From time immemorial, traditional medicine has been practiced in many parts of the world and remains an integral part of human evolution and development. Philippine traditional medicine is not an exception to this practice since until this present writing, Filipino traditional medicine takes place in remote areas of the country and even in big cities, whose traditional beliefs upon the curative proportion of traditional medicine remains intact to a great extent. And the reason is simple. Medical cost of the modern medicine and hospitalization have become out-of-reach to many, and alternative medicine is the best “substitute” because the cost is very much more than affordable.
However, the Philippine traditional medicine is rooted from various types of beliefs like religion, magic, superstition, mysticism, folklores “trust” on herbs and western medicine. They have all been mixed up and used as a sound and effective “cure” for any type of illness, ailment, disorder, infection, etc., and traditional Filipino medicine comes in very “handy” to at least “momentarily” relieve or even get rid of the type of affliction anyone could be suffering from at the moment. It is a common practice for Filipinos, whether one is in the country itself or in a foreign country, Philippine traditional medicine, takes an active part in the Filipinos’ way of life when we talk about easing, curing or mitigating the bodily pain or sickness a Filipino is suffering from.
There are a number of traditional medicine practitioners in the Philippines and even abroad and their presence is well noted among the town people and sometimes in the big cities as well. They are the following:
— Hilot or manghihilot Hilot – is an ancient Filipino art of healing. It uses manipulation and massage to achieve the treatment outcome, although techniques differ from one practitioner to another it is based on shamanic tradition of the ancient Filipinos with healers considering their practice as derived from their calling from visions or from having been born breech. Hilot could assume supernatural aspects or the philosophy of holism, particularly in cases of practitioners since they claim that their ability comes or is even given by a supernatural source such as the case of manghihilot who most of them assert that they have embarked on pilgrimage to a mountain called Banahaw to gain an essential spiritual component of their healing practice.
— Albularyo, a general practitioner who treats their patients with various herbs, alum, natural substances or coconut oil, using rituals like “pang-kontra (preventive curant or antidote), bulong (whisper), orasyon (prayer), tapal (poultice), lunas (currants), kudlit ( uses a combination of healing modalities that may include prayers, incantations, mysticism and herbalism. Albularyos claim that they draw healing powers from a supernatural source (shamanism). They combine pagan traditions with some aspects of Christianity. Some say that they are only effective on certain days of the week, like Tuesdays or Fridays, because they coincide with Catholic festivities of the Baby Jesus (Santo Niño) and the Black Nazarene. They claim to be the best in their field of traditional medicine.
— Tawas or mangtatawas, is a ritual to the divine, is considered as pseudo-medicine in Philippine psychology but considered superstition in Western psychology. It attempts to diagnose an affliction or psychological disorder by interpreting shapes produced in water by heated alum or molten wax droppings from a burning candle. It is thus a form of both cleromancy (casting) and oryctomancy (use of minerals). the practitioner uses alum, candles, smoke, paper, eggs and other mediums to diagnose the cause of illness associated by prayers and incantations
— Medico, a general practitioner similar to an Albularyo but integrates western medicine to promote healing.
— Faith healers, is the practice of prayer and gestures (such as laying on of hands – believed to elicit divine intervention) in spiritual and physical healing, especially the Christian practice. Believers assert that the healing of disease and disability can be brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or other rituals that, according to adherents, can stimulate a divine presence and power. Religious belief in divine intervention does not depend on empirical that faith healing achieves its outcome based on the prayers and gestures. The practitioners cover a wide array of methods and practices that differ from one another. But, on a greater extent and despite the advanced technology in information and science, traditional medicine continues to enjoy a large following most especially in rural areas.
In 1992 in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) through its former Sec. Juan M. Flavier, launched the Traditional Medicine Program which aims to promote an effective and safe use of traditional medicine. Then President Fidel V. Ramos seeing 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, that gave rise to the creation of Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) which is tasked to promote and advocate the use of traditional and alternative health care modalities through scientific research and product development to the point that the DOH has endorsed 10 medicinal plants to be used as herbal medicine in Philippines due to its health benefits.
Akapulko (Cassia alata) a 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) or “bitter melon ” or “bitter gourd ” in English. It is 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) or “Garlic”. Bawang is a used to treat infection with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-hypertensive properties. It is widely used to reduce cholesterol level in blood.
Bayabas (Psidium guajava) – or “Guava” in English, it is used as antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, antioxidant, anti-allergy, antimicrobial, anti-plasmodial, anti-cough, anti-diabetic, and anti-genotoxic in folkloric medicine.
Lagundi (Vitex negundo) – known as “5-leaved chaste tree” in English. It is used 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”. It is used to eliminate intestinal parasites.
Sambong (Blumea balsamifera)– or “Ngai camphor or Blumea camphor”. It is used to treat kidney stones, wounds and cuts, rheumatism, anti-diarrhea, anti spasms, colds and coughs and hypertension
Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.) – or “Wild tea” is 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