MELANDREW T. VELASCO: Philippine Narra tree, hope for diabetics
The endangered national tree Narra (Pterocarpus indicus) has been identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as one of the suitable trees for forest restoration and urban forestry in the country.
Organizations involved in reforestation and tree-planting activities, among these the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MTFI) have included Narra in their choice species for rehabilitating denuded and deforested areas.
The Foundation intends to plant 10 million trees in critical watersheds by 2030.
“A million trees can save lives,” MTFI Chairman Emeritus Gen. Reynaldo V Velasco said.
The inclusion of Narra in the preferred list of species is indeed laudable. Not only is it the country’s national tree following the Governor-General Frank Murphy’s Proclamation No. 652 in 1934, it is among the country’s premium tree species with its various uses. Aside from its aesthetic importance and high quality wood, narra also possesses medicinal attributes. It is included in the 2002 list of forest tree species with medicinal uses compiled by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of DENR.
The different parts of the narra tree have medicinal uses.
Decoction of the bark is used for diarrhea. Its young leaves are used to treat boils, skin ulcers and prickly heat.
A light infusion of the leaves is also used to control fever. Root extract is used on syphilitic sores. The wood has diuretic, antidysenteric, antithermic and antimalarial properties. The fruit kernel is given as emetic.
Add to the various uses of Narra is a recent good news from the De La Salle University-Dasmariñas College of Pharmacy that the tree’s branch and bark contain the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scores in the country, and among the top 10% among the US Department of Agriculture List of the top 326 food items with antioxidants in the world. The ORAC Score is the unit of measure of antioxidants which is the body’s natural defense versus harmful compounds that are linked to multiple illnesses.
This was contained in the Narra Extract Research Report which also revealed the presence of pterocarpin and pterostilbene, two most potent antioxidants discovered.
According to another study, Pterostilbene can be found in Narra extract (Xu et al, 2021). “Pterostilbene (Pts), isolated from Chinese herb Pterocarpus indicus Wild.”
“In the future, with our interest in Narra extracts, we plan to do human clinical trials,” Dr. Louie Legaspi, Dean of College of Pharmacy, De La Salle-Medical & Health Sciences Institute, said during the presentation of the Narra Extract Research Report on September 3, 2022.
A 2006 study by Pari and Satheesh on diabetic rats revealed that supplementing with the antioxidant pterostilbene can improve blood sugar levels over 10 times as effectively as metformin.
“A significant decrease in glucose and significant increase in plasma insulin levels were observed in normal and diabetic rats treated with pterostilbene. The effects of pterostilbene were comparable to the experimental effects of 500 mg/kg oral metformin,” the study stated.
Human clinical trials however require financing. Dr. Glenn Soriano, a U.S. licensed medical doctor and advocate of natural medicine said ““In order to prove that pterostilbene from Philippine Narra extract can treat diabetes in humans, human clinical trials must be run.
However, such projects are very costly, ranging in the millions of pesos just to start, so a major sponsor like DOST is needed to fund this research. ”Should the human clinical trials push through with positive findings, there is hope that millions of lives and millions of pesos spent in drugs for the treatment of diabetes will be saved.
It is a sad reality that diabetes mellitus is among the top 10 leading causes of mortality in the Philippines since years back.
In its latest preliminary report, the Philippine Statistics Authority identified diabetes mellitus as the fourth leading cause of mortality for the period January to June 2022. “In January to June 2022, deaths due to diabetes mellitus recorded 16,970 cases or 6.5 percent share, making it the fourth leading cause of death [in the Philippines]”.
Diabetics need not despair. They can live more comfortably by consuming more antioxidants which can be sourced from fruits and vegetables or from supplements. One among these supplements is the Ecarma health supplement in capsule form and tea bags which are made from pure Narra extract.
“Ecarma Narra tea and capsules are made of 100% pure Narra extract,” TJ Meneses, President of Ecarma Health Options Corporation said. Ecarma products are available in drugstores nationwide and on the company’s official stores on Shopee & Lazada.