Traditional Medicine: 13 DOH-approved herbal plants you should know about


Despite the advances in the medical industry, some Filipinos, especially in rural areas and the poor, still use herbal plants as a remedy to common ailments like coughs and colds.

Nonetheless, most of these herbal users do not only proclaim effectiveness. In fact, some herbs contain powerful — if not a miracle — properties that can treat such as dengue, asthma, and even cancer.

Following the Republic Act 8423 or the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act, signed by former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1997, the Department of Health has endorsed a list of scientifically validated herbal plants in the country.

If you don’t know any of them yet, check out this list!


1 | Sambong (Blumea camphor)

Blumea balsamifera | Family: Asteraceae


Sambong is a known herbal medicine for patients with Kidney stones. It is a wild aromatic shrub that grows in tropical climate areas such as the Philippines, India, Africa, and in the eastern Himalayas. Its ngai or Blumea camphor is also known for treating wounds, cuts, rheumatism, colds, coughs, and even act as anti-diarrhea and anti spasms.

The sambong’s roots and leaves, when pounded, can be used in treating fevers and headaches. Drinking sambong tea, on the other hand, can cure colds and coughs. Its juice can also be applied to remedy cuts and wounds.


2 | Akapulko (Acapulco/Ringworm bush)

Cassia alata | Family: Leguminosae


Acapulco shrub can be found anywhere in the Philippines have to have different names in various languages in the region, one of which is palochina. The leaves have the most medicinal value and treat skin diseases such as Tinea infection, insect bites, ringworms, eczema, scabies and it can soothe itchiness. Internal use of this herbal medicine includes treating bronchitis and dyspnoea; relieving symptoms of asthma; also, as a laxative to purge out intestinal parasites and other stomach problems. Moreover, it is also good in treating cough and fever.

Note: It is not advisable for pregnant women to take any Acapulco leaves extractions for it could induce abortion.


3 | Ampalaya (Bitter gourd)

Momordica charantia | Family: Cucurbitaceae


Probably one of the most familiar on the list is Ampalaya, which is widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Carribean which are tropical and subtropical zones. It is mostly used in meal preparation along with eggs, fish, and other meat dishes. Unfortunately, its bitter taste drives kids away from the dining table, ignoring its nutritional value. One of the reasons why DOH endorses this vegetable because of its power to heal patients with diabetes. Ampalaya contains a hypoglycemic polypeptide— plant insulin that is responsible for lowering the blood sugar. Other health benefits include treating hemorrhoids, coughs, and anti-inflammatory; body detoxification and removal of nicotine; and strengthening the immune system and fertility regulation.


4 | Bawang (Garlic)

Allium sativum | Family: Amaryllidaceae


Apart from being a staple alternative medicine in the country, Garlic has always been very useful in the kitchen as well. Studies have proven its healing abilities against infections with its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory components. Furthermore, it is also known for lowering down cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Plus, it’s a good booster for the immune system.


5 | Bayabas (Guava – leaves)

Psidium guajava | Family: Myrtaceae


It’s not only vegetables who have the magical ability of healing. Fruits, too, can offer the same. Guava or locally known as bayabas is one, especially its leaves, can serve as first aid to open wounds. It contains antibacterial and anti-allergy properties that soothe the wound, and it also keeps our intestines healthy.


6 | Lagundi (Five-leaved chaste tree)

Vitex negundo | Family: Lamiaceae


Before it became a common ingredient in cough syrups and capsules, Lagundi is already widely used by Filipinos in treating wounds and as pain medication for centuries. Each part of this herbal plant has been utilized in curing various ailments: Lagundi leaves are used to ease headaches and cleanses ulcer; its seeds can treat skin diseases; flowers can heal numerous diseases like diarrhea and cholera; meanwhile, its black fruit, when dried and consumed, can relieve and regulate any intestinal discomfort; and lastly, the roots of Lagundi can be used in treating rheumatism and dysentery.

Several clinical trials have already tested and validated its effectiveness, especially in treating respiratory diseases such as asthma.


7 | Niyog-niyogan (Rangoon creeper)

Combretum indicum | Family: Combretaceae


Commonly mistaken as coconut, Niyog-niyogan is a type of vine that washes away intestinal parasites due to its deworming properties. Similarly, it can treat headaches, diarrhea, fever, and painful urination.


8 | Tsaang gubat (Scorpion bush)

Ehretia microphylla | Family: Boraginaceae

Also known as wild tea, this herbal plant is used to treat skin allergies like eczema, scabies, and itchiness after childbirth. The plant also contains properties that can treat mild psoriasis. Based on clinical research, tea extraction may also improve symptoms of allergic rhinitis (Chua & Umali, 2017).


9 | Pansit-pansitan/ulasimang bato (Clear weed/silver bush)

Peperomia pellucida | Family: Piperaceae


Usually mixed as part of a salad, Pansit-pansitan is said to be good in treating arthritis and gout.

Aside from that, it can cure several health conditions like abscesses, abdominal pain, skin sores, conjunctivitis, measles, and kidney stones. Some studies have described that this herb as antimicrobial, cytotoxic, and antidiabetic.


10 | Yerba buena (Mint)

Clinopodium douglasii | Family: Lamiaceae


It is one of the oldest household remedies known in the Philippines. The tea concoction of Yerba Buena can act as an analgesic to alleviate body aches, including pain caused by rheumatism and gout. This herbal plant can also relieve aches on the tooth and stomach.


11 | Malunggay (Horseradish tree/Drumstick tree)

Moringa oleifera | Family: Moringaceae


Malunggay is not only the superfood of the Filipinos but also considered as a miracle tree around the globe. It contains a lot of nutritional and medicinal components that can treat various ailments and diseases. Some of its nutritional properties include phosphorus, iron, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

Usually served as soup mixed with chicken or fish, Malunggay can also be consumed raw.

Here are some of the health benefits of Malunggay:

  • anti-inflammatory/anti-tumor
  • Anti-asthma (seeds)
  • Antibiotic
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-ulcer
  • Antidiabetic (leaves)


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12 | Tawa-Tawa (Asthma Plant)

Euphorbia hirta | Family: Euphorbiaceae


Despite its effectivity in treating dengue fever patients, Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo clarified that Tawa-tawa, at the mean time, is registered as a supplement, not therapeutic. “It still has a lot of clinical trials to go through before its therapeutic value can be approved,” Domingo said in an article by Manila Bulletin.

It increases blood platelet count, maintains the upper respiratory, and boosts the immune system.


13 | Banaba (Giant crape myrtle)

Lagerstroemia speciosa | Family: Lythraceae


Commonly used as a supplement for diabetes and kidney failure, Banaba help regulate blood pressure, aids the digestive system, helps ease urination, and fights down obesity.

According to popular belief, Banaba as well can prevent constipation, kidney inflammation, and urinary dysfunctions. Moreover, it contains high concentrations of dietary fiber and minerals such as zinc and magnesium. Some even boil the Banaba leaves to serve as tea.



Take note: Although these herbal plants have been tested and proven by many generations, it is still, however, not necessarily always safe. That is why consulting a professional expert is highly advisable.



Alves, N.S., Setzer, W., Silva. J.K. (2019, March 25). The Chemistry and Biological Activities of Peperomia Pellucida (Piperaceae): A Critical Review. Retrieved on November 21, 2019, from

Chua, A., Umali, F.A. (2017, December). Ehretia Microphylla (Tsaang Gubat) versus Loratadine as a Treatment for Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Retrieved on November 21, 2019, from

Domingo, R.K., (2017, August 10). DOH-recommended herbal plants in the Philippines. Business Mirror. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from

Jose, A., Principe, E., (2002, August). Propagation Management of Herbal and Medicinal  Plants. Retrieve on

National Integrated Research Program on Medicinal Plants. ( 2013, September 20). World Intellectual Property Organization. Retrieved on November 21, 2019, from

Philippine Medicinal Plants. (n.d). Retrieved on November 21, 2019, from

Blayce Malaya

Content and Media Specialist at WhatALife! Born under the star sign Gemini, Blayce first discovered her love for writing through journal writing. Then, she stumbled upon fiction writing in 2016 and explored student journalism in 2018. Despite an amateur, Blayce continues to thrive and deliver quality content to her readers.