By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao 

Before the rise of modern medicine, people used traditional medicine to treat common ailments or administer first-aid. Plants are among the widely used ingredients in such treatments. In the Philippines, there are a plethora of medicinal plants that can even grow in one’s backyard for their benefit. 

One plant with medicinal benefits is the busikad, a Visayan common name of the plant Kyllinga Nemoralis or Kyllinga brevifolia. It is a white water sedge or whitehead spike sedge plant species in the sedge family Cyperaceae.

Ma. Corazon Plaza Imam, a former government employee who retired in 2013, is familiar with the busikad and its benefits, which is why she chose to cultivate it in her home garden. 

The medicinal benefits of busikad 

“In my childhood days, I remember my mother giving us busikad emulsion whenever any of us siblings suffer from common colds and cough,” Imam shared.

Busikad is known as a medicinal plant that has various benefits in digestion, fevers, and more.

The emulsion, according to Imam, refers to the whitehead of the sedge that is soaked in water overnight together with a few pieces of mongo beans. The following morning it is given to the sick to drink.

“Since the sedge family tends to be very aromatic, it is also good for digestion. The Chinese use it for common colds, bronchitis, malaria, arthritis, and injuries. Kyllinga is used for diarrhea in Malaysia, stomach and intestinal problems in India,” Imam shared.  

It was the onset of the pandemic that inspired Imam to cultivate busikad and other herbs with medicinal value such as tawa-tawa and makahiya.

Since busikad thrives in the wild, Imam merely planted the busikad in a pot and let it grow there as it would in its natural habitat. 

“We Filipinos should be mindful of them because they are free and natural medicine. They have no side effects on the body. Besides, they grow in abundance almost anywhere in the countryside,” she said. 

The former government employee added that it is about time that the matter of herbal medicine should be revisited and included in the lessons of elementary and secondary students to raise awareness of the health benefits of these plants. 

“It is through intensive information dissemination that we can teach the younger generation about the importance of medicinal herbs in our society,” she said. 

An ornamental enthusiast as well 

Imam started gardening when she and her husband acquired their family home in 1990. Seeing the bare lot with only grass growing in it, Imam decided to slowly beautify their home with plants.

Imam began gardening immediately after she and her husband acquired their family home.

She started by buying plant seedlings being sold at plant stalls in the local market one at a time. Imam learned how to grow the plants she buys by asking the sellers how to take care of them.

Back then, her gardening efforts weren’t as serious because of her office work. But when Imam retired, she slowly realized that she had collected a considerable number of different varieties of plants. 

“Aside from medicinal herbs, I grow and care for different varieties of plants. My foremost dream was to plant different varieties of Philippine trees in our place. However, our home lot is not big enough for such trees,” Imam shared. 

To console herself, Imam cultivated bonsai trees such as ficus, African Talisay, and dwarf trees, as well as several ornamentals like philodendrons, hoya vines, foliage anthuriums, caladiums, bougainvilleas, begonias, pothos, ferns, and many others.

Since their home lot is too small to grow Philippine native trees, Imam decided to cultivate bonsais and miniature trees instead.

“In gardening, I commune with nature and talk with the plants. It relieves stress and gives me peace of mind. I feel the excitement of seeing the plants grow and glow under my care. It is a total exercise of my memory to be able to identify the individual plants,” the former government employee shared. 

And with the COVID-19 pandemic, Imam relied on her plants as a way for her to relieve stress from being confined indoors. 

Busikad is one of the many medicinal plants in the Philippines. Because of its benefits, several people have come to recognize and cultivate it, like Imam. In doing so, she has free access to ingredients that could help treat common ailments and new additions to her flourishing garden.

Photos courtesy of Cora Plaza Imam