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Malaysia Travel Guide

Medicinal plants you can try in Sarawak!

Sarawakians and the jungles of Borneo have lived in harmony for centuries. And one way we stay healthy is by incorporating the medicinal plants found around us into our diets or using them as a cure when we are sick or injured.

We’ve come to deeply respect and appreciate the delicate ecosystem of the jungle and all that live inside it. We believe that by taking care of nature, nature will take care of us!

Credit: Nigel Dickinson

These medicinal plants hold valuable healing attributes. They’ve been utilised for centuries by our people to keep them in good health and provide relief to a myriad of ailments. Now, these plants are making their way into alternative medicine.

Sarawakian concoctions of traditional medicine are used to treat skin diseases, fevers, headaches and even detox after childbirth.

So while you may recognise many of these plants and even eat them or use them for cooking, you’ll probably be surprised to know they have excellent healing benefits. Allow us to open your eyes to Sarawak’s world of medicinal plants! Who knows, the information you learn might be useful to you too one day. *wink*

Turmeric

Source: Swanson Vitamins

In the West, turmeric was first embraced as a fabric dye. However, in Asian communities, it is known for being the spice that will stain your hands yellow! It also makes a great addition to a lot of dishes, but Sarawakians have used this plant for more than just making great tasting food. It is also used for its many health benefits.

In fact, recent clinical trials have confirmed the ways turmeric can improve health, which shows the wisdom of our people! Turmeric has been discovered to be a powerful antioxidant, and it has anti-inflammatory qualities, plus it makes an effective pain reliever.

Source: Eden Project

The indigenous Iban tribe in Sarawak use turmeric to treat skin diseases by pounding the roots into a poultice which is then applied to the affected area. They also add turmeric in food or herbal drinks as nourishment for women after childbirth. Meanwhile another indigenous tribe, the Melanau, consume turmeric to relieve headaches.

Curcumin, an active substance found in the turmeric plant, is said to improve memory and mood swings. It also helps in alleviating depression. Not only that, but curcumin also promotes digestion, lactation and diminishes stretch marks while adding a glow to the skin. It is even being researched for use in cancer prevention and treatment!

Guava

Source: Healthline

We’re pretty sure you’ve walked into a convenience store and seen guava juice on the shelves and it’s also a delicious fresh, pink fruit but did you know that Guava has multiple health benefits?

Guava is most commonly cultivated in villages and even in urban homes. Its leaf extract improves blood sugar content, which is beneficial to diabetic people or those at risk of contracting diabetes. Consuming the plant’s young leaves raw reduces diarrhoea and constipation, which is why Sarawakian indigenous communities, like the Iban and Kayan, eat the leaves when they have a case of upset tummy!

Source: Gardening Know How

Traditionally, the leaves of the guava plant are pounded into a paste and spread onto skin as a treatment for skin diseases, such as rashes or ringworm. The Iban apply sap from the leaves directly onto open wounds to heal them. The Kenyah and Kelabit do the same, except that instead of using sap, they use a poultice of the young leaves.

The fruit itself is naturally healthy as it is rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, and it contains natural folic acid, which is essential for pregnant women!

Galangal

Source: One Green Planet

Many people confuse galangal with ginger because they both look eerily similar! However, they have very different tastes. While ginger is known for being pungently spicy, galangal has a sharp citrusy flavour. They do, however, belong to the same family.

Galangal can be used fresh, dried, powdered, as an oil, or even as a juice, and is a staple ingredient in many curry dishes. It’s widely cultivated in villages or grown near villages. It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and small doses can help to prevent various types of nausea, especially morning sickness. The Kelabit even prepare galangal tea for mothers after childbirth to help regain their energy and for revitalisation!

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily

The Bidayuh reduce the effects of fever by crushing the leaves and stems of the galangal plant, boiling them and then using the water to bathe in.

Although galangal is considered a spice by many communities, the Iban turn it into a remedy by pounding and mixing it with a pinch of salt. By applying this mixture onto skin, it can reduce itchiness caused by accidentally rubbing against plants similar to Poison Ivy or Hogweed.

Tapioca

Source: The Spruce Eats

If you are lucky enough to get invited into a Malaysian home at tea time, you might get to try ubi kayu with sambal tumis (fried chilli paste)! The young leaves of tapioca plants are traditionally eaten as vegetables. They are also served as a local salad alongside sambal belacan (chilli shrimp paste).

However, unknown to many, rubbing the latex onto the skin is said to relieve swelling while drinking fresh juice squeezed from tapioca leaves may stop the vomiting of blood. Furthermore, regular intake of tapioca leaf tea offers protection against colon cancer.

Source: Gardening Know How

The tapioca can be turned into a poultice that is used to mitigate headaches, as practised by the Sarawak’s indigenous tribes like the Bidayuh, Selakoh, and Melanau. Drinking a concoction of its leaf juices and honey is also said to alleviate constipation. The latex from the plant can relieve swelling on the skin, and some indigenous communities use that as an antidote against the sap of the rengas tree that can cause an adverse reaction if touched.

Chinese Motherwort

Source: Crimson Sage Nursery

This herb, better known as kacangma by Sarawakians, is also listed as one of the 50 most fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is mostly used by mothers after childbirth. Its Chinese name is even yi mu cao, which means “beneficial herb for mothers”.

Chinese motherwort is a herb not commonly sold in other parts of the world, or even in Malaysia! You can only get it at Chinese herbalist stores in Sarawak, or by growing your own. However, a word of caution! The leaves of this plant look like marijuana leaves, so you might need to do a bit of explaining if the authorities catch you with it!

Source: HashtagEn

Technically, the Chinese motherwort on its own, is not widely used in Sarawak. However, we think it deserves a mention as this herb is used to cook “motherwort chicken”, which is a uniquely Sarawakian dish prepared by the Hakka Chinese community. It is a common (and tasty!) confinement dish for women after childbirth. In fact, tastes so good, that people eat it even if they’re not new mothers!

Honourable mention

Source: Langit Collective

Pepper is probably the most famous spice in the world, enjoyed by everyone everywhere!

Many people might know that Malaysia is one of the top 5 pepper-producing nations in the world. But did you know that Sarawak produces 95% of Malaysia’s pepper?

In fact, our pepper is said by aficionados to be the best in the world. You can believe us because our pepper has even been awarded the Protected Geographical Indication* status (PGI). This is why we believe it deserves an honourable mention!

*Geographical Indications (GIs) are goods with special characteristics or with a certain prestige due to their geographical origin.

Source: Serious Eats

Pepper is not only a tasty addition to any food. In fact, it is one of the main ingredients in our famous Sarawak laksa! Pepper is also a powerful antioxidant that helps expel wind from the body and improves blood circulation. It also can prevent tooth decay and helps to cool down the body by inducing sweating!

If you’ve ever seen people spreading pepper on meat, that’s because its antibacterial qualities make it a good preservative. It also stimulates the appetite and has been used to treat people with eating disorders. It’s been said that strong black pepper and mint tea will help bring up unwanted mucus and phlegm, clearing the chest! Nice!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to some of the medicinal plants in our jungles. If you do visit Sarawak and go foraging for any of the above, we recommend to take a guide with you and please remember the jungle has a unique and very delicate ecosystem that must be respected. If you take care of nature, she’ll take care of you!

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The Natural History of Sarawak and Alfred Russel WallaceThe Natural History of Sarawak and Alfred Russel Wallace

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Malaysia Travel Guide

Serikin Town Border Market

Serikin Town Border Market

Serikin Town Border MarketHaving been around for almost 20 years, the Serikin town border market is truly one of Kuching’s local hidden gems. My first visit here was back in 2010 and as a local, I was quite surprised that a market of this calibre existed just our of Kuching city.

A recent trip back to the Serikin Border Market in October 2017 was even more exciting as I had looked forward to coming back once again, to see if there had been any changes, and to my surprise, there were. The market grew larger, in terms of more vendors.

If you did not already know, the Serikin Border Market is mainly operated by the locals of Kalimantan, from across the border and also the local Sarawakians. Items sold are mainly catered to the local Sarawakians and the occasional tourist from Malaysia.

Serikin Town Border Market

The Serikin border market can get really hot in the afternoons

This rustic and very localized market caters mainly to the local Sarawakians, where products are brought in from Indonesia and sold at the border market which stretches about a kilometer long. From Kuching, it takes about one and a half hours drive through some of the local villages and towns.

What can you find here? Generally, a good combination of household items ranging from kitchen utensils, comforters, curtains and rattan furniture is spotted all over the market. Apparels for kids, men and women are also in abundance, but do not expect high street fashion.

Serikin Town Border Market

Some of the home decorations available at the border market

A number of Muslim religious prayer items are also sold by some while the local traditional medicine men can also be spotted selling some oils and cream. Costume jewellery for the budget savvy consumer can also be found here. A couple of stalls were seen selling local traditional Dayak handicraft and accessories.

Serikin is a border town that is located very close to the earth’s equator, hence over here, it can be extremely hot and humid. When I was walking here, I felt as if I was in an open air sauna, perspiring every step of the way. I would advise for visitors here to bring an umbrella and drink lots of water to avoid being dehydrated.

Serikin Town Border Market

Dayak and some other ethnic clothing and accessories being sold here

For the international tourist, this place is worth a visit if you love all things markets, probably just to walk around and see how a border market operates. Who knows as you may even pick up a souvenir or two here.

Best is to go early, before the mid day sun or late in the evenings before they close around six. There are some tour companies that offer local tours here, but I would recommend you rent a car and self drive here as it is quite easy.

Serikin Town Border Market

Rattan furniture is one of the great buys at the Serikin border market

Overall, it is an experience worth doing if you have the extra time in Kuching. You will not see the common tourist, but more locals, Singaporeans and Malaysians coming here for the great prices being offered.

Serikin border market only opens on the weekends and does get crowded especially during the school holidays and festive seasons. There are only local Indonesian restaurants found here and very casual type restaurants or coffee shops.

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Photos by David Hogan Jr

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All Malaysia Info

The vel kavadi bearers – mind over matter

Why do vel kavadi bearers feel no pain while being pierced by pointy skewers or hooks?

ONE of a extraordinary aspects about vel kavadi bearers during a Thaipusam celebrations is a miss of pain, infection and draining they experience.

The reason behind this is claimed to be a holy charcoal that is dirty on a tools of a physique that are to be pierced by a vel skewers or hooks.

This holy charcoal is stoical essentially of dusty cow’s dung, that has a prolonged story of being used as an bleach in Indian normal medicine.

Not many systematic studies have been finished on this probable engaging skill of cow dung, nonetheless a organisation of students during Perdana University’s Graduate School of Medicine in Serdang, Selangor, are now looking into it.

Assoc Prof Dr Mohanraj… Pain can be possibly feeling or emotional.

Assoc Prof Dr Andrew Mohanraj, who is one of their supervisors, does not disremember a probability that this holy charcoal is indeed, a reason – in some-more ways than one – behind a miss of pain and infection vel kavadi bearers seem to experience.

However, a psychiatrist says: “To know pain, one contingency realize that it is feeling and emotional.”

The feeling member of pain is a tangible earthy pain felt, while romantic pain is viewed pain, though any earthy stimulus.

Both components of pain are influenced in a vel kavadi bearer, as they enter a state of coma during a rite and way on Thaipusam.

Well prepared

Kavadi bearers are approaching to bear heated credentials for weeks before a tangible act.

During this basic duration – and as an act of penance, devotees customarily quick by adopting a limited vegetarian diet, rehearse celibacy, and discuss on God.

“In a process, it is my opinion that one gets some-more focused on a design of a act,” says Assoc Prof Dr Mohanraj.

“This compulsory steady overloading of a mind with a singular steady suspicion (through imagining and fasting) allows an altered state of mind where a pain threshold is elevated.”

He shares that it has been scientifically proven that a state of mind does impact a body.

“Devotees go into a state of trance, that is an altered state of alertness where they are receptive to suggestions, a condition ordinarily famous as hypnosis,” he says.

In this condition, they are open to submit by family, friends and a priests, who would be enlivening and exhorting them on.

Psychologically speaking, a concentration of a advocate on their God during a rite itself serves as a diversion from a suspicion of pain, that also formula in a obscure of a trouble or stress routinely felt when we know a pointy intent is about to be stranded into you.

“Not usually are they not wakeful while they are being pierced, though they are also not wakeful of a means of a pain, that is, a act of being pierced,” says Assoc Prof Dr Mohanraj.

The heated preparations heading adult to a carrying of a kavadi formula in an altered state of alertness that helps diminution pain, infection and draining in a devotee.

He shares that this mental diversion is a common technique used in other unpleasant situations like, for example, childbirth.

“During labour, a mom is asked to combine on her breathing. It unequivocally doesn’t have many tie with a pain, though it serves to obstruct her mind from it, ensuing in lowered notice of pain,” he explains.

The body’s response

Physically speaking, a kavadi bearer’s altered state of mind formula in a clarity of euphoria, a decreased clarity of pain and an towering defence response.

The decreased clarity of pain comes from a recover of certain hormones, that have an analgesic, or pain-numbing, outcome on a body.

Meanwhile, a towering defence response, as good as a use of a holy ash, that many expected contains bleach properties, substantially helps to forestall infection of a wounds afterward.

The blood vessels also constrict, ensuing in reduction draining when a advocate is pierced. Assoc Prof Dr Mohanraj said: “There is expected to be interstitial draining (between a tissue), that can't be seen, though probably, no apparent bleeding.”

The technique of trenchant also plays an critical partial in a miss of blood and pain experienced, he says.

“It’s not too deep, doesn’t cut into any vital arteries or veins, and doesn’t strike any nerves, that is utterly formidable as a face has a lot of critical nerves using by it.” – by Tan Shiow Chin

Thaipusam - Kavadi Procession

Thaipusam: a jubilee of faith and gratitude

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Mini Thaipusam in vital colour

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