Fukien tea tree (Tsaang Gubat)

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Herbal Alternative Health

Fukien tea tree (Tsaang Gubat): - Ehretia microphylla Lam

Grown throughout the Philippines, Tsaang Gubat is a shrub growing to about 5 m tall. Leaves grow in clusters with rough jagged edge towards the tip. The plant bears white flowers that developed into a fleshy, yellow-orange fruits when ripe. Leaves are used for medicinal purposes.

Medicinal Uses:

  • Tea extracted from leaves is taken to ease stomach aches, diarrheas, and dysentery.
  • Decoction of leaves is effective as dental mouthwash.
  • Leaves concoction is used to stop bleeding cause by snakebites, and a cure for plant-based poisoning;
  • Decoction of leaves is also used as body cleanser after childbirth.
Herbal remedies in zamboanga.PNG

News About Fukien tea tree

Tips on Making Bonsai

How to make a pretty bonsai tree?

The world of bonsai is full of wonders, but it is not impossible to understand and master it. Three things make successful bonsai making:

1. Selection of plant specimens – What plant is suited for bonsai? Where do you get it?
2. Horticultural practices – How do you care for your bonsai?
3. Artistic techniques – What artistic aspects about bonsai does one need to know?
Selecting Plant Specimens/Species

You can buy plants from a nursery, or else get a half-grown bonsai. You can, of course, grow them from seeds or by asexual propagation like layering, marcoting and grafting. Marcoting or layering produces quick results because you can start with a mature tree right away. Generally, outdoor plants are preferred by bonsai masters. These plants are trees, shrubs or even vines. Look for those with small leaves, and are known for longevity and sturdiness (ficus family like balete, Chinese holly, tsaang gubat or fukien tea, most fruit trees except mango, avocado & other large-leaf plants, etc.) Another possibility is to hunt for them in the wild where many are available for bonsai making. Bonsai enthusiasts have gone hunting for bantigue in rocky mountains along seashores. Or, right in your garden there may be old plants you can use for a start.

I recommend the following plant species (with their scientific names in italics), many of which are indigenous to the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia, as appropriate for bonsai:

• Balete family (Ficus Benjamina, Ficus Retusa, Ficus Rotundifolia,Ficus Philipinenses, Ficus Concina )
• Bantigue (Pemphis Acidula)
• Bougainvilla (Bougainvillea Glabra)
• Chinese Holly (Malphigia Coccigera)
• Five Fingers (Schefflera Actinophylla)
• Japanese Bushida (sci. name not available to author)
• Kamuning or Orange Jasmin (Murraya Paniculata, Murraya Exotica)
• Kamachile (Pithicolodium Dulce)
• Kalyos (Streblus Asper)
• Narra (Pterocarpus Indicus)
• Spineless Chinese Holly? (Serissa Foetida)
• Tsaang Gubat or Fukien Tea (Carmona Microphylla, Erethia Buxifolia)
Horticultural practices

Here are some practical guidelines to follow, which I do in my more than 20 year of experience in bonsai-making:

Soil – bonsai grows on rock or soil, but all bonsai plants need soil to live. Some have tried bonsai trees on rocks without soil, but these trees still would require more frequent nourishment(by fertilization)and watering than usual. Also, nobody as of this date, I believe, has experimented on hydrophonics or using water as a medium for growing bonsai. Most bonsai growers use soil, but what kind? The soil must be sterilized, and properly sifted or screened, taking out the very fine (powdery) and coarse particles. The soil is formulated with this mixture: 60% garden soil, 30% river sand, and 10% peat or humus. Peat comes in the form of compost, coco peat, partially decomposed rice hulls and other organic wastes. The amount of peat may be increased for grow-out bonsai, consequently reducing the amount of soil.

Watering – water daily or 2x a day (except during winter), the indicator being that the soil is already dry and that the leaves begin to wilt. Careful now, overwatering is just as bad as underwatering. Use rain or deep well water as this is free of chlorine, which is responsible for the white spots on the leaves once they get dry. If you got no option but to use tap water from your faucet, collect water and let it stay for about 24 hours before using. This way, chlorine evaporates or is degraded.

Sunlight – expose the plant to abundant sunlight as far as possible (except for indoor plants). Sunlight helps in stunting the growth of bonsai plants. Putting of nets over the bonsai plants must be avoided. This does not apply to newly repotted bonsai, which must be put in a shaded area until it is established. Ditto for indoor plants like schleffera (five fingers).

Fertilization – moderate, once a week or bi-monthly fertilizing will do (1 tbsp of complete fertilizer for every gallon of rainwater or water from a deep well). Other things equal, apply complete fertilizer (12-24-12). For flowering bonsai, increase the potash content, while for grow-outs use urea instead. Urine may do if commercial fertilizers are not available, or you can’t buy them, but make sure that you dilute it with adequate water (2 gals.). Don’t fertilize newly transplanted bonsai, or during winter season.

Insecticide/fungicide – avoid it if you can, else consult an expert what to do when your bonsai shows some unusual symptoms. I do it in the natural way, by physically removing the pests (aphids, worms, molds, etc.) and spraying the leaves with some biodegradable soap.

Pets – not really horticultural in a strict sense but still an agricultural one. Don’t allow animals or your pets (dogs, cats and chickens) to visit your bonsai garden unattended. If possible, enclose your bonsai garden with hog or chicken wire, or else restrain your pets from moving about.

Repotting/changing the soil – most plants need new soil (the one whose formulation is prescribed above) after a period of 2-3 years, depending on species. Bougainvilla, Chinese holly and Kamachile have to be repotted every 2 years, and balete 3-4 years, among others. Keep the repotted plant under the shade for 1-2 weeks and gradually expose them to full sunlight when new leaves have begun to sprout.

Cleaning – Clean up the tree regularly, taking out ugly cobwebs, dried leaves and fallen flowers, and brush the trunk to tidy it of molds and dark spots. Remove the weeds and other dirt that gather on the base as they serve as host to insects and pests. Ditto for the underside of leaves, where aphids and molds hide almost undetected. Gently use your fingers to clean them up.

Tools – You must be ready with your tools, many of which are dedicated to bonsai culture. Pruning shears, trowel, bucket sprayer, ice pick, wire cutter, knife, and many more must be ready for use. Some bonsai shops sell a variety of these tools. Realize that you can use many of your carpentry tools like carving knives, saw, and many more.

Artistic Techniques

Shape (or form) and balance are largely a combined function of manipulation techniques, notably wiring and trimming. In general, the form of most bonsai follows that of a triangle: the apex represents heaven, the lowest branch, earth, and the middle, man. Its balance is asymmetrical triangle. The triangle is an overarching form in most of the ten or so bonsai styles known so far.

Wiring – is a method where a copper wire is tied around the trunk or branch with the aim of bending it to give the plant a desired shape. Sometimes, hanging of weights may do if what is needed is simple bending of a branch or twig. Ideally, wiring is combined with pruning techniques although one can resort to the easier cut-and-grow-method. Together, these techniques make a plant appear truly like a bonsai tree, styled according to some standard pattern.

Being an art, bonsai requires manipulation and creativity. The plant’s branches and twigs have to be wired and bent along desired directions (as in cascade, for example, where the branches drop down as if a tree hangs on a cliff). Another technique is to puncture holes in the trunk, or twist it by bending (short of breaking the trunk) until one hears a creaking sound inside it. But this can be a dangerous procedure and must be done with utmost care. Some purposely remove the bark and leaves of treetops or undesirable branches to create a sari or jin effect, like those struck by lightning or battered by elements in the wild.

The ultimate aim of wiring is to produce curved branches following a triangular shape or conical form, or some other styles or natural formations. Done prudently, wiring makes the plant look older than what it actually is due to the drooping of its branches and the uneven marks of wiring left in the trunk/branches of the plant. Bonsai plants shaped by wire look tortured or badly beaten, but this is what makes them lovely and unique. “Bad” look sometimes makes a beautiful bonsai. In deformity, there is beauty.

Pruning – constantly prune or trim your bonsai. Depending on plant variety, some would need monthly or bimonthly “haircut”. It’s time to prune when you see new shoots sticking out wildly. About the only rule to follow in pruning is this: cut those twigs and leaves that grow out of an imagined shape (outside of the triangular or broom pattern you have assigned to your bonsai plant). When cutting, prune the twig as close to the branch as possible, with just 1-3 leaves left above the affected twig. This will produce a zig-zag effect or snakelike pattern that simulates aging. (An excellent discussion of wiring and pruning techniques is made in http://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basics_Wiring.htm)

Harmony – all things said, one important consideration is whether the bonsai specimen exudes harmony. Here, size, style and form of the plant, the stone on which it stands, and the pot where it is planted combine aesthetically and harmoniously. For example, there must be color harmony between the pot and the plant. Bonsai experts prefer light colored pots to brightly colored ones (red, violet, yellow, etc.) as the latter compete for, and more likely succeed in getting attention among viewers. Also, the size of the pot and that of the plant should strike a happy balance. The plant (or the pot) should be proportional to the pot (or the plant). More of these aspects are presented in bonsai styles. Harmony is admittedly difficult to detect unless one has a trained eye. Ask some friends or experts to judge your work. Better still, attend bonsai exhibits and see how experts observe harmony.

Philippine Traditional and Alternative Medicine

(Kilusang Bagong Lipunan)

Traditional medicine has been practiced since ancient times in every culture throughout the world and has been an integral part of human evolution and development.

The evolution of Philippine traditional medicine is an interesting study that is influenced by religion, mysticism, magic, superstition, folkloric herbalism and western medicine.

Philippine’s common traditional medicine practitioners include the following:

• hilot or manghihilot acts as a midwife, a chiropractor or massage therapist to promote health and healing,
• Tawas or mangtatawas, this practitioner uses alum, candles, smoke, paper, eggs and other mediums to diagnose the cause of illness associated by prayers and incanteations
• albularyo, a general practitioner who uses a combination of healing modalities that may include prayers, incantations, mysticism and herbalism. Albularyos claim to draw healing powers from a supernatural source (shamanism)
• Medico, a general practitioner similar to an albularyo but integrates western medicine to promote healing.
• Faith healers, a practitioner who claims divine power bestowed by the Holy Spirit or God. A patient is required to have faith and believe in divine powers to effect healing

These traditional medical practitioners covers a wide spectrum of practices and differs from one another. Even in this modern times where information and advanced science has greatly progressed, traditional medicine still enjoys a large following most especially in rural areas.

In recognition of the deep seated practice of traditional medicine as an alternative modality for treating and preventing diseases in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) through its former Secretary Juan M. Flavier launched the Traditional Medicine Program in 1992. This program aims to promote an effective and safe use of traditional medicine,

Then President Fidel V. Ramos appreciated the importance of the traditional medicine program and signed into law Republic Act 8423 (R.A. 8423), otherwise known as the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA) of 1997. This gave rise to the creation of Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) which is tasked to promote and advocates the use of traditional and alternative health care modalities through scientific research and product development

Since then the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) through its “Traditioinal Health Program” has endorsed 10 medicinal plants to be used as herbal medicine in Philippines due to its health benefits.

The following are the 10 Medicinal Plants in the Philippines endorsed by DOH:

• Akapulko (Cassia alata) a medicinal plant called “ringworm bush or schrub” and “acapulco” in English, this Philippine herbal medicine is used to treat tinea infections, insect bites, ringworms, eczema, scabies and itchiness.
• Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) Common names include “bitter melon ” or “bitter gourd ” in English. This Philippine herbal medicine has been found to be effective in the treatment of diabetes (diabetes mellitus), hemofrhoids, coughs, burns and scalds, and being studied for anti-cancer properties.
• Bawang (Allium sativum) Common name in english is “Garlic”. Bawang is a used in Philippine herbal medicine to treat infection with antibacterial, antiinflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-hypertensive properties. It is widely used to reduce cholesterol level in blood.
• Bayabas (Psidium guajava) – “Guava” in English. A Philippine herbal medicine used as antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, antioxidant hepatoprotective, anti-allergy, antimicrobial, anti-plasmodial, anti-cough, antidiabetic, and antigenotoxic in folkloric medicine.
• Lagundi (Vitex negundo) – known as “5-leaved chaste tree” in english is used in Philippine herbal medicine to treat cough, colds and fever. It is also used as a relief for asthma & pharyngitis, rheumatism, dyspepsia, boils, and diarrhea.
• Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.) – is a vine known as “Chinese honey suckle”. This Philippine herbal medicine is used to eliminate intestinal parasites.
• Sambong (Blumea balsamifera)– English name: “Ngai camphor or Blumea camphor” is a Philippine herbal medicine used to treat kidney stones, wounds and cuts, rheumatism, anti-diarrhea, anti spasms, colds and coughs and hypertension
• Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.) – English :”Wild tea” is a Philippine herbal medicine taken as tea to treat skin allergies including eczema, scabies and itchiness wounds in child birth
• Ulasimang Bato | Pansit-Pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) is a Phillipine herbal medicine known for its effectivity in treating arthritis and gout.
• Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii) – commonly known as Peppermint, is used in Philippine herbal medicine as analgesic to relive body aches and pain due to rheumatism and gout. It is also used to treat coughs, colds and insect bites
Types Of Herbal Medicine

Medicinal plants can be used by anyone, for example as part of a salad, an herbal tea or supplement. Many herbalists, both professional and amateur, often grow or wildcraft their own herbs. Making your own herbal medicine preparation is not only fun, but can be cost-effective. In using the above mentioned herbal medicines, some may require some degree of skill, you have to use your own judgement if you decide to use one. Below is a list of general ways on how to prepare your own herbal medicine. The list is not all inclusive and you have to see individual articles for the herb you use so that you will know how to prepare them.

Herbal Teas

There are two methods of making herbal teas, infusion and decoction. Infusion is steeping lighter parts of the plant (leaves, flowers, light stems) in boiled water for several minutes. Decoction is boiling tougher parts, such as roots or bark for a longer period of time. Herbal teas are often used as a home remedy, and as an alternative to tea and coffee.

As a general rule unless recommended by a herbalist, Prepare 1 teaspoon of dried herb for every 1 cup of water. Let it steep in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain the herbs out and drink 3 to 4 times a day.

Herbal Tinctures

Steeping a medicinal plant in alcohol extracts the alcohol-soluble principles into a liquid form that can be stored for long periods. Herbalists may mix several herbal tinctures to form an individualized prescription for each patient. Plant tinctures are also the basis for many homeopathic medicines.

To prepare your herbal tincture you will need:

• 8 ounces of finely cut dried herbs,
• 1 large glass jar that can hold 4 cups of liquid
• 2 cups of vodka


Put the dried herb into a large, glass jar and pour in equal amount of liquid, making sure the herbs are completely covered (this is very important). Store the jar in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks, preferably 4. Make sure to shake the mixture every day. When ready to use, filter the mixture using a cheesecloth bag, coffee filter, or fine cloth, capturing the tincture liquid below in another container. Store the tincture in clean, dark glass containers, out of the sun. If stored properly the tincture will be preserved for two or more years. Vinegar tinctures should be refrigerated.

Note: A drop of tincture is equal to 1 tsp of herb juice.

For Vinegar Tinctures, use 1 ounce of herb per 5 ounces of vinegar.

Fluid Extracts

Fluid extracts are stronger than herbal tinctures, and can be made with alcohol or glycerin.

Herbal Poultices

Poultices are a solid, vegetable fat based mixture used externally. They have the shortest life span of any herbal remedy and must be made fresh for every use.

Powdered Herbs And Tablets

Herbs that are dried and (sometimes) certain parts are separated out then diced to powder fine consistency. Powered matter can then be compressed or put in an empty pill coating to form a tablet

Herbal Creams And Ointments

An ointment usually is mixed with beeswax (or something similar) to make it more applicable to outside the body, such as on a cut or scrape.

Essential Oils

Extraction of volatile liquid plant materials and other aromatic compounds from plants gives essential oils. These plant oils may be used internally in some forms of herbal medicine as well as in aromatherapy and generally for their perfume, although their medicinal use as a natural treatment (alternative medicine) has proved highly efficacious in the treatment of headache and muscle pain, joint pain and certain skin diseases

Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements tend to be commercial products in tablet or capsule form manufactured and marketed by the health food industry for sale in retail outlets to the general public, although there are some types that are sold only to healthcare practitioners for prescription. Herbal supplements are often standardized to contain stated levels of active phytochemicals. Some herbalists may not agree with the standardization of active ingredients, preferring instead to use the whole plant.

10 DOH-approved medicinal herbs in the Philippines

(Be Healthy and Well)

Medicinal herbs have been the Filipinos’ inexpensive treatments for a variety of illnesses since time immemorial. Some of these have been nothing more than folkloric treatments that had little or no medicinal value while there are others which have yet-undocumented therapeutic properties. In 1992, the then Department of Health Secretary Juan Flavier spearheaded the Traditional Medicinal Program whose aim was to promote the safe and effective use of traditional medicinal herbs.

Five years later — in 1997 — in appreciation of the importance of the Traditional Medicinal Program, President Fidel V. Ramos officially signed into law the program. Also known as the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act or TAMA, RA 8423 spurred the creation of the PITAHC or Philippine Institue of Traditional and Alternative Health Care which advocates the use of medicinal herbs after thorough scientific research and product development.

Years of scientific studies led to the official endorsement of the following 10 herbs as safe and effective medicinal herbs.

1. Acapulco (Cassia alata) mainly for a variety of skin infections
2. Bittermelon or bitter gourd, commonly known as Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) mainly for diabetes
3. Garlic (Allium sativum) mainly for lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol
4. Guava (Psidium guajava) mainly for diarrhea
5. Lagundi (Vitex negundo) mainly for cough
6. Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica) mainly for the elimination of intestinal parasites
7. Peppermint, commonly known as Yerba buena (Clinopodium douglasii) mainly for the relief of body aches and pains
8. Sambong (Blumea balsamifera) mainly for kidney stones
9. Tsaang gubat (Ehretia microphylla lam.) mainly for skin allergies and infections
10. Ulasimang bato (Peperomia pellucida) mainly for arthritis and gout

Here are the pictures of each so we could identify them. I am intent on completing my collection of herbs, one herb at a time. I have not yet done my own research on all of these but an endorsement of the Department of Health is enough reason for me to look more into these later. I have tried and blogged some of these, though — click on the links for my personal research on them.

1. Acapulco — mainly for skin infections

2. Bittermelon or ampalaya — mainly to lower blood sugar

3. Garlic — mainly to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol

4. Guava or bayabas — mainly for diarrhea

5. Lagundi — mainly for cough

6. Niyog-niyogan– mainly for elimination of intestinal worms

7. Peppermint — mainly as relief for body aches and pains

8. Sambong — mainly for elimination of kidney stones

9. Tsaang gubat — mainly as mouthwash

10. Ulasimang bato — mainly for arthritis and gout

Healthy Pinoy herbs that are safe for your kids!

By Jan Alwyn Batara

1. Lagundi

Lagundi has been widely used in the Philippines as a cure for coughs, not only for children, but also for adults. It can also help relieve colds, fever, asthma, rheumatism, boils, and diarrhea.

All you have to do would be to boil the leaves and drink the resulting 'tea'. For younger kids, you might want to add some honey to make it tastier for them, since the tea can be a tad bitter.

Another option would be to buy lagundi syrup, or lagundi capsules since some pharmaceutical companies have started to develop an all natural cough remedy using lagundi.

2. Guava

Guavas are not only tasty, and good for your kids' health, but the leaves have excellent antibacterial properties. You might already know that kids who undergo 'tuli' or circumcision in the province use guava leaves as a disinfectant.

Similarly, you can boil guava leaves and use the resulting liquid as an antiseptic wash for wounds, and it has even been reported to help deal with acne in teens!

3. Oregano

Aside from being a tasty addition to spaghetti sauce and other meals, oregano is also a good alternative to cough medicine.

Drinking tea made from boiled oregano leaves can help soothe a sore throat, and helps expel mucus for kids who are suffering from a dry cough. As with lagundi, you can add some honey to make it palatable for your kids.

You can also drink oregano tea to help soothe your throat or help clear a cough. In some cases, it can even work better than lagundi as a cough remedy!

4. Tsaang gubat

From the name alone, you can guess that tsaang gubat is mainly drunk as tea. However, the leaves can help treat skin allergies such as eczema, scabies, itchiness, and wounds during childbirth.

Tsaang gubat is also very popular as a medicinal remedy in China, and it's also a great ornamental plant. Not to mention, it's also easy to grow and maintain, so it's a good idea to plant some tsaang gubat in your home!

5. Garlic

Aside from tasty, garlic as a lot of amazing properties that can help it treat various infections. Garlic has been reported to have anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antihypertensive properties!

Some people eat garlic raw, but the taste might be too much for your kids. What you can do instead is to grind up or mash one clove of garlic, cook it and then mix it with their food.

However, be sure to give garlic only when your baby is at least 6-8 months old since younger babies might find it hard to digest, or they might develop an allergy.

Good trees come in small packages

By David Calle (USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

Old trees, with their solid trunks and graceful branches, have a majestic quality. We admire their strength; we appreciate their shelter; we wonder about all the things they have witnessed over their long lives.

“We all love trees. Old trees have meaning. So what if you could grow a tree in the palm of your hand? How amazing is that? That is what bonsai is about,” said LeRoy Frahm, a founding member of the Fox Valley Bonsai Society.

I recently had the chance to check out some members’ trees and to learn more about this ancient art. Their enthusiasm for bonsai was infectious.

Buddhist monks refined the practice in China thousands of years ago. It was known there as penjing or tray landscape. Penjing guide books published in the 1600s helped make it a popular pastime. Monks brought techniques to Japan, where it is known as bonsai or tray planting.

Interest in the United States has grown over time — in the 1900s when Japan opened up to the West, in the 1940s during World War II and in the 1970s when China restored relations.

“Bonsai trees symbolize harmony, honor, patience and happiness. They are the perfect addition to a relaxing environment. The Society’s charter is about making bonsai accessible and helping people get started,” Society president Donald LaCount explained.

I could relate to recent member Tom Wentzel’s comment that, “Given its history, I had a lot of misconceptions about bonsai. I found it intimidating.”

“Members of the society have been great teachers, he said. Bonsai has been a real pleasure to get into.”

As a child, bonsai intrigued Frahm when he came across some photos at the back of a garden magazine. At the time, there weren’t library books he could reference, so he just started to experiment. “We were inspired to form the society in order to create a support group. We needed to understand the nuances of our zone and to get information not in any book. It’s about having fun as a community.”

Bonsai is a hands-on activity. While successes make it worthwhile, practitioners need to be prepared for losses as well. The group agreed that the first goal of bonsai is to keep it alive.

"Sometimes a plant will die a long, slow death; other times a perfectly healthy plant will die without a clue. Every year the society has a ‘best-looking dead bonsai contest.’ We have a good laugh and learn from each other,” Frahm said.

Frahm advises gardeners to start by experimenting with cheap plant material, then move up to more expensive plants. “It’s common to see people start out with an expensive tree and then to have it die. That can be depressing and will scare most people off.”

Since nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub can be trained, it is most important to match your choice of plant to its environment. The most popular choice is ficus because “they are user-friendly and have lots of leaf variety. And coleus is great to practice leaf reduction.” Members’ collections include cypress, juniper, maple, mini-jade and lilac. “Look for plants that match your lifestyle. If you travel in the winter, you’ll want to stay with native trees that go to sleep in the winter. Tropicals can be kept inside all year.”

When choosing a plant, it is critical to examine it carefully. Frahm said to look for a trunk that tapers to the top and a branch structure that mimics a mature tree. "If you see a reverse taper, run away! And don’t be distracted by pretty leaves.”

Fox Valley Bonsai Society members combine a clear joy for the art with a reassuring confidence that anyone can do it. My talk with them left me excited to give it a try.

Sambong and Tsaang Gubat

By Cath Santos
Sambong (Blumea Balsamifera)

Approved by the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) as an alternative medicine in treating particular disorders. Coming from the family of Compositae, it goes by several names locally. It is known in the Visayas as 'bukadkad' and as 'subsob' in Ilocos.

Benefits of Sambong
• It is an anti-urolithiasis, works as a diuretic, and helps dispose of excess water and sodium in the body.
• It functions as an astringent and as an expectorant, and has been found to be anti-diarrhea and anti-spasm.
Health benefits of Sambong

The plant is a strongly aromatic herb that grows tall and erect. Its height ranges from 1.5 to 3 meters, with stems that grow for up to 2.5 centimeters.

• It is used to aid the treatment of kidney disorders.
• Its leaves can also be used to treat colds and mild hypertension.
• It is used for treating wounds and cuts.
• It is also suggested to be incorporated to post-partum baths, as well as considerable immersion of particular body areas that are afflicted with pains caused by rheumatism.
• Treats fever
• Has anti-gastralgic properties
• Helps remove worms and boil
• Treats dysentery and sore throat
Preparation and use
• A decoction (boil in water) of Sambong leaves as like tea and drink a glass 3 or 4 times a day.
• The leaves can also be crushed or pounded and mixed with coconut oil.
• For headaches, apply crushed and pounded leaves on forehead and temples.
• Decoction of leaves is used as sponge bath.
• Decoction of the roots, on the other hand, is to be taken in as cure for fever.
Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam)

One of the 10 herbs that is endorsed by the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) as an antispasmodic for abdominal (stomach) pains. Registered as a herbal medicine at the Philippine Bureau of Food & Drug (BFAD).

• Grows (from 1 to 5 meters) abundantly in the Philippines.
• Served as folkloric medicine, the leaves has been used as a disinfectant wash during child birth.
• Research now prove its efficacy as a herbal medicine. Aside from the traditional way of taking Tsaag Gubat, it is now available commercially in :• capsules, tablets and tea bags.
• Promotes general good heath.
Health benefits of Tsaang Gubat
• Relieves stomach pains
• Treats gastroenteritis
• Increases intestinal motility
• Treats dysentery
• Relieves diarrhea or LBM
• Used as a mouth gargle (for its high fluoride content)
• Used as a body cleanser/wash
Preparation and use
• Thoroughly wash the leaves of Tsaang Gubat in running water. Chop to a desirable size and boil 1 cup of chopped leaves in 2 cups of water. Boil in low heat for 15 to 20 minutes and drain.
• Take a cupful every 4 hours for diarrhea, gastroenteritis and stomach pains.
• Gargle for stronger teeth and prevent cavities.
• Drink as tea daily for general good health.

How to Identify Bonsai Trees

(Garden Guides)

Many different tree species are used for bonsai cultivation, some of which are prized for their unusual growth, some for their lovely foliage and others for their showy flowers. The term "bonsai" translates to "tray growing" or "tray planting," referring not to miniaturizing plants but to growing them in containers. Bonsai trees are often kept at a smaller size than their full natural sizes and are trained to grow in a variety of angles or shapes using special pruning techniques and wiring. Trees used for bonsai cultivation may be deciduous, evergreen, coniferous, fruiting or even vining.

Step 1

Determine whether the bonsai tree is evergreen or deciduous. The Chinese bird plum is a semitropical evergreen, while many hollies can be deciduous or evergreen, depending on the species. Other evergreen bonsai trees include the brush cherry, Okinawa holly, Fukien tea, boxwood, jade tree and lavender star flower.

Step 2

Identify deciduous bonsai trees, meaning that they lose their leaves during the cold season. Deciduous bonsai trees include the trident maple, flowering quince, dwarf pomegranate tree, flowering crabapple, Zelkova, Japanese maple, rainforest fig and cotoneaster.

Step 3

Determine whether the bonsai tree is coniferous, or needle-leaved. Coniferous bonsai trees include the Shimpaku, Hinoki cypress, Japanese white pine, juniper and Japanese black pine.

Step 4

Study the bonsai tree's flowers. The Jaboticaba, Chinese bird plum and hollies bloom in clusters of white flowers, the brush cherry has puffy white flowers and the star magnolia has white, star-shaped, 5-inch-wide flowers on bare branches. The jade tree produces star-shaped, white flowers in the fall, while the cotoneaster has delicate white blooms in the spring.

Step 5

Look for multicolored or non-white flowers. The wisteria blooms in a mixture of white, pink, purple or blue flowers, the azalea has 7-inch-wide, bright-pink flowers, the flowering quince has white and red flowers on bare branches, the camellia has showy pink flowers, the fuchsia has vibrant purple and red blooms, the dwarf pomegranate has orange-yellow, trumpet-shaped blooms and the Okinawa holly has tiny pink flowers.

Step 6

Study the bonsai tree's bark. Jaboticaba bark peels off and curls as the trunk and branches grow, while the Fukien tea bonsai tree has light-brown bark that cracks as it ages and the Chinese bird plum's bark turns dark-brown and scaly as it matures. The Zelkova has smooth green bark that turns gray as it matures, while the Chinese elm tree's bark can range from dark-gray or cream to reddish-brown, and most have rough, textured bark that cracks with age.

Step 7

Look at the bonsai tree's trunk. The bald cypress has a distinct, thick trunk that develops "knee-like," above-ground roots when it's grown in wet, swampy soils, while the ponytail palm's trunk looks and feels like an elephant's foot. The Hawaiian umbrella tree has banyan-like roots that form its trunk, the trident maple has a thick, strong trunk and the Zelkova's trunk is straight and smooth.

Step 8

Study the bonsai tree's leaves. The bald cypress has light, feathery foliage, the Okinawa holly has glossy leaves with serrated edges and the snowbush has large white leaves. The dwarf pomegranate has dark-green leaves with bronze tinges, the Chinese bird plum has shiny medium-green, oval-shaped leaves that are reddish when the tree is young and the brush cherry's leaves are glossy, small and firm with red highlights.

Step 9

Identify fruits the bonsai tree produces. The Jaboticaba produces dark berries, the Chinese bird plum produces miniature blue berries and some hollies yield shiny black berries. The brush cherry has red berries, the Ginko has yellow, clustered fruits and the flowering quince produces greenish-yellow fruits with waxy, fragrant skins. The dwarf pomegranate and flowering crabapple bonsai trees produce miniature, ornamental versions of the standard-size tree's fruits, while the Hinoki cypress produces pea-sized miniature cones.

Step 10

Study the bonsai tree's leaf colors in autumn. The bald cypress's leaves turn orange-brown, the Ginko tree's leaves turn golden-yellow, the trident maple's leaves turn to a faded-orange color or a fiery red, the Zelkova's leaves turn bronze or golden-yellow and the Japanese maple's leaves turn vibrant golds and reds.

How to Create a Fukien Bonsai Tree

(Garden Guides)

The Fukien tea tree is an evergreen tree that originated in southern China. The leaves are very small, making it ideal for bonsai. The tree's light brown bark cracks attractively with age. In the early summer, this tree flowers with beautiful miniature flowers, which eventually turn in to black berries. The Fukien bonsai does not like temperature variations and must be grown as an indoor bonsai in temperate regions.

Step 1

Remove the moist coating from the Fukien tree fruit. You can easily remove this with your fingers.

Step 2

Sow the seeds twice as deep as the diameter of the seeds in a moist potting soil.

Step 3

Water the planted seeds thoroughly and put them in a warm, dark area. The seeds should sprout in one to four weeks.

Step 4

Harden off the seedlings by putting them in the sun for four hours. Increase the light an hour a day until they are growing well in natural sun.

Step 5

Allow the seedlings to grow for a year or until the trunk is slightly woody. When the trunk is slightly woody, transplant the tree to a bonsai pot with a good, well drained commercial bonsai soil.

Early Styling

Step 1

Wire the trunks for shape once they are slightly woody. This will give the bonsai a sense of movement. To wire the trunk, wrap the trunk with aluminum or copper bonsai wire at about a 45 degree to the trunk. The more wraps, the more control you will have over the shape of the trunk. Cut the wire off after several months to prevent scarring the bark.

Step 2

Prune gently when the trees are young by pinching off new growth.

Step 3

Wire branches when they are still young and pliable. Mature wood is almost impossible to move using wiring techniques.

Styling on Mature Trees

Step 1

Style your Fukien tea bonsai primarily through pruning. This tree grows so densely that styling and shaping through pruning is easy. Prune by clipping unwanted branches and leaves with a sharp pair of bonsai clippers or a pair of sharp scissors. You can often simply pinch off young leaves and branches.

Step 2

Wire the tree only on new, supple growth. Once the wood has formed, Fukien trees are very hard to style via wiring. The wood is very hard and brittle and breaks very easily during wiring.

Step 3

Plan your styling to hide cuts and wounds. Large wounds and cuts do not heal well in Fukien bonsai, so plan to hide these behind foliage or tree sections.

How to Water a Fukien Tree Bonsai

(Garden Guides)

The Fukien Tea tree is a popular bonsai tree that is named after the Chinese province where it originates. With dark green oval leaves and light crackled bark, this tree lends itself well to the beauty of form inherent in a bonsai tree. Fukien Tea trees require frequent watering but cannot tolerate their roots being in standing water so it is imperative that they are planted in a well-draining bonsai potting mix and placed in a draining tray.

Step 1

Once each day, preferably in the morning, test your Fukien Tea Bonsai for moisture by sticking your finger into the potting mix just under the surface. The soil should feel moist but not wet or saturated. If the soil is dry, it is time to water the plant.

Step 2

Place your Fukien Tea Bonsai pot in a tray or in an area that will allow it to drain freely from the bottom as the the plant is being watered.

Step 3

There is an old Japanese saying -- Water three times; once for the pot, once for the soil, and once for the tree. Water the plant with the watering can, slowly wetting the soil in all areas of the pot, then wait a minute or two and repeat, wait again and repeat. This is so that the water has a chance to flow through into the soil and moisten as much as possible before more water is added. This slow progression of watering ensures the most coverage without saturating spots of soil.

Step 4

Once a week, water the plant by submerging it in a large bucket of water until the bubbling stops, then allowing it to drain completely. This renews the nutrients in the soil by washing away any stagnant gases and replacing the oxygen and nitrogen from the air.

Step 5

Wash the leaves and branches with water in a spray bottle once each week or two, depending on climate and whether the plant is kept inside or outside. This will keep dust off of the leaves, allowing them to "breathe," and provides moisture through the leaves as well.

Remarkable Health Beanefits Of Tsaang Gubat

By Chan Beran

In the Philippines, Tsaang Gubat is one of the recommended herbal medicines by the Philippine’s Department of Health for safe use and as an antispasmodic for the abdominal (Stomach) pains.

This medicinal herb is also registered as an herbal medicine at the Philippine Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD).

Tsaang Gubat or Ehretia Microphylla Lam is a small tree that grows abundantly in the Philippines. The leaves of this herb have been used as a disinfectant wash during childbirth, cure in diarrhea, and as a tea for general good health.

Research and tests have proven the efficacy of Tsaang Gubat as an herbal medicine.

Tsaang Gubat is known as the Wild tea, Forest tea, Alibuyog, putputai, and Maragued in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, this herb is widely used as an herbal medicine for skin disease and stomach problems.

Tsaang gubat were studied for possible anti-allergic properties. The studies also show that it has anti-bacterial, antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory properties.

The herb is commonly prepared in pills capsules and in herbal tea bags form.

Here are the remarkable healthy benefits of Tsaang Gubat.

Used as a Body Cleanser/Wash.

Good treatment for Diarrhea or LBM.

For Intestinal motility.

Used as a Mouth gargle. Because tsaang gubat has a high fluoride content, it is used as a mouth gargle for preventing tooth decay.

Preparation and use:

Wash the leaves of Tsaang Gubat in a clean water. Chop to a desirable size and boil in two cups of water. Make sure that you boil the 1 cup of chopped leaves in low heat for 15 to 20 minutes and drain.

Take a cupful every four hours for diarrhea, gastroenteritis and stomach pains.

Drink as tea daily for general good health!


Tsaang gubat is not known to be harmful when taken in recommend dosage. However, individuals should always take caution before using any treatment.

Philippines towards a Science-Based Herbal Industry: Initiatives, Challenges, Solutions

By Chan Beran

In the Philippines, Tsaang Gubat is one of the recommended herbal medicines by the Philippine’s Department of Health for safe use and as an antispasmodic for the abdominal (Stomach) pains.

This medicinal herb is also registered as an herbal medicine at the Philippine Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD).

Tsaang Gubat or Ehretia Microphylla Lam is a small tree that grows abundantly in the Philippines. The leaves of this herb have been used as a disinfectant wash during childbirth, cure in diarrhea, and as a tea for general good health.

Research and tests have proven the efficacy of Tsaang Gubat as an herbal medicine.

Tsaang Gubat is known as the Wild tea, Forest tea, Alibuyog, putputai, and Maragued in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, this herb is widely used as an herbal medicine for skin disease and stomach problems.

Tsaang gubat were studied for possible anti-allergic properties. The studies also show that it has anti-bacterial, antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory properties.

The herb is commonly prepared in pills capsules and in herbal tea bags form.

Here are the remarkable healthy benefits of Tsaang Gubat.

Used as a Body Cleanser/Wash.

Good treatment for Diarrhea or LBM.

For Intestinal motility.

Used as a Mouth gargle. Because tsaang gubat has a high fluoride content, it is used as a mouth gargle for preventing tooth decay.

Preparation and use:

Wash the leaves of Tsaang Gubat in a clean water. Chop to a desirable size and boil in two cups of water. Make sure that you boil the 1 cup of chopped leaves in low heat for 15 to 20 minutes and drain.

Take a cupful every four hours for diarrhea, gastroenteritis and stomach pains.

Drink as tea daily for general good health!


Tsaang gubat is not known to be harmful when taken in recommend dosage. However, individuals should always take caution before using any treatment.

Philippines towards a Science-Based Herbal Industry: Initiatives, Challenges, Solutions

(Philippine Council For Health Research and Develeopment(

Representatives from government, non-government organizations, private and academic sectors gathered in a roundtable discussion entitled: “Strengthening the Science-Based Herbal Industry in the Philippines: Issues, Challenges and Solutions” organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) last February 15, 2012 at the Traders Hotel in Manila.

Existing Initiatives

Dr. Francis Vicente S. Ras, Education and Promotion Officer V of the Philippine Institute for Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) shared the efforts of the Institute in developing herbal products. PITAHC is a government program set up in 1997 by the Department of Health (DOH) to accelerate the development of traditional and alternative health care in the country. Today, PITAHC manages four herbal processing plants in Cagayan, Leyte, Cotabato and Davao which are able to produce marketable herbal products, namely: lagundi tablet and syrup for cough and asthma, sambong tablet as anti-urolithiasis, tsaang gubat tablet as anti-colic or anti-spasmodic and herbal soaps from akapulko, cucumber, raddish, kamias, calamansi, guava, carrot and papaya.

Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) presented the government roadmap for the development of science-based herbal products for health and wellness. He said that part of PCHRD’s drug discovery and development program includes the utilization of natural substances from terrestrial and marine sources that can be developed up to the pre-clinical stage for common infectious diseases and lifestyle-related disorders.

Dr. Gemiliano D. Aligui, President of Asian Foundation for Tropical Medicine, Inc. discussed two existing administrative orders which refer to confidence and public trust on herbal products. The A.O 184 s2004 refers to guidelines on the registration of traditionally-used herbal products while A.O. 172 s2004 indicates guidelines on the registration of herbal medicines. The A.O 184 s2004 limits the folkloric use of herbal medicines because this law requires manufacturers to state in the label any of the following statements applicable: 1) “The Traditional application/use of this product has not been evaluated by the Philippine Food & Drugs Administration”; 2) “If symptoms persist, consult your doctor”; or 3) “Not allowed for use in pregnant, lactating mothers, and children below 18 years.” On the other hand, the A.O. 172 s2004 establishes the clinical efficacy of herbal medicine because it subjects the manufacturer to report findings of the study from Galenical (Phase I) up to clinical trials (Phase III) of the herbal drugs prior to public use. It further states that herbal drugs should be validated by the National Integrated Research Program on Medicinal Plants (NIRPROMP) of the PCHRD-DOST or other competent research centers accredited and approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Identified Challenges

Dr. Rainier B. Villanueva, Founding President of the Chamber of Herbal Industries of the Philippines, Inc. reported the issues and challenges of the natural product industry from the perspective of industry and the private sector. According to him, the herbal industry is confronting the following challenges: (1) lack of scientific claims to support product claims; (2) outdated policies of FDA on product registration; (3) no standardization of natural ingredients; (4) unscrupulous businessmen taking advantage of the popularity of natural and organic products by making claims at the expense of the consumers; (5) lack of integrated, inter-agency programs by the government to strengthen the industry like what China, Malaysia and India are doing; (6) minimal implementation of good agricultural practices among the agriculture sector; (7) no clearing house or centralization of government-funded R&D studies; and (8) lack of laboratory dedicated to the natural product industry.

Dr. Lourdes B. Cardenas, faculty member of the Plant Biology Division of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) tackled the issues relating to quality of raw materials for use in herbal products. According to her research, the following are needed to be subjected under quality control in order to address raw material and processing quality issues: (1) source material which refers to the correct variety, species, chemotype, ecotype, and part and stage development of the plant to be processed; (2) cultivation of the plant species; (3) post harvest handling; (4) storage (5) residues, heavy metals and microbial contamination; and (6) security of raw materials to radioactive isotopes.

Ms. Irene M. Villaseñor, faculty member of the Institute of Chemistry of the University of the Philippines Diliman identified the following issues on establishing quality parameters for herbal products: (1) patent protection; (2) data on chemical identity, purity and consistency; (3) information related to absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of drug metabolites; and (4) chemical standardization.

Proposed Solutions

Stakeholders came up with the following possible interventions to address the identified challenges and improve existing initiatives: 1) partnership among research institutes and organizations to generate more scientific evidences to substantiate and validate claims of natural products and ingredients; 2) technology transfer for sustainable organic farming and propagation; 3) acquisition and use of appropriate equipment and machinery to boost industry capacities; 4) provision of assistance to institutions in attaining various certifications accepted and recognized by international market; 5) investments in the development of natural products and ingredients industries; 6) promotion and distribution of Philippine products in the foreign market through collaboration between Filipino and Filipino-foreign entrepreneurs and businessmen; 7) capacity building for experts in the field of Medicinal Chemistry; and 8) establishment of centralized facilities for R&D studies.

Fukien Tea Bonsai

By Mauricio Greene
Essential Facts about the Fukien Tea Bonsai

The Fukien Tea bonsai originates from Southern China, in the Fujien province. It is characterized with small dark green leaves that are covered with hairs. The tree also has a light brown bark that tends to crack as it matures. However, the most fascinating feature of this tree is its lovely small flowers that turn to tiny dark berries, although this is only typical with small-leaf varieties of the Fukien Tea.


The tree is not tolerant with temperate climates, so it must be grown indoors. Keep in mind, though, that the Fukien Tree can be quite a challenge to grow since it dislikes sudden changes in light and temperature. Nevertheless, those who prefer to take on the challenge of caring for this bonsai tree specie will realize that their efforts are worth it because of its striking beauty.

While the tree is best kept indoors, it still needs regular exposure to direct sunlight at least for an hour. According to bonsai specialists, the perfect time of the day to take the plant outdoors is in the morning or late afternoon since the rays of the sun are not too harsh unlike at noontime. In case you plan to leave the plant indoors, you should choose a spot beside the window that faces the south or west. If you place the plant in an area that is facing the north or east, then you will need to provide it with artificial light for at least 10 hours daily.


You need to make sure that the soil is kept a little moist to somewhat dry regularly. Soil that remains constantly wet will cause the plant’s roots to rot. On the other hand, soil that is too dry will result to dropping and shriveled leaves. In addition, prolonged dryness of soil will make the leaves turn black, limp and eventually fall off its branches. When this happens, you should keep the soil a bit moist to ensure the growth of replacement leaves.


You need to feed the Fukien Tea every other week beginning spring until autumn. When winter comes, you may reduce the feeding schedule to once a month. It is ideal that you use half-strength fertilizer for your plant to boost its growth, but make sure you do not overfeed it to prevent serious consequences to the plant. Moreover, weekly feeding can lead to success, as long as the fertilizer strength remains diluted.


Mealybugs are the common enemies of the Fukien Tea. These pests are white and fluffy in appearance, and they are commonly found on new branches at the base portion of the leaves. Aside from mealybugs, red spider mites may serve as a threat to the plant’s health. There are also root mealy bugs that target the plant’s roots, so it is difficult to see these insects unless you are repotting the tree. If you want to get rid of these pests, you may use insecticides to eliminate them completely. However, you need to follow package directions before using an insecticide to prevent any damages to your plant as you protect it from pesky insects.

Tsaang Gubat Uses and Benefits

(marvin, Food Recap)

The picture below is a dwarf version of tsaang gubat. It’s true because it is a two year old bonsai plant. This plant is commonly found in the wild. They are often treated as nuisance or weed. Sometimes we used them as support for pole sitao and other vines. I was not giving attention to this herb before because I never knew its identity and importance, one of the ten medicinal plants recommended by the Department of Health.

Promoting natural medicines is a rare government project. They give more importance to expensive commercially available drugs.


Medicinal Properties of Tsaang Gubat (BPI):
1) The tea or leaf decoction is used as cure for stomach problems. For diarrhea with bloody discharge, and for dysentery.
2) Cough and fever cure.
3) The root is used in southern India for cachexia and syphilis. Maybe an antidote for vegetable poison.
4) Beneficial in secondary and constitutional syphilitic affections.

Tsaang Gubat is scientifically known as Ehretia microphylla.

Study of Demetrio L. Valle et. al.(2015) entitled “Antibacterial activities of ethanol extracts of Philippine medicinal plants against multi drug-resistant bacteria”, showed that ethanol extract has favorable antagonistic activity against bacteria.

How to Prepare?

Ritemed.com cited, the herb is effective cure for indigestion, diarrhea and dysentery. They added a preparation instruction. Slow boil a palm-full of leaves for few minutes. Drink it as tea three times a day. I guess they forgot to add the amount of water needed.

14 Powerful Herbal Remedies

(The Sleuth Journal)

Nowadays, when people are more in favor of using natural ingredients instead of chemical products, natural herbal remedies are going well into their favor.

Nevertheless, this trend has already hit the western market several years back but oriental people are using natural herbal remedies for a very long time already as therapeutic elements.Centuries back when there was no medical technology, people used to get herbal treatment to cure several ailments.

These are wonderful, as they not only reduce quantity of harmful chemicals in our body but also help us in getting cured in a more natural manner. There are numerous herbs, which are used for curative measures. Below is a list to check out on an extensive array of frequently used herbs:

1. Lagundi (Vitex Negundo)

This is a bush, which is commonly used as medicine in the Philippines and other parts of the world.

Raw Lagundi is used for curative measures to more than a thousand years in the said country but nowadays it is widely sold as capsules, which are conveniently prepared by various pharmaceutical companies.

It is even said that every part of the Lagundi shrub is useful, as its root is considered good for energy boosting and is a great medicine for diseases such as dyspepsia, colic, rheumatism, worms, boils, and even leprosy.

Its flowers are hailed as awesome curatives used in common cases of diarrhea, cholera, high temperature (fever), liver diseases and cardiac problems.

Moreover, Lagundi seeds are generally taken to heal skin problems, inflammation of the mouth and leprosy. Most importantly, Lagundi has emerged as the most trusted remedy for coughs and asthma.

2. Yerba (Hierba) Buena (Mentha cordifelia)

Popular as ‘Mint,’ this shrub can be found in almost every part of the earth. It is broadly used as one of the natural herbal remedies for weakness, stomach problems and diarrhea.

This plant has an antiseptic nature, which makes it perfect for asthma patients. It is generally used in alcohol solution for asthma. Its leaves are said to be the most important part of a Mint plant for it can be used in the treatment of coughs and colds, toothaches and rheumatism.

3. Basil Leaves

Basil is used as a spice in Italy and is considered a holy plant in oriental countries.

It is one of the few plants, which exhales Oxygen twenty fours a day, as it always support the reaction of ‘photosynthesis.’

Basil is used in diverse forms of medicine in different countries.

People from the Far East use it to heal ‘cough’ whereas in some places, it is used for the treatment of asthma.

It is also useful for vomiting and constipation episodes. In a commercialized manner, Basil is available in capsules.

4. Tsaang Gubat (Carmona Retusa)

Commonly known as ‘Putputai’ and ‘wild tea,’ Tsaang Gubat is a famous antidote. It is broadly used to cure stomachaches, diarrhea and dysentery. This is also used to stop bleeding from snakebites.

It is a well-known body cleanser for newly born babies. Today, this is already available as a capsule and herbal tea in the market.

5. Bayabas/Guavas (Psidium Guajava L.)

The most common name of this herbal tree is the ‘Guava tree.’ The bark and leaves of the guava tree are well-known astringents. They are also effective anti-diarrheic.

Its bark is primarily used in cases of severe diarrhea in children. Ripe guava fruit is used as a curative agent for high blood pressure, poor circulation, diabetes and asthma. These are also considered as an enriched source of Vitamin C .

6. Bawang (AlliumSativum Linn)

Famously known as ‘Garlic,’ this wonder spice has a long history in the natural herbal remedies world.

It is considered as a super antioxidant and normally prescribed for patients with lower blood pressures and heart diseases.

It is also regarded as the best medicine to boost the immune system and balancing blood sugar. Garlic is a trusted curative agent to increase fat metabolism. Even if there is no ultimate treatment for cancer, Bawang is still a great herbal drug for prevention.

7. Ulasimang Bato (Peperomia Pellucida)

This is a seasonal herb. It is considered as a wonderful treatment for those who are faded up and experience complexion problems. This is a commonly used medicine for gout and arthritis.

8. Akapulko (Cassia, Alata L.)

Akapulko is a wild shrub, which is known for its antifungal qualities. Akapulko leaves are considered to be the best oriental treatment for fungal diseases because they contain chrysophanic acid.

As a mixture, it is also used to treat bronchitis and alleviate the condition of asthma patients. Akapulko is now available at the market in the form of anti-fungal liniments.

9. Ampalaya (Momordica Charantia)

Ampalaya is a vegetable that is also known as bitter melon.

It is full of momordicin, which makes it bitter. Due to its bitterness, it is considered as one of the natural herbal remedies for diabetes.

It improves the body’s ability to produce more insulin. It is also effectual in HIV problems and liver problems.

10. Sambong (Blumea Balsamifera)

Camphor is the popular name of Sambong. This herbal plant is considered as a great medicine for edema. Normally, doctors prescribe camphor as a medicine to dissolve kidney stones.

Tea made from camphor leaves are taken as a remedy to get cured from colds. They also take it as an expectorant and is a trusted remedy for toothaches. Sambong is among the most used medicinal plants today.

11. Ginger (Zingiber Officinale)

You can find this readily available herbal plant in any kitchen. This is obviously a broadly used spice. Ginger is supposed to be magical in the treatment of some diseases.

It is a bit bitter in taste but a perfect treatment for coughs and colds. It is also used to reduce the body temperature in cases of high-fever.

12. Turmeric (Curcuma Longa SynC. Domestica)

Among one of the most trusted natural herbal remedies, turmeric has miscellaneous uses. It is used differently in varied regions.

Many people use Turmeric powder to heal skin ulcers and in some other places it is used to cure the navel of newborn babies.

It plays a great role in tacking blemishes and other skin diseases such as itching of the skin, eczema and psoriasis. Turmeric paste provides a great relief in muscle crack or sprain.

13. Mulethi (Glycyrrhiza Glabra)

This medicine is widely available in Asian countries. It is a perfect medicine for multitude of diseases such as abdominal pain, colds, bronchitis, cough etc.

In some places, it is used to treat hyperacidity, sore throat and inflammation. If you are suffering from a constant fall of hair then apply Mulethi. It is taken as a great treatment for hair-fall.

14. Indian Gooseberry, Amla (Emblica officinalis)

Indian gooseberry is the secret of good health for many people.

The Vitamin C enriched fruit is considered as a great medicine to make the eyesight better. It is widely used as an antibacterial agent.

This fruit is full of astringent properties, which makes it a great medication to be used in the prevention of infection. Their magical effects are able to cure ulcers as well.

Taken as the perfect alternatives for the more commercially-prepared and standard chemical medications, natural herbal remedies are making appeal to the masses nowadays.

These are not only lucrative in economic terms but are also the best substitutes to be used for healing. Unlike chemical drugs, they boast of having no unexpected side effects.

Popular Herbal Medicines in Philippines

By Stan Tian

Herbal medicines have been able to grab worldwide attention, and Philippines is no exception to the growing fan list of herbal solutions. Just like China, Philippines is a country which is known to use herbal products long before it was used in the west. They have been widely used in all parts of the country to cure various ailments, and to promote overall wellness.

Below is the list of popular herbal medicines widely used in Philippines for the promotion of good health. These herbal medicine has been approved by the Philippine’s Department of Health, which implies they are safe and effective to use. Unlike conventional medication, one does not have to worry about side effects linked with the medication.


Bawang is an antioxidant which is known to decrease the cholesterol level in our body. It helps one maintain the blood pressure level. It’s also extremely safe to consume.


Akapulko is widely used in Philippines to eradicate several skin related issues, and to combat the problem of ringworm.


Bayabas is a herb used to deal with wounds. It’s also used to fight gum disease.


Ampalaya helps in providing a boost to our immune system, and thus helps one stay away from common cold, fever etc. It’s also effective against Type 1 diabetes.


Lagundi is used by patients who have been suffering from asthma. It’s also known to help one deal with the problem of cough.


Niyog-niyogan are seeds which can help one cure intestinal worms.

Ulasimang Bato

Ulasimang Bato is used by individuals suffering from arthritis and gout. This herbal leave can be consumed in the form of tea. Some individuals also take it in the form of salad.

Tsaang Gubat

Tsaang Gubat are a great source of fluoride which can be used as an effective mouthwash product. It’s also known to help one deal with stomach cramps and gastrointestinal issues. In most cases, this is consumed in the form of tea.


Sambong is a herb which is used to deal with edema and urine stones.

Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena is used to get relief from pain. It can be consumed internally or externally.

All the above mentioned herbs have been clinically approved and tested for effectiveness. One should consider the below mentioned precautions while consuming herbal medicines.

Make sure that you do not used stainless steel utensil while boiling the herbs. Consider using a earthen or glass alike utensils. Also, while boiling the herbs, do not cover the utensil, and boil it in low temperature or flame. If the symptoms continue, contact the doctor as soon as possible.

Medicinal herbs have been used in Philippines since many centuries. The expertise have been passed from one generation to another. The last few years have seen more interest in this field giving rise to renewed and better medicinal herbal options. The popularity of herbal medicine will only increase with every passing year, as the effectiveness and validity of herbal remedies gain more acceptance.

How to Care for a Fukien Tea Bonsai

By Lina Schofield

The Fukien tea is a popular bonsai tree that is a member of the Borage family. With dark shiny leaves and white delicate flowers this versatile bonsai blends well in most settings whether they are placed indoors or outside in warm weather. The tree is named after the Fukien province in China where it originates. The most important aspects of care to focus on are proper watering and adequate pest control for this variety.


1. Keep the Fukien tea tree indoors if it is cooler than 15.6 degrees C outside.

2. Set your Fukien Tea in partial light indoors, preferably in a windowsill that has a west or northwest exposure. Move the tree into direct sunlight for one hour each morning.

3. Move the tree outside during the summer when the temperature is above 15.6 degrees C, keep the tree in direct morning light and partial light after noon.

4. Spray a light mist of water onto the leaves of the tree once every three hours during the day except during the winter. Reduce misting to once every six hours throughout the winter months. Keep the tree away from drafts and vents.

5. Fill a shallow bowl or tray with small pebbles and water in the bottom of the tray. Set the tray next to the tree.

6. Probe the soil around the base of the tree every day by sticking a finger into the soil. If the soil is damp or cool wait to water it until it becomes dry or warm.

7. Fertilise the bonsai when you notice the development of new growth in the spring. Dilute the fertiliser to half strength and apply it to the soil twice a month, and once a month during the winter.

8. Prune new shoots after seven leaves have grown. Make smooth concave cuts with bonsai trimming shears as you prune. Coat cuts with pruning paint if they look dark brown. Reduce misting or watering to a winter schedule for a week.

9. Repot the tree every other March with a basic bonsai soil mix. Water the tree thoroughly and avoid fertilising for a month.

10. Spray aphids off of your tree with a strong stream of water, look under the leaves for hiding aphids. Before you spray, cover the soil at the base of the tree with paper towels. When you have finished discard the towels. If you must use pesticides, select the weakest insecticide available and dilute it to half strength.

Tips and warnings

Select fertilisers with high phosphorus contents in spring. In the fall use fertilisers with high potassium content and low nitrogen content. Predator insects are preferable over the use of pesticides.

Water your tree prior to fertilising and never fertilise weak or recently potted tree. Do not use Miracid fertiliser and avoid using pesticides on dry soil.

Mang Kepweng’s medical gift

By FRAMELIA V. ANONAS (S&T Media Service)

Who could forget the legendary Mang Kepweng, the albularyo?

Even now in many far-off areas, the sick are brought to a “medicine man,” popularly called albularyo, from herbolario (traditional herbal healers), for treatments consisted of herbs and parts of plants. Treatments are always aided by some kind of oil and a mouthful of chants and prayers, be it simple wounds or exorcising wayward spirits.

The use of herbs for medicinal purposes is an ancient practice. Man has relied on herbs as antiseptic, expectorant, antibiotic, astringent, antihistamine, fungicide, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and even tonic for old age and related illnesses. Herbs were used fresh, as decoctions, infusions, tinctures, capsules, extras, creams, compresses, suppositories, and even ointments. It is then no surprise that man cultivated herbs for medicinal remedies for generations.

With the advent of modern medicine, experts and doctors began to cast doubt on the albularyo’s methods. The iconic albularyo in fact is derisively called “quack doctor” to indicate his dubious status in the medical field. Herbal treatments became a disputed issue.

Back to the albularyo

In 1977, the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development looked into herbal medicine as a research and development interest. The first major task was interview sessions with 1,250 albularyos in 500 villages, which revealed 900 plants used in curing various ailments.

What followed were decoctions and infusions made from some of the commonly-used plants. These were formulated and subjected to rapid clinical screening that involved chemical, bioassay, pharmacological, toxicological, mutagenic, and agricultural aspects. The researches confirmed the efficacy of various plants for 27 common ailments.

The R&D on herbal medicines resulted in formulation of tablets, suspensions, syrups, tinctures, and lotions using indigenous plants for various ailments. Through effective technology transfer, herbal products are now widely accessible.

Herbal preparations

The Department of Health endorses, and DOST promotes the following as promising herbal preparations:

• Lagundi (Vitex negundo L.) – a five-leaf chaste tree used to relieve fever and cough
• Sambong (Blumea balsamifera L.) – generally used as diuretic, it is also effective as preparation in the excretion of urinary stones.
• Yerba Buena (Mentha cordifolia) – popularly known as peppermint, it is used as analgesic to relieve pain and as mouthwash.
• Akapulko (Cassia alata L.) – used in treating ringworms and skin fungal infections.
• Tsaang gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.) – known locally as buyo-buyo, it is best used as mouthwash because leaves have high fluoride content.
• Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) – bitter gourd is used in treating diabetes (diabetes mellitus) in non-insulin dependent patients.
• Bawang (Allium sativum L.) – garlic is recommended for toothache, hypertension, ringworm, and athlete’s foot.
• Bayabas (Psidium guajava L.) – guava is generally used in disinfecting wounds and gum infections.
• Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.) – known as Chinese honeysuckle, its dried matured seeds are used to purge intestinal worms, particularly Ascaris and Trichina.
• Ulasimang Bato (Peperomia pellucida L.) – shiny bush or pansit-pansitan is used to relieve arthritis and gout.

Because the effectiveness of some herbal preparations was validated by DOST and DOH, some enterprising companies took on the trend and began promoting their own herbal products. But not all of these products are accurate in their claims.

The DOH’s Bureau of Food and Drugs issued warnings on the risk of using some herbal medicines. It warned that certain herbal medicines, instead of healing, may even cause death. Doctors also have apprehensions on herbal medicines in capsule forms as they do not have any idea how these medicines were actually prepared. BFAD required clinical runs to ensure the safety and efficacy of herbs used as medicines.

Once an herbal company gets registered with BFAD, it no longer has a hand on its advertisement promotions. BFAD says that some herbal medicines are registered as food supplement, but advertisements claim therapeutic capability.

This is especially true in herbal supplements touted as miracle drugs. People tend to believe such advertisement hypes, stop taking doctor-prescribed drugs, and rely completely on herbal medicines. It also helps that many herbs are freely available and can be found easily in most parts of the country.


Medical associations are also concerned with standards that must cover each natural product. This involves manufacturing processes that need to be developed and established to ensure purity, safety, and quality of the product, including its labeling. The medical sector bats for more clinical studies on herbal treatments. Regulatory standards applied to pharmaceutical products, they say, should also be applied in herbal products.

Critics of herbal medicines focus on safety and lack of clinical evidence of effectiveness. Herbal products are not as rigidly regulated as conventional drugs in purity and potency, and may possibly cause adverse effects and drug interactions.

Margaret McHugh, executive director of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, admits that many herbal medicines do react with prescription medications. “This is a good reason to see an expert in herbs and drug interactions such as a naturopathic doctor,” she says.

Quality herbal medicine

According to Dr. Jaime Montoya, clinical trials of herbal medicines endorsed by DOST and DOH involved human volunteers to evaluate the efficacy of the drugs and to determine the most effective dose. “The trials also took into account the environment and health habits of people,” explains the DOST-PCHRD director, a diplomate in clinical tropical medicine himself.

To further ensure the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines, pharmacists in far-flung areas were trained to produce herbal tablets under strict manufacturing standards. They were also tasked to promote and undertake market acceptability studies to facilitate technology transfer.

Moreover, firms producing herbal medicines also found ways to solve mass manufacturing problems involving shelf life, microbial content, and texture. Two products, lagundi and sambong tablets marketed as Ascof and Re-leaf respectively, actually won silver medals in the “New Techniques and Products” category in the 25th International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland in 1997.

Dr. Montoya also disclosed that the agricultural component or supply of quality raw materials for herbal medicines is handled by agricultural research institutions such as the University of the Philippines Los Baños. This includes propagation techniques, proper farming practices, post-harvest technology, safe pest management, and even management of medicinal plant diseases. Such comprehensive approach ensures that herbal medicines on the shelves are safe and effective.

Modern technology and continuing R&D have bolstered the scientific reliability of herbal medicines. But experts say it is still always wise to consult with doctors and professional herbalists before taking herbal medicines as alternatives to prescription drugs.

Fukien Tea

(redact by Ken Goebel)

A small, evergreen tropical tree, the Fukien Tea is one of the most commonly used materials for indoor bonsai. It is named after the Fukien or Fujian province of Southern China from which the plant originates. In its native land it grows naturally as a small tree or shrub. The tree is found from India and Malaysia to the Philippines.

It has small, shiny, dark green leaves that are covered with tiny hairs, and forms a very dense, compact habit. It has a light brown bark that begins to crack with age. In early summer the Fukien Tea produces miniature, white flowers that go on to form small black berries.

Basic Care of Fukien Tea - Ehretia buxifloia (Ehretia mycrophylla, Carmona retusa)

Light: Fukien Tea prefers a brightly lit window with south or west exposure. If the window has north or east exposure, provide supplementary fluorescent light for 12-16 hours daily. If outside, it needs at least 1 hour of full sun a day, either morning or late afternoon sun only.

Temperature: Hardy in tropical zones 10-11. In temperate regions the Fukien Tea should be grown indoors as a bonsai all year round. The plant thrives at room temperatures in the range 60-85 deg. F, and in the winter prefers temperatures between 60-70 deg. F. It is quite sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and lighting, and does not like draughts.

Watering: The soil should be damp to moist. Water the soil well and then allow it to go nearly dry. If the tree is allowed to dry too much the leaves will droop and look a bit shriveled. Watering soon thereafter results in no harm, but if the dryness becomes too severe the leaves will stay limp, turn black, and drop off. Should the leaves drop off, keep the soil slightly moist but never continuously wet. Replacement leaves will grow back in several weeks. Overwatering results in yellow, sickly leaves.

The Fukien Tea also needs humidity, which can easily be provided using a humidity tray. Fill the tray with small pebbles or gravel, add water, and seat your bonsai pot on top of it. As the water evaporates it will provide humidity around the tree. Fukien Tea tolerates humidity as low as 20-25% H, but will be happier if kept above 40% H.

Feeding: Feed every two weeks during growth, and every four-six weeks in winter. Fukien Tea does not like to be overfed. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer at half strength regularly, and supplement with micronutrients containing iron. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer over the winter.

Pruning and Wiring: The Fukien Tea, unlike most tropical/indoor bonsai, seems to grow continuously with no detectable rest period. Its normal growth is quite straight and stiff. Hard pruning the branches can be carried out at any time as long as the tree is healthy. Fukien Tea handles reduction cuts with good back budding but large cuts do not heal over. Because it has such dense foliage, it can be pruned into the desired shape without having to use a wiring technique. Use the “clip and grow” technique to give the tree dynamic movement. Prune new shoots after six to eight leaves have appeared. The leaves are tiny enough that leaf pruning should not be necessary.

Wiring, although not necessary, can be done at any time of the year but the wire will start to cut into the tree after about three months.

Styles and Forms: Suitable for any style, although broom and literati are two of the most successful bonsai styles for Fukien Tea.

Propagation: By seed when ripe, or softwood cuttings in the summer. Use any cutting with a green or softwood stem, and cuttings from vigorous plants increases the success rate. Cuttings root more readily if given bottom heat. Repotting: Every 2-3 years, best done in early spring. Reduce water after root pruning. Bottom heat helps stimulate new root growth. Fukien Tea may be repotted spring-fall, but should only be foliage pruned in the heat of summer. Beware of breaking thick roots - they are more brittle than they appear.

Soil: A good soil for the Fukien Tea is a fast draining, general mix made from 2/3 inorganic and 1/3 organic soil components. Do not allow the soil to become compacted or the roots will rot. Soil pH rating is 6.0-7.5.

Pests and Diseases: The presence of flowers and especially of seeds attracts ants that carry scale and wooly aphid pests.

Aphids are small insects like whiteflies located at the branch tips and are often accompanied and cared for by ants. Both insects can be treated with a mild insecticidal soap spray available at plant nurseries. They can also be manually dislodged from the branches with a strong spray of water or removed with a Q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Mealy bugs must be treated with a systemic insecticide. If inadequately treated, mealy bugs can become a chronic problem eventually weakening the tree and killing it.

Red spider mites find this plant a special treat, and will attack it over any other plants in the area. Spray foliage with insecticidal soap.

Plants as medicine

By Brent Montecillo (The Freeman)

CEBU, Philippines - Herbal medicines have lately become a significant industry. People have high trust in ‘herbal’ stuff. They take the word to mean either safe or inexpensive or effective, or all three.

For centuries, natural remedies have been used to fight common ailments. In fact, medicinal drugs are said to be simply synthetic formulations of substances found in nature. In short, today’s medicines are proof of humankind’s continuing trust in nature.

In a study, nearly four out of 10 adults say they have used some form of alternative remedy. ‘Alternative’ refers to medication or procedure without the use of synthetic drugs or modern medical technology. Of the alternative or natural remedies, perhaps plants are the most commonly resorted to for alleviating physical discomforts.

As appealing as the notion of natural remedies is for some, however, not all such remedies are safe or effective. In fact, herbal supplements have to be regulated by government – just like its drug or pharmaceutical counterparts – to ensure that required safety standards are met. And, generally, herbal products are not allowed to make claims of medicinal value. Close ad X

Herbal supplements are considered as food products. And so the manufacturers that produce these products aren’t required to perform clinical trials or follow the strict manufacturing and labeling regulations required for pharmaceutical drugs. What’s more, some herbal remedies may interact with over-the-counter or prescription medications.

Experts recommend consulting a doctor before trying herbal supplements. But such recommendation often goes unheeded. Again, people think these are safe, and so there is no need to consult a doctor. They argue that the ingredients of these herbal supplements are plants that have been traditionally used, anyway.

In the Philippines, the so-called traditional medicine is heavily reliant on plants, and is necessarily influenced by religion, mysticism, magic, superstition, and folkloric herbalism. Local traditional-medicine practitioners – the arbularyo, the tambalan, and the faith healer – prescribe various herbs for various ailments. Curiously, patients often report of getting healed.

Traditional medicine is so widespread in the country, prompting the Department of Health to launch, in 1992, the Traditional Medicine Program, which aims to promote an effective and safe use of traditional medicine. There is now the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care, tasked to promote and advocate the use of traditional and alternative health care modalities through scientific research and product development.

The government’s Traditional Medicine Program has since endorsed ten medicinal plants to be used as herbal medicine in Philippines due to their health benefits.

Akapulko (Cassia alata) is a medicinal plant called “ringworm bush or scrub” and “acapulco” in English. It is a herbal medicine for treating tinea infections, insect bites, ringworms, eczema, scabies and itchiness.

Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) is also called “bitter melon” or “bitter gourd” in English. It has been found to be effective in the treatment of diabetes, hemorrhoids, coughs, burns and scalds, and is presently being studied for anti-cancer properties.

Bawang (Allium sativum) is “garlic” in English. Also known as “ahos” in other parts of the country, it is a used to treat infection with its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-hypertensive properties. It is also widely used to reduce cholesterol level in blood.

Bayabas (Psidium guajava), or “guava” in English, is commonly used as antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, antioxidant hepato-protective, anti-allergy, antimicrobial, anti-plasmodial, anti-cough, anti-diabetic, and anti-genotoxic in folkloric medicine.

Lagundi (Vitex negundo), known as “five-leaved chaste tree” in English, is used for treating cough, colds and fever. It is also used as a relief for asthma and pharyngitis, rheumatism, dyspepsia, boils, and diarrhea.

Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.) is a vine known as “Chinese honey suckle” in English. It is used for eliminating intestinal parasites.

Sambong (Blumea balsamifera), whose English name is “Ngai camphor” or “Blumea camphor,” is used for treating kidney stones, wounds and cuts, rheumatism, anti-diarrhea, anti spasms, colds and coughs and hypertension.

Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.), “wild tea” in English, is taken as tea to treat skin allergies including eczema, scabies and itchiness wounds in child birth.

Ulasimang Bato or Pansit-Pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) is known for its efficacy in treating arthritis and gout.

Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii), known as “peppermint” in English, is used as analgesic to relieve body aches and pains due to rheumatism and gout. It is also used to treat coughs, colds and insect bites.

Uses and Propagation of Tsaang Gubat (Carmona retusa)

(Traditional Medicine News)

Scientific name: Carmona retusa (Vahl) Masam.

Common names: Putputai (Bikol); alangit (Bisaya); forest tea, wild tea.

Indications and preparations: Pills, leaf decoction for gastroenteritis; as gargle to prevent cavities.

Description: a shrub about 5 meters in height. This is sometimes used as an ornamental plant or bonsai. Leaves are darken green and glossy.

How to Plant Tsaang Gubat: Plant seeds or cuttings of 20 centimeters long with 3 or more nodes in a shady area. It takes 6 to 8 weeks for it to grow roots, then may transfer the plant in the prepared plot.

How to Take Care of the Plant:

• Water the plant everyday. Remove the weeds and the grass around it. • Remove branches or leaves that have been destroyed by pests or by plant disease to prevent them from spreading to the rest of the plant. • DO NOT use pesticides because the chemicals may remain in the plant.

Used for:

• Stomachache Preparation: • Chop the leaves and place them in an earthen jar according to the following amounts:

•For Dried Leaves:

-ADULTS = 2 tbspful
-7-12 y/o = 1 tbspful

•For Fresh Leaves:

-ADULTS = 3 tbspful
-7-12 y/o = 1 1/2 tbspful

• Pour in 1 glassful of water. Cover it. • Bring the mixture to a boil. • Remove the cover and let it continue to boil for another 15 minutes or until the glassful of water originally poured has been reduced to 1/2 glassful. • Let it cool, then strain mixture.

How to Use:

• Drink the warm decoction. If the stomach ache is still present an hour after drinking the decoction. If there is no change in condition, consult a doctor.

Living art: Horticulture, styling vital to molding bonsai

By Jennifer Oldridge

Dr. Gene Manahan has searched the world in his quest to attain knowledge about bonsai gardening.

The retired Lawrence surgeon has traveled to Japan (three times), China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and Hawaii to further learn from bonsai masters the unique and intricate form of growing plants.

Manahan has discovered that the living art is as fascinating as its history and as beautiful as the gardener's soul who embarks on molding these little trees to their eyes' fancy.

"You have to learn a little bit about horticulture and a little bit about styling to begin growing bonsai trees," he says.

Bonsai (pronounced bone-sigh) is derived from the Japanese word "hom," meaning tray, and "sai" meaning tree. Bonsai have taken on a variety of styles through the centuries. Rocks were introduced into the containers, as were supplementary and accent plants -- even small buildings and people, known as the art of bon-kei.

The art of bonsai gardening is a wonderful way to stay occupied with gardening all year round.

But it takes patience.

Tireless enthusiasm

Manahan works tirelessly on the bonsai plants in his garden and greenhouse. He has 15 to 20 hardy bonsai outside, including juniper, elm and black pine, and another 10 or so tropical bonsai in his greenhouse, including bougainvillea, ficus, buttonwood and Fukien tea.

He labels the trees with the dates they were last re-potted, defoliated and root-pruned. He also keeps a detailed journal, with photographs and notes of his bonsai plants' progress and appearance throughout the year.

Manahan's bought his oldest bonsai in 1971: a Ginko tree that was 75 to 100 years old at the time. The 3-foot-tall tree sports a gnarled old trunk and stunning yellow leaves.

The beauty of bonsai plants, Manahan says, is age.

"It is not how old the tree is," he says. "It is how old the tree looks like it is."

Many of Manahan's trees were collected from the forest or by taking a clipping from a tree found in nature. Small-leafed varieties are most suitable, but any plant may be used, regardless of the size it grows to in the wild.

"Bonsai are interesting because when some varieties are potted they will adapt and actually reduce the size of their leaves," Manahan says. "However, their flowers and fruit sizes will remain the same." Aesthetics

Bonsai can be developed from seeds or cuttings transplanted into containers. They range from 2 inches to nearly 31/2 feet in height. Bonsai are kept small by pruning the branches and roots and by training the shape with wiring.

They are potted in shallow vessels. A bonsai tree should always be positioned somewhat off-center in its container. Not only is asymmetry vital to the visual effect, but the center point is symbolically where heaven and earth meet -- and nothing should occupy this space.

Another aesthetic principal is the triangular pattern necessary both for visual balance and as an expression of the relationship shared by a deity, the artist and the tree.

There are two styles of bonsai: classic (koten) and the informal (bunjin). In the classic, the trunk of the tree is wider at the base and tapers off toward the top. The informal style is opposite -- and more difficult to master.

How to get started

The art of growing a bonsai tree is quite personal, and there are no strict rules. However, it requires commitments of time, patience, skill, endurance and artistic expression.

Find a shallow container. Manahan suggests not potting in ordinary soil because drainage is of the utmost importance.

"Try using a mixture of baked clay bits with peat moss and a little bit of plain dirt. This concoction works wonderfully for me," he says. "Sand is OK as well, but great drainage is an absolute must."

Before planting in the soil, take the young plant and gently spread out and look at its roots. They should be healthy and have many small tendrils. You may trim the excess length off and round out the root ball.

Place the plant in the shallow dish, put the soil mixture over the roots and then let the bonsai grow for about six months without disturbing it other than watering. After the first six months, you may begin to manipulate the plant to achieve a desired look. This is done by wiring around the limbs and/or trunk. A paper-coated wire is best to protect the plant. The wire is usually left on anywhere from three to six months, after which it's best to repot the plant and trim its roots.

"The roots should be pruned one-third to one-half of the entire root ball," Manahan says. "Junipers and pines are good plants to get started in bonsai. They are not as difficult because they only have to be re-potted and the roots pruned every two or three years."

Tsaang-Gubat (Carmona Retusa) Healing Powers Discovered by NRCP Research Project

(khen, affordablecebu admin)

The NRCP (National Research Council in the Philippines) Research Project headed by Dr. Irene M. Villaseñor discovered the healing powers of a common plant called "Tsaang-Gubat", also known as Carmona retusa.

"Tsaang-Gubat" is a common plant here in the Philippines. It's a beautiful shrub (small tree) having many erect small branches covered with glossy dark green coarse leaves. Due to its aesthetic value, "Tsaang-Gubat" is usually used as ornamental plant, beautifying landscapes such as home gardens and parks.

Many Filipinos don't even know what "Tsaang-Gubat" could do to our health. Until recently, a group of researchers headed by Dr. Irene M. Villaseñor of the Institute of Chemistry, University of the Philippines conducted a research study of the chemical compounds found in "Tsaang-Gubat".

Through a spectral analysis, Dr. Irene identified and isolated chemical compounds called Pentacyclic triterpenes from "Tsaang-Gubat" extract. According to her, Pentacyclic triterpenes are complex and very volatile biochemical compound which evaporates quickly. She added that this kind of chemical compound is rarely found in the oil extracts of trees. "Tsaang-Gubat" is one of the few kind of small trees that has the ability to produce this kind of chemical compounds. These chemical compounds are known to cure or remedy diarrhea, diabetes, skin infections.

Dr. Irene and her group evaluated and tested the effectiveness of the triterpenes chemical compounds against diabetes. Using white mice, with dosages of 100mg and 250mg/kg, tritepenes exhibited 29 percent to 55 percent anti–diarrheal activity or effectiveness. This experiment further showed that at a dosage of 100mg, there was no significant difference between the effectiveness of immodium (commercially known available drug) and triterpenes to diarrhea.

In addition, the results of these tests also showed a 150mg of that a 150mg of triterpenes is more effective than Glipzide (known commercially available anti–diabetic drug).

Fukien Tea: A More Subtle Show

(Hoosier Bonsai)

Fukien tea (Ehretia microphylla) is another species that bears tiny, pure-white flowers. (To my lovely wife's great enjoyment.) The flowers are followed by berries a little smaller than a garden pea, that ripen to a rich red.

Neither the flowers nor the ripe berries last very long, so at any given time when the tree is bearing, what you're most likely to see are a lot of green berries with flowers and ripe berries interspersed. This makes for a subtler, less exuberant show than that of a serissa (especially a 'Snow Rose' serissa,) but still a show that is quite satisfying and enjoyable in its own right. The deep, rich green of the leaves makes a great backdrop, and is something I enjoy for itself.

I bought this tree in August 2010 from Wigert's Bonsai in Florida. (Click here for their website.) In the next year-and-some I spent time studying it and letting it adapt to my locale. At the beginning of November 2011, I repotted it into a cut-down 1-gal.-size Rootmaker ®. At that time, I found the nebari and leveled it, which resulted in a new planting angle and new provisional front. (Yes, it was late in the season, but the tree went straight into the Bonsai Crate in the basement afterward.)

The new planting angle also cleared up the question of just what style will suit this tree best. There were several possible designs that would have fit the old orientation at least fairly well, and it was hard to see which one might be the best choice. But with the new position, no doubt remains: this tree wants to be a semi-cascade! The first branch on the viewer's left needs only moderate shaping to become the cascading branch. The two branches below that one on the trunk (only one shows in the last picture) will be left for a few years to bulk up the lower trunk, then removed or jinned.

The leaves of Ehretia species are used for medicinal teas in southeast Asia. The fruit is technically a drupe, as is a peach or cherry. Each contains a single hard seed. Apparently Fukien tea is self-pollinating, because the seeds from mine have produced a number of seedlings. (Not that I'm complaining!) I expect to use some of them for a forest planting in a year or two.

Fukien tea, unlike serissa, is a true tropical/subtropical species. Mine reminded me of that rather sharply after I took its picture on February 1st. The temperature was a few degrees above freezing, and our side yard, where the picture was taken, is very well sheltered from wind. Nevertheless, over half the leaves blackened and fell over the next few days! They have been replaced, and the tree is producing more blooms and berries, and shows no signs of permanent injury. But now I know not to expose it to that much cold.

Outdoor ‘botica’

By Gilda Cordero-Fernando (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

For sore throat—hot ‘salabat’ or ginger tea; hot calamansi; or a gargle of salt and water. For cold and cough—‘lagundi’ leaves in an infusion is an excellent expectorant

There has been a change of consciousness, a paradigm shift, an evolving awareness of the body, not just as a machine but as a vessel of something precious—the spirit.

Pharmaceuticals have become big businesses, and their side effects have not been something to ignore. Human kidneys can hardly absorb all those “necessary” pills and capsules recommended by doctors.

I am one of the slower learners, having been born generations ago when all that natural healing and eating was the norm. In between generations, there was a shift to science, and these cures became merely “servant talk.” My favorite educator and quack doctor today is my neighbor Belay Gruenberg, who detests anything chemical, even Coke. Tonight she drags me to Veggie Café, a quiet, Chinese-owned vegetarian place on A. Roces, in the cul-de-sac beside Moomba.

If I am not having lunches at Tita Soliongco’s Vegetarian Kitchen on 62-B Mother Ignacia Avenue, at the back of St. Mary’s, it is in Mary Ann Duran’s good old faithful Greens, overlooking her pleasant garden. Or at the even older Blissful Belly of Dr. Omar Arabia, one of the oldest homeopathic doctors in town. (Let this not fool you, I am a weather-weather vegetarian; when it’s not raining I eat pork).

The common teas

Belay began by ordering one lemongrass (tanglad) and one pandan tea. Both are good. She tells me that sambong, carried by other vegetarian restos, is good, too, but it is a diuretic (also a kidney remedy) and will make you run to you know where. Camomile is another nice afternoon tea, conducive to dozing. Camomile is also effective for kabag, flatulence. Another kabag reliever since Magellan’s time is manzanilla, now available in drugstores. Massaged on the tummy, even of adults, it eases the passage of air.

For rainy season colds and cough, these are the accepted herbal cures: For sore throat-hot salabat or ginger tea; hot calamansi; or a gargle of salt and water. For cold and cough-lagundi leaves in an infusion is an excellent, vile tasting expectorant. Oregano tea is as well a cold remedy.

For indigestion and diarrhea: tsaang gubat (available in sachet form from drugstores) that you make into tea. Eat latundan banana or boiled camote to stop diarrhea. An infusion of guava and avocado leaves is also good for the above.

Tawa-tawa seeds and leaves, commonly found everywhere (??!), can be made into an effective tea for malaria and dengue. To save you the trouble of looking for it “sa tabi-tabi,” tawa-tawa is now available in Department of Health-approved capsules in health stores.

Pungent malvarosa planted near the door is good for mosquito control. Leaves of the nim tree, dried and burned, drive away mosquitoes. So does lanzones peel.

The colorful mayana leaves, grown decoratively in gardens, may be pounded and applied on head bumps (bukol).

For sprains, apply hot chili peppers (labuyo), garlic and ginger mashed into a potion in warm coconut oil.


An infusion of bitter melon or ampalaya and banaba, its dried leaves and fruit, is a cleansing drink for lowering blood sugar (of diabetics). May also pound ampalaya leaves and take the extracted juice by the spoonful for alleviating asthma. For cough, it’s a good expectorant. (Eating boiled ampalaya leaves also remedies anemia.)

The liquid of boiled guava leaves is an age-old antiseptic for cleaning wounds. Placed in a steamer under a loosely woven chair seat, the fumes of boiling guava leaves aids in the restoration to normal of newly birthed vaginas.

The iron-rich malunggay vegetable stimulates the production of milk by nursing mothers.

Pansit-pansitan, another lowly weed (found sa tabi-tabi), eaten raw, with salad, alleviates rheumatism or rayuma.

Pounded ginger, mixed with warm coconut oil, is for massaging painful muscles (called pilay by the folk).

To remedy urinary tract infection and kidney problems, take sambong and buko juice or, if you wish to make life easier, bottled cranberry juice.

Hypertension can be controlled with a drink of boiling water poured over young kasuy leaves. Can also just eat those leaves.

Buhok ng mais, boiled and made into tea, removes kidney stones.

Body care

Aloe vera, the plant, split open and its “gelatin” applied to the scalp, will thicken hair.

A natural facial scrub can be made out of roasted mongo seeds, pulverized.

For acne, mash fresh ripe tomatoes and use as facial rinse.

To whiten dark armpits, apply calamansi regularly.

BO is remedied with tawas, which is a crystalline rock. It should be first smoothened out with sandpaper. When smooth, every time it is sanded again, a bit of the powder comes off. This should be dampened and applied to the armpits.

By BO time, I was tired to death and could no longer absorb all that health talk. I decided to go home and pop an aspirin.

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Filipino scientists developing system to stop biopiracy


To prevent biopiracy of indigenous communities’ health practices that modern medical societies have proven effective, Filipino scientists are developing a national digital library to take stock of the materials.

Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) said that a P10-million system is being developed to protect the country’s biomedical indigenous knowledge from piracy by unscrupulous foreign researchers.

“Through this system, we can document health practices that work. We can choose possible technologies that can be created to commercial form and generate income," said Montoya in Tuesday’s health forum in Quezon City.

According to him, the national digital library will contain data on local communities’ health practices that are acceptable to medical societies to avoid biopiracy and “protect the heritage" of Filipinos.

“These are foreign researchers who come to communities and bring these technologies and claim them as theirs," Montoya said.

He cited as an example India's turmeric plant, a member of the ginger family, which was developed in the United States for a patent. Indian government blocked the patenting as it claimed it owned the right to the compound which is used as antiseptic in India.

Montoya said that there is a suspicion that the ingredient used to make the allergy drug erythromycin came from Iloilo in the 1970s, although there is yet to have “formal documentation" on the claim.

The PCHRD has started documenting indigenous health practices all over the country and expects to finish its research and the digital library by 2010, said Montoya.

The PCHRD is an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that seeks to strengthen research and development studies in the Philippines.

Montoya added the Philippines is teeming with raw materials that can be used to develop medicines to make the country self-reliant in life-enhancing drugs.

“We have a wealth of raw materials, we just didn’t know how to maximize our potentials," he said, adding that local pharmaceutical companies are “not taking the risk" to develop new medicines out of the country’s flora and fauna.

The Department of Health is promoting 10 medicinal plants that are already available in commercial preparations. These are lagundi, verba buena, sambong, tsaang gubat, ampalaya, niyug-niyogan, bayabas, akapulko, ulasimang bato, and bawang.


(Philippine Tambayan)

Luzon: Kalabong, Kalimumog, Katdalugod, Maragued, Mara-mara,

Taglokot, Talibunog, Tst, Tsaang-gubat, Tsa-tsa

Visayas: Alibungog, Semente

Mindanao: Alangitngit, Alingitngit, Buyo-buyo

Tsaang-gubat is a low, woody plant with several stems. It is grown as ornamental or bonsai because of its attractive appearance. Its leaves are small and have dark, green and shiny upper surface. Tsaang-gubat is indicated or used primarily for diarrhea. But it is also advised for stomachache and colic.


A person has diarrhea or LBM (Loose Bowel Movement) when his stool is soft to watery and when he has to move his bowels more often than two times in one day. To treat diarrhea using Tsaang-gubat, follow these steps:

1. Determine the amount of Tsaang-gubat leaves to use. The amount of leaves to use varies according to the age of patient and the condition of leaves, as follows:

Condition of leaves

Age of patient Dried (crushed) Fresh (chopped)

Adult 10 tbsp. 12 tbsp.

7-12 years 5 tbsp. 6 tbsp.

2-6 years 2½ tbsp. 3 tbsp.

2. Boil corrent amount of leaves in 2 glasses of water for 15 minutes.

3. Let cool, then strain and divide into 4 parts.

4. Take 1 part every two hours (until stool becomes solid).

Boiling the Mixture

There are important rules to follow when boiling the leaves in water. Observe strictly the following:

— Use only enamelled container or claypot (“palayok”), never an aluminum pot.

— A standard glass or cup should contain 240 ml. or 8 fluid ounces of water. This

measurement is the same as the content of a bottle or regular size Pepsi or Coke.

— Mix leaves in water before placing on fire.

— As soon as the mixture boils uncover the pot and let boil continuously for 15 minutes.

Remember that the mixture should boil uncovered.

— Strain and let cool. You now have what is called “decoction.”

Storing the Decoction

For convenience, you may prepare enough decoction that you can use for several days. Simply adjust the amount of leaves to use according to the amount of water that you will boil. When kept in thermo pot (“termos”), the decoction will last for three days without losing its efficacy. When kept in refrigerator, the decoction will last up to four days without losing its efficacy. Keep in mind, however, that whether kept in thermo pot or refrigerated the decoction must not be taken anymore when its color has changed or when it has grown molds or fungus.

Oral Rehydration Solution

To prevent dehydration due to diarrhea, a person should take a solution of water, sugar and salt, known as Oral Rehydration Solution or ORS. ORS can either be bought from the drugstore, obtained for your community health clinic or prepared at home.

To prepare your own ORS, simply mix in a pitcher or jar 4 glasses of water, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 3/4 (three-fourths) teaspoon of salt. These are the basic ingredients of an ORS. An adult is advised to drink at least three glasses of this solution every one hour or after every diarrheal discharge. Children should take in one and one-half (1½) glasses. But a “more complete” ORS can be prepared by substituting some of the basic ingredients. If honey is available, use 2 tablespoons honey instead of sugar. Also, the three-fourth (3/4) teaspoon salt can be substituted with one-fourth (1/4) teaspoon baking soda plus one-fourth (1/4) teaspoon salt.

In severe dehydration, a diarrheal patient is rehydrated intravenously with a solution, more popularly called dextrose or saline. Only a medical personnel is allowed to administer this procedure.

Stomachache and Colic

To relieve stomachache and colic caused by indigestion, excessive air in the stomach or vomitting, Tsaang-gubat is prepared as follows:

1. Determine the amount of Tsaang-gubat leaves to use, which varies according to the age of patient and the condition of leaves, as follows:

Condition of leaves

Age of patient Dried (crushed) Fresh (chopped)

Adult 2 tbsp. 3 tbsp.

7-12 years 1 tbsp. 1½ tbsp.

2. Boil correct amount of leaves in 1 glass of water for 15 minutes.

3. Strain and drink when lukewarm.

If the pain is not relieved within one hour after taking Tsaang-gubat, prepare another glassful following the same steps above. If the pain is still not relieved, then see a physician. The cause of the stomachache may be something else.


Tsaang-gubat is propagated using either seeds or basal cuttings. Although using basal cuttings cannot assure that all cutting will survive, it is still preferred over the use of seeds. Its because seeds take very long to germinate, and germinated seeds need another long time to grow. For a basal cutting only the lower portion of a stem, which is also its harder part is used. For Tsaang-gubat, a basal cutting should be about 20 cm. (8 in.) long and must include at least three nodes. The nodes are where the new leaves will grow or come out.

Plant basal cuttings by inserting the lower one-third (1/3) of the stem, at least one node into the soil, in separate containers or pots. Water immediately after and place under shade. The cuttings will root six to eight weeks from planting. They may be transplanted to plots or retained in larger pots. Avoid using chemical pesticides because they might leave poison on the plants. It is best to harvest only the mature and healthy leaves. If you wish, you may harvest excess leaves and air-dry them for storing. Air-drying takes about four days on warm weather or about two weeks during the rainy season. Leaves are sufficiently dry if they crumble when crushed with the fingers. Dried leaves should be sealed in plastic bag or kept in covered tinted glass jar. Keep leaves in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight to extend their storage life.

5 Suggestions On Caring For A Bonsai Tree


Bonsai Trees Retaining a Bonsai tree requires a great deal of operate and determination. 2. Watering a Bonsai tree is difficult. Due to the fact they are contained in pots, there’s not significantly place to water them in. Also, too substantially watering can result in expansion of fungus. The dampness stage of a Bonsai tree really should be closely inspected daily, and moderated.

A Bonsai tree must never be permitted to totally dry out. A very good strategy to check out for dampness level is to place in a toothpick correct inside of the soil. This way men and women will now if it is even now damp.

3. 4. Don’t forget that there are many forms of Bonsai trees. Each will need to be individually cared for according to their kind. This specially applies when it happens to the amount of sunlight they obtain. So it is critical to establish exactly what kind of Bonsai tree one has, so they can discover appropriate recommendations on how to very best to take care of it!

5. Do not trim Bonsai trees with just a pair of scissors! There are a lot of tools readily available that are in particular designed to trim Bonsai tress. Each and every precise software serving a various purpose, such as shaping the tree, reducing the leaves, tweaking its branches, and so forth.

Rising a Bonsai tree is an artwork kind. So much get the job done, focus, skill goes into retaining its look. The trick is to make it look that not a lot of work has been accomplished to realize their shape and symmetry. This is why these trees are so particular and priced enormously for their elegance.

The Fukien tea bonsai tree as the identify implies, originated in China about the province of Fuji. It is a species of modest evergreen trees. It has small furry dark green leaves, which grow into a thick bush and gives it an over-all compact look. A young tree has a mild brown bark. When it gets older, the bark commences cracking and turns brittle.

This bonsai flowers in early spring. These modest lovely flowers bit by bit turn into black berries later.

The Fukien tea bonsai tree, staying a tropical tree, is impacted by chilly. It is consequently encouraged that this tree be grown indoors. This distinct specimen of Fukien Tea Bonsai is a bit tough to mature but you may want to get up the challenge of cultivating this elegance.

Caring for a Fukien bonsai tree demands having to pay certain attention to sunlight and temperature. The recommended sum of sunlight is a person hour, either early morning or late afternoon, as the sunlight rays are not so scorching. The temperature need to variety involving 59?? to 77?? F. When shifting the tree indoors, consider it to a shaded region like the patio to relaxation, and then consider it into the home. If this is not completed, the plant may possibly endure shock.

The Fukien tea bonsai tree needs just a weekly feed in the summer months. In winter season the frequency of feeds is lowered to after a month.

Repotting of the tree as is with other bonsai, should be carried out within the initial 1 to 3 several years of its existence.

Tsaang Gubat or Wild Tea (Ehretia microphylla Lam.)


Tsaang Gubat is one of the 10 herbs that is endorsed the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) as an antispasmodic for abdominal (stomach) pains. And is registered as a herbal medicine at the Philippine Bureau of Food & Drug (BFAD).

Tsaang Gubat is small tree that grows (from 1 to 5 meters) abundantly in the Philippines.In folkloric medicine, the leaves has been used as a disinfectant wash during child birth, as cure for diarrhea, as tea for general good health and because Tsaang Gubat has high fluoride content, it is used as a mouth gargle for preventing tooth decay. Research and test now prove it's efficacy as an herbal medicine. now a days Tsaag Gubat, it is now available commercially in capsules, tablets and tea bags.

Scientific name: Ehretia Microphylla Lam.

Tsaang Gubat is also known as: Wild Tea, Forest Tea, in (Visayas Region) Alibungog , in(Bicol Region)Putputai, and in (Ilocos Region)they called it Maragued.

Benefits of Tsaang Gubat:• it treats Stomach pains
• it treats Gastroenteritis
• it trears Intestinal motility
• it treats Dysentery
• it treats Diarrhea or Loose Bowel Movement (LBM)
• used as Mouth gargle
• used as Body cleanser/wash
Procedure & Use:
• Thoroughly wash the leaves of tsaang gubat in running water. Chop to a and boil 1 cup of chopped leaves in 2 cups of water. Boil in low heat for 15 to 20 minutes and drain.
• Take a cupful every 4 hours for diarrhea, gastroenteritis and stomach pains.
• Gargle for stronger teeth and prevent cavities.
• Drink as tea daily for general good health.

Ehretia buxifolia- Poor Man’s Tea

(Bonsai Beginnings)
• Fujian Tea
• Fukien Tea
• Philippine Tea
• Philippine False Tea
• Poor Man’s Tea
• Tsaang gubat
• Wild Tea

Once known as Carmona microphylla, renamed Ehretia buxifolia or Ehretia microphylla

A Fukien Tea Tree Penjiing is a popular as an "indoor bonsai" plant. The Fujian Tea may not be the best choice if you are a beginner, but an experienced bonsai enthusiast will enjoy the challenge. Fukien Tea "bonsai" imports from China have become very popular commercial "Bonsai".

The Fukien Tea is a tropical evergreen tree that is common in the Fujian Province in China. It is found growing throughout eastern and south-eastern Asia and is used as an herbal tea and medicine. Fukien tea will make you “feel young and slim”.

The tree produces shiny dark green leaves and miniature white flowers in the summer which eventually turn to small tomato shaped green changing to orange then to red berries.

Flowers and foliage of a Fukien Tea Tree Carmona bonsai

Keep Ehretia microphylla outdoors as long as possible and bring them in when the nighttime lows are below 50º F. Good air circulation is vital indoors. Indoors select a well lit area and warm spot. The more sunlight the tree receives the smaller the leaves will grow and if the tree does not receive the proper amount of sunlight, it will not produce flowers or berries. The Fujian Tea is relatively pest free in an open outdoor location. Indoors check regularly for pests. These trees are susceptible to scale, aphids and mealy bugs. Indoors there are no natural predators, like lady bugs to keep pests under control, so it will be up to you to deal with the pests yourself. Fukien Tea is sensitive to pesticides. Fukien tea prefers a humid environment. To create a more humid environment, place a tray filled with very small stones or gravel and fill with water and place the pot on top of the stones making sure that the water does not wick into the soil.

Train the Fujian Tea using “clip-and-grow” methods, trim frequently and use little wire. New shoots emerge from the base of leaf stalks after pruning. The most popular styles are broom, literati and cascade. There is a “Small leaf” variety is slow to develop a trunk, but bears tiny red fruit prolifically and a “medium leaf” variety develops a bulky trunk more quickly.

Keep moist but do not to overwater. Use a good well draining soil. Fukien Tea likes to be evenly moist, not soaking wet. It prefers some organic matter in the soil mix. Root bound Ehretia can deteriorate quickly. Root prune and repot in early summer when the nighttime lows are above 50º F and daytime highs are above 90º F.

The Fujian Tea is easy to start from seed. Remove the moist coating from the fruit, and plant immediately into moist well draining soil. Within a short time small seedlings will emerge. Sometimes seedlings sprout under the mother plant. Seedlings are excellent for Penjing or forest plantings. Start shaping them when the trunk becomes woody.

Cuttings and air layers are also good methods to propagate Ehretia.

Ehretia buxifolia is used in the Philippines and India as an herbal medicine.

November is ‘Traditional and Alternative Health Care Month’

(Manila Bulletin)

Proclamation No. 698 in 2004 declared November as Traditional and Alternative Health Care (TAHC) Month to provide insights in herbal medicine practice, and to increase awareness of traditional and alternative medicines that are approved for public use. Leading the celebration is the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC), a research institute of the Department of Health (DOH).

Republic Act 8423, the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997, created the PITAHC, to answer the needs of the people, especially the poor sector, in health care through the provision and delivery of TAHC products, services, and technologies that have been proven safe, effective, and affordable.

RA 8423 defines traditional medicine (also called indigenous or folk medicine) as “knowledge, skills, and practices based on theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of physical or mental illness.” Traditional medicine covers a wide variety of therapies and practices which vary from country to country and region to region. In some countries, it is referred to as alternative medicine.

PITAHC carries out research and development in areas of TAHC as well as studies on indigenous health care practices performed by “traditional healers” for ultimate integration into the national health care delivery system, side by side with modern medicine. It issues guidelines, standards, and codes of ethical practice for TAHC as well as in the manufacture, quality control, and marketing of TAHC materials, natural and organic products.

TAHC development has provided a wide range of affordable, accessible, and effective health care options for Filipinos. Traditional medicine had been practiced for many generations in the country, particularly at community level, but gained significance in health care delivery only in recent decades. Wider global acceptance was observed in late 1990s.

The country is richly endowed with indigenous plants and herbs that possess medical and pharmacological properties. DOH-PITAHC has been tapping these natural resource through research and development to produce affordable and effective medicines. PITAHC manufactures and sells herbal medicine products and soaps from plant species that experts have studied under the national Integrated Research Program on Medical Plants. It operates four herbal processing plants located in Tacloban City, Cagayan Valley, Davao, and Cotabato.

DOH-PITAHC’s Traditional Health Program approved 10 medicinal plants for public use, after thorough testing and clinical studies proved that they have medicinal value in the relief and treatment of various ailments. These are: Lagundi, ulasimang-bato/pansit pansitan, bayabas, bawang, yerba Buena, sambong, akapulko, niyo-niyogan, tsaang gubat, and ampalaya. Although they are all-natural drugs, the public is advised that, like any drug or medicine, they should be prescribed by a medical practitioner.

10 Herbal Wonders Every Pinoy Should Know Before Wasting a Peso on Western Medicine


There you go. That was sure such a long title. But for all its worth, just have to stay that way. The fact remains Pinoy look at health on the losing end. Classic example: Going to the heart doctor after suffering from a heart attack. Don’t you think it odd? It’s like going to the vulcanizing shop when your tires are out. Sounds logical. Except that tires can be replaced with tires. But your heart cannot be replaced. Unless you want a mechanical one and go for an open heart surgery. Herbal Wonders Every Pinoy Should Know Before Wasting a Peso on Western Medicine Before we get into a drift, here’s a look at 10 of the most powerful herbal plants in Planet Philippines. Assuming you want to save some.

10: LAGUNDI LAGUNDI This 5-leaved chaste tree maybe small but for its wonderful effects it definitely is no push-over. Lagundi is one herbal plant that has gained wide popularity in Planet Philippines. Not only has it been useful in the treatment of rheuma, it has been utilized to counter cough and fever. Fact is, it has been tapped by big pharma advertised as a natural medicine for fever.

Also it is used for:

• Asthma
• Pharyngitis
• Dyspepsia
• Boils
• Diarrhea

Scientific Name:Vitexnegundo

9: NIYOG-NIYOGAN NIYOG-NIYOGAN A vine, Niyog-niyoganis a large, climbing woody shrub native to the Philippines. Growing tall even up to 20 feet, you can distinguish the plant with its colorful flowers and pointed leaves. Its fruit is edible. More than that however, it has been traditionally been used in the fight against intestinal worms.

It is also known as Chinese honey suckle.

Added benefits:

• Anti-cancer properties

Scientific Name: Quisqualisindica L.

8: SAMBONG SAMBONG This flowering plant is not only filled with beauty, it is also oozing with health benefits. It is most especially effective in the treatment of common cold and as a diuretic. Traditionally, Chinese and Thai people have made use of the herbal plant since ancient times.

Other uses:

• Kidney stone
• Rheumatism
• Anti-diarrhea
• Anti-spasms
• Hypertension

It is also commonly-called Ngai Camphor or Blumea Camphor in the Western world.

Scientific Name: Blumeabalsamifera

7: TSAANG GUBAT TSAANG GUBAT Growing wild and free in tropical Philippines, Tsaang Gubat is one good natural resource in the fight against skin allergies, scabies and even for mothers suffering from itchiness in child birth. Traditionally, it is taken as a tea preparation.

Other properties:

• Antibacterial
• Anti-inflammatory properties

Scientific Name: Ehretiamicrophylla Lam.

6: ULASIMANG BATO ULASIMANG BATO Also popularly known as Pansit-pansitan, this fleshy, shallow-rooted herb has been used extensively for its analgesic, anti-arthritic, diuretic properties. What is amazing is that the entire plant is edible. For the uninitiated, diuretics are also called “water pills” as they facilitate the removal of fluids from the body via urination.

Other benefits:

• gout

Scientific Name: Peperomiapellucida

5: YERBA BUENA YERBA BUENA Most would know this herbal plant as peppermint. Its name, Yerba Buena is of Spanish origin meaning “good herb”. It’s mainly used as an analgesic and has been effective in the treatment of body aches and pain due to rheumatism and gout.

In Colombia, 7-Up (that Pepsi drink) is available in the flavor of Yerba Buena.

Added benefits:

• against coughs
• colds
• and insect bites

Scientific Name:Clinopodiumdouglasii

4: BAYABAS BAYABAS Most would equate the fruit-bearing guava tree or bayabas that tree which provides delicious round fruits that are sometimes hard to eat – unripe that is. But there is more to the plant than its amazing fruit. It has been extensively used as an antiseptic (antimicrobial), anti-allergy and as a strong antioxidant.

And if that were not enough guava has been also effective as a:

• anti-plasmodial
• anti-cough
• antidiabetic

Still, it has also been widely used in the treatment of:

• eczema
• ringworm
• scabies

Scientific Name: Psidiumguajava

3:BAWANG BAWANG Perhaps the most common in the kitchen, garlic has been utilized in Planet Philippines to treat infection because of its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. That alone would be great properties other than the fact that it is one of the key ingredients in a wonderful dinner preparation. But that is not enough. The rather diminutive vegetable is also known to contain:

• anti-cancer
• anti-hypertensive properties
• cholesterol-reducing

Scientific Name: Allium sativum

2: AKAPULKO AKAPULKO Also dubbed the “ringworm bush or schrub” in the Western world, this Pinoy herbal medicine has been widely-utilized in the treatment of tine infections and to counter insect bites.

In time is has also been effectively utilized to fight:

• ringworms
• eczema
• scabies
• itchiness

Because of this, the shrub with the beautiful yellow flower has been prepared as an ointment preparation. Scientific Name: Cassia alata

1:AMPALAYA AMPALAYA This vine maybe bitter but don’t be fooled by its taste as it is big on health benefits. It has been popularly called bitter melon. Its bitterness is actually the result of the presence of momordicin and has been widely-believed as the most bitter in the vegetable world.

But that does not stop the Ampalaya to reign supreme. Its benefits include treatment of diabetes, coughs, hemorrhoids, burns and scalds. Added to this, it has been found to contain anti-cancer properties and has been officially endorsed by the Department of Health of the Philippines.

Scientific Name: Momordica Charantia

Uses and Propagation of Tsaang Gubat (Carmona retusa)

(Traditional Medicine News)

Scientific name: Carmona retusa (Vahl) Masam.

Common names: Putputai (Bikol); alangit (Bisaya); forest tea, wild tea.

Indications and preparations: Pills, leaf decoction for gastroenteritis; as gargle to prevent cavities.

Description: a shrub about 5 meters in height. This is sometimes used as an ornamental plant or bonsai. Leaves are darken green and glossy.

How to Plant Tsaang Gubat: Plant seeds or cuttings of 20 centimeters long with 3 or more nodes in a shady area. It takes 6 to 8 weeks for it to grow roots, then may transfer the plant in the prepared plot.

How to Take Care of the Plant:

• Water the plant everyday. Remove the weeds and the grass around it.
• Remove branches or leaves that have been destroyed by pests or by plant disease to prevent them from spreading to the rest of the plant.
• DO NOT use pesticides because the chemicals may remain in the plant.

Used for:

Stomachache Preparation:
• Chop the leaves and place them in an earthen jar according to the following amounts:

•• For Dried Leaves: ADULTS = 2 tbspful 7-12 y/o = 1 tbspful

•• For Fresh Leaves: ADULTS = 3 tbspful 7-12 y/o = 1 1/2 tbspful

- Pour in 1 glassful of water. Cover it.
- Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Remove the cover and let it continue to boil for another 15 minutes or until the glassful of water originally poured has been reduced to 1/2 glassful.
- Let it cool, then strain mixture.

How to Use:

• Drink the warm decoction. If the stomach ache is still present an hour after drinking the decoction. If there is no change in condition, consult a doctor.

Care guide for the Carmona Bonsai tree (Fukien Tea)

(Bonsai Empire)

Specific Bonsai care guidelines for the Carmona

Position: The Fukien Tea is an indoor bonsai which can only be kept outside all year in very warm climates. It needs a lot of light and in the house it should be positioned behind a window pane where it gets the best light. The perfect temperature is around 20 degrees C (68F), make sure it doesn’t experience much lower temperatures. In summer the Carmona can be placed outside as long as the nights are warm enough. In most cases the winter in our heated flats is a problem for the Fukien Tea. In addition to the few hours of daylight there is the problem of dry air. You can use a plant lamp if necessary and put a large tray filled with wet gravel or foamed clay under the pot for more humidity. When you open the windows in winter, take care that the Fukien Tea is not exposed to cold or even frosty air.

Watering: Keep the tree moist, as it doesn’t like droughts. But be careful not to water too often because it doesn't like soil wetness either. As soon as the soil surface gets dry the tree needs to be watered generously but it must not be left standing in excess water.

Feeding: Solid organic fertilizer is appropriate for the Fukien Tea because its roots are sensitive. Liquid fertilizers can also be used in carefully measured dosage and only on moist soil. Feed the tree well from spring to autumn following the directions for use, but in winter less often.

Pruning: The Fukien tree can take pruning quite well and regular trimming will make the tree grow a dense branch structure. Young shoots are tender and flexible so that they are easy to trim or wire. Mature twigs and branches are hard and brittle, so use appropriate tools for pruning and be careful when you want to wire and bend them.

Repotting: Repot the Fukien Tea in early spring about every two years. Root pruning should be done with care because the Fukien Tea does not take a great loss of roots well. A well-drained but on the other hand water buffering soil is very important because the Fukien Tea is sensitive to drought as well as excess wetness. A mixture of Akadama with a little humus and pumice is well-proven. Propagation: From seeds or by using cuttings in summer.

Pests and diseases: Under inadequate conditions the Carmona bonsai can suffer from spider mites, scale and whiteflies. Customary insecticide sprays and sticks to push into the soil will help but for long-term success also light and humidity must be improved. If the Fukien Tea is watered with hard water the leaves can show signs of chlorosis which can be treated with iron fertilizer. In rare cases fungal diseases can enter through wounds. They can kill single branches or even the whole tree and are hardly treatable. Use clean tools and treat fresh wounds with cut-paste.

How to Keep Carmona Bonsai Watered

By Melissa Lewis (Demand Media)

A tree grown in a pot and trained as a miniature plant is known as a bonsai. One tree often grown as a bonsai is Carmona microphylla, commonly called a fukien tea tree. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and warmer, fukien tea tree is noted for its dark gray bark, white flowers and knobby wood. Because a bonsai is grown in porous soil, watering it regularly is an essential task to keep it healthy and thriving.

1) Feel the soil with the palm of your hand. If it feels completely dry, it is time to water a fukien tea tree. If it is still slightly moist, don't water it at this time to avoid over-watering your plant. Check the soil later in the day or the next morning because it can dry out quickly.

2) Pour water at the base of the fukien tea tree until you see it drip out from the bottom. Wait a few minutes, then water it again in the same way. This double watering ensures the entire root ball gets watered, advises The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.

3) Discard the water that accumulates in the plant's drainage dish.

Things You Will Need:
• Watering can
• Check the soil for moisture once or twice a day, especially in spring and summer to ensure the soil does not completely dry out. Look for signs of over- or under-watering and adjust your schedule as necessary. Yellowing leaves may mean you're over-watering a fukien tea tree, and dark, limp leaves are signs of under-watering.
•Apply any fertilizers after a watering to prevent root burn.

DOH to manufacture 2 more herbal drugs next year

By Lorie Ann Cascaro (MC/MindaNews)

DAVAO CITY – The Department of Health’s drug-making unit would begin manufacturing two more herbal drugs from the list of 10 certified herbal plants in the country.

This will raise to five the total herbal drugs produced by the government.

Wilfredo P. Principe, quality assurance manager of the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (Pitahc), said the herba buena (Mentha abvensis Linn.) and ampalaya, or bitter gourd, would see production next year for distribution to government hospitals nationwide.

Already in production are lagundi (Vitex negundo L), sambong (Blumea balsamifera) and the tsaang gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.).

The herba buena is an analgesic, which relieves pain, while ampalaya controls blood sugar and would be recommended for persons with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

Lagundi is used to treat cough, sambong for kidney and urinary tract disorders because of its diuretic property, and tsaang gubat for diarrhea.

But the three manufactured drugs are being distributed only in the government hospitals, with Principe admitting that production could not cope with the demand.

The sambong drug is being manufactured in the Davao City plant located inside the DOH office along J.P. Laurel Ave. near the Southern Philippine Medical Center. The plant could produce at least five million tablets per month.

“This number is less than the actual demand nationwide,” Principe said.

The bulk of the production goes to Metro Manila hospitals, and the DOH central office would allocate the rest to the regions, he added.

The Davao plant relied on its sambong herb supply only from the production farms in Malaybalay in Bukidnon and in Batangas.

The tablets are sold at P180 per 100 tablets, or P1.80 per tablet.

Principe said that the commercial drug made by private companies sells for as much as P3.50 per tablet.

Lagundi is being manufactured in the DOH Tacloban, Leyte plant, where it has a plantation area.

The other Pitahc plants are located in Tuguegarao in Cagayan Valley and in Cotabato City, where the herba buena would be likely manufactured.

Philippiness’ first ‘green’ billboard absorbs pollutants on Edsa

By Tina G. Santos (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Not all billboards are created equal.

While many billboards in the metropolis have recently been found wanting in taste and morals, one has found a unique way to stand out.

Located on the northbound lane of Edsa near Forbes Park, the pollution-absorbing billboard of Coca-Cola Philippines is probably the country’s only environment-friendly outdoor advertising sign.

The eye-catching ad which measures 60 feet tall and 60 feet wide makes use of thousands of live Fukien tea plants that are spread across its body, leaving only enough space in the center for the curvy shape of the bottle of the product being promoted.

Written on the ad is the phrase “This billboard absorbs air pollutants.”

“This is the first billboard in the country that makes use of live plants as cover for its surface. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also the first in the world,” said JB Baylon, Coca-Cola Philippines’ public affairs and communication director.

According to him, the billboard was an original concept of the company in cooperation with environmental organization World Wide Fund (WWF).

“We wanted to be different. And what better way to do it than to come up with a unique billboard that actually achieves a couple of things—promote the product and send a message of concern for the environment at the same time,” Baylon said. “So together with WWF, we decided to embark on a campaign to reduce pollution in the congested cities of Metro Manila.”

According to botanist Anthony Gao, each Fukien tea plant can absorb up to 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year on the average.

“This billboard helps alleviate air pollution within its proximate areas as it can absorb a total of 46,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, on estimate,” Gao, who works with WWF, said in a statement earlier released by the soda company.

Baylon said they used 3,600 bottles of different Coca-Cola products as pots for the plants.

“The bottles were recycled and they were specially designed to contain the plants securely and to allow the plants to grow sideways,” Baylon added.

The bottles were filled with a potting mixture made up of a combination of industrial by-products and organic fertilizers—a formulation that is stable and lightweight. Holes were also drilled in the bottles to ensure proper drainage.

The live plants survive on a “drip irrigation system” which was especially installed for efficient water distribution. This method allows water mixed with nutrients to be dispensed slowly to the roots of the plants.

The drip irrigation system is also operated on a schedule, allowing the plants to get what they need when they need it.

According to Baylon, their longstanding partnership with WWF to make a positive difference in the environment spans across the two areas—water stewardship and climate protection—which are part of the soda company’s “Live Positively” sustainability program.

Since 2008, Coca-Cola Philippines has partnered with WWF in an effort to help conserve critical watersheds in the country.

“It is one of the environmental initiatives implemented by the company to strive to be a water sustainable business and replenish the amount of water equivalent to what the company uses in all of its beverages and its production,” Baylon said.

Guillermo Aponte, Coca-Cola Philippines president, said in a statement that the plant billboard was “an embodiment of our company’s Live Positively commitment to making a positive difference in the world by incorporating sustainability into everything that we do.”

“In every campaign that we do, we ensure that as much as possible, there is additional help that goes to the society,” added Baylon.

He said that they hope to produce more environment-friendly billboards in the future.

“We would love to do more,” Baylon said, as he cited feedbacks they got since the billboard was unveiled last month.

“We have been getting so many positive feedbacks through texts and e-mails from people from all walks of life, expressing how they appreciate the billboard. It’s unique and amusing. And they were used to seeing a Coke ad in red but this time it’s green,” Baylon told the Inquirer.

He said he hopes other companies would also follow suit as far as advertising is concerned.

“With all the eco-friendly mechanism this billboard employs and the relevant advocacy it stands for, may this serve as a reminder to Filipinos to take an active hand in protecting and saving the environment,” Baylon added.

“Also, we hope this billboard starts a trend and becomes a challenge to advertising creativity. This project raises the bar for us not only in promoting our product, but also demonstrating our commitment to green efforts,” Baylon said.

Tsaang gubat (Wild Tea) as Herbal Medicine


A shrub prepared like tea, it is now commercially available in tablets, capsules and tea bags. This medicinal herb is effective in treating diarrhea, dysentery, gastroenteritis and other stomach ailments. It has high fluoride concentration making it a good mouth wash for the prevention of tooth decay. English name: Wild Tea.


- Considered analgesic, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antispasmodic and anti-mutagenic.

Parts utilized Leaves.

Uses Leaf decoction or infusion for abdominal colic, cough, diarrhea and dysentery.

- Root decoction used as an antidote for vegetable poisoning.
- For diarrhea: Boil 8 tbsp of chopped leaves in 2 glasses of water for 15 minutes; strain and cool. Use 1/4 of the decoction every 2 or 3 hours. Decoction has also been used as a dental mouthwash.
- Decoction of leaves used as disinfectant wash after childbirth.
- In Sri Lanka, used for diabetes: 50 gm of fresh leaves or roots are chopped; 100 cc of water is added, and 120 cc of juice is extracted by squeezing, and given once or twice daily.

New Application

• Being promoted by the Department of Health (DOH) as an antispasmodic; for stomach/abdominal pains.
• One of a few herbs recently registered with the Bureau of Foods and Drugs as medicines

Banaba, tsaang gubat vs cancer?

(The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino scientist has discovered the potential of two indigenous plants as cure for cancer, the third leading cause of death in the country.

Dr. Gerard Penecilla, a pharmaceutical scientist of the National Research Council of the Philippines, found that banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa Linn) and tsaang gubat (Carmona retusa Var.) have high potential in fighting growth and multiplication activities of cancer cells.

NRCP is an agency under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The DOST said Penecilla’s study found that a dosage of 30ug/ml of banaba bark extract is efficient in fighting cancer cells.

“The test further noted that it would take about a dosage of 5ug/ml to be economically feasible for pharmaceutical companies in producing anticancer medicine,” the agency said in a statement.

“Penecilla has recommended more chemical and structure-activity-relationships to reach the said level,” it said.

While for the tsaang gubat, out of the many sample extracts tested, a certain dosage was found effective against cancer cell, the DOST said.

Penecilla’s findings were determined by a laboratory technique called yeast bioassay or microtiter assay, a method used to determine various pharmacologic activities of medicinal plants such as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, etc, the science department said.

“Penecilla used this technique for the first time in determining the anticancer potential of medicinal plants,” DOST said.

It added that the scientist hopes this technique “could pave the way for the strong interaction and cooperation among the Filipino chemists, botanists, biologists, physicians and the government research funding institutions as well, in coming up with solid scientific research on medicinal plants that could aid local pharmaceutical companies to produce anticancer medicine at very low cost.”

“In the end, the health and welfare of the Filipinos will be the beneficiaries of this scientific collaboration,” the DOST said.

Cancer is largely considered a lifestyle-related disease in the country, according to the Department of Health.

In the Philippines, the most common sites of reported deaths from cancer are the trachea, bronchus and lung (8.4 deaths per 100,000 population), breast (4.4 per 100,000) and leukemia (2.9 per 100,000), it said.

Among men, the leading sites are the lungs, prostate, colorectal area and liver, while for women these are the breast, uterus, cervix and lungs.

Among children, the leading cancers are leukemia and lymphoma, the DOH said.

Office plants that are good for your health

By REBECCA PERRY (Special Contributor)

Conjure up a standard office cubicle: There is the gray desktop with filing drawers, the ubiquitous computer monitor, a keyboard and mouse, a few (or a lot of) papers. Now place a peace lily, with its dark green leaves and elegant white flower, into the mental image. With that addition, most of us would say the office cubicle has just become a much nicer place to work.

It’s not just common sense that says the addition of plants makes an office space more inviting. Decades of scientific research detail the benefits plants add to the workplace: improved concentration, performance, job satisfaction, health and mood.

Just last year, for example, a Norwegian study added further support to the idea that plants in the workplace can help improve workers’ attention. Research participants were given an attention-demanding task to complete, then given a short break, then another task. Half of the participants completed the set of tasks in a room with flowers and plants; the others were in a room without plants. The attention capacity of the workers in the room with flowers and plants showed greater improvement on the second task than those sitting at a bare desk.

In addition, a 2008 University of Michigan study found that memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour interacting with nature — either by going outside or just by viewing pictures of nature, as opposed to walking urban routes or viewing urban photographs.

Other studies suggest the presence of plants also seems to improve attitude. Workers primarily in Texas and the Midwest were surveyed for a 2008 study on “the effect of live plants and window views of green spaces on employee perceptions of job satisfaction.” Texas researchers found that individuals — without regard to age, ethnicity, salary, education levels or position — “who worked in offices with plants and windows reported that they felt better about their job and the work they performed.”

The particular plant that will make an office a happier place is somewhat subjective. “Orchids are among my favorites for atmosphere and mood,” says Cody Hoya, general manager at North Haven Gardens. “They’re beautiful, unique, colorful and very long-lasting.”

Both Hoya and Josh Addison, manager of Redenta’s Garden Dallas location, agree that tillandsias, also known as air plants, are natural choices for adding a touch of whimsy to the office. There are a number of varieties available due to their current popularity, and they are not expensive, unless you choose a large specimen. They require little care, and they should survive under typical office fluorescent light, says Addison. “But if you have windows, put them close by.”

If you think you might tire of looking at the same plant on your desk day after day, try Hoya’s mix-and-match technique. “I like to use an interesting basket or ceramic vessel in which I can group several different interior plants, both blooming and foliage, in their nursery pots dressed with a bit of moss,” he says. “This allows for flexibility to rotate the plants and change the composition every couple of months so that the plants get a change of location and the interest stays fresh.”

Studies of various benefits of indoor plants were perhaps inspired by the NASA Clean Air Study in the 1980s that suggested certain common indoor plants might provide a natural way of removing toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. Hundreds of toxic chemicals can be outgassed by furniture, carpets and building material and then trapped in the closed ventilation systems of tightly sealed, energy-efficient buildings. The chemicals can lead to headaches, fatigue and allergic reactions now called Sick Building Syndrome.

Purifying the air is an often-touted benefit of indoor plants, but the plants in these clean-air studies typically have been grown in sub-irrigated soil media or clay pebble hydroculture. The author of NASA’s Clean Air Study, B.C. Wolverton, also found that the more air that moved across the plant’s roots, the more toxins could be removed from the air.

This research led Wolverton to develop the Plant Air Purifier, an air-filtration system that includes a planter with a built-in electric fan, ceramic growing medium and activated carbon. The idea is that when the planter is plugged in, it sucks dirty air down into the root area, where activated carbon captures pollutants and holds on to them until the root system can use them as a food source. At the end of the natural process, the plant releases fresh air into the room.

If living indoor plants help mood and possibly contribute to cleaner air, common sense might dictate that dying indoor plants might do just the opposite. The first tip to good plant health is to “place plants suited to various light levels accordingly, and keep them from constant drafts from heating and cooling vents,” says Hoya.

Signs of insufficient light can include yellowing or dropping leaves, says Addison. “Succulents may get leggy, reaching for light.” If you have an office with a window, it may help to rotate your office plant periodically so that it gets a more even exposure to the stronger light.

Don’t overwater indoor plants. “Water behaves differently in soil in a pot inside than it does outside,” Hoya says. “Always water deeply, until water drains freely from the bottom of the pot, but less frequently. For most plants, averaging a soil that feels mildly damp but not soggy is ideal.”

When to water will vary with an office’s environmental conditions. If the potting medium is damp, do not water until it is dry. Just know the recommended care for whatever plant you choose. Tillandsias, for instance, should be dunked in water once a week, says Addison, or spritzed with water about every third or fourth day.

Wipe plant leaves occasionally to get rid of dust, as well.

Finally, the actual action of gardening has its benefits. A 2011 study found that gardening restored a positive mood after a stressful task. Bonsai and small terrariums are gardening activities that could take place indoors in an office.

“People become pretty relaxed when they work with houseplants, because you forget your troubles. Your mind tends to focus upon the plant, and you become meditative. And that meditative state is, of course, very calming and stress-reducing,” says Richard Sunshine, owner of Sunshine Miniature Trees in Dallas.

Ming aralias and Fukien tea trees are among the plants that have the twisted, aged look and other characteristics that people often desire in a bonsai. Both do well in typical office fluorescent lighting. In fact, Sunshine tells how he learned how well the Ming aralias can survive in an office setting. Years ago, his company was caring for plants at Zale Corp.’s national headquarters. Then-Zale chairman Ben Lipshy, a bonsai collector, often came to the store to pick out new bonsai trees.

“He kept coming into the store buying Ming aralias. And we found out that he was taking the bonsai aralias and placing them all over the office where they were getting absolutely no natural light. It was an example of the student teaching the teacher. That’s how we learned that the Ming aralia was one of the very best plants for interior offices.”

Suitable plants

Which plants are likely to thrive in an office and help you thrive, as well? It depends to some degree on the light conditions. Most of the plants listed below have multiple species, which provide options in leaf and flower color and mature size.

Low light

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema)


Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)

Sansevieria, also known as snake plant and mother-in-law’s tongue

Haworthia, including Haworthia fasciata, a succulent also called zebra cactus

Gasteria, a fleshy succulent

Ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa)

Intermediate light


ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)


Pothos ivy



Fukien tea bonsai (Carmona retusa)

Bright, but indirect light






Banyan fig bonsai (Ficus retusa)