Making use of local herbs

  • Health
  • Sunday, 19 Jan 2003

Changing Paradigms with Rajen M.

Pegaga in the garden ? the fresh leaves of pegaga or even the dried ones may be taken as an infusion. 

WHEN we talk about “foreign” herbs, you do not have much of a choice. They do not grow here. You can only purchase them as dried herbs or in dosage forms such as capsules or creams. You also do not benefit from a direct experience with the herb. Nor do you enjoy the freshness of the herb. 

In a way, comparing foreign herbs and our herbs is like comparing the canned salmon that you buy off a supermarket shelf and the fresh ikan tenggeri that you buy at the wet market. You have more options and thrills with the local fish. There is freshness and more possibilities with the whole fresh fish. It is certainly more fun, especially if you are into cooking. 

While many these local herbs are now available in pharmacies, it is good to know how to process them – especially if they grow in your garden. Here are some of the pertinent questions. 


What is an infusion? 

This is basically a tea. Normally the herb is dried and soaked in hot water for varying periods. The resulting infusion is called herbal tea. Sometimes, some actual tea leaves are added to give it the flavour enhancement needed. Not a bad idea especially when researchers are finding that your cup of regular tea is packed with polyphenols – powerful natural anti-oxidants.  

You may also flavour the resulting infusion with some honey. For bitter infusions, you can suck on some sour kana or rock sugar to counteract the taste. Fresh herbs could be used for the infusion as well. 


Pegaga in the garden can be taken as an infusion.

What is a paste? 

This is a sambal. You mesh the fresh leaves. The resulting paste may sometimes be taken on its own or mixed with honey for taste as well as increased absorption.  


Is the part of the plant important? 

That depends on the herb. Different parts are used for various species. All parts can be used – leaves, flowers, shoots, roots, fruits and even the bark. The leaves are most often used.  

Even the uninitiated know that the “power” of ginseng lies in the root. Same with Tongkat Ali.  


What are the ways of extraction? 

There basically are two means of extraction – using water and alcohol. Water extraction pulls out the water-soluble extracts while alcoholic extraction pulls out the fat-soluble compounds. To make a water extraction, soak and slow boil in water. 


How do I best consume pegaga? 

Pegaga (Centella asiatica) may be taken as a salad. In fact, the Malays often call it “ulam pegaga” or pegaga salad. It can also be taken as a juice. Sometimes it is made into a paste along with grated coconut. This may be taken orally.  

The fresh leaves or even the dried ones may be taken as an infusion. The formula is one handful of the herb to a glass. This slowly boiled until ½ cup is left. The resulting “juice” may be sweetened with honey or raw brown sugar. 

Both the Malays and Indians tend to make a pure paste of the fresh herb. This is applied to the skin and scalp for the promotion of healthy skin and hair. This might sound somewhat absurd but new research is showing an amazing array of compounds that have powerful rejuvenating effects on the skin. Some of the world’s most powerful cosmetic companies are rushing to launch pegaga-based creams!  


How does one use the Misai Kuching (Arthosiphon species) plant? 

All parts of the plant above the ground may be used. The most commonly used parts are the leaves and flower. This is best used as an infusion that has a very mild taste and does not usually need sweetening. This is especially so if the herb is being used to help control the blood sugar of diabetics.  


How do you use the Hempedu Bumi (Andrographis panicaulata)? 

This really a bitter herb, hence it’s Malay name, “bile of the herb”. The traditional way is to make a water extract. You can also make an infusion.  

A bitter herb like this presents possibilities of making a crude capsule. You get the herb and sun or even oven dry it. This is then powdered and capsulated using dry gelatin capsule shells that you can easily buy from a pharmacy.  


Why do the Malays and Indian take hempedu bumi with goat’s milk for hepatitis? 

The alkoloids of such herbs are best absorbed as part of a fat-based meal. Goat’s or coconut milk is often used. The milk is also supposed to be good for hepatitis. 


How does one consume selasih (Oscimum scantum)? 

The fresh leaves are chewed along with some pepper and rock sugar. This may help abort a pending flu. It even helps “calm” a flu that is already in progress. This remedy when taken regularly also helps strengthen the lungs and boost the immune system. 


Next: Linghzi – The herb of ‘deathlessness’ 


Rajen. M is a pharmacist with a doctorate in Holistic Medicine. You can write to him at .  

The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. 

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Did you find this article insightful?


Across the site