“Duhat” good for dysentery, diarrhea, diabetes et al. – folk belief (Feature)
November 15, 2012 11:11 pm
By Honor Blanco Cabie
MANILA, Nov. 15 — Siblings Esteban and Florencio stood beneath rows of “duhat” trees – or what northerners like them call “longboy” – in an upland farm in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, their thoughts parallel on the folk belief it is good for dysentery, diarrhea and diabetes.
The “duhat,” variously called in English as Java plum, Indian blackberry or plain black plum, is found throughout this Southeast Asian country, with probable pre-historic introduction from Malaya following waves of Indonesian settlers in ancient times.
Old hands describe the plum, particularly its fruit and bark, as an astringent, carminative, stomachic, anti-diabetic and anti-diarrheal.
When the fruits reach their season, wide baskets of the ripe fruits crowd public markets and pavements in the urban centers, including entrances to markets in Cubao, Caloocan City, Novaliches and Quiapo, among other places, in the National Capital Region.
Filipinos describe it as among the most popular fruits in the country – in the league of the Spanish plum or “siniguelas” of the Tagalogs or “sarguelas” of the Ilocanos, the “atis” – the sugar apple or sweet sop – which has its season during the rainy season here.
The ripe “longboy” – called “duat” by Pampangos, “dungboi” by Igorots, “lomboi” by Bicolanos and Visayans in Central Philippines and “hai nan pu tao” by the Chinese – can be eaten straight from the branches.
Its juice can be made into wine, and can be used in the manufacture of red wine or the "tinto dulce" while its fruit, some studies claim, is a good source of calcium and a fair source of iron.
A local manufacturer in Ilocos Norte has, like her counterpart in Malaysia who has been making vinegar from the juice of the unripe fruit, in recent years begun making vinegar from “longboy” juice, competing with the more popularly described “sukang Iluko” fermented from crushed sugar cane juice.
While the brothers Esteban and Florencio held their frames beneath the “longboy” trees, waiting for the green fruits to turn dark purple and then deep black, they remembered what their elders had been telling relations and friends that the bark decoction can be used as an enema.
This means the injection of liquid into the rectum through the anus for cleansing, for stimulating evacuation of the bowels, or for other therapeutic or diagnostic purposes.
In the Philippines, decoction of bark is given internally for dysentery, while liberal amounts of the fleshy portion of the fruit can be used for diarrhea. The fresh juice of the bark, with goat’s milk, as well as powdered seeds and root bark, can be good for diarrhea in children.
Many herb doctors in their village often prescribe decoction of the bark for a rinse or mouthwash for gingivitis and mouth ulcerations.
The doctors, called “erbolario” in the countryside, suggest the ripe “duhat” can be an astringent and is raised as an efficient remedy for diabetes.
Decoction of leaves and bark can also be used, but the ripe fruit, apart from pulverized dried seeds, the “erbolarios” say, is rated the best.
Elsewhere in Asia, particularly in India, seeds of the Indian blackberry are used for diabetes, its bark for diarrhea, dysentery, and spongy gums. Poultice of leaves are used for skin complaints while powdered seeds are also used for metrorrhagia.
Metrorrhagia is abnormal bleeding that occurs between periods or that is not associated with menstruation – causes include hormone imbalance, abnormal growths, pregnancy complications, and infection.
In South America, especially in Brazil, leaves and fruits are used to treat infectious diseases, diabetes and stomach aches.
On the loamy upland farm in Tapaw south of the town proper of Paoay, brothers Esteban and Florencio suddenly realized how important the Java plum trees have been in their score, ignoring them for other crowns that make up the Ilocos mountains in the rugged north.
They have discovered the trees are tall – forestry sources say they grow up to 15 meters high – with white branchlets and reddish young shoots, their leaves shiny and leathery, oblong-ovate to elliptic or obovate-elliptic, 6 to 12 cms long, the tip being broad and shortly pointed.
The flowers are small, several, scented, pink or nearly white, in clusters, without stalks, borne in crowded fascicles on the ends of the branchlets.
Botanists say the calyx is funnel-shaped, about 4 mm long, and 4-toothed. Petals cohere and fall all together as a small disk while stamens are numerous and about as long as the calyx.
In the meanwhile, the brothers know they have a good frame of health benefits from the black plum planted on Tapaw. (PNA)