More on Herbal Remedies and Philippine Vegetables…that I personally tried

More on Herbal Remedies and Philippine Vegetables

…that I personally tried

By Apolinario Villalobos

I would just like to emphasize that discipline is very necessary if one shall try herbal remedies which require consistently patient preparation. On the other, conviction resulting from “conversion” to the nutritional benefits of Philippine indigenous vegetables is necessary before one can make the edible leaves and roots part of his or her diet – for consistency’s sake. The following are enhancements to what I have already written on this subject:

MALUNGGAY (MORINGA) – this plant is a “must” in every Filipino’s yard;  for those living in the city, it can be planted in plastic containers that saw good old days as “water bottles” on dispensers; the juice of the mashed leaves can stop bleeding even of open wounds in seconds; the dried seeds can lower the level of bad cholesterol; one of the discoveries of archaeologists in Africa were several thousand year-old water jars with dry malunggay seeds at the bottom, proof that the seeds were used as anti-bacterial; it is considered as among the “miracle” plants, infused by nature with plenty of nutrients, that is why, it is being used as enhancer for instant noodles and rice porridge to make them healthy, and fed to the children in feeding programs; it is not bitter as many people believe; the leaves can be air-dried, crumpled or powdered and stored; a teaspoon in powder form can be added to a mug of coffee, while the crushed  dried leaves can be added in pasta sauce, as well as, vegetable dishes, especially, monggo, or in fried rice.

SOFT, YOUNG GUAVA LEAVES – in my earlier blog, I forgot to mention that the guava leaves tea can alleviate the diabetes; the finely chopped young leaves can be added to salads, to lessen the tangy taste and odor of onion; it is suggested that the tea be always ready on hand as an after-meal deodorizer of the mouth; the fruit, I still maintain, to be more laden with vitamin c than citrus; my day is not complete until I drink at least two mugs of this tea.

LEMON GRASS (TANGLAD) – this herb can be frozen even for one month (I have tried it), but first, each root with stem must be cleaned thoroughly and entwined or interlaced before being kept in a plastic bag, to save on space in the freezer; the tea can alleviate colds aside from purportedly weakening cancer cells; before the “guyabano craze” hit the herb market, lemon grass was already very popular in Europe; an Israeli travel agent enhances his Holy Land package tours for Europeans by offering a side trip to a “desert  garden” for unlimited cups of lemon grass tea;

PAPAYA – the green fruit is full of vitamin C and has anti-cancer properties; the leaf has similar use as “tawa-tawa” grass, as the tea from the boiled leaf can increase the red blood cell count of the dengue victim; the ripe fruit can give one comfort in moving his or her bowel; the seeds can be dried, peeled and eaten as they are also full of nutrients; the dried seeds can also be added to guyabano and other leave to be boiled into tea.

LUPỘ – this is a wild indigenous vegetable more known among the Ilonggos, and lately, found to have anti-cancer properties, as just like the turmeric, it also blocks the passage of food to the cancer cells, thereby, starving them; it grows in rice fields and swamps; the vegetable can combine well with mongo or any fish dish, especially, milk fish or bangus.

CHILI – strengthens the immune system; its ‘hotness’, however, poses a problem to those who are suffering from hemorrhoid; if it cannot be avoided by people with the mentioned problem, suggested is drinking plenty of water to dilute the “hot substance” of the fruit, after meal; in my case, I add plenty of pounded fresh chili to the jar of salt, bottles of olive oil, canola oil, and palm oil to make them really hot; I add at least two spoons of dry chili flakes in any dish, or sprinkle them on fried rice, and instant noodles; I also add chili flakes to tomato sauce for my pasta;

PERIWINKLE (PAGATPAT) – the tea from boiled leaves can cure cancer as supported by testimonies of patients who got cured of breast cancer after religiously drinking tea from boiled leaves; it is really bitter, but if only for its medicinal value, one should endure the taste which I am doing, as the bitterness also neutralizes the sugar level in the blood; the tea cleanses the kidney; suggested intake is every other day of the week.

AMPALAYA (BITTER GOURD) – the sliced vegetable must not be mashed in salt and squeezed of its bitter juice as it becomes useless; the best way to lessen or remove the bitter taste is just to soak the sliced gourd in cold or iced water for about ten minutes – do not squeeze, just put the slices in a colander and allow them to drain; the fruit and leaves of this vegetable can prevent diabetes.

The Philippines is so blessed by Nature with plenty of plants with edible fruits, shoots, leaves and even flowers. Unfortunately, because of the “colonial mentality” that developed with the arrival of the Spanish and American colonizers, many of the Filipinos forgot about them or worse, refuse to eat them, in favor of the “western” vegetables such as cabbage potato, and many others, although, considered as nutritious, too, but comparably expensive. This mentality sort of, got worsened lately, with the influx of imported vegetables and fruits from other countries, especially, China and the United States. There is no question about the nutrients found in the imported vegetables and fruits. What I am driving at here, is that indigenous vegetables and fruit trees can be planted in our yard or any vacant lot! Can the same be done to the imported “food stuff” that may have been sprayed with insecticide to preserve them while in transit?

The Malunggay Tree

The Malunggay Tree

By Apolinario Villalobos


I have a friend who is 78 years old and lives near a slum. By slum, I mean, the “houses” of the informal settlers are the lean-to type…leaning on the high concrete fence of a compound. I estimated the number of small shacks to be about forty. Across the street where the informal settlers live was the house of my friend whom I met in an occasion hosted by his nephew whom I knew. For the duration of the party, he just stayed alone in a corner, obviously aloof. We became acquaintance when I helped him with his juice, the glass of which he could barely hold due to his shaky hand. He found out about my writing and he got interested when I told him that I am also into biography writing. He set a meeting at his house for the following week.


His house, unrenovated despite its antiquity was protected with a fence made of cyclone wire. I noticed the malunggay tree standing majestically in one corner, heavy with the elongated fruit and dense with leaves. I mentioned this to him, in admiration. He told me that he planned to cut it down because he had no use for it anyway. He lived alone, being a widower and his three children, all with families of their own were in the United States where he also lived for a while after his retirement. A housekeeper who doubled as laundrywoman visited him three times a week. He cooked his own food.


While having coffee, he told me about his interest to have his biography written down for perpetuation. I learned that he was a retired general. I told him about the difficulty of its publication if he wanted it that way because some people who hated the man he worked for were still alive. When he said that it would just be for the consumption of his family, I agreed to do the project. After closing the deal with him, I promised to be back the following day to start my interview and checking on whatever he has about his life that were still in his file.


On my way out to the main street, I passed by the makeshift shacks, outside one of which was a group of men enjoying rounds of gin. They invited me and the thick accent of the guy who asked me join them, made me presume that they were Visayans. I refused the drink but offered to buy another bottle of gin. I found out that they were from Samar. And, when they found out that I came from the house of the “matandang masungit” (snooty old man), they got curious how I was able to get his trust when he could not even part with a few stems of his malunggay. I was surprised by this revelation, obviously too, they hated the man.


During my meeting with my new friend the following day, I dissuaded him from cutting down his malunggay tree. I told him that Visayans consider it as a “goodwill tree” aside from being a “reservoir” of health benefits. I shared with him all I know about the benefits that could be derived from the tree, most especially, if he would share it with his Visayan neighbors. I asked him if it was okey that I just trim the tree and for him to allow me to distribute the stems and fruits among his neighbors. He agreed. I immediately asked for a bolo and started the job. It took me less than a hour to reduce its height, so that its leafy stems and fruits could be easily harvested later on. I brought the stems to my friends in the slum to be divided among them. I asked those present to go back with me to the house of my friend so that they could thank him personally on behalf of the rest of their neighbors. Before I left my friend that afternoon, I planted the rest of the cuttings along the length of the fence.


Every time I visited my friend for the duration of the biography project, I would cook malunggay for him that he appreciated. I did not tell him what his neighbors told me about their impression of him as being snooty. Meanwhile, I asked his neighbors to be nice to him. To make my friend feel at ease with his newfound friends, I would invite some of them to cook Visayan dishes for our lunch. He loved the “ flying fish kinilaw ” (sashimi or fresh flying fish marinated in vinegar, ginger and soy sauce). I finished writing his biography in two months. My friend learned to trust his neighbors, such that, on weekends, some of their kids helped him with the cleaning of his surroundings and garden, for a fee.


Sharing breeds goodwill, and that is how the malunggay tree played its role. By the way, in some countries, malunggay is called “moringa”.