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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WHAT IS KIORA OR KEWRA OR KEWDA? SCREW PINES:USES OF KIORA WATER

KIORA (IN URDU) OR KEWRA OR KEWDA (HINDI) WATER
Kiora water is distilled from the male flowers of the Pandanus odoratissimus tree. There are over 70 varieties of Pandanus trees, but here we mention only two, as there is much research to be done on the health benefits of these trees. The fragrance of kiora water is similar to rose water, but it has a fruitier flavour.
   In English the trees are known as Screw Pines, although they are not pine trees, and they are also called Umbrella Trees because of the shape some of them grow in.
   Leaves from Pandanus amaryllifolius are used as a spice in South East Asia to flavour curries and desserts. These trees grow in tropical Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands. The ripe fruits of Pandanus trees have their distinctive aroma because of the essential oil they contain.
Fruit
    Pandanus odoratissimus grows all along the eastern coast of India and is particularly famous in Orissa where a lot of the distilled water comes from. This tree flowers in the monsoon season and is harvested in the early morning before the flowers open as they lose their fragrance quickly when they open. Sandalwood is added to the distillation to produce attar kewra which is used in the perfume industry, and ruh kewra is the essential oil that is produced, not mixed with anything and expensive. This name is interesting as ruh means soul in Urdu so the name could mean refresher of the soul. The aroma of this oil has a calming effect and is good as an aid to mental relaxation, as well as having anti-oxidant properties.
    Kiora water is a cheap by-product of the distillation process, but flowers of lower quality are also used to make the water which is used for cooking. In India and Pakistan it is used to flavour sweets and rice dishes. For a recipe using it go to our rare beef biryani one.
Flower
  In traditional medicine the powdered anthers and tops of the flower bracts are used to cure headaches and to treat rheumatism and epilepsy. The powder obtained from inside the anthers is inhaled or smoked like a cigarette as a cure for sore throats. It is believed that the root boiled in milk can cure female sterility and can prevent a miscarriage. In the Asian subcontinent it is thought that the oil is an aphrodisiac, and a decoction of the bark is said to help wounds heal quickly. Seeds from the plant are used to strengthen the liver and heart, and the oil is used for earache. It has antiseptic qualities similar to eucalyptus oil and the roots are diuretic, and used as a tonic and a purifier, so the whole of the tree is beneficial to our health.
  Pandanus amaryllifolius leaves are used in South East Asia to flavour meat dishes as they have a nutty taste. They are also used to wrap food in (after they have been steeped coconut milk) and to weave baskets which food is served in. They can also be used to weave mats and in the past were used as roofing material and to make grass skirts. In traditional medicine these leaves have been used to treat chest pains, reduce fevers, and inflammation from arthritis. Chewing the leaf helps oral health and stops bleeding gums. The leaves are also used to ease stomach cramps and spasms, and are given to women recovering after childbirth. It is thought that they might have anti-cancer properties too and trials are being carried out to see if they are effective against cancer. Extracts of these leaves may be added to bath water for skin problems and relief from sunburn.
    The leaves contain a natural insecticide which has been effective in killing mosquitoes.
  In the islands of Mare and Grande Terre which are part of New Caledonia, in the Pacific, ornithologists have found that New Caledonian crows make tools with the thorny edges of the pandanus leaves that grow there. They make hook-like tools in a three-stage process to dig insects out of holes in trees etc. The tools are sophisticated and the behaviour is learnt, so these crows are one of the few animals, along with chimpanzees that make tools. The pandanus trees are clearly not just for our benefit.

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