PH’s medicinal plants not quaint, exotic | Inquirer Opinion

PH’s medicinal plants not quaint, exotic

/ 05:12 AM June 28, 2018

After more than a decade’s work on my compilation of Philippine medicinal plants that has burgeoned to 1,100 plants, updated with thousands of scientific studies, I was disappointed to read Michael Tan’s “Nationalism and medicine” (6/13/18) that portrayed Philippine medicinal plants as quaint and exotic.

Of the 350,000 species of higher plants worldwide, about 35,000 have recorded medicinal use, and thousands of animal studies and some human trials have shown support for many of their folkloric uses. The World Health Organization estimates that about 80 percent of the total population in developing countries uses plants for medicinal purposes.

There are hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines derived from plants. Many anticancer drugs are plant-based: taxol, first isolated from Pacific yew, saves at least 30,000 lives per year in the United States; vincristine and vinblastine are derived from the alkaloids of periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), known locally as tsitsirika. Today, about 40 percent of prescription and OTC medicines come from plant extracts or synthesized plant compounds. The use of medicinal plants has expanded as a natural source replacing synthetics in nanotechnology.

I suggest for Tan to read Juan Flavier’s 1992 brochure on 10 medicinal plants (akapulko, ampalaya, bawling, bayabas, lagundi, niyog-niyogan, pansit-pansitan, sambong, tsaang-gubat, yerba buena), which was a legitimizing boost to the early Philippine herbal medicine movement. A cursory search and minimum effort will add to that list of medicinal plants: banaba, ashitaba and insulin plant, to name a few for diabetes; and papaya with its incredible potential for dengue treatment.

Tiaong, Quezon

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