Philippine Herbal Plant and the Island of Fire

When searching for a Philippine herbal plant the more adventurous can visit the "Island of Fire", commonly known as Siquijor.

Filipinos know Siquijor as the mystic island. Feared by many Filipinos for its sorcerers, known locally as "mambabarangs," the island has also earned a reputation for the apparently incredible powers of its local healers, or "mananambals".

siquijor philippine herbal plant
Siquijor, Philippines "Island of Fire"

A 30-minute ferry ride from Dumaguete City on central Negros Island, the tiny, pristine island skirted by white beaches and surrounded by turquoise blue water has become a major draw for believers and the curious alike.

From the rich and famous to the curious, Siquijor is attracting Filipinos and foreigners -- especially around Easter -- for what is commonly referred to as the "Witches Festival" when people buy potions for everything from improving their sex life to curing terminal illnesses.

The healers begin collecting the Philippine herbal plant and various plants and sea creatures that go into their potions each Friday after Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Good Friday.

On Good Friday they will have gathered everything they need to make potions for the coming year, and on Saturday they start to chop and mix the ingredients.

Nothing will be collected again until Ash Wednesday the following year.

The 10 medicinal plants described below are defined as a Philippine herbal plant that the Philippine Department of Health, through its "Traditional Health Program", has endorsed.

All 10 herbs have been tested and have been clinically proven to have medicinal value in the relief and treatment of various aliments:

1. Akapulko (Cassia alata) - also known as "bayabas-bayabasan" and "ringworm bush" in English, this herbal medicine is used to treat ringworms and skin fungal infections.

2. Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) - known as "bitter gourd" or "bitter melon" in English, it's mostly known as a treatment of diabetes (diabetes mellitus), for the non-insulin dependent patients.

3. Bawang (Allium sativum) - popularly known as "garlic", it mainly reduces cholesterol in the blood and hence, helps control blood pressure.

4. Bayabas (Psidium guajava) - "guava" in English. It 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.

5. Lagundi (Vitex negundo) - known in English as the "5-leaved chaste tree". It's main use is for the relief of coughs and asthma.

6. 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 - 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 of the Philippine herbal plant does not eliminate the worms, wait a week before repeating the dose.

7. Sambong (Blumea balsamifera) - English name: Blumea camphora. A diuretic that helps in the excretion of urinary stones. It can also be used as an edema.

8. Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.) - Prepared like tea, this Philippine herbal plant is effective in treating intestinal motility and also used as a mouth wash since the leaves of this shrub have high fluoride content.

9. Ulasimang Bato (Peperomia pellucida) - 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 day).

10. Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii) - 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.

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