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Heavenly Elixir

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Names of Heavenly Elixir, past and present

Filipino: makabuhay / makabuhai (lit. 'life-giving' or 'that which gives life') / tagua
Indian: giloya
English: heavenly elixir
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Tinospora rumphii Boerl.

Background and History

The heavenly elixir is creeping vine that thrives in the Philippine areas, originally found throughout the country, but now only seen in selected areas, usually mountainous areas, small hamlets, and anywhere else untouched by the ruinous hands of progress and industrialisation. While initially thought of as endemic to the Philippines, the heavenly elixir vine can also be found in several parts of Asia, such as China and Malaysia, although it is considered more of a weed in those places and does not serve a similar medicinal purpose as it does in the Philippines.

The plant is discernable for its thin-stalked, heart-shaped leaves and its unique rounded stem that is replete with a myriad of tiny protuberances resembling minute, raised pellets. When in season, flowers may also be discernable, which are of a pale-green colour, usually similar to the leaves and oftentimes mistaken as such as they usually grow from the axils of dead leaves. It also possesses fruits, which are of a tawny red hue when unripe, and a dark-violet to black hue when ripe, resembling very tiny grapes, always seen in clusters of more than ten fruits per cluster. In Philippine folkloric medicine and some regional variants of Ayurvedic medicine, its leaves and stems are employed as a medicinal plant.

General and Esoteric Uses

In some areas outside of the Philippine where the plant is found (but rarely used medicinally), it can often be integrated into tonics or alcoholic beverages such as cocktails or aperitifs, usually as a tincture oftentimes found prepared as a type of 'bitters' (i. e. Angostura bitters, Jagermeister, etc.), although examples of beverages incorporating heavenly elixir are few and far-flung.

The most common use for the heavenly elixir plant is as a medicinal herb, generally prepared as a decoction. Unlike other medicinal plants that often employ the leaves more so than any other part, it is the stems of the heavenly elixir which seems to possess the most potent medicinal properties, as it is the part most commonly prepared. It is often used in the countryside as a general tonic, although it can be employed as a remedy for fever brought about by malarial infection as well simply by decoction both its leaves and stems in water. This decoction may also be employed as a topical rinse to help disinfect wounds, open sores, and any form of ulcerations (commonly, ulcers of the mouth) as well as to facilitate wound-healing. When employed in this manner, the leaves are usually omitted from the 'recipe' and a simple decoction of the stems alone (whether whole, oftentimes crushed or pounded) is preferred . [1] The stems of the plant may also be left to macerate in coconut or sesame oil, and the resulting infused oil used to help soothe rheumatic and arthritic aches and pains. This hypoallergenic oil may also be employed as a remedy for abdominal colic, flatulence, and as a quick soothing remedy for pains brought about by dyspepsia and dysmenorrhea . [2] When crushed or pounded to extract its juices, the ensuing liquid from the stems may even be used to treat sores, small cuts, and scabies. Due to the method of its usage, it is preferable to employ only fresh parts of heavenly elixir, for assured efficiency.

The plant can be of used in dried form as well, however, as the leaves and stems may both be sun-dried and powdered. The former may be prepared into a decoction and uses as a febrifuge to help quell the symptoms of fever, while the latter may be decocted and used as a topical antiseptic rinse for a variety of skin disorders and wounds. A light infusion of both the leaves and stem of the heavenly elixir plant may even be employed as an anti-malarial drink, and as a means to wean infants off breatfeeding (as the bitter juice of the stem, when spread or applied unto the nipple area, will discourage the infants' desire to breastfeed. This does no harm to the baby whatsoever).

The heavenly elixir plant may even be employed cosmetically, as it not only effectively treats a wide array of skin allergies, but it also helps control, if not altogether halt lice infestation. This is done by preparing a very strong decoction of the stems of the plant, which is then cooled and applied topically over the affected areas . [3] In the case of lice-treatment, the stems of the plant may be mixed with other antibacterial and antimicrobial herbs for added potency and efficiency. Recent medical studies have also shown that decoction made from the heavenly elixir plant may be beneficial for individuals suffering from hay-fever and allergic rhinitis, so much so that either aqueous extracts or powdered plant parts are now being sold as food supplements to help treat such aliments.

Aside from its medicinal purposes, the stems and vine of the heavenly elixir may also be employed as an all-natural pesticide simply be soaking the plant parts in water and applying the infused water to cultivated plants both as a preventive measure and as a corrective means to combat common pests. It may be employed as a natural pesticide by itself, or combined with other potent herbs such as chili peppers, blumea camphor, or madre de cacao . [4]

References & Further Reading

[1 - 2] http://www.stuartxchange.org/Makabuhay.html
[3] http://www.pchrd.dost.gov.ph/index.php/2012-05-23-07-46-36/r-d-updates/5162-scientists-validate-effectiveness-of-makabuhay-s-stem-extract-as-anti-lice- treatment
[4] http://www.foodrecap.net/health/makabuhay-benefits/

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, - herbs-info.com 2012

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