Traditional Medicine and Medical Plants

Knowledge about traditional medicines in Indonesia is quite extensive because of the great diversity in local cultures. Unlike Chinese traditional medicine which relies mostly on the use of animal parts, Indonesia traditional medicine makes use of plants, particularly those growing in the forest.
From the beginning, the forest and traditional peoples have formed a unit leading to a way of life which is interactive and mutually beneficial. Nowadays, many traditional peoples can be found living in or around conservation areas. It is here that knowledge about the use of traditional medicines and healing practise in daily life can be found.
One example of a traditional people still following this way of life, and who know about medical plants, are the Dayak who live in the area of the Kayang Mentarang Naturese Reserve in East Kalimantan. The umak Tukung Kenyah Dayak from Long Sungai Barang, Apo Kayan, in the southern part of this reserve, for example, recognize 213 types of medical plants. They use medicinal plants to treat over seventeen major kinds of health problems, including skin disease, stomach ailments, nerve disorders, poisoning, child birth, bone and joint problems, eye problems, blood circulation, and high blood pressure.
Plant species from the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) are the most commonly found ingredients in traditional medicine with nineteen species used. The next most commonly found medicinal plant ingredients are from the coffee family (Rubiaceae) with eleven plant species used.
The variety in the types of plants used is also reflected in the variety of their habitats. Medicinal plants grow in the local gardens, cultivated fields, at the side of footpaths, along riverbanks, in young secondary forest (bekan), in mature secondary forest (jekau) and in primary forest (empak). About 70 percent of the medicinal plants and poisons grow wild.
The parts of the plants that are used also vary. However, the parts most commonly used are the leaves, the stem, the roots, and rhizome. The method for making and applying the medicines and poisons is still quite simple. The preparation of traditional medicine usually only involves pressing, pounding and boiling or burning the ingredients.
Many different peoples in Indonesia still have knowledge of traditional medicine. However, very few people have shown an interest in carrying out research on these medicines. The total number of medicinal plants species to be found in Indonesia is not yet even known. A rough estimate by Alrasyid (1991) maintains that Indonesia's forests may have as many as 9,606 such species while PT. Eisai Indonesia (1986) lists, 3,689 species of pharmaceutical plants. Zuhud, Ekarelawan and Riswan (1994) believe that there are 1,260 species of medicinal plants in Indonesia's forests whose uses are known by local and traditional peoples.
There are also not many people who know that a significant amount of export revenue is obtained from the sale of Indonesia's medicinal plants abroad. The export receipts from this type of commodity continue to rise every year, and in 1990, for example, already reached US$11.16 million. The potential of this market could be developed further.
The inventory and investigation of traditional medicine use by Indonesia people should not be postponed any longer. This is not only because the forest habitat where these plants primarily grow is becoming smaller and smaller but also because the people who know about these medicines are aging, with many already having passed away. This situation is like a library on fire - when knowledge of traditional ways vanishes forever. (by Herwarsono and Kim Worm Sorensen)


fransiska dwi said...

Good writing, can not wait for the next article...

kirei's corner said...

dimana komen teh a...?