Jun 21, 2007

Secrets of the Rainforest

I haven't always been a believer in the superiority of traditional medicine despite it's widespread practice here in Southeast Asia, but interestingly enough over the years I've found myself using one specific traditional medicine on occasion and been quite pleased with the overall stamina I seem to get from it. It's an herbal supplement called "tongkat ali".

When I first came to Southeast Asia years ago, you didn't hear much about tongkat ali, the locals used it along with a lot of other herbal and traditional medicines from the jungle but expats like myself generally stuck with the western medicines and supplements from back home that we were familiar with. Often times tongkat ali is touted for it's aphrodisiac properties and marketed as a kind of herbal viagra. Don't get me wrong, it does have those qualities, but personally I've found that used regularly it seems to give me a lot more stamina and energy.

Getting good quality tongkat ali is not easy even here in Malaysia. Over the last few years, I get mine from an aboriginal bomoh near the national rainforest in Kelantan up near the Thailand border. Not all bomohs are bad, there are some who are more like naturalists and who are learned experts in the materia medica of the tropical rainforest. My friend tells me that the people buying larger amounts of tongkat ali to sell overseas are only interested in getting a cheap price and so they never purchase the higher quality portions of the root.

What I've found interesting recently is how herbal medicines and supplements like tongkat ali and "kacip fatimah" are becoming quite popular in many other countries as well.

Kacip fatimah is a small plant here in Malaysia used by local women and it is touted like tongkat ali as a herbal viagra for women. Well, although I don't have any personal experience taking it, I can tell you that it is not used locally as a female viagra. It is used traditionally by the local women to facilitate childbirth as well as a post-partum medicine to regain stamina and strength. There is however another traditional herbal medicine used as a female viagra that is sometimes called "sekali sebulan" which means in Malay "once a month". I've been told that this one is the real deal.

So it looks like there might still be some secrets of the rainforest yet to be divulged.

Next month I plan to make another trip up towards the border and hope to get some more information of this herb.

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