DENR promotes use of medicinal forest trees

CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, Pampanga — Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), is promoting the use of available traditional medicine and other herbal products.

This as the agency led the conduct of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Conference on Medicinal Forest Trees in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga.

DENR-ERDB Director Maria Lourdes Ferrer underscored that the event served as a platform for crucial dialogue among researchers and key players to illuminate the medicinal value of forest trees while also responding to the call to preserve and conserve biodiversity.

“No single sector, private or public, can undertake the conservation of medicinal plants alone. The job requires a team effort, involving a wide range of disciplines and institutions,” she said.

The event gathered researchers, scientists, and members of the academe from ASEAN members Indonesia and the Philippines as well as neighboring Asian countries India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan to share experiences, research results, and innovations on medicinal forest trees.

Meanwhile, University of the Philippines Los Baños Faculty Member Pastor Malabrigo Jr. emphasized that the country is underutilizing its plant resources as only 456 out of the about 3,500 tree species are known with medicinal value.

He added that there are still a lot more forest trees to be explored, which increases the demand for more ethnobotanical and pharmacological research.

DENR-ERDB OIC-Assistant Director Conrado Marquez, for his part, highlighted that despite their vital role in sustaining human health, forest trees face numerous conservation challenges including climate change.

“More often, people say that climate change affects agriculture. But more so, it also affects our trees… and so there is a need to protect the habitats of these medicinal forest trees. When we say we protect, we talk about active management, governance, and fund allocation for the protection of the forest,” he stated.

Other practices which pose a threat to survival of forest trees include rapid urbanization, deforestation, and unsustainable harvesting.

The lack of awareness and recognition of their value in mainstream healthcare systems also hinder efforts to conserve and sustainably manage these trees.

In the Philippines, commonly known medicinal forest trees include Lagundi (Vitex negundo) which is locally processed and manufactured in tablet or syrup to treat cough.

Other commercially available products include food supplements made with malunggay (Moringa oleifera) which increases antioxidant levels, lower blood sugar levels, and lower bad cholesterol levels; and mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) which contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

There have also been studies involving banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa) such as its blood sugar lowering health benefits; on guyabano (Annona muricata) such as its anti-diabetic properties; and on pili (Canarium ovatum) in terms of its nutritional properties. (CLJD/JLDC-PIA 3)

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