An age old herb – Snan altais

Muscat: The Muttrah Fish Market has been popular for decades and especially now with the new architectural design the market boasts the meeting of tradition and modern needs. Located right next to Sultan Qaboos Port the fish market is a land mark and popular with tourists as well as regular customers.

However yet another feature of the iconic structure is the vegetable market where farmers bring out their fresh produce alongside imported fruits and crops. What many may not have not noticed are the collection of Omani herbs some of them which are important in herbal medicine practiced in Oman.

Saif Mohsin, vegetable shop owner, is eager to introduce the herbal plant ‘Snan al Tais.’  The plant with yellow flowers is very important explained the veteran shop owner, “Drink it with water and it is great for the bones. And in cases of severe vomiting.”

Ali Esmail al Snafi in his paper, ‘Pharmacological importance of Haplophyllum Species in Iraq,’ explained, “Snan Altais (Haplophyllum Species) contains alkaloids, lignans, coumarins, flavanoids, essential oil and volatile oil.

The pharmacological activities included antioxidant, antimicrobial, insecticidal, antiprotozoal, molluscicidal, cytotoxic, cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory effects.”

In his paper he also added that in the north of Oman, the juice expressed from the leaves was used as a remedy for headaches and arthritis. In Saudi Arabia, Haplophyllum tuberculatum, in addition to treating headaches and arthritis was also used to remove warts and freckles and to treat skin discolouration, infections and parasitic diseases.

“In Sudan, the herb was used as an antispasmodic, to treat allergic rhinitis, gynecological disorders, asthma and breathing difficulties.  In Iraq the herb was used as a salve for wounds and a decoction was used for stomachaches in children, while in Algeria the herb was used injuries, ulcers, for infertility, diabetes, bloating, fever, liver disease, rheumatism, obesity, constipation, colon, hypertension, cardiac disease, scorpion stings, flu, vomiting, throat inflammation, tonsillitis, cough and loss of appetite,” writes Al Sanfi in his review.

Ahmed al Abry who practices traditional Omani medicine explained, “It is the best medicine to heal fractures of the bone. It is best used after drying and powdered. Just add a small spoon to a glass of warm milk and drink twice a day. One can also use it fresh boiling it in water.”

“The plant is found in the mountain areas of Oman – in Salalah, Jabal Akhdhar, Jabal Shams and even in the foothills like Al Hamra,” he added.

The tradition seemed to continue because the precious herb is still available at the vegetable market in Muttrah.  Saif Mohsin sell the plant as well as in powdered form.