic plants.

Local hospitals often see cases of children who touched the plant and ended up with eye infections as the sap can cause corneal damage.

The common signs of toxicity from this plant include gastrointestinal-tract disturbances, including abdominal pain and vomiting, and cardiovascular symptoms, such as bradycardia (slow heart rate) and ventricular fibrillation (caused by disrupted electrical activity in the heart).

Other common toxic local plants include:

• Al Dafla (Nerium Oleander) or Royal Rosebay: popular as an ornament for its beautiful pinkish flowers and is highly toxic. In addition to gastrointestinal- tract disturbances such as nausea and vomiting, it can cause drowsiness, tremors and even coma.

• Iphiona Aucheri, known locally as the Hawa Al Ghazal: this plant has yellow flowers and there are records of camel deaths resulting from it. Symptoms of toxicity include acute liver and kidney impairment.

“We regularly publish brochures and have campaigns to educate the public on the toxic and non-toxic plants they find around their neighbourhoods or in the wild,” says Al Marzooqi.

“Whenever people go camping, they should read up on what plants are safe and which ones aren’t, for the sake of themselves and their children.”

• Lantana Camara, also known locally as Al Lantana: its tiny colourful flowers look nice, but its unripe berries can poison children who like to play with the flowers and berries because of the attractive colours and shapes.

Signs of toxicity include jaundice, constipation, sluggishness and, in chronic cases, weight loss, mouth and nostril lesions, as well as swellings in mucous membranes.

Here is a list of plants and herbs with some of their medicinal uses, as researched by the Zayed Center for Herbal Research.

Turmeric (Al Curcum) Anti-inflammatory used to relieve flatulence, abdominal colic, and in poultices, for pain and skin inflammation treatment.

Cardamom (Al Hail) Gastrointestinal stimulant for relieving flatulence; diuretic and expectorant for relieving bronchitis and asthma.

Olibanum, frankincense (Al Luban Al Dhaker) Gastrointestinal complaints, anti-inflammatory and is also a fumigant for pest control.

Lavender (al Khouzama) Calming, helps relieve bronchitis and laryngitis, and is used for aromatherapy.

Aniseed (Yansoon) Expectorant useful for coughs and colds, flatulence relief, soothes colic and helps reduce headaches.

Fennel (al Shammar) Relieves flatulence and is a mild laxative, an effective diuretic and soothes chronic coughs.

Senna (Al Hulool) Laxative, gastrointestinal stimulant and helps inhealing wounds.

Teucrium (Jaada) Helps in convalescence and loss of appetite, chronic indigestion, chronic bronchitis and colds; it is also a diuretic.

Sage (Al Marameyya) Used for colds, relieves flatulence and soothes duodenal ulcers.

Chebulic (Helilij) Laxative, antacid, soothes duodenal ulcers.

Ginger (Zanjabeel) Used to ease cough and cold symptoms, relieve flatulence, soothe colic, stimulate digestion and is refreshing.

Fenugreek (Al Helba)

Consumed in drinks and food to help breathing symptoms when suffering from coughs and colds; it is used to heal wounds.

Colocynth, desert squash (Al Hendel):

Diuretic, helps asthma, purgative, vermifuge (expels parasitic worms), antipyretic (reduces fever), relieves flatulence and can help with arthritis.

Costus, Kut Root (Al Qest) Used for laryngitis and pharyngitis and is a disinfectant and cleanser.

Cumin (Cammoon) Relieves flatulence, antacid, and soothes colic.

Hibiscus (Karkadeh) Diuretic, mild laxative, soothes the digestive system and is calming.

Black Seeds (A Habba Al Souda) Helps ease dysuria (pain when urinating) and is used to relieve symptoms of colds and asthma and relieve flatulence. Also used to ease dermatitis, arthritis and muscle spasm.

Christ’s thorn (Al Sidr) Used for chest ailments, wounds, skin diseases, headache and osteoarthritis; it is also a laxative.

Thyme (Zaatar) A disinfectant and vermifuge – relieves flatulence, soothes colic; useful for easing cough and cold symptoms. It is calming and helps with toothache.

Myrrh (Al Murr) Relieves flatulence, wound healing, skin ulcers and chest ailments.

Henna (Al Henna) An astringent with a cooling effect; it is antimicrobial and is used in hair dye; it is also used to treat skin diseases and burns.

Updated: May 6, 2017 04:00 AM

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