On a hot and humid day in Singapore, I visited the Botanical Gardens (entrance free, and beautiful) and found myself in the “Healing Garden”. Presented here are various plants and flowers appreciated for more than their aesthetic worth – plants that have been used for a myriad of complaints and purposes.
Just like Singapore’s people and food, these plants come from across the globe. There is Zingiber Officinale (Halia Ginger) from Southern Asia, which can treat sore throats, stomach aches and menstrual disorders. Labisia pumila from Malaysia which “expedites childbirth” and may treat gonorrhea. Centella Asiatica (Indian Pennywort) may treat leprosy and opium toxicity. Hamelia Patens (Hummingbird bush, pictured) from the Americas has been used to eradicate intestinal parasites.
I do not know the accuracy of these, and certainly one should learn more about them before using them (disclaimer), but I found myself thinking, “Wasn’t aspirin, in its earliest form, little more than bark of the willow tree?”
Singapore is a country where chewing gum, jaywalking and littering are illegal and can get you fined or worse. It is a country with low violent crime rates, low petty theft rates, and where laws against sexual assault are implemented stringently. HIV rates are low and their biggest public health problem (from my very limited probing) seems to be a rise in suicidal behaviour – which, by the way, is illegal too.
I found it striking that a country that is so Westernised manages to hold on to – and cherish – herbal remedies. As if to say, “Progress does not mean to disregard tradition.” I liked that.