A few years back I had this pain when urinating and forcing the urine to flow out felt as if someone had kicked me in the groin. It was that painful. The concensus among relatives was it was either appendix but it couldn't be because I didn't have any other symptoms or it could be stones in the kidney and it's making its way down. Anyway, after a very long wait to get a referral to RIPAS for a scan, and to cut a long story short, the scan showed nothing but the pain remained. Another trip to JPMC to get a second opinion said that that might be tiny stones or crystals instead of bigger stones. Whatever it is, it **#$*?* hurts like crazy, I remembered thinking then. The medical solution was - wait for the tiny stones or crystals to wash out, if it washed out. What?!
My better half suggested a natural traditional solution. With pain that bad, I was more than willing to try anything. So we went to see this lady herbalist and she prescribed a plant whose leaves I had to blend and drink raw every morning. I did that for about a week, holding my nose trying to swallow this blended liquid (washed but uncooked and unboiled) down my throat. It was like drinking raw grass and leaves, which it was. But, lo and behold! It worked. After a week, the pain disappeared and another quick check at both RIPAS and JPMC showed nothing.
Now, I am not one that believed much in traditional medicine. But that particular one time I had to believe in it. I still am not sure what plant that was. Anyway, everytime I tell this story, a lot of elderly Bruneians (those older than me, so that would make them much older to you readers) will always come up with names of other plants that can heal practically all the diseases in the world. I remembered one plant my brother-in-law told me to look after and said that it will cure hypertension and I asked him how do I take it and what dosage? He looked at me funny. That was when I discovered that most of this knowledge being passed down are just the names of the plants and their supposed possible ability to cure certain illnesses but nothing else. To rely on them can mean signing your own death warrant if taken excessively. You would think someone ought to study this further as after all most medicines in the world started off with some plants or other. Remember quinine?
Actually a study has been made in Brunei Darussalam by the Agricultural Department and in fact a book entitled the "Medicinal Plants of Brunei Darussalam Part One" was published in 1992. (I am still waiting for Part Two.) The ethnobotanical information for the book was made with the cooperation of four local practising herbalists from Muara, Lamunin, Sengkurong and Jangsak. According to these four the plants in Brunei range from Akar Saga which can cure a certain urinary disease (blood in the urine) to Tahi Ayam plant which can be used for fever and coughs and leaves used for pouliticing wounds and skin itch to Sambal Bagangang which can strenghen one's body especially the back. Others include plants such as Bayam Berduri when boiled with Allium cepa and Nigella sativa apprently can cure Kencing Masin. Another plant Daun Pahit can be used to cure diabetes and reduce high blood pressure. Even the leaves of well known plants such as Durian Salad can also be used relieve certain allergies.
In the book, more than 100 of these plants were described. The book also described the ways in which the plants have to be prepared. Depending on the plants and the cure, the leaves or the plants can be prepared in several ways such as decoction, infusion, maceration, pounding, grinding or filing, sap application, vapour application, chewed concoction, smoke application, fresh consumption, ash application, tincture and warm compress. A list of cures with the plants used are also indexed in the book. A number of diseases have more than one plant cures such as blood pressure which has about 8 different plants which can either cure or alleviate it.
With synthetic drugs having side effects and sometimes ineffective against certain diseases, natural herbs need to be reexamined to see whether these can be used as alternatives. According to some study, plant-based drugs are valued at billions of dollars and with Brunei Darussalam possessing a very diverse tropical flora which contained many plants that have not been evaluated for medicinal purposes, it makes sense that we look into this 'wealth'. Research into these plants are really really essential which may help to diversify our economy.