By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

The use of plants as medicine has been a common practice even before the rise of modern medicine in the 18th century. Ester Malunes Sta. Monica, the registered owner of St. Monica Healing Gardens in Bago City, Negros Occidental, explained that there are specific herbs to address almost every type of ailment people suffer from.

“In fact, many known drugs were derived from plants after thorough laboratory studies. We don’t have to look far [for a cure] because plants are all around us,” she said.

Their family farm, known as St. Monica Healing Gardens, is a 3,500 sq.m. lot planted with herbs, shrubs, small trees, and vegetables which are all known to have health benefits.

Sta. Monica added that the abundance of plants in the environment can provide communities with an accessible, inexpensive, and effective means to combat common diseases while maintaining a healthy body. She recommends the following herbs:

Green tea (Camella sinesis), turmeric (Curcuma longa), and clove (Syzygium aromaticum) can be used to treat mild to moderate pain. To calm the nerves, plants such as blue ternatea (Clitoria ternatea), periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), and gotu kola (Centella asiatica) can act as natural sedatives.

Pandan (Pandanus), holy basil (Ocinum tenuiflorum), and curry (Murraya koenigii) are good for reducing fever and inflammation.

For alternatives to antiseptics, Sta. Monica suggests aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller), tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), and garlic (Allium sativum).

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), and ginger (Zingiber officinale) are effective against flatulence or what is locally known as “kabag.” In the meantime, to help relieve water retention, horsetail (Equisetum), sambong (Blumea balsamifera), cat’s whiskers (Orthosiphon aristatus), and pandan possess diuretic properties that induces urination.

Similarly, aloe vera, acapulco, and papaya possess purgative or laxative properties to help prevent constipation. 

To stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus, plants such as ginger (Rauvolfia serpentina), and damong maria (Artemisia) are possible solutions. 

Mint (Mentha), malunggay (Moringa oleifera), and cayenne pepper (Capsicum anuum) can improve blood circulation. 

Lastly, basil (Ocimum basilicum), neem (Azadirachta indica), and chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are some of the herbs that can help improve skin health.

Apart from those mentioned above, other herbs that can be found in St. Monica Healing Gardens consist of the 10 medicinal herbs approved by the Department of Health.

These are acapulco (Senna alata), garlic (Allium sativum), yerba buena (Mentha arvensis), ampalaya (Momordica charantia), guava (Psidium guajava), niyog-niyogan (Combretum indicum), sambong (Blumea balsamifera), tsaang gubat (Carmona retusa), pansit-pansitan (Peperomia pellucida), and lagundi (Vitex negundo). 

Despite their healing capacities, Sta. Monica advises consumers to take them properly and in moderation because similar to contemporary medicine, these can also cause negative effects when taken irresponsibly. 

To properly apply the benefits of the plants that they grow around the garden, Sta. Monica took a short course on alternative medicine that focused on herbology.

Now, she accommodates day tourists on their family farm and teaches them about medicinal plant propagation, utilization, and marketing. They also sell herbs to their guests or upon request from the local community.