Comprehensive Alternative Health Care

This is an ongoing project sponsored by Philippine Medical Mission (a foundation based in Virginia, USA)

The indigenous people remain the most marginalized sector of the country as they are culturally and geographically distant from the health care services from the lowland. Since the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, some Aetas were resettled at Sitio Gala, Aningway-Sacatihan, Zambales. At present, there are 300 members of the tribes who are permanent residents of the area. Occupying the 33 hectares of land are the 75 households designated in the five phases of the sitio.

The common diseases noted were 1.) Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, 2.)Musculoskeletal Pain, 3.)Skin Diseases, 4.) Tension Headache 5.)Parasitism, Dental Carries and Bronchial Asthma. Similar to most communities, upper respiratory tract infection is common. Musculoskeletal Pain and Tension Headache are due to the nature of their work as farmers, market vendors and construction laborers. Parasitic infection, skin diseases and dental carries reflect the poor hygiene and sanitation status. The skin diseases are largely due to the fungal infection and impetigo. Diarrhea is remarkably low which the community health workers reported to be frequently seen by them. This suggests their competency in treating diarrhea. More importantly, this indicates continuity and hope of sustainability in the health care provision through the community health workers.

The health needs of the Aetas can be categorized into three 1.) Treatment and prevention of common and simple preventable diseases, 2.) Treatment of complicated cases, and the 3.)immediate attendance of emergency cases.

The treatment of complicated cases, meaning those requiring prescription drugs and further diagnostic studies, have been adequately met by the Aloha Medical Mission and the Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Mission, Inc.

The emergency cases on the other hand, is currently being addressed by the foundation with the tribal council through the raising of an Emergency Fund with both partner organizations giving counterparts for the fund.

The simple and preventable diseases can be addressed through the competency and efforts of the community health workers. Their tools would be knowledge for the health education and alternative medicine in treating the common diseases.

Alternative medicine is an offshoot solution based from the statistical data of common diseases and from the goal of actually implementing a sustainable alternative health program (See Figure 4). Sustainability is such that in the advent the foundation or Aloha would end its provision of medicines, the community would be prepared, knowledgeable and equipped in producing or acquiring medicines both from the commercial and alternative means.

Table 1: Common Diseases at Sitio Gala and the remedies




URTI 34%

Bromhexine Hcl/ Carbocesteine


Musculoskeletal Pain 10%

Mefenamic Acid



Yerba Buena

Tension Headache 7%

Mefenamic Acid



Yerba Buena

Skin Disease 8%


Akapulco Ointment

1.)Lagundi, 2.)Yerba Buena and 3.)Akapulco are three of the ten herbal plants clinically proven and endorsed by the Philippine Department of Health. The rest of the herbal plants are Sambong (common in Sitio Gala), Guava, Tsaang Gubat (abdominal pains), Ulasimang Bato (also common), Ampalaya, Niyog-niyogan (for parasitic infection) and Garlic (for dyslipidemia but a disease not common with the Aetas).

Health is not merely the lack of sickness but is deeply linked with the problems of poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Thus, it is practical to pair the raising of herbal plants with foods crops. Harvest of food crops would allow alleviation of hunger and lack of livelihood for some of the settlers. Ampalaya and guava are herbal plants which could also be grown as food crops.

Seedlings will also be distributed to the 75 households. After three months, the household can prune the plants for medicine. In the long run, mass production of the herbal products can be engaged. These products can initially be introduced in the resettlement and later to the outside market. The demand of herbal medicine has been increasing with DOH’s promotion. The network of community-based health programs (CBHP) through the Community Health Development (CHD) and religious congregations have been identified as potential market of the herbal products.

Phase I:

The success of the project depends largely on its acceptance to the community. Hence, the Gantt chart (See Figure 4) and its implementation emphasizes education and training of the tribal council, community health workers and the youth, the present and future leaders of the community. While doing the training, the community will also be allowed to share the herbal plants they use. Their practices will be documented for phase II use. The Aloha Medical Mission is vital in this project as this will be the entry point for the use of herbal medicine of the people.

Consultations to the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) and Bureau of Plants will be necessary for the technical support of the project.

After the evaluation of phase I, an agreement will be reached between the funding institutions, implementing and collaborative agencies to pursue phase II.

Phase II:

The technical support from the Bureau of Plants on growing herbal plants will be used in this phase. A pilot herbal garden will be initiated within the vicinity of the Aeta Training Center with the following plants: 50 Lagundi (source of medicine-leaves), 20 Niyog-niyogan (seeds), 50 Akapulko (leaves), 50 Guava (leaves), 20 Tsaang Gubat, 200 shrubs of Yerba Buena (leaves) and 30 Ampalaya (leaves). Most of these herbal plants can be harvested after three months.

On the other hand, the 75 households will each be provided with seedlings of the following quantity: 1 Lagundi, 1 Tsaang Gubat, 1 Guava, 1 Akapulko, 1 Ampalaya, 5 Yerba Buena shrubs. Aside from the recommended herbal plants by the DOH, the traditional herbal plants used by the Aetas will also be mapped in the area. This will be noted as possible sources of indigenous medicines.

A small-scale harvesting, processing and distribution of herbal products will be done using the plants grown near the vicinity of the Aeta Training Center. The staff and the CHWs have the skills on making the following 1.) herbal soap 2.) herbal cough syrup 3.) herbal tea and 4.) herbal ointment. In addition, the indigenous plants used by the Aetas will also be tested.

These procedures in producing herbal products are written in detail in the Community Health Worker’s Module developed by the foundation and the Manual Para sa Halamang Gamot developed by the DOH. These knowledge and skills will then be taught to the different households for their family use.

Phase III:

To sustain the demand of the products and generate income for the Aetas, a mass production of the herbal products will be engaged. The market for herbal products will be identified and established.

The mass production will require harvesting large quantities of leaves and fruits from the pilot herbal garden. To augment the supply of raw materials, the Aeta households will be the contract growers who can contribute or sell their harvest to the production.

Due to the large-scale production, the raw materials will be washed and spread on drying beds. A leaf dryer will be built. Heat is regulated by the dryer at a constant temperature of 60 degrees Celsius. Extraneous materials such as other parts of the plant, other particles and contaminants will be removed through as process known as garbling. The garbled material will then be milled using a rooter beater mill after which it is sieved. The powdered product will then be placed in capsules, tea bags or used as additive in herbal soaps.

Phase IV:

Phase IV is a complementary project to address other diseases which require antibiotics such as Cephalosporins, Penicillins, Metronidazole, Cotirmoxazole and anti-Kochs medications. Other medicines include Salbutamol, Antihypertensives, Ferrous sulfate and Acetaminophen.

The community health workers will be trained in selling these drugs through the Center for Health Development of Zambales. Their bookkeeping will be checked by the FOLPMI staff. The profit will be used to sustain the revolving fund.


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