By ALFRED GABOT
Special to Philippine News Today
QUEZON CITY – Unknown to many, narra, the Philippines’ national tree, is also a big source of antioxidant which when harnessed is a big help in the health of individuals.
This was stressed by experts from the De la Salle University Dasmariñas College of Pharmacy who explained the antioxidant properties of the leaves, bark and branch wood of the critically-endangered narra.
Briefing the media at the Rembrandt Hotel in Quezon City, the experts pointed out that their studies showed that narra has the highest ORAC or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, and, in fact, is No. 1 in the country and among the Top 10 in the world.
ORAC is a method developed by scientists at the National Institute of Health and Aging to measure the antioxidant capacity of different foods. The ORAC Score is also the unit of measure of antioxidants which is the body’s natural defense versus harmful compounds that are linked to multiple illnesses, including weakened immunity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The DSLU study revealed that the ORAC scores of all methods tested displayed similarly high levels of antioxidant potency.
“Indeed, our native trees are precious and they have medicinal value waiting to be tapped. It is a matter of time that cure to various illnesses from narra could be discovered and developed into life-saving drugs that can help save millions of lives,” said Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco (Ret), Chairman Emeritus of the Million Trees Foundation Inc. (MTFI), which is spearheading the propagation and planting of narra and other native trees in the country, especially at watersheds.
A former chairman and administrator of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), Velasco is the prime mover of the successful Annual Million Trees Challenge (AMTC) that saw the planting of 5.2 million trees in 5 years from 2017 to 2021.
The MTFI, which was established to sustain the gains of the AMTC, targets to plant 10 million more trees in critical watersheds in various parts of the country by 2030.
“This landmark findings about the medicinal value of Narra tree gives us more reasons to pursue our ambitious goal of planting 10 more million trees by 2030,” said MTFI President and Executive Director Melandrew Velasco.
Over the years, native trees planted in Ipo-Angat watersheds through AMTC and MTFI stakeholders include Narra, Batino, Malaruhat, Rambutan, Cacao, and Guyabano, Bayog, Kawayan Tinik, Malaruhat, White Lauan, Mala-igot, Malapapapaya, Makaasim, Lipote, Ipil, Palosapis, Malaruhat, Lago Calumpit, Ipil and Palsoapis.
Various native tree species have also been planted by the group in La Mesa and areas around Laguna de Bay. Kaliwa-Umiray and Upper Marikina watersheds.
Narra has antioxidant properties that can help improve the lives of millions of Filipinos, according to the Dela Salle University experts. Scientifically known as Pterocarpus indicus, Narra is a tree species that can be found in southeastern Asia, northern Australasia, and the western Pacific Ocean islands, in Cambodia, southernmost China, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Ryukyu Islands, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where it is protected by law. In the Philippines, it is now strictly prohibited to cut down and harvest Narra tree.
“We should really protect and conserve our native trees and reforest our watersheds to protect our water source and ensure a steady supply of important ingredients for life-saving drugs that could save millions of lives worldwide,” added Mel Velasco.
“There is a list by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the narra extract, based on the ORAC score, ranks among the 10% foods that have antioxidant properties. That means to say that the narra extract is number one in the Philippines when it comes to antioxidant properties if we look at the ORAC score,” said Sigfredo Mata, professor Contributing Editor of the narra research.
Timothy Bengala, Professor and Primary Investigator of the Narra Research, also referred to the health benefits of pterostilbene according to the study by Xu et al in 2021. The 2020 study aims to determine the different production processes that will be most efficient to EHOC without sacrificing the efficacy of the product in improving consumer health and wellness.
Based on the study, pterostilbene, a potent antioxidant, is proven to be effective as immune-enhancing, anti-asthma, anti-cancer, antifungal, antiulcer, and anti-allergy.
According to DSLU Head of Marketing and founding Dean Alicia Catabay: “One company selling Narra supplements is Ecarma. For these companies like Ecarma, this study on Narra can really help [their credibility. There are many other supplements on the market that have no studies showing their effectiveness. Ecarma will have similar characteristics in the study.”
Narra has been found to have medicinal value and was used as the main ingredient of a dietary supplement for the improvement people with diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, bladder stones and infectious diseases by Ecarma Health Options, a Filipino-owned company founded by Capt. Virgilio Ecarma, who invented and was awarded Philippine, US and South Africa patents for a method of processing Narra.
Currently, food supplement and tea bags of the company are sold over-the-counter in select Metro Manila Mercury Drugstores, and St. Joseph Drugstores in Pangasinan, and online thru Shopee and Lazada. Watsons Drugstore, it was learned, has already accredited EHOC as a vendor.