Philippine Traditional Herbal Medicine
Traditional herbal medicine has been practiced since ancient times in every culture throughout the world and has been an integral part of human evolution and development. This knowledge was passed on from generation to generation. In the past few years, a renewed interest on this natural method of treatment arose. This popularity will continue as medical science validates the affectivity of many medicinal herbs as alternative medicine. For that reason, we like to present you ten medicinal plants that the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) through its “Traditional Health Program” have endorsed. All ten herbs have been thoroughly tested and have been clinically proven to have medicinal value.
The following are the 10 Medicinal Plants in the Philippines endorsed by DOH:
1. Garlic – Bawang (Allium sativum)
Bawang (Allium sativum) or in English “Garlic” is known as nature’s antibiotic. You can use Bawang to treat infection with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-hypertensive properties. It is widely used to reduce cholesterol level in blood.
2. Peppermint – Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii)
Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii) – commonly known as Peppermint. The name “yerba buena” derives from Spanish for “good herb”. People use this aromatic plant as herbal medicine worldwide. This perennial plant’s growth ranges from 0.6 meters to 1 meter. It has elongated leaves and in summers, it bears small whitish or purplish flowers. This plant is used in Philippine herbal medicine as analgesic to relive body aches and pain due to rheumatism and gout. You can also use it to treat coughs, colds and insect bites.
3. Candle Bush – Akapulko (Cassia alata)
Akapulko (Cassia alata) is an important medicinal tree, as well as an ornamental flowering plant in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae. It also known as emperor’s candlesticks, candle bush, candelabra bush, empress candle plant, ringworm bush or candletree. The shrub stands 3–4 m tall, with leaves 50–80 cm long who close in the dark. The inflorescence looks like a yellow candle. The fruit, shaped like a straight pod, is up to 25 cm long.
Senna alata is often called the ringworm bush because of its very effective fungicidal properties, for treating ringworm and other fungal infections of the skin. The leaves are ground in a mortar in order to obtain a kind of “green cotton wool”.
This is mixed with the same amount of vegetable oil and rubbed on the affected area two or three times a day. Its active ingredients include the yellow chrysophanic acid. Also this herb is used to treat tinea infections, insect bites, eczema, scabies and itchiness.
4. Blumea camphor – Sambong (Blumea balsamifera)
Sambong (Blumea balsamifera) in English: “Ngai camphor or Blumea camphor” is a softly hairy, half woody, strongly aromatic shrub, 1-4 meters (m) high. Simple, alternate, broadly elongated leaves, 7-20 cm long, and yellow flower head scattered along much-branched leafy panicles. In a Philippine herbal medicine used to treat kidney stones, wounds and cuts, rheumatism, anti-diarrhea, anti-spasms, colds and coughs and hypertension. Most noteworthy, its primary uses are as a diuretic (or “water pill”) and to treat symptoms of the common cold. As a diuretic, sambong is an herb used to treat urolithiasis (urinary tract or kidney stones) and urinary tract infections, and thus reduces high blood pressure. In addition, Sambong works as an expectorant, an anti-diarrheal and an anti-spasmotic, all of which treat some symptoms of the common cold.
5. Rangoon Creeper – Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.)
Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.) also known as the Chinese honeysuckle or Rangoon creeper, is a vine with red flower clusters and is found in Asia. The Rangoon creeper is a ligneous vine that can reach from 2.5 meters to up to 8 meters. The leaves are elliptical with an acuminate tip and a rounded base. The flowers are fragrant and tubular and their color varies from white to pink to red. The 30 to 35 mm long fruit is ellipsoidal and has five prominent wings. The fruit tastes like almonds when mature. This Philippine herbal medicine is used to eliminate intestinal parasites.
6. Bitter Melon – Ampalaya (Momordica charantia)
Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) known as bitter melon, bitter gourd, bitter squash, or balsam-pear. This herbaceous, tendril-bearing vine grows up to 5 m (16 ft) in length. It bears simple, alternate leaves 4–12 cm (1.6–4.7 in) across, with three to seven deeply separated lobes. Each plant bears separate yellow, male and female flowers. This herbal medicine is effective in the treatment of diabetes (cannot be recommended as a replacement therapy for insulin or hypoglycemic drugs), hemorrhoids, coughs, burns and scalds. In traditional medicine different parts of the plant are used as claimed treatments as a stomachache, laxative, anti-bilious, emetic, antihelmintic agent. Furthermore you can use it for treating cough, respiratory diseases, skin diseases, wounds, ulcer, gout, and rheumatism.
7. Pepper Elder – Pansit-Pansitan (Peperomia pellucida)
Pansit-Pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) also known by common names pepper elder, shining bush plant, and peperomia is an annual, shallow-rooted herb, usually growing to a height of about 15 to 45 cm. The following elements characterize this plant: succulent stems, shiny, heart-shaped, fleshy leaves and tiny, and seeds. Most noteworthy about the pepper elder is that is effective in fighting arthritis and gout. You can eat the leaves fresh (about a cupful) as salad or make a tea out of them. To prepare the tea, boil a cup of clean chopped leaves in 2 cups of water. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain, let cool and drink a cup after meals (3 times day).
8. Guava – Bayabas (Psidium guajava)
Bayabas (Psidium guajava) the common guava, yellow guava, or lemon guava is an evergreen shrub or small tree. Guava fruits can range in size from as small as an apricot to as large as a grapefruit. Various cultivars have white, pink, or red flesh, and a few also feature red (instead of green or yellow) skin. Also the guava people use it as antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, antioxidant hepatoprotective, anti-allergy, antimicrobial, anti-plasmodial, anti-cough, anti-diabetic, and antigenotoxic in folkloric medicine.
9. Philippine Tea Tree – Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.)
Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.) also known as the Fukien tea tree or Philippine tea tree. It is a shrub growing to 4 m height, with long, straggling, slender branches. It is deciduous during the dry season. Its leaves are usually 10–50 mm long and 5–30 mm wide, and may vary in size, texture, colour and margin. It has small white flowers, and ripening brownish orange. In Philippine herbal medicine, you can find that you can take it as tea to treat skin allergies including eczema, scabies and itchiness wounds in child birth. In addition, use the leaves to treat cough, colic, diarrhea and dysentery.
10. Chaste Tree – Lagundi (Vitex negundo)
Lagundi (Vitex negundo) commonly known as the Chinese chaste tree, five-leaved chaste tree, or horseshoe vitex, is a large aromatic shrub with quadrangular, densely whitish, tomentose branchlets. This is an erect shrub or small tree growing from 2 to 8 m (6.6 to 26.2 ft) in height. The bark is reddish brown. Its leaves are digitate, with five lanceolate leaflets, sometimes three. The fruit is a succulent drupe, 4 mm (0.16 in) in diameter, with round or egg-like shape. It is black or purple when ripe. People use it in folk medicine, particularly in South and Southeast Asia. It is especially relevant to say that in the Philippines they use the chaste tree to treat cough, colds and fever. In addition, they also use it as a relief for asthma and pharyngitis, rheumatism, dyspepsia, boils, and diarrhea.
For more of these medical plants you can find on official site of Philippine Department of Health.
Like any herbal medicine it is not advisable to take any other medication in combination with any herbs. It is especially relevant to consult with a medical practitioner knowledgeable in herbal medicine before any treatment.
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