“For every disease, God has a plant for it!” - Dr. Erna C. Arollado, NRCP member

This statement reaffirms what God himself said in Ezekiel that all plants’ fruit will be for food, and their leaves will be for healing.

Plants are one of the most important natural sources of novel pharmacologically active compounds by the pharmaceutical industry. Since time immemorial, the use of plant-derived products embodies a major aspect in traditional medicine and contributes to worldwide healthcare.

On its 4th Basic Research Symposium with the theme “Communicating Basic Research Results to the People: HERB TALK: The Healing in Green”, the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) named these newly discovered healing plants. Four (4) research projects featured presented the medicinal efficacy of various Philippine herbal plants, the concentrated interface of drugs/medicine with supplemental herbal medicine, and the effectiveness of natural oil on the transdermal healing.

These featured projects were led by the members from Division IV – Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Plants for common Non-communicable disease (NCDs)

NCDs a.k.a chronic diseases are a result of combinations of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioral factors and tend to be of long duration. One of the socio-economic impacts of NCDs is it impedes poverty reduction because it includes lengthy and expensive treatment, even making the underprivileged people to get sicker.

Dr. Erna C. Arollado, Chair, Division IV – Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Director, Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, led the study on the efficiency of extracts of selected Philippine medicinal plants against the most prevalent and deadly NCDs in the Philippines – hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia.

Dr. Arollado identified viable plant sources of lead compounds for future drug development studies against these NCDs. The Artocarpus blancoi leaves or the Antipolo and Rhizophora mucronata flowers or the Bakauan Babae are scientifically proven to have antidiabetic properties.

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Photo (Google images): (Left) Artocarpus blancoi leaves or the Antipolo and (right) Rhizophora mucronata flowers or the Bakauan Babae

Meanwhile, Adonidia merrillii leaves or Manila Palm, was found to be effective for dyslipidemia; and Artocarpus blancoi leaves (Antipolo), Platycladus orientalis leaves (Arbor Vitae), and Kalanchoe pinnata leaves (Katakataka) were found capable of inhibiting enzyme linked to hypertension.


The image of the ten plants – leaves and flowers –  utilized in the project. For the leaves, these are Rhaphidophora merrilli, Artocarpus blancoi, Platycladus orientalis, Sargassum carssifolium, Kalanchoe pinnata, Syzygium polycephalum, Adonidia merrillii and Canarium luzonicum, while for the flowers these are Rhizophora mucronata and Acalypha hispida.

Photo source: Presentation of Dr. Erna C. Arollado

Based on her study, Dr. Arollado recommended the following: (1) Perform bioassay-guided isolation and purification to know the identity of the active compound, (2) Study combinination of extracts for synergistic activities; (3) Conduct in vivo testing to further strengthen the claims of enzyme inhibition on each disease states; and (4) With enough significant data, initiate formulation studies.

Herbal medicine and synthetic drugs

Still on the healing, Dr. Alicia P. Catabay, NRCP member and Dean, College of Pharmacy, De La Salle Health Sciences Institute, explained the cause and effect of the interaction of supplemental herbal medicines from top 10 Philippine medicinal plants with therapeutic drugs when taken simultaneously. 

Through the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC), the Department of Health (DOH) circulated a list of the ten Philippine medicinal plants comprising of akapulko, ampalaya, bawang, bayabas, lagundi, niyog-niyogan, sambong, tsaang gubat, ulasimang bato, and yerba buena.


The Ten Philippine Medicinal from the Plant Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC).

Photo source: Presentation of Dr. Alicia P. Catabay

It is estimated that one out of two patients with a chronic disease will consume herbal medicinal product to improve their welfare without consulting a physician or a pharmacist (Spanakis, et al., 2019).

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Cytochrome P450 or the CYPs enzymes play a role in the synthesis of many molecules including steroid hormones, certain fats like cholesterol and other fatty acids, and acids used to digest fats i.e. bile acids.

This study only focused on three (3) CYPs enzyme because of their clinical relevance in liver, (1) CYP1A2 plays a significant role in the metabolism of several clinically important drugs; (2) CYP2D6 has a very large in comparison to its relatively minor expression in liver all clinically used drugs from virtually all therapeutic classes; and (3) CYP3A4 which is present in most individuals abundantly expressed in liver. These CYPs indicate potential herb-drug interactions, which may lead to treatment failure or enhanced toxicity.

Dr. Catabay’s study found that the Tsaang gubat, niyog-niyogan, and sambong have the ability to inhibit CYP1A2 in a dose-dependent manner at 10–50 μg∙mL-1. Meanwhile, the Akapulko only exhibits enzyme-inhibitory effect at 10–50 μg∙mL-1 while Lagundi and ulasimang-bato have moderate CYP1A2 inhibition. In addition to this, the famous Bawang was found out it to have an inhibitory effect against CYP3A4.

The research found that due to possible CYP inhibitory action of herbal medicines, their simultaneous use with certain drugs should be considered with caution.

Natural oil on transdermal healing

Some oils are known for treating minor ailments. The research of Mr. Bryan Paul I. Bulatao, NRCP member and Assistant Professor, UP Manila, showed how natural oil affects the infusion of medication/healing of transdermal patches.

These patches can be used of for the ischemic heart disease, also called coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease. With the low absorption and undesirable side effects of oral medication for CHD, these transdermal patches through the use of natural oils can be excipients to optimize a transdermal matrix patch of simvastatin.

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The research project used the above plants for the physicochemical tests of natural oils: Coconut germ, lemongrass leaves, and oregano leaves, and also starch from mango and jackfruit seeds

Photo source: Presentation of Dr. Bryan Paul I. Bulatao

This study extracted and conducted physicochemical tests of natural oils present in coconut germ, lemongrass leaves, and oregano leaves, and also starch from mango and jackfruit seeds. The various polymers and natural oils from these plant sources can be excipients to optimize a transdermal matrix patch of simvastatin.

Dr. Bulatao said that the excipients were evaluated for their compatibility with the medicine Simvastatin and a comparison between the natural polymers with synthetic polymers. He added that this study can be a provision of preliminary data for future studies of Simvastatin transdermal patch formulation utilizing plant-based polymers and oils.

Also, this research activity intended to promote research-based information that may be useful to: (a) medicine/drug industry for development and production of new found and affordable medicine; (b) students and budding researchers for their related research endeavors; (c) stakeholders like other government department or agencies, policymakers, private institutions in crafting laws or public policies that may promote, sustain, and maintain the abundance and diverse Philippine herbal/medicinal plants; and (d) other applied research agencies to come up with new technology like drugs and alternative low-cost medicine.


The medicinal features of Marang fruit

Undeniably, eating fruits can result to huge health benefits. The Artocapus odoratissimus locally known as Marang, a native of Mindanao was found to have pharmacognostic features.

The study of Mr. Joseph Mari B. Querequincia, NRCP member and Faculty, San Pedro College - Davao, presented the results on how the Marang fruit sample passed the limits of specifications of pharmacognostic analysis and have polyphenolic compounds that help treat digestion issues, weight management difficulties, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and cardiovascular diseases.

This fruit also possesses in vitro ⍺-glucosidase inhibitory activity and is fairly nontoxic up to 2000 mg/kg BW of the test animals. It also exhibited blood glucose lowering activity which was comparable to Acarbose, an anti-diabetic drug used to treat diabetes mellitus type 2.

He further discussed the need of other parts of the plant species to be considered for analysis and the screening of other types of phytochemical compounds present in the plant. He shared that all sectors involved in the cultivation / propagation of Marang fruit, particularly in Mindanao will be scientifically informed about its bioactivity.

Academician Fabian M. Dayrit, President, Integrated Chemists of the Philippines, and Dr. Christine C. Hernandez, Professor, Institute of Chemistry, UP Diliman, reactors/ panelists of the forum, both NRCP members of Division X – Chemical Sciences, shared a common reaction on how will the researchers go further and deepen their research on medicinal plants to be able to develop new knowledge. They also asked the speakers on what are the projects future directions.

The DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, and NRCP President Gregorio E.H. del Pilar, Vice President Dr. Claro N. Mingala graced the 4th BRS, while NRCP Executive Director Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay moderated the event.


Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay, DOST-NRCP Executive Director as Moderator during the DOST-NRCP 4th Basic Research Symposium via a webinar on October 21, 2020.


There were about 300 participants from the different educational institutions all over the country such as UP Manila, UP Los Banos, UP Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University, Emilio Aguinaldo College, Far Eastern University, St. Paul University Manila, FEATI University, Pamantasan Lungsod ng Maynila, University of Santo Tomas, University of the East, De La Salle University, Manila Central University, Saint Michael’s College of Laguna, Our Lady of Fatima University, Perpetual Help System Laguna, San Roque National High School, Nueva Ecija and Northern Bukidnon Community College and other government institutions like Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the World Wide Fund on October 21, 2020 via zoom webinar. /Jenny Leigh A. Daquioag/ DOST-NRCP