If you want to search for herbs and plants in the Philippines used as medicinal plants and you're in the city, look for abandoned or vacant lots, or those which have been neglected. You're likely to see maka-hiya and pansit-pansitan in abundance. Maka-hiya weeds are mostly in grassy corners and pansit-pansitan in rocky and moldy areas.
There is also a weed that most folks have forgotten the name of. It has a slender, green stalk and a small white and yellow flower on top, standing about 4 inches tall. My grandmother used to tell me to pick them because the stems oozed out a white, milky thick liquid that cured eye cataract, she said. She would have me place the liquid in her eyes, and sure enough her eyes improved.
This weed was also the favorite residence of small yellow spiders which were fierce fighters on stick arenas. Kids would place two spiders on a stick to make them fight each other, and among the toughest spiders were these yellow ones that habited the yellow part of this weed's flower. I still see these weeds growing abundantly around here.
And then there are small native guava trees that bloom with new leaf sprouts. The young sprouts are a favorite herbal medicine of some kids here around our community, especially because summer time is getting-rough time. Active kids are more susceptible to wounds and scratches during rough games like basketball and running. Wounded kids would pick these young guava sprouts, boil them, and use the brew to cleanse wounds with.
The wounds easily heal. Old folks also use the brew as gargle solution (after the brew cools down, of course) to get rid of mouth diseases and infections, especially gum diseases. The brew is a natural antiseptic and antibiotic, they claim. Some claim to drink the brew as tea and it invigorates their bodies.
I had a friend who boiled avocado leaves and drank the brew. He claimed it was a body strengthening tea. I see avocado trees all over the village when I do my early morning brisk walks and look around to appreciate herbs and plants in the Philippines.
I'm thankful that despite the urbanization of our community (which used to be partly forested when I was a kid), banana and bamboo trees are still seen around. Young bamboo shoots are considered herbal food for health and strengthening of the bones, especially the leg bones, and as a kind of aphrodisiac. I don't know if there are scientific data to back up these claims, but old folks insist that fresh bamboo shoots made them extraordinarily strong and do better in bed (and their wives attest to the fact).
Banana barks are brewed and the tea derived is reportedly good for the kidneys and liver. When I was a kid I had a chance to sample a banana tree bark juice during a playmate's birthday party. We were all excited to know how it tasted. When we were finally given a glass each, we almost threw it out. But as you sipped it, the taste became tolerable. My playmate's mum mixed the juice with ginger tea and brown sugar and put lots of ice in it. It sounded healthy, but it was not the kind that would be lucrative as a drink in a fast food business.
Finally, the talahib weed. Summer is not complete without seeing this weed. My friend used to harvest the roots of this weed, boiled, and brew drank as tea. He claimed that it was an excellent stomach cleanser and body detox. In one vacant lot in our community, I often watch the thick growth of talahib there as I pass by. Harvest them for my use? Umm, I'd rather not. Old folks here say a thick growth of the weed also means the presence of deadly snakes.
The sights of wild herbs and plants in the Philippines even in cities is a sign that God wants our health and healing all the time. The problem is, we keep pulling them and throwing them out.