Category: Herbs

Taro (Colocasia Esculenta )

Gabi, photo by JMORTON


Taro (Colocasia Esculenta )

At the back of our house in Marag, plenty of gabi or taro used to grow.  They grew next to our well (bubon) where the vicinity always has water.

Gabi growing profusely in our backyard was a Godsend.  It was a ready source for a vegetarian viand.  Thank goodness we also had a constant supply of coconuts which goes deliciously with taro.

As children, we were told to treat gabi with respect.  Eaten raw the leaves and stalks can be poisonous as they contain oxalic acid.  The sap that comes out when the stalks and leaves are torn can cause itch.

Stinging Nettles

Nettles, photo by JMorton

Stinging Nettles

If suddenly rack with the desire to emulate Julie Andrews to do a turn of the Sound of Music ensure that the field is not one of verdant nettles with their beautiful  bluish purplish little flowers.  Otherwise you will be stinging not singing.

Nettles give painful sting like you don’t want to know.  The Almighty God know of this that he ensured that a dock leaf is growing nearby! 🙂

Pansit-pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) Medicinal Herb

Pansit pansit herb, photo by JMorton

Pancit pancit, photo by JMorton

Pansit-pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) Medicinal Herb

This was the herb given to us by the Lady of Necodemos, the manghihilot (healing massager) when we consulted her for stomach aches which seems to have afflicted our whole family in the Philippines after going for an overnight swim at Club Manila East.

She said to make a drink of tea from this herb.

She gave the following instruction:

Chop the herb and then boil in plenty of water.  Leave to simmer for at least 10 to 15 minutes with the pan uncovered.

Turn off the stove and leave this herbal tea to steep for at least 10-15 minutes.

Strain and drink half a cup every four hours.

This herb will settle your stomach and digestive system.

Remaining tea can be stored for over a couple of days in a clean jar in the fridge.

Bay tree, Laurel, Lurus Nobilis

sam's birthday 017 Bay Tree in our garden, Photo by JMorton

A bay tree is an evergreen tree, thank God for that as bay trees provide the bay leaves or laurel necessary for many a recipe.

Bay leaves may be used fresh or dried, which has a stronger flavour.

I love them in stews or when I am doing mechados.

In ancient times, the bay leaves were threaded together to make a laurel wreathes to crown outstanding poets and victorious soldiers.

Tuba-Tuba Plant (Jatropha curcas)

Tuba-Tuba Plant (Jatropha curcas)

Tuba tuba, photo by PH Morton

Tuba tuba, photo by PH Morton

Tuba-Tuba Plant (Jatropha curcas)

Tuba tuba, photo by PH Morton

Our holiday in the Philippines was one of hectic activity after another. We walked for miles, we climbed and climbed. There were some death-defying moments.  We also swam, we travelled by water, we travelled by air, we travelled by land and the most trying of all, we trek on foot. We did everything almost humanly possible. 🙂 🙁

It was no wonder some of us came off worse for wear. We had pains in our feet, we had pains on our knees.  We had pains in our head, and we had pains in our stomach.  My mother felt pain in her armpit, she needed a hilot (massage).

Our kindly sister-in-law, Alma, who is a bit of a herbalist (albulario or is it albularia?) advised applying tuba-tuba in the affected area. Without much ado, she went to Quiapo, where you can buy all sorts of herbs and more.

Heating of tuba, tuba, photo by PH Morton

Armed with a bunch of tuba-tuba and a lit candle, Alma started to do her magic. One by one, we let her apply leaves of tuba tuba, warmed in the light of the candle. Bert went first, with his swollen foot, followed by Marilou with both her aching knees and then me with my fat painful knee as well.

We were supposed to leave the tuba-tuba taped into our skin overnight for it to do its work properly. The leaves apparently draw out the aches and pains.


Marie’s knew, photo by PH Morton



I have to admit, after just an hour my aching knee felt decidedly better. Tuba-tuba works.

The following morning Bert reported that the swelling on his foot had marginally subsided. Marilou, as well, said that she felt better.

Apparently, tuba-tuba is a proven wonder herb, so much so that the Philippines’ Department of Health has recognised its medicinal merit.

Jean’s knee, photo by PH Morton

The benefit of tuba-tuba does not stop there. The barks and seeds have been found to be a good source for biodiesel.

Tuba-tuba is a low maintenance plant. It can grow anywhere and in any type of soil. It can grow up to 3 to 8 metres in height, a good hedge plant around the garden.

Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)

Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)

I absolutely adore this herb and it seems insects do as well (see photo above).

Lavender has scented leaves and fragrant  flowers.  It belongs to the mint family.

We have lavender bushes by our backdoor and I always pinch a few leaves to crush in my fingers. The scent is divine.

Lavender is a versatile herb.  It is used in oil infusion, which can be used as a very mild form of sedative, it is used to relieve headache and stress.  It is also used in cooking to make lavender infused sugar.

Lavender is extensively farmed in France for its essential oil used in perfumes, soap and oil production.  It is such a treat to slide between bed linens sprayed with lavender scent.  It is very calming.

It is such a treat to slide between bed linens sprayed with lavender scent.  It is very calming.  Send you off to a relaxing sleep.

The plant is also beautiful to look at in the garden.  Lavender plants can get leggy, so cut it roughly in the autumn to get a more bushy specimen comes spring.

Did you know?

I always thought (hehehe) that lavender is named after its lavender coloured flower.  Apparently this was not the case.  In ancient times, the Romans used lavender to add to their bath water not only for the scent but for its therapuitic properties. This wonderful plant was therefore called lavender from the Roman word, lavare, meaning ‘to wash’

Lavender flower meaning is devotion and vertue.

Peony (Paeoniaceae)

Peonies in our garden, Photo by PH Morton

Peace for Peonies, Photo by PH Morton

Peony (Paeoniaceae)

The peony is nature’s work of art.  It is outstandingly beautiful.  The more you look, the more you realise how truly magnificent is Creator is.  What can I say?  It brings out the spiritual in me.

The above photo was taken by’s official photographer, PH Morton.  The plant was actually bought from QVC, many, many years ago.  We have one peony in our front garden, planted directly into the ground and seems to flower year after year.

Another one is planted in a big pot against a wall in our back garden.  This one is more temperamental in flowering.  Despite the bushy growth, it did not provide any flower last year.  And yet it gets to be watered more often than the one in the front garden.

By the way peony is the unofficial national flower of China.  It is yet to be ratified to make it a national emblem.

In China, the peony is a symbol of nobility and values that it is often called  the ‘king of flowers.’

As the New Lunar Chinese Year gets on its way, be reminded that peonies also symbolise peace as well as prosperity.

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