The “Hemp” Vegetable

The “Hemp” Vegetable

By Apolinario Villalobos


The “hemp” vegetable is popularly known in the Philippines as “saluyot” among the Tagalogs and “tagabang” among the Visayans. I swear to its preventive values against diabetes. For several years now that I have been eating plenty of the vegetable the sugar in my blood has been consistently maintained in its normal level. The fibers of the vegetable also make it easy for me to move my bowels.


Foremost reason why many Filipinos do not want to eat the vegetable is its slimy broth that results when cooked. The remedy is by adding a little vinegar or several drops of lemon or kalamansi, as the acidity prevents the juice of the vegetable to become slimy.


There is a big market for the vegetable, especially, in Japan. Big tracks of land are planted with saluyot for its leaves that are processed for the juice that is mixed with flavors to become a delightful medicinal bottled drink, just like the aloe vera juice.


The vegetable can be cooked simply as “paksiw” in which a little vinegar and slices of ginger are added, the way “fish paksiw” is cooked. It can also be stir-fried and flavored with canned sardines, flaked smoked fish, or just tomatoes and onions. Other optional culinary use of the vegetable are:

  • Sauce thickener for kare-kare
  • Extender for the Visayan “laswa” and “law-uy” dishes
  • Important ingredient for the veggie combo that includes thin slivers of bamboo shoots, corn, okra, fresh shrimp or crab and cooked optionally in coconut milk
  • Essential ingredient for the “pinakbet” and “dinengdeng”
  • Steamed and dipped in fish sauce it becomes appetizer best eaten with fried or grilled fish or fried dried fish.


The vegetable is of various varieties with the most popular being the short one, barely two feet in height and widely sold in the local market. But left to grow further, it could reach the height of a shrub. In the Middle East, it is popularly used to thicken the sauce of chicken casserole.


Hemp is the generic name of the vegetable because a sturdy variety is being used in making “hemp rope” characterized by twined strong fibers, akin to the “abaca hemp”, the source of which is related to banana plant.


With the onslaught of diabetes today due to the proliferation of unhealthy western foods, simply called “junk food”, and which is considered as harbinger of other diseases, my advice is the inclusion of the vegetable in the daily diet. Forget the slimy juice…just think of it as another kind of medicine, some of which are even bitter. One has a choice between the cheap prevention from the lowly “saluyot” or the development of the dreadful diabetes that could result to other diseases resulting further, to the devastation of budget. Remember: prevention is better than cure.

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?

Understanding the Dietary and Medicinal Values of Herbs and Vegetables

Understanding the Dietary
and Medicinal Values of Herbs and Vegetables
By Apolinario Villalobos

I cannot understand how herbal medicine can be viewed as an “alternative”, when in fact, such has been thriving even before the so called civilization made life comfortable for man.
Herbal medicine has been part of the early earthlings’ way of life long before drug laboratories came into being. In other words, the herbal medicine should be considered as the “original” medicine, and the laboratory-processed ones as the “alternative”, and not the other way around. The laboratory-processed medicines with attributes cloned from the plants are understandably with longer shelf-life and more convenient to use as they are in the transportable forms such as tablet, capsule or in small bottles as syrup and infused with preservatives. For the sake of fairness then, the word “alternative” should be taken out of the drug dictionary, and we just stick to “herbal”.

The pampered attitude of man should be blamed on why the use of herbal medicine had a lull in the past. Fortunately, today, the practice is picking up again because the civilized world has realized that most laboratory-processed drugs are not safe enough to be taken without proper supervision or strictly followed prescription. Modern medical practitioners blame “overdose”, “underdose”, and even “abuse” for any untoward result from the “misuse” of laboratory-processed medicines.

The only problem with the herbal medicine is that, it requires patience as regards its preparation which is akin to a ritual. A realistic example is how I do it: first, I have to have a dedicated kettle that I can use in boiling leaves, barks, and spices, and then I have to look for those that I need to boil. I have to do the concocting when I wake up, as I also use the concoction to dilute my coffee. I have to do that every morning! Compare that with just gulping down tablets or capsules with a glass of water.

Sacrifice is the keyword if one has to be serious in making herbal medicine part of his life to prevent the onset of diseases. In my case, however, it is a must because my blood has cancer cells, as the disease is the scourge of our family.

I employ resourcefulness in my effort to gather what I need by bringing with me plastic bags every time I go out to do my rounds of random sharing. During the season of mangosteen, I would hand out plastic bags to people eating the said fruit, so that I can gather the rinds which I dry at home. Also, I would buy the blemished fruits, considered as rejects, though fresh, as they come cheap. With those, I am able to dry rinds that can last me for many months. It saves me substantial amount of money, as compared to buying the laboratory-prepared MX3 capsules and preparations with coffee.

When I found out that watermelon can prevent rapid enlargement of the prostate, during its season, I would ask watermelon rinds from vendors who sell the fruit by the slice. I would bring home a grocery bagful of them to be pickled in brine or cooked in brown sugar and cinnamon powder. During the corn season, I would also ask for the “hair” from the vendors who just throw them away. At home, I boil it as the concoction helps eliminate gall and kidney stones.

Another problem with the medicinal herbs is that they must be eaten, too, as vegetables. This is an unfortunate requirement which those who have no heart in acquiring the taste, will really find difficult. Every time I share with others how I cook unpeeled squash and green papaya, I would notice eye brows rising. Eye brows would rise higher, if I mention how I would prepare my own “arroz caldo” with vegetables instead of chicken. Then I would notice some holding on to their throat if I mention about cooking alogbate or chinese spinach, saluyot and okra in plenty of tomatoes and onions. They cannot just imagine the slimy broth that would result!

If I begin mentioning to my friends about rarely- heard names of herbs and spices and their uses, I would see blank stares, as if they cannot believe what I have said. If I tell them about star anise as being effective in preventing the onset of allergies, or softening the phlegm, the more that they become stupefied. And, when I mention about cloves as part of my concoction, they would wonder aloud “what the hell is that”. With the climax of my share which is telling them that always part of what I cook as food are turmeric and powdered chili – plenty of them as in spoonful, I would see many listeners shudder, especially, if I tell them that I also include them in my coffee.

So, those are the difficulties of having herbs as part of diet, or as medicine. Some people cannot imagine them to possibly become part of a healthy diet. They would rather play dumb to the saying that prevention is better than cure, and instead, prefer the convenient though expensive tablets, capsules, and visits to the physician, at the onset of a disease, later on.