The Wonderful Thanakha Tree
By Amy Khin
Thanakha (“Limonia acidissima (Roxb)”) is a tree that grows in Sri Lanka, the southern and western parts of India, the north-western part of the Himalayas and in Myanmar. In Myanmar a fragrant durable liquid or paste is extracted from the bark which is also called Thanakha. The best Thanakha plants are naturally slow in growth and it takes many years for the tree trunk to grow to just two inches in diameter The bark obtained from these trees is so fragrant that the ladies of Myanmar like them very much. The different varieties of the Thanakha tree vary in quality but those produced from Shwebo district, the Shinma taung and Pakokku district are the best and most famous.
The Thanakha is also a very useful plant and it plays a great part in the field of Myanmar indigenous medicine - the leaves are used as a remedy for epilepsy in some regions and the cosmetic form cures pimples and acne. The hard yellowish sweet smelling Thanakha wood is also used to make handicrafts such as combs and boxes and many other products.
To make the Thanakha cosmetic the bark is ground with a little water on a circular flat stone. The Thanakha liquid or paste thus produced has a nice fragrance and makes the skin cool, smooth, and fresh. No matter how much modern cosmetics and make-up are in abundance today the Thanakha is still a favourite beautifier of Myanmar Ladies from all walks of life. And it is also very common to see young boys wearing Thanakha.
Thanakha agrees with Myanmar’s natural environs and it is recognised to be of great help to bear the heat of the sun or to protect from the wind especially for those who have to work under direct sunlight or in windy conditions such as the ladies who work in the paddy fields: they wear thick layers of Thanakha because of the intense heat.
Nowadays Thanakha is packaged in the form of a thick dry cream or powder which is handy and convenient to carry.
The tradition of wearing Thanakha will be cherished for generations. Everybody loves to put on Thanakha after having a bath at the end of a long, tiring day leaving us cool, fragrant and refreshed.