Hala fruit (botanical name Pandanus tectorius) is a vigorously growing and enduring plant belonging to the Pandanaceae (screw-pine) family. This plant is found growing naturally in the tropical, warm temperate maritime, sub-tropical and tropical regions of the world where there is no frosting. Hala fruit is indigenous to south Asia.
Pandanus tectorius is a dioecious tree that usually grows to a height of anything between 4 m and 14 m, while some may even be as tall as 18 m. This tree is laxly as well as extensively branched. It is found growing naturally in the coastal vegetation and strand line, which also includes secondary forests, swampy or grassy woodlands and scrub thickets that have developed on makatea. In other words, the vegetation that has come up on elevated fossilized coralline limestone terraces. This plant commonly grows along the periphery of swamps and mangrove.
The hala fruit plant has the ability to adapt itself to unusually wide variety of coastal soils that are infertile, saline, light to heavy, acidic or alkaline (pH ranging from 6-10) to thin, sodic, infertile, peaty, limestone and swampy sands, clays, loams and various different combinations which may be impeded, free or seasonally waterlogged. This plant has the ability to withstand water logging for six months at a stretch and on specific type of soils this can even extend to a year. Its ability to tolerate water logging increases when it grows on soils like peat, when it is growing on the periphery of saltwater mangroves. Pandanus tectorius has a single trunk having brown ringed bark. Prop roots support the plant anchoring it firmly to the ground. Sometimes, the roots of this tree grow together with the branch, often growing at wide angles well-balanced with the trunk. The stem as well as the branches of Pandanus tectorius is ringed having distinct rippling leaf scars, which are found in rows of prickles sometimes.
The leaves of this plant are glaucous, sessile, having a deep green hue. They are linear measuring 1 m to 3 m in length and 11 cm to 16 cm in width, tapering, acuminate with spiny midribs and sheathing bases as well as smooth or spiny margins. The leaves of Pandanus tectorius are crowded around the top of the stem and assembled in three twirls in an arrangement akin to a screw that lens this plant its common name. A few varieties of Pandanus tectorius possess spines the length of the edges as well as the ribs all through the leaves, which are arranged in a spiral manner at the branch terminals.
As discussed earlier, the hala fruit (Pandanus tectorius) is dioecious. In other words, separate trees bear the male and female flowers and the male and female flowers are very different from each other. The male flowers are called racemes and are fragrant, small and very short-lived. Usually, they last just for a day. On the other hand, the female flowers bear resemblance to pineapples.
Pandanus tectorius bears two types of fruits. They are either globose whose diameter may vary from 4 cm to 20 cm and be 8 cm to 30 cm in length. Alternately, they may be ovoid, sub-globose or ellipsoid with same measurements. The fruit comprises about 38 to 200 phalanges that are like wedges having an external husk that is fibrous. On an average, these phalanges have two seeds each. It has sometimes been reported that a phalange contained as many as eight seeds. These phalanges are floating and the seeds enclosed by them remain viable for several months even when they are carried from one place to another by the ocean currents.
Leaves, roots, flowers.
Hala fruit has rich fiber content and, hence, consuming it is good for the health of the heart. It is definitely a healthy alternative to the processed foods available in the market. Some people also claim that consuming this fruit also helps to enhance blood circulation. As this fruit improves blood circulation, it also has the potential to safeguard us from developing heart diseases. There is lots of evidence that including fiber-rich foods in our diet can help to lessen the chances of developing heart disease. At the same time, it can help to prevent the occurrence of various other diseases too.
The hala fruit offers us with superior quality nutrition, which has the ability to perk up our energy levels and also prevent our body as well as the mind from getting tired. When one is enduring low energy levels, he/she should drink a glass of coconut and hala juice in the morning, as this will provide them with a long-lasting energy boost.
Similar to various other types of fruits, hala is also an excellent dietary fiber resource. It has been found that numerous people do not get sufficient amount of fiber through their diet. This is particularly true in the West where people's diet mainly comprise too many processed foods. Findings of studies have shown that intake of more dietary fiber can help to promote our health in several different ways.
Hala fruit has the potential to cure as well as prevent several common digestive problems like flatulence, bloating, constipation and even diarrhea. Several researches have suggested that including additional fiber in our diet may also lower the chances of developing serious diseases such as cancer. Rather than consuming empty calories that do not provide us any benefit, but inhibit the digestive process, it is advisable that you add some fruits such as hala and others to your daily diet and savour the rewards.
Hala fruit is especially beneficial to women. Traditionally, consumption of hala fruit has the potential to assist women combat menstrual cramps and monthly pains experienced by them during their menstrual cycles. While scientific research is much stronger compared to anecdotal evidence, you can often rely on them. These have been backed by various scientific studies. In fact, what locals have known for centuries, scientific studies have often corroborated the same at a much later stage.
Consuming fruits that are very high fiber content, such as hala, has the potential to enhance the health of the digestive system. In other words, the digestive system will function more efficiently when one takes more fiber through his/her diet. At the same time, fiber helps to give a sense of fullness and satisfies one's appetite. This is because he/she does not feel hungry for a long time and avoids taking processed foods as snack in between meals. It also means that the person would not intake too many empty calories from junk foods. If this is maintained over a period of time, it will help to even achieve weight loss.
Natives in Hawaii assert that consumption of hala fruit not only offers physical benefits, but it also has the ability to enhance one's mental state. The locals claim that consuming this wonderful fruit can even help the mind to relax, while easing some symptoms related to anxiety and stress.
It is worth mentioning here that almost the entire hala plant is beneficial for our health in some way or the other. Hence, it is not surprising that even the tips of the plant, which is fibrous, is used by people to clean their teeth. Local people even use the green tips of the plant to brush their teeth after a meal and also to prevent food particles from building up inside the mouth. They also serve excellently as natural toothpicks as well as floss helping people to keep their mouth fresh and clean after having their meals.
Locals claim that hala fruit possesses the ability to aid in relieving headaches and migraines. Hence, it has been traditionally used by them for these purposes. Local inhabitants who have been consuming hala fruits for several centuries also claim that it possesses aphrodisiac properties. Many others also claim that several herbs and foods have the ability to enhance one's sex life. However, we often have a tendency to disbelieve them.
People in Hawaii use the fruits, aerial parts of the plant and the male flowers separately and also blended with other substances to cure an assortment of ailments, which includes respiratory problems and digestive disorders.
Inhabitants of the Republic of Kiribati use the leaves of hala plant to treat conditions like common colds, flu, asthma, hepatitis, boils, dysuria and even cancer. On the other hand, the roots of the plant are used to make a decoction for treating hemorrhoids.
Similarly, people in Palau use the leaves of this tree to cure vomiting, while they use the root to prepare a drink that helps to ease stomach cramps. Even in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine system, the leaves of hala tree are used to treat scabies, smallpox, syphilis, leprosy and leucoderma. They are also employed for treating leucorrhea, filarial disease and as an emmenagogue in the traditional Indian way. Even the anthers of hala male flowers are used to treat headaches and earaches.
In ancient times, people used a poultice made with freshly picked hala leaves and mixed with oil to treat headaches, while a decoction prepared with the leaves was used for alleviating stomach spasms and arthritis. The dried leaves of hala fruit are pounded into powder and applied on wounds to facilitate healing.
Hala fruit has a bright color and it also tastes good - both of which are useful for improving one's appetite. Hence, consuming this fruit is beneficial for children, especially those who pick foods while eating or may be suffering from eating disorder.
Polynesians used these leaves to make mats, baskets, thatched roofs, outrigger canoe sails and also grass skirts.
The hala fruit (Pandanus tectorius) can be consumed raw. Alternately, this fruit can also be cooked for consumption. It is one of the primary food sources of Micronesia, particularly in the atolls. In addition, the hala fruit is among the traditional foods in Maldivian gastronomy.
The leaves of Pandanus tectorius also have culinary uses as they are frequently used to add essence sweet dishes like kaya jam. These leaves are often used in Sri Lankan cuisine to enhance the flavour of various curries.
Pandanus tectorius grows naturally in the coastal areas. They are a common sight in beaches and on the margins of mangrove. These hardy plants are usually found growing at altitudes of 610 m from the sea level. These plants need an average annual rainfall of anything between 1,500 mm and 4,000 mm. Thatch screw-pines has the ability to adapt itself and grow in various different types of soils along the coasts. This includes coral sand, quartz sand, peat and also in basalt and limestone. However, P. tectorius possesses the ability to endure wind and salt and has a slight preference to soils that are acidic to basic (pH of anything between 6 and 10). It also prefers full sunlight for optimal growth and can also grow healthily in areas having 30% to 50% shade.
Despite the fact that the hala fruit offers us several health benefits one should to be cautious before consuming it, especially people who are vulnerable to allergic reactions. People who are prone to allergy should first taste a little piece of the fruit and wait for some time to see whether or not there is any reaction due to the fruit. If there is any allergic reaction like itchiness, rash, nausea and/or red marks or there is some uneasiness, he/she should immediately stop eating the fruit. In case, the person continues eating the fruit, his/her condition will deteriorate further.
So far, no one has undertaken any specific study on the complete effects of the fruit on pregnant women and nursing mothers. Therefore, it is advisable that women should stay away from this fruit during pregnancy and lactation. This is because it is not certain how the contents of the fruit may affect the fetus or what impact they may have on a baby's health.
Consuming this fruit in excess may have adverse effects on one's health. Owing to the rich fiber content of this fruit, it may cause diarrhea. Hence, it is advisable that one should only consume the ripe fruits and in the right amount.
It is strictly advisable not to consume this fruit while taking medication as the hala fruit has the potential to interact with the medicine you may be taking and also hinder with their effectiveness. In some cases, chemical reactions may take place, reducing the benefits of the drugs. Hence, it is recommended that this fruit must be eaten some hours after taking any medication. This would help in avoiding any interference with the drugs.