I recently spent three days at the Remnant Institute of Alternative Medicine in Iloilo City, Iloilo. The facility is an urban farm, all natural spa, and training center. All meals are organic and mostly vegetarian and they make delicious fresh pressed juices. For me, it was a sort of heaven.
I arrived at the center for a training on Medicinal Herbs of the Philippines, a training that aimed to increase the organic production of medicinal herbs to supply Remnant but also to promote herbal tourism in the Philippines.
I learned how to identify different types of herbs, what their medicinal qualities were, and how to use them.
The program focused on 6 types of medicinal herbs/fruits/veggies, some species can be characterized in multiple types. These are:
Carminative herbs, which help to prevent and expell gas. These include: anise, basil, cinnamon, coriander, dill, eucalyptus, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon balm, nutmeg, onion, orange, oregano, parsley, peper, pepperming, rosemary, spearment, thyme, and tarragon.
Purgative/Laxative/Cathartic Herbs help with evacuation of the bowels. These include: passion flower, senna leaves, aloe vera, psyllium, ipil-ipil seeds, niyungniyogan, acapulco, and activated charcoal.
Diuretic herbs include: ginger, banaba, horsetail, sambong, cat shiskers.
Analgesic herbs help relieve pain, these include: capsicum (from cayenne or hot pepper), mint, eucalyptus
Emenagogue herbs, help to increase blood flow and reduce symptoms of menopause and menstruation. These include: noni, ginger, parsley, serpentina
Sedative herbs include mint, blue ternate, coriander, periwinkle, passion flower, and lettuce.
Herbs can be used for diffusions and decoctions, to be consumed orally a couple times a day or made into ointments or creams for topical use.
To make an ointment, use a double boiler. Use an edible oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil, sweet almond or sunflower oil. Heat the oil in a double boiler and add herbs to gently extract the essential oils at low heat. Do not over heat the oil as it will scorch the herbs and reduce the quality of the oils being extracted. When the color drains from the herb leaves, remove them from the mixture. Add beeswax to the oil and mix it as the wax melts. You may add additional essential oils for their medicinal or aromatic qualities at the end of the process when you remove the mixture from heat. Put the ointment into small jars and allow them to cool/solidify before closing the containers. We made a peppermint ointment with amplaya leaves which is good for nausea, upset stomach, dizziness, etc. I used it on the bus ride home, the bus was flooring it down a very windy road in Hamtic, Antique and I was not feeling great. The ointment helped relieve my symptoms after I applied it to my temples and stomach.
Making a cream is a similar process to making an ointment. Melt beeswax in a double boiler with oil, in a separate pan heat water to a simmering temperature. Remove both from heat, and slowly (drop by drop) add the water to the wax/oil mixture, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken and cool, at which point you may add essential oils to the cream, then store in small containers. The cream will keep for a few months.
Other remedies I learned about that you can find in your kitchen or grocery store:
Cabbage is good for drawing pus from an infection, if cut up or bruised and applied as a plaster. Hot cabbage leaves are helpful to relieve pain from muscle aches, neuralgia, and rheumatism.
Carrot juice is a good remedy for excessive stomach acid and heartburn, it helps cleanse the intestinal tract too and can help combat intestinal worms (i’m looking at you peace corps volunteers).
Tomato juice can be applied topically to prevent infection and pus formation in wounds and to take the heat out of inflammation.
Onion can be used to make a natural cough syrup. Cut up an onion and cover it with sugar. Allow it to stand covered overnight and use the liquid as a cough syrup.
Ginger oil is a good treatment for dandruff. I’m sure those reading this already know the other (amazing) healing qualities of ginger, such as stomach troubles, nausea, indigestion. Chewing fresh gnger can relieve sore throats, horseness, and loss of voice.
The ten medicinal plants of the Philippines are:
Garlic – antiseptic, antibiotic, good to ward off colds, disinfects most foods. One of the girls during orientation also said you can use it to treat yeast infections. Just insert a garlic clove and remove it in the morning. To make a natural antibiotic you can also mix garlic with calamansi (a small lime native to the Philippines). Cover garlic with calamansi and allow it to sit over night. Take 2-3x per day.
Peppermint – good for nausea, cramps, digestion.
Acapulco – Treats skin diseases such as tinea infections, insect bites, ringworms, eczema, scabies and itchiness. Used as purgative for cough and fever. Also used as a laxative to expel intestinal parasites and other stomach problems. A strong decoction of the leaves can be an abortifacient.
Ampalaya (Bitter Melon) – Antioxidant, antibacterial, and antipyretic. Aids in lowering blood sugar levels, and helps lower blood pressure. Good for rheumatism and gout, as well as diseases of the spleen and liver. Disinfects and heals wounds and burns. Enhances immune system to fight infection. Also can be an abortifacient if juiced and used in large doses.
Bayabas (Guava) – antiseptic, astringent. Used to treat diarrhea in children. The leaves can be used for healing wounds.
Lagundi – relieves asthma, treats coughs, colds, fever and flue. Alleviates symptoms of chicken pox. The flowers are also good for diarrhea.
Sambong – treats cold and fever, anti-diarrhetic and anti-gastralgic properties. Effective remedy in treatment of kidney stones.
Tsaang Gubat – gargle for stronger teeth and cavity prevention. Also relieves stomach pains, gastroenteritis, intestinal mobility, diarrhea.
Ulasimang Bato – Also locally called Pansit-pansitan. Effective in relieving arthritis and gout.
Niyong-niyogan (Chinese Honeysuckle) – Effective in elimination of intestinal worms, but only the dried mature seeds are medicinal. Children eat 5-7 seeds, adults eat 10.
So all of this is great and interesting. But, I’m sure you’re all wondering, whats the point. Well, there is a push for organic herb production and tourism under the Philippine Republic Act of 8423, also known as the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997. So the Remnant Institute is working with the government to promote cultivation, AND they are providing resources (training, growing materials) as well as a guaranteed market for people who are able to produce at volume! This is great, and seems almost too good to be true. I’ll be working with my officemates to encourage cultivation of medicinal herbs to promote public health and income generation as an alternative livelihood in Pandan. I am excited about this project and the community is too. Medicine is prohibitively expensive and natural medicines, used to prevent and treat health problems, can be grown from seed and available at little or no cost. We will be working with day care workers as one of our target beneficiary groups for organic herbal production. Hopefully, we can work with some farmers to promote scaled up production. This could be an opportunity for an aquaponics project or simply an opportunity to construct some green houses to create a controlled environment for production. There are a lot of possibilities for this project, and because of the guaranteed market and the benefits for the community, it has strong sustainability potential.
Also, unrelated to herbs and medicine. I went to visit Barangay Duyong, which is a coastal barangay in the north of Pandan. Apparently they are known for having dugongs (sea cows, its like a manatee). I asked when they last saw them, they said it was about five years ago, so I’m not expecting to see one here in the near future. But! About eleven years ago a sick dugong was found and transferred to Iloilo City for care. It didn’t survive so they preserved it and the baby dugong is now in a case in the Barangay Hall in Duyong. I took pictures.