Medicines, as the common modern person know them, are a combination of unknown chemicals in various trade names prescribed by doctors and other health practitioners to treat illness and disease. In truth, these medicines are well-researched and made in laboratories to mimic natural chemicals and body processes with regards to immunity and defense. They play a very crucial role in everyday life; their actions usually fast and life-saving.
But, in recent times, the same modern people are recognizing the benefits of natural medicine in the form of herbal plants. While it is true that healing with herbs dates back to time immemorial in the history of perhaps all cultures in the world, many have forgotten their natural abilities in the sea of modern healing choices until recently when the lowly flora is again being rediscovered for its innate wonders.
In the history of traditional healing in the Philippines, heated, cooked, crushed or raw herbs were used by so-called “albularyos”, “sirhuanos”, “babaylan” and “hilot” to treat illness and disease among the natives. Even today, many of the herbs used by their ancestors persist among the Filipinos.
Below is a list of common herbal plants used in the Philippines, common names, English names and their uses.
1. Luya “Ginger”
-one of the most famous medicinal plants in the world, ginger was used widely in traditional cultures especially of the Chinese. Today it is common in the households as food flavoring and ingredient as well as tea for nausea, rheumatoid, osteoarthritic and joint pains.
2.) Bawang “Garlic”
-an indispensable component of Filipino dishes, garlic is used both topically and ingested to help lower blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and help kill bacteria in the body. It is also available in capsules and tablet form.
3.) Tsaang Gubat “Wild Tea”
-drank in tea form to treat stomach ache, this herbal plant is also used for skin allergies like eczema and common itchiness problems.
4.) Lagundi “Vitex negundo”
-a common medicine used to treat symptoms of cough and colds. It is now sold commercially in syrup forms under various trade names.
5.) Kantutay “Coronitas”
-a plant with multiple uses, kantutay is so common it is often neglected in the provinces. But this herb is used for cough, colds and fever in tea form and is topically applied for skin problems as eczema, itchiness and wounds.
6.) Malunggay “Horse Raddish”
– a shrub found anywhere in the Philippines, horse raddish is eaten raw or as ingredient to Filipino vegetable soups, juiced or applied topically to minor wounds as a natural anti-bacterial plant. It is also believed to have anti-oxidant properties.
7.) Mansanilya “Indian Chrysanthemum”
– crushed forms of the leaves of this plant heated and applied on head may treat headaches caused by stress.
8.) Oregano “Oregano”
– a Mediterranean food spice considered to be bountiful in minerals, oregano is believed to have anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties.
9.) Niyog-niyogan “Chinese Honeysuckle”
– the seed of this herb is used for deworming naturally
10.) Bayabas “Guava”
- a very common medicinal plant, its leaves are used by the common Filipino in cleansing wounds and preventing sepsis and infection especially among post-partum women and post-circumcision men. For toothache, its fresh tops are chewed.
11.) Tanglad “Lemon Grass”
- aside from being used to ward of mosquitoes around, lemongrass has many other uses. It is an added flavoring to soups and an aromatic mixture to massage oils. Eaten or drank, lemongrass has strong ant-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and antispetic properties.
12.) Ulasimang Bato or Pansit pansitan “Peperomia”
– eaten raw or juiced, it can bring down uric acid levels thus treating arthritis and gout.
13.) Sabila “Aloe vera”
– The clear jell-like substance inside the aloe vera plant leaf is best used for the skin to soothe minor burns and itchiness. It is also used to prevent and treat hair fall. The latex or outer covering on the other hand is a good laxative.
14.) Sambong “Elumea”
-used to keep the kidney healthy, sambong is a natural diuretic. It is also used to treat headaches.
15.) Ampalaya “Bitter gourd”
-a well-loved ingredient in the Filipino table despite of its bitter taste, ampalaya is used to bring down ones blood sugar level and is thus believed to prevent diabetes.
16.) Akapulko “Acapulco”
-herbal plant for itchiness and other fungal infections such as athletes foot.
17.) Yerba Buena “Peppermint”
-a common component of massage oils, peppermint is used to relieve body aches and pain. It is also good for nausea, colds and insect bites.
Herbal plants in the Philippines are well-known and liberally used in the treatment of various diseases and illnesses by the common folks especially by the elders. They are abundant especially in the provinces. Most of them are also surprisingly easy to grow.
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