Herbs For Life

“Herbal supplements yields not only natural health, but also national pride”

The Philippines is teeming with natural supplements, and most of us aren’t even aware of it. Good health is literally ripe for the picking right here on our sunny shores, and it’s time we took advantage of it.

Homegrown supplement

herbal-pot1978 was a big year for natural supplements, says Jaime Galvez-Tan, M.D., a family physician who has espoused herbal supplement for about 40 years now. That year, the World Health Organization declared the Alma Ata – an important agreement among countries to work towards universal healthcare. “Traditional supplement [needed] to be a part of primary health care to achieve health for all. That triggered the global upsurge [of interest in traditional supplement],” recounts Dr. Galvez-Tan.

The global momentum was hard to ignore; herbs like ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and echinea started gaining ground in the scientific community and general public. “Unfortunately, even when the Americans and Europeans were embracing it, our own Filipino doctors did not. When it came to herbal plants and traditional supplement, we were not as gung-ho,” laments Dr. Galvez-Tan. But a lot has changed with time. The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of Science and Technology has since started the National Integrated Research Program on Medicinal Plants. This paved way for the investigation of indigenous herbal plants – about 1,500 in total. By the turn of the century, Filipinos, like the rest of the world,began embracing traditional supplements backed by scientific data.

Safe and effective, naturally.  

herbal-pot2”We have our own products that we should patronize more than [foreign ones],” the former secretary of health declares, adding that the fact that these plants are native to our country gives us an ascendancy over our neighbors overseas. Still, he cautions against a few things. “Some herbal supplements claim to be a ‘cure all.’ I lament it, I am against it, ‘pag meron kayong nadidinig na almost cure all, please do not believe,” he says firmly. He also warns the consumers against purchasing products that are not registered. “The public should bemore discerning. Look for the CPR or ’Certficate of Product Registration’ before buying,” he advises. Some commercial preparations may not be recommended for pregnant women and children under 2 years of age. Medicinal plants that have been processed into pills and tablets are “safe and effective, no doubt. Those labelled ”with therapeutic claims’ have been studied in comparative, double-blind, randomized studies,” affirms Dr. Galvez-Tan. For him and many other Filipino doctors, medicinal plants offer a natural, and therefore safer, alternative treatment. “All synthetic drugs have side affects [just in different degrees]. As a medical doctor, I want patients to do no further harm [to themselves],” he concludes.



Jaime Galvez-Tan, M.D. is a family and community medicine practitioner, an authority in natural medicine, and a staunch advocate of traditional medicine and medicinal plants. A professor at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Medicine, he was also the vice chancellor for research of U.P. Manila and executive director of the National Institutes of Health Philippines. During his terms as undersecretary and secretary of the Philippine Department of Health, the “10 herbal medicines in the Philippines” was approved and released. He is the co-author of several books, including Hilot: The Filipino Traditional Massage and Medicinal Fruits and Vegetable.

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