Our initial article on panela was just a general prelude to the product and how it is produced. My first introduction to panela was as Aguapanela – a beverage, chilled and refreshing or hot with lemon for a cold or the flu. There was one use however that I was not expecting.
One of our dogs had to have mammary surgery. She was a Terrier cross – ”Heinz 57” – a wiggly jiggly little thing. Due to her incessant movement, her incision did not heal. The stitches separated and nothing we tried allowed her wound to heal. Finally we took her back to the vet and asked for assistance. To my surprise he suggested that we make a paste of panela and fill the incision three times a day. After two weeks she was completely healed !
I discussed this with my mother who had been in nursing during WW II. She told me for bed sores they use to cover the wound in sugar and cover it with brown paper and invariably the sore would heal (it would seem modern science has forgotten this). In analysing this situation we have speculated that perhaps the sugar level is so high or perhaps the pH was too acidic that virtually no bacteria can survive in this medium. A bit further research showed, at a minimum panela has some known medicinal qualities.
Sugar cane has a wide range of nutritional value depending on the soil conditions, the climate, the variety of sugar cane and its production process. You can dissolve it in any liquid and because of the evaporation process it retains many of the sugar cane components but in a higher concentration. Panela contains mineral salts in a proportion of 5 times more than brown sugar and 50 times more than refined sugar. The principal minerals found in panela are Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorus, as well as traces of Fluorine and Selenium.
Refined sugar does not stand up in comparison to panela. The refined sugar is almost entirely sucrose and has no mineral or vitamin content. Panela on the other hand does. Besides the minerals listed above it has Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 and B6, Vitamin C and Vitamin D. Additionally it has small amounts of thiamine , riboflavin , niacin and ascorbic acid .
Some athletes use it in cold water for a cold sports drink. Professional Colombian cyclists have used it for years and originally had even been accused of doping for ingesting an ”unknown” substance. See the attached link – http://www.cyclinginquisition.com/2009/12/powered-by-panela.html
Regardless of how you use it, panela has some very interesting benefits and applications, topically or orally.
For those interested in a more scientific analysis on panela, follow this link – http://www.scielo.br/pdf/cta/v30n1/aop_3523.pdf