By Ben Cal
MANILA – The Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MTFI) has lauded the result of a scientific study conducted by De la Salle Dasmariñas College of Pharmacy finding the medical value of narra as among the world’s top 10 antioxidants that can cure various illnesses.
“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.
Researchers from De la Salle Dasmariñas College of Pharmacy based in Cavite revealed the finding of their scientific study on narra extracts during a press conference held at Rembrandt Hotel in Quezon City last week.
Professors from the De La Salle College (DSLC) who presided over the press briefing were Dr. Alicia Catabay, Louie Fernando D. Legaspi, Sigfredo B. Mata and Timothy Jay L. Bengala.
They confirmed that the antioxidant properties of the bark and branch wood of the critically endangered narra, the Philippine national tree, has the highest ORAC or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which is No. 1 in the country and it is 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.
At the same time, the 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 could be discovered and developed into life-saving drugs that can help save millions of lives,” said retired Police Brig. Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco, chairman emeritus of MTFI.
It may be recalled that Gen. Velasco, who was then chairman and administrator of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), was the prime mover of the successful Annual Million Trees Challenge (AMTC) that saw the planting of 5.2 million trees in five 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.
Over the years, native trees planted in Ipo-Angat watersheds through AMTC and MTFI stakeholders include narra, batino, malaruhat, rambutan, cacao, guyabano, bayog, kawayan tinik, white lauan, mala-igot, malapapapaya, makaasim, lipote, ipil, palosapis, and lago calumpit.
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.
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, southernmost China, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Ryukyu Islands, Solomon Islands, Thailand Vietnam, and the Philippines where it is protected by law.
In the Philippines, it is strictly prohibited to cut down and narra tree without a permit.
“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,” Velasco said.
Timothy Bengala, professor and primary investigator of the Narra Research, also cited the health benefits of pterostilbene, according to the study by Xu et al in 2021.
Based on the study, pterostilbene, a potent antioxidant, is proven to be effective as immune-enhancing, anti-asthma, anti-cancer, anti-fungal, anti-ulcer, and anti-allergy.
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.