Herbal medicine is defined as the use of leaves, flowers, barks, seeds, fruits and roots of plants for the prevention or treatment of ailments and the promotion of good health. Like China, the Philippines is another country known for using herbal medicines long before its popularity in the west. Although some medical practitioners in the West may dismiss the efficacy of herbal medicines, the Chinese, Filipinos and many peoples in the Orient have used medicinal herbs for centuries.

For a long time, Philippine herbal medicine has been unrecognized and has been considered by the medical community as folkloric and anecdotal at best. While the Chinese has continued to develop its technology and knowledge on medicinal herbs and is today, recognized as the best source herbal medicine worldwide and the west has started to accept the efficacy of some of the herbs in the treatment of select ailments.

In recent years, medical researchers, pharmaceutical companies, organizations, and government health agencies took a serious look at folkloric herbal medicines often used by Filipinos in rural areas. Research and studies by the academe, the pharmaceutical industry and government confirm the effectively of certain herbs in the treatment of diseases. Many of these herbs also proved to have health benefits in addition to their curative value.

The Philippine Department of Health spearheaded the research, development and promotion with active participation of its line agency, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the Bureau of Food and Drugs. After thorough evaluation, research and years of clinical trials, the department has approved 10 plants for use by the public as alternative herbal medicines for various diseases ranging from asthma, hypertension to diabetes.

The herbs endorsed by the Philippine Department of Health are:

1. Akapulko for fungal infections such as eczema, itchiness and scabies.
2. Ampalaya or bitter gourd for diabetes, gout and rheumatism.
3. Bawang or garlic for hypertension and lowering of cholesterol levels
4. Bayabas or guava as anthelminthic, astringent and antiseptic
5. Lagundi for asthma and rheumatism
6. Niyog-niyogan for intestinal infestation
7. Sambong as a diuretic. It can also help lower blood pressure.
8. Tsaang Gubat for intestinal motility and other stomach disorders.
9. Ulasimang Bato for gout
10. Yerba Buena as analgesic for pain relief.

Caution however is advised to those who wish to try herbal medicines. Although independent test and research has proven the efficacy of many of these herbs, more research still needs to be done in establishing the standards of dosage. Many of the commercially available herbal medicines are listed as supplements and are not regulated by the government and have not passed stringent standards required by the Bureau of Food and Drug Administration on medicinal products. Some herbal medicines also react when combined with prescription & nonprescription drugs. There is always a risk of allergic reaction when taking even over the counter (OTC) drugs with some herbal medicines. That is why it is always advised to consult your doctor before taking any herbal medicine especially if one is already taking prescription medicine.

Author's Bio: 

Arnold A. Alvarez is the webmaster of several Philippine Websites including the Philippine Herbal Medicine Site and other reference websites about the Philippines.