Saturday, September 22, 2012

6 Examples of Herbal Plants in the Philippines


Sambong (Blumea balsamifera L.)

Herbal Medicine Picture: Sambong (Blumea Balsamifera)

Sambong (scientific name: Blumea balsamifera) is an amazing medicinal plant. Coming from the family of Compositae, it goes by several names locally. It is known in the Visayas as bukadkad and as subsob in Ilocos. The plant is a strongly aromatic herb that grows tall and erect. Its height ranges from 1.5 to 3 meters, with stems that grow for up to 2.5 centimeters. It is an anti-urolithiasis and work as a diuretic. It is used to aid the treatment of kidney disorders. The Sambong leaves can also be used to treat colds and mild hypertension. Since it is a diuretic, this herbal medicine helps dispose of excess water and sodium (salt) in the body.

Sambong is one herbal medicine (of ten) approved by the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) as an alternative medicine in treating particular disorders. This plant possesses a multitude of properties that make it worthy of the DOH approval. It functions as an astringent and as an expectorant, and has been found to be anti-diarrhea and anti-spasm. As an astringent, preparations made of sambong leaves may be used for wounds and cuts. It is also suggested to be incorporated to post-partum baths, as well as considerable immersion of particular body areas that are afflicted with pains caused by rheumatism. Its expectorant properties make it as a popular recommendation to be taken in as tea to treat colds.

Powdered Sambong leaves are available in 250 mg tablets at the DOH's Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) Telephone # (632) 727-6199.

Health Benefits of Sambong:

• Good as a diuretic agent
• Effective in the dissolving kidney stones
• Aids in treating hypertension & rheumatism
• Treatment of colds & fever
• Anti-diarrheic properties
• Anti-gastralgic properties
• Helps remove worms, boils
• Relief of stomach pains
• Treats dysentery, sore throat

Preparation & Use:

• A decoction (boil in water) of Sambong leaves as like tea and drink a glass 3 or 4 times a day.
• The leaves can also be crushed or pounded and mixed with coconut oil.
• For headaches, apply crushed and pounded leaves on forehead and temples.
• Decoction of leaves is used as sponge bath.
• Decoction of the roots, on the other hand, is to be taken in as cure for fever.


Silymarin - Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

Silymarin | Milk Thistle Plant

Silymarin is derived from Milk Thistle (seed extract from the flower of silymarin plant). The Milk thistle herb is a flowering plant of Silybum Adans genus, a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae). It grows mainly in North Africa, the Mediterranean region and the Middle East (now also grown in the U.S.) but is marketed and is widely available in the Philippines as a herbal liver supplement (silymarin capsules, trademark: Liveraide). Silymarin and milk thistle are frequently used interchangeably.

Laboratory experiments on animals (rats, baboons, dogs) shows that silymarin works by modifying hepatic cell membranes in a way that prevents liver toxins from entering the interior of the cells. The toxins that may damage the liver are expelled through the kidneys instead. Silymarin is a polyphenolic flavanoid consisting of three chemicals: silybin, silicristin and silidianin which are antioxidants that neutralizes and breaks down free radicals. When there is an existing liver damage, research shows that silymarin may help repair the damage and help regenerate new liver cells but is unlikely to help in the late stages of liver cirrhosis.

Many studies have been published on the health benefits of milk thistle and silymarin on humans but many are inconclusive or poorly done. Further studies are needed to fully appreciate the health benefits of silymarin on humans. However, anecdotal data suggests that it helps alleviate liver diseases and other aliments.

Since most commercial silymarin and milk thistle products are marketed as herbal supplements, they are not subjected to the same stringent standards imposed on prescription drugs. Their safety, purity and quality vary from brand to brand. In very rare instances, silymarin can cause headaches, upset stomach and joint pains. Silymarin is not recommended during pregnancy. Dozes over 1.5 grams a day may cause diarrhoea. It is recommended that you consult with your doctor or a health care provider before taking silymarin herbal supplements, liver supplements or any herbal medicine.

Anecdotal Health Benefits of Silymarin | Milk Thistle:

• Help improve liver function for those with cirrhosis of the liver and chronic hepatitis.
• Prevents inflammation of the liver 
• Cure for Amanita phalloides mushroom poisoning
• Helps control blood sugar in patients with diabetes and cirrhosis.
• Helps lower cholesterol levels.
• Reduces growth of breast, prostate, cervical and skin cancer cells.
• Helps reduce fatty infiltration on the liver caused by toxins and alcohol.
• A strong antioxidant that helps fight free radicals (see Key to Healing).
• Not used to prevent hepatitis C, but used to minimize the damage caused by it.
• Non-toxic / no known overdose symptoms.


Tanglad | Lemon Grass (Andropogon citratus DC)

Tanglad or Lemon Grass

Tanglad or lemon grass is a commercially-viable plant that is cultivated mainly for the fragrance that it produces. It can be easily found in most Asian countries, and is widely cultivated in tropical areas. By nature, tanglad is a permanent or perennial plant, and the benefits of which are not restricted to its fragrance. The utility of tanglad basically lies in its leaves, where all the benefits are derived. What can be seen of this plant are mainly its leaves, which allows easy access to the main part that is needed in order to enjoy tanglad's health benefits. It constitutes most of what appears of this plant above ground, as the leaves grow up to one meter in length, and are flat in shape.


Studies show that tanglad helps ease stomach discomforts and aids in lessening, if not totally curing, the pain caused by toothache and sprain. Lemon grass also displays anti-bacterial activities and anti-fungal properties, thus, eradicates ring worms. Like malunggay, lemon grass can also be applied to sprains for easy healing. In order to enjoy these benefits of tanglad, one needs to prepare a liniment. This can be done by chopping four ounces of the leaves and roots of tanglad and boiling them, along with fresh coconut oil. If it is infusion that an individual wishes to achieve, use one pint of water to boil the tanglad leaves with. The lemon grass plant may also serve as an insect repellant, particularly of mosquitoes. One can achieve an effect to this end either by applying liniment, or by placing crushed tanglad leaves in strategic places at home including the window sills. It is also an option to plant tanglad around the house so that placement of crushed leaves would no longer be needed.

Another health benefit which can be derived from tanglad, is the calming effect derived from its scent. Thus, lemon grass can aid an individual if such person is suffering from insomnia or stress. The plant also has therapeutic value, which allows it to be used by women who are suffering from menstrual problems or dysmenorrhoea, and from usual bouts of nausea. Tanglad also has cleansing properties, which makes it a good option to detoxify the various internal organs, like the liver. Lemon grass reduces the level of uric acid and of other toxins, as it detoxifies the body. This can result to better blood circulation and better digestion, as excess fats and cholesterol are cut down from the body. When taken in, tanglad affects the tissues in such a manner that there would be a significant reduction and avoidance of acne and pimples. Also, it tones the muscles and the tissues, and thus makes the skin firmer.

Like saluyot, exposure of an individual to the benefits of tanglad is greatly increased because of the nature with which it can be used. As saluyot can be taken in as part of one’s usual viand and dish, tanglad’s properties on the other hand, allows it to be used as food flavorings. Lemon grass is incorporated in a multitude of Asian cuisines and dishes, and in the Philippines it is even made part of commercial beverages. So aside from the oil that can be extracted from lemon grass leaves, the fluid that is obtained from the boiled leaves of this plant proves to have medicinal purposes as well. Such lemon grass leaves can also be used in its raw form by mixing directly with the food before it is served. Such dishes include, and are especially good, when the primary ingredient is fish or poultry. Besides the health benefits, tanglad balances the chili flavorings in dishes, which makes eating a more enjoyable experience.

Tsaang Gubat

Tsaang Gubat or Wild Tea (Ehretia microphylla Lam.)

Wild Tea (Tsaang Gubat) Picture

Tsaang Gubat is one of the 10 herbs that is endorsed the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) as an antispasmodic for abdominal (stomach) pains. And is registered as a herbal medicine at the Philippine Bureau of Food & Drug (BFAD).

Tsaang Gubat is a shrub (small tree) that grows (from 1 to 5 meters) abundantly in the Philippines. In folkloric medicine, the leaves has been used as a disinfectant wash during child birth, as cure for diarrhea, as tea for general good heath and because Tsaang Gubat has high fluoride content, it is used as a mouth gargle for preventing tooth decay. Research and test now prove it's efficacy as an herbal medicine. Aside from the traditional way of taking Tsaag Gubat, it is now available commercially in capsules, tablets and tea bags.

Tsaang Gubat is also knows as: Wild Tea, Forest Tea, Alibungog (Visayas Region), Putputai (Bicol Region) and Maragued (Ilocos Region). Scientific name: Ehretia Microphylla Lam.

Health Benefits of Tsaang Gubat:

• Stomach pains
• Gastroenteritis
• Intestinal motility
• Dysentery
• Diarrhea or Loose Bowel Movement (LBM)
• Mouth gargle
• Body cleanser/wash

Preparation & Use:

• Thoroughly wash the leaves of tsaang gubat in running water. Chop to a desirable size and boil 1 cup of chopped leaves in 2 cups of water. Boil in low heat for 15 to 20 minutes and drain.
• Take a cupful every 4 hours for diarrhea, gastroenteritis and stomach pains.
• Gargle for stronger teeth and prevent cavities.
• Drink as tea daily for general good health.

Virgin Coconut Oil

Philippine Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO)

Virgin Coconut Oil Picture


VCO is now getting global reputation as the healthiest and versatile oil in the world. The Philippines is one of the best sources of virgin coconut oil and it's popularity in the country is legendary. Although not an herb, we decided to make an article about VCO because of the growing interest on the oil and after receiving several inquiries from our visitors. 

Virgin coconut oil and regular coconut oil is rich in Lauric Acid, an essential fatty acid that is only found in high concentrations in mother's milk. When taken internally, Lauric Acid turns into a compound known as Monolaurin. It is this compound that is believed to fight viral pathogens that protects the body from bacteria, viruses and infections from parasites. Coconut oil also causes the metabolic rate to increase, hence helps reduce weight and is safe and beneficial for diabetics. 

For many years, coconut oil has been discredited (specially in the west) because of it's high saturated fat content. But recent studies have shown that not all saturated fats are the same. The medium chain triglycerides of which virgin coconut oil is classified, does not elevate LDL (the bad cholesterol) in our body compared to other polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as canola and sunflower oil which is widely produced in the west. 

How Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) is Made

First, the husk and the shell is removed from fresh coconuts, then the meat of the coconut is shredded -a process called "Wet Milled", then the meat is "Cold Pressed" to get the coconut milk without any chemicals. The milk is then fermented in containers for a day or two. After which, oil is produced. This oil is carefully filtered and separated from the curd. You now have what is called, virgin coconut oil. A more modern way of separating the oil from the curd is through centrifugal force.
The second method of producing virgin coconut oil (VCO) is using quick dried coconut meat and then processed in the same way. But the preferred manner by most is still the "Wet Milled" process. 

Difference between Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) and Regular (RBD) Coconut Oil.

RBD stands for Refined, Bleached, and Deodorized. Ordinary coconut oil usually comes from copra - coconut meat that is dried by either smoke, kiln or placing under the sun. Because the process itself is not sanitized, the oil must be further refined. To get more oil from copra, chemicals are usually used. RBD process is required to make the oil clear, odor free and tasteless. This procedure also removes the anti-oxidant and other properties of the oil. Some coconut oils are also hydrogenated which increases the serum cholesterol levels and thus is bad for the heart. 

While virgin coconut oil, being pure, unadulterated and unhydrogenated retains it's pleasant coconut taste, smell and all the health benefits of coconut oil. 

Much research still has to be done on the benefits of virgin coconut oil but preliminary findings and anecdotal reports are very promising. This may well be the much needed medicine to restore to health the ailing Philippine coconut industry.

Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii)

Picture: Yerba Buena (Satureja douglasii) herbal medicine of the mint family

Yerba Buena is an herb of the mint family. It is an aromatic plant used 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. Such flowers possess both male and female organs that allow it to be pollinated by bees and animals of the same nature. The word Yerba Buena is Spanish for "good herb" and was the former name of the California city of San Francisco.

Before its medicinal value has been recognized, Yerba Buena was first used as an ingredient in numerous cuisines. It became popular because of its distinctively strong spearmint flavor, thus making it ideal for salads. The leaves are the source of this flavor, and they may be added to viands and meals, either raw or cooked. It has also been effective to drive away rats and other rodents, because of its strong smell of mint that it emits. Thus, besides its medicinal value, it has long been recognized to have strong commercial demand due to the variety of uses that the plant have.

Yerba Buena has been consumed for centuries as tea and herbal medicine as a pain reliever (analgesic). Native American Indians used it even before the "white men" colonized the Americas. Today, this folk medicine's efficacy has been validated by scientific research. In the Philippines, Yerba Buena is one of the 10 herbs endorsed by the Department of Health (DOH) as an effective alternative medicine for aches and pains. It has been recognized for its antiseptic, anti-cancer, diuretic, anti-spasm, anti-emetic activities. Properties of this herbal plant are also found to function as stimulant and to have restorative effects.

As an herbal medicine, a decoction (boil leaves then strain) of Yerba Buena is effective for minor ailments such as headaches, toothaches, and joint pains. It can also relive stomachaches due to gas buildup and indigestion. The fresh and dried leaves can both be used for the decoction. And because Yerba Buena belongs to the mint family, soaking fresh leaves in a glass of water (30 to 45 minutes) makes a good and effective mouth wash for a clean, fresh smelling breath.

Yerba Buena may be used to treat:

• Arthritis
• Head aches
• Tooth aches
• Mouth wash
• Relief of intestinal gas
• Stomach aches
• Indigestion
• Drink as tea for general good health.

Preparation & Use:

• Wash fresh Yerba Buena leaves in running water. Chop to size for dried leaves, crush) and boil 2 teaspoons of leaves in a glass of water. Boil in medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
• As analgesic, take a cupful every 3 hours.
• For tooth aches, pound the fresh leaves, squeeze juice out and apply on a cotton ball then bite on to the aching tooth.
• Yerba buena leaves may be heated over fire and placed over the forehead for headaches.

Stems of Yerba Buena may be crushed and applied directly to bruises. Folkloric use include poultice preparation and the oil extracts from its stems are suggested to be a remedy for cancerous tumors. Caution should be observed in taking this herbal medicine as it can be toxic in large doses.

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