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Traditional herbal medicines are being manufactured commercially in Tacloban

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
November 12, 2008

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte  –  These days when Western medicines have become too expensive and scarce, it is good to note that Filipinos can rely on herbal medicines which are available in abundance, locally.

Available in commercial quantities and at much cheaper price, in Tacloban City, Leyte, are herbal medicines that are used as traditional and alternative medicines in the Philippines.

This was learned from Ms. Evelina Juaban, the Manager of the Herbal Processing Plant in Tacloban City, of the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care of the Department of Health.

Ms. Juaban who was guest of the Philippine Information Agency recently, at the cable television program called Panindugan, said that there are many plants, about 400 of them in the Philippines which have medicinal or therapeutic values.

However, the Department of Health through its Traditional Health Program has endorsed 10 medicinal plants which have been thoroughly tested and have been clinically proven to have medicinal value in the relief and treatment of various ailments.

Today, the Tacloban Herbal Plant of PTAHC has come up with the Lagundi tablets made from natural Lagundi (Vitex negundo) which is known in English as the “5-leaved chaste tree”. Its main use is for the relief of coughs and asthma. The tablets are available in 300 mg.

There is the 250 mg. Sambong tablet made from sambong leaves (Blumea balsamifera) - known in English as Blumea camphora, a diuretic that helps in the excretion of urinary stones and can also be used as an edema.

Both the Lagundi and Sambong tablets are sold wholesale at a price of P150 per box of 100 tablets. This means that each tablet costs only P1.50 whole or P2.00 each at retail price.

Another is the Tsaang Gubat 250mg tablet. Known with the scientific name Ehretia microphylla Lam., this herbal medicine is effective in treating intestinal motility and also used as a mouth wash since the leaves of this shrub has high fluoride content.

The fourth is Akapulco (Cassia alata) which is also known as “bayabas-bayabasan” and “ringworm bush” in English. This herbal medicine is used to treat ringworms and skin fungal infections.

The Ampalaya (Momordica charantia), known as “bitter gourd” or “bitter melon” in English, is most known as a treatment of diabetes (diabetes mellitus) for the non-insulin dependent patients.  Ms. Juaban said it is the leaves of the Ampalaya which is used.

Bawang (Allium sativum), popularly known as garlic, mainly reduces cholesterol in the blood and hence, helps control blood pressure. Ms. Juaban cautioned the public, however, that the potent substance in bawang is only soluble in oil, thus, for those who are using bawang to reduce their cholesterol, they should sauté the bawang in healthy vegetable oil. Eating the bawang raw will only give one a heart burn.

Bayabas (Psidium guajava) or “guava” in English, is primarily used as an antiseptic, to disinfect wounds. Also, it can be used as a mouth wash to treat tooth decay and gum infection.

Niyog-Niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.)  is a vine known as “Chinese honey suckle”. It is effective in the elimination of intestinal worms, particularly the Ascaris and Trichina. Only the dried matured seeds are medicinal. One should crack and ingest the dried seeds two hours after eating (5 to 7 seeds for children & 8 to 10 seeds for adults). If one dose does not eliminate the worms, wait a week before repeating the dose.

Ulasimang Bato (Peperomia pellucida) is also known as “pansit-pansitan.” It is effective in fighting arthritis and gout. The leaves can be eaten fresh (about a cupful) as salad or like tea. For the decoction, 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 per day). Decoctions must be made just for one day use only.

Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii) is commonly known as Peppermint, this vine is used as an analgesic to relive body aches and pain. It can be taken internally as a decoction or externally by pounding the leaves and applied directly on the afflicted area.

There are other herbs and herbal remedies like banaba, virgin coconut oil, mangosteen, gumamela, luyang dilaw, silymarin, countless of them.

Long, before the introduction of modern medicines and Western curative methods, herbal medicines had been widely used in the Philippines.

The curative effects of the herbs were tested by traditional healers on their patient on try-and-error basis. The knowledge and skills on the curative application of any give herbal medicine has been handed down from generation to generation.

Apart from prescribing herbs medicines, the traditional healers were known to give psychological comfort and moral support to their patients. In the old days, they were well respected and enjoy high social status.

Through generations of selective process, the herbs that were known to be effective were kept alive. The ineffective ones were soon forgotten.

Just a word of caution, though. There is no substitute for the services of a licensed medical practitioner. Consult with a doctor knowledgeable with herbal medicine or Philippine medicinal plants before taking or mixing herbs with prescription and non-prescription drugs. Test show that some herbal medicines have adverse reaction when mixed with other drugs.