Modern medicine has been available in the Philippines for many years. Big hospitals in the cities can perform surgeries and other medical procedures to treat patients suffering from various medical conditions.
But despite that, several Filipinos still rely on traditional healing and medicinal plants to help them with their health woes. It could be due to limited access to modern medicine, lack of funds, or simply the belief that nature is a great healer.
The world knows that the Philippines is blessed with an incredible chunk of natural resources including medicinal plants. In fact, there are over a thousand medicinal plants used by healers in the Philippines and over 100 have been scientifically validated for safety and efficacy.
Here are the most popular medicinal plants in the Philippines.
1 | Akapulko
Scientific name: Senna alata
Other names: bayabas-bayabasan, ringworm bush, palochina
The leaves, looking like guava leaves, have the most medicinal value. Akapulko is a popular remedy for various skin diseases such as ringworms, fungal infection, insect bites, eczema, and scabies. It is also used to treat bronchitis, asthma symptoms, and to get rid of intestinal parasites.
2 | Ampalaya
Scientific name: Momordica charantia
Other names: bitter gourd, bitter melon, parya, paliya
Apart from being an ingredient in various Filipino dishes, ampalaya is a popular natural remedy for diabetes. It contains polypeptide-p that is helpful in lowering blood sugar levels. It can also help treat stomach issues, cough and other respiratory diseases as well as wounds, ski diseases, and gout.
Ampalaya is a main ingredient of a popular Filipino dish called pinakbet but is also made into salad or sauteed with egg.
To maximize health benefits, diabetics are recommended to drink a glass of ampalaya juice daily.
3 | Banaba
Scientific name: Lagerstroemia speciosa
Other names: pride of India, giant crepe-myrtle, Queen’s crepe-myrtle
This small to medium-sized tree with beautiful white to purple flowers is a popular supplement for health problems associated with kidneys such as inflammation, urinary dysfunctions, constipation, and kidney failure. Prepared as tea, banaba also helps regulate blood sugar levels and blood sugar.
4 | Lagundi
Scientific name: Vitex negundo
Other names: five-leaved chaste tree,
A popular cough remedy, lagundi is even available in syrup and capsules and is sold in drug stores all over the Philippines. Additionally, the leaves are used for relief of headache and seeds are used to treat skin diseases.
5 | Niyog-niyogan
Scientific name: Quisqualis indica L.
Other names: Rangoon creeper, Chinese honeysuckle
Niyog-niyogan is often mistaken as coconut, thus the name (coconut is locally referred to as niyog). It is known for its anthelmintic properties thus it is used to get rid of intestinal worms. For children, 5 to 7 dried and matured seeds should be ingested two hours after eating. Adults need to consume 8 to 10 seeds in order for the plant to work.
6 | Pansit-pansitan
Scientific name: Peperomia pellucida
Other names: ulasimang bato, clear weed, silver bush, pepper elder
Pansit-pansitan is a shallow-rooted herb characterized by shiny, heart-shaped leaves and small dot-like seeds. The plant grows in shaded, damp habitats in tropical and subtropical climates.
Can be eaten either cooked or raw, pansit-pansitan is used to help treat gout, arthritis, abscesses, and other inflammatory conditions. It can be prepared as salad or boiled to make tea.
7 | Sambong
Scientific name: Blumea balsamifera
Other names: blumea camphor, bukadkad, subusob, alibhon
Found in tropical and sub-tropical zones of Asia, sambong is primarily used as a diuretic for patients with kidney stones and urinary tract infection. It is also used as an expectorant, anti-diarrhea,to reduce high blood pressure, and to treat wounds, cuts, colds, fevers, and headaches.
To use sambong, the roots and leaves are pounded to extract juice. There’s also sambong tea available commercially.
8 | Tawa-tawa
Scientific name: Euphorbia Hirta
Other names: asthma plant
While it originated in the tropical regions of the Americas, tawa-tawa has been used in the Philippines to treat fevers particularly those caused by dengue and malaria as it helps increase blood platelet count. It also helps maintain the upper respiratory system and boosts the immune system.
9 | Tsaang Gubat
Scientific name: Ehretia microphylla
Other names: Philippine tea tree, wild tea, Fukien tea tree
Often prepared as a tea, tsaang gubat is used to address abdominal pains, colic, diarrhea, and skin allergies. It is also used as a mouthwash due to the high fluoride content of the leaves.
Tsaang gubat is a flowering shrub that can grow up to 4 meters in height. It commonly grows in Asia particularly in eastern and southeastern parts.
10 | Yerba buena
Scientific name: Mentha piperita
Other names: mint, peppermint
Yerba buena is an aromatic plant known for its healing properties. It is effective as an analgesic to relieve body aches and pains particularly caused by gout and rheumatism as well as toothache and stomach ache. It can be taken internally in the form of tea or used externally by applying the pounded leaves directly on the affected area.
Other plants widely used in the Philippines for their medicinal properties are garlic (bawang) to help control blood pressure, guava (bayabas) for its antibacterial and anti-allergies properties, and moringa (malunggay) for being high in phosphorus, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
The medicinal plants included in this list are among the almost 100 plants approved by the Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines.
READ MORE: Food & Drinks in the Philippines