I visited former health secretary Jaime Galvez Tan, a clinical practitioner of natural healing and integrative medicine for over 30 years.
According to him, the kitchen is the immediate first-aid station in the house as it has fruits, vegetables and culinary herbs with medicinal and curative properties.
He shared with us some home remedies for some of the most common ailments.
Cough and colds—“Cold is cold and cough is cold… So you look for everything in your kitchen that is warm; spices particularly are warm.
“The No. 1 choice is ginger, boil a thumb size of ginger in two glasses of water, over slow, low flame; uncovered (this is how medicinal plants should be cooked) for 15 minutes. If you want to increase its potency, squeeze kalamansi or lemon after boiling.
“You may also add a teaspoon of honey. Honey is one of the 4,000-year-old medications of the world. Every culture has used honey. It is a mucolytic, it stops phlegm and runny nose, soothes the throat, gives a total feeling of well-being and total body protection. Plus it is high in antioxidants so it gives total body protection.”
Headaches—“For most headaches, the best are turmeric, chilies, peppers, capsicums, both the fruit and the leaves. Siling labuyo or chili leaves, these are all anti-pain and have analgesic properties.
“If you have hot chili, siling labuyo, particularly the green one (it is better than red for pain), put a whole piece in your mouth and drink it. It is just like taking ibuprofen and paracetamol. No, it is not spicy. Of course give it some time to be absorbed by the body.
It is ideally taken with something in your stomach. I usually ask patients to take it three times a day if they need to. Oftentimes, people who take a lot of chilies do not have headaches. It is preventive.
“Another is turmeric and black pepper. Mix turmeric powder, ½ tsp, in 1 cup of hot water and put a dash of black pepper. For those who do not like turmeric, add honey or brown sugar.
“Clinical trials show that when you put pepper, you enhance the strength of turmeric 3-5 times. It reinforces its powers—anti-pain, antioxidant and anti-inflammation.
“Also basil and peppermint leaves, 7-12 leaves, cook the leaves slowly in 2 cups water for 15 minutes, uncovered.”
Fever, gas, acidity
Fever—“Tanglad, lemongrass and pandan. I would boil 7-12 leaves of either one or you can combine. The effect is that it makes you perspire, so it cools you down.
“Another is kamias, it is one of the most effective for fever—either crush 1 kamias and take the juice mixed with a little water or boil 7-12 young leaves.”
Gas—“To make ginger tea, boil ginger, thumb size, in 2 cups water, 15 minutes, in low slow flame, uncovered.
“There are herbs that aid in digestion like basil and/or peppermint taken as tea.”
Bad stomach—“If you ate something bad, the first that comes to mind are tomatoes. Boil one for no more than 15 minutes, crush and take the tomato.”
Ulcers/acidity—“Turmeric again as tea. Or try okra, steamed or boiled. Just take one piece three times a day. It instantly converts acid into alkaline.”
“Acidity is mostly brought about by stress, so if you are stressed the whole day, it is best to take okra early in the morning and continue taking it twice more through the day. This prevents acidity.
“Another is cabbage juice. Put cabbage leaves in a juicer or chop the cabbage and blend, with no water, strain. Only 1 tbsp is enough to take away the acidity. I have patients who took it regularly and have had permanent healing of ulcers.”
Constipation—“The best for me is still the combination of papaya and pineapple, taken as is or juiced.”
Muscle pains—“I go back to turmeric as tea and siling labuyo taken whole for their healing properties.
“Or make a liniment by combining 1 tbsp olive or coconut oil with 1 tbsp chopped turmeric and/or ginger and 1 tbsp siling labuyo. Mix it and use the oil from the mixture on the affected area.”
Bites, rashes, fungus
Insect bites—“Oregano, either Philippine, Italian or Mediterranean; pound it fresh and put it on the bite. It immediately removes the itch and the swelling will subside.”
Rashes—“Virgin coconut oil, that really is the best. I usually mix it, one to one, with olive oil.”
Fungal infections of the skin—“Combine 1 tbsp of coconut or olive oil with 1 garlic chopped. Mix these and apply three times a day for a week. It works on eczema, too.”
Dizziness—“Basil and peppermint as tea. You can also smell the leaves.”
Burns—“Cut tomatoes into slices and apply as poultice on burns. After an hour or two, apply coconut oil or olive oil on burn. Cucumber may also be used in place of tomatoes.”
Cuts and wounds—“Pound turmeric and apply to the wound.”
Uses of salt—“Mainly used as warm saline gargle for sore throat and sore gums. For nasal spray or drops for nasal congestion, colds, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, one-half teaspoon in one glass of warm water.”
On virgin coconut oil—What sets coconut oil apart is that it is “anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral. So while you are treating the infection, you are also protecting yourself.
How to make virgin coconut oil—“You have to buy coconuts that are a year old, to get more oil. You will know they are a year old when there is a shoot growing, those make the best VCO.
“When grating the coconut meat, include a bit of the shell. When you include the bao, it is more potent, it is richer in antioxidants. You do not cook it.
“The real, best coconut oil is made with grated coconuts that are squeezed and milked with no water. Do not cook! Instead pour it in a glass and let it sit overnight in a cool place. The mixture will separate. When it does, separate the oil and it’s ready to use.”
When doing natural remedies, make sure you are not allergic to the proposed cure. Even if it is all natural, some people could still be allergic to it. Tan says that if symptoms persist, of course, go see a doctor.
Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, Living Life Well Health Hub, 5/F, Atrium Megamall; tel. 4704955 or 0917-8020460