"Flora Anaesthesia" is used as a natural remedy for toothaches by the Higaonon tribe in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao. Photo by MinDA.


by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

On the way to the Limunsudan Falls which I and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) team explored last week, I saw a lot of shrubs with small yellow flowers which tribal friends in the past said could relieve tooth ache.

Since I was in the company of Higaonon tribesmen led by a local leader, Julius Dimdim, I decided to confirm the anecdotal account of the anesthetic qualities of the flowers by picking one and showing it to them.

The Higaonons confirmed that indeed the flowers when peeled and placed in an aching tooth could relieve the pain but they themselves could not give a name for it.

For convenience, we will just temporarily call this flower as Flora Anaesthesia until our scientists could check it out and give its scientific name.

Having been involved in nature trekking and mountain climbing in the past (I have scaled Mt. Apo a total of 15 times), I had been introduced to these largely unknown herbs and plants in the forest by our tribal guides.

Once, during a climb to Mt. Apo in the company of the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Philippines many years ago, one of our Manobo guides pointed out a wild palm-like plant whose boiled roots could be more potent than Viagra.

The proof, he said, were his 14 children. We all laughed at the story but looking back, as a farm boy myself, I have actually seen herbs and plants which proved to be effective reliefs and cures for diseases of people who had to access to modern health care.

"Tawa-tawa," an herb which grows just about anywhere in Mindanao, has been clinically proven as an effective antidote to Dengue.

It has other uses too. Its milky sap if swabbed on a fresh wound could stop the bleeding. It is also used as drops for eye irritations called "biti" in our dialect.

Guava leaves for diarrhea, Alingatong for Diabetes, Malunggay leaves for wounds and Palagtiki for a long list of diseases are among the hundreds of herbs and plants our elders turned to in times of health crisis.

There are many more herbs and plants which our tribal people and elders said had been used for ages to address illnesses.

While these had largely been ignored in favor of laboratory-developed and concocted synthetic medicines, the fact is that our ancestors in the Philippines never had a history of epidemics which wiped out millions in Europe and Africa like the Spanish Flu, Cholera and Ebola.

It is high time for us to ask what did our ancestors discover from the rainforests of the Philippines which protected them from diseases which felled and killed hundreds of thousands in other parts of the world.

I believe it is a must that in this age of baffling diseases like the COVID 19 Pandemic, our government must exert efforts to really explore natural medicines used by our ancestors.

It is time to explore our forests for these natural cures because I am certain that when God created our world, He provided ready answers and solutions to all of our woes and problems.

Our task is to explore and discover these cures and of course, preserve what it is that God has created for us, the Garden of Life.

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