A study demonstrating that Narra tree extracts are a leading source of antioxidants that prevent various illnesses, including diabetes, is a significant advancement that should be pursued with government assistance.

“This is a great development in our medical industry, which must be pursued vigorously with the help of the government,” Melandrew T. Velasco, president and executive director of the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MTFI), said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Tuesday.

Narra (Pterocarpus indicus), the country’s national tree, is known for its hardwood used for cabinetwork. Little is known about its 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,” Velasco said. “Different parts of the Narra tree have medicinal uses, such as the 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.”

He noted a study conducted by the De La Salle University-Dasmariñas College of Pharmacy that the Narra tree’s branch and bark contain the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scores in the country, and among the top 10 of the US Department of Agriculture List of the top 326 food items with antioxidants in the world.

Velasco said the ORAC score is the unit of measure of antioxidants, which is the body’s natural defense against harmful compounds that are linked to multiple illnesses.

This was contained in the De La Salle-Medical and Health Sciences Institute’s Narra Extract Research Report, which also showed the presence of pterocarpin and pterostilbene, two potent antioxidants discovered.

Velasco said a 2006 study by Pari and Satheesh on diabetic rats showed that supplementing with the antioxidant pterostilbene could improve blood sugar levels more than 10 times as effectively as metformin.

Dr. Glenn Soriano, a US-licensed medical doctor and advocate of natural medicine, said human clinical trials must be run to prove that pterostilbene from Philippine Narra extracts could treat diabetes in humans.

“However, such projects are very costly, ranging in the millions of pesos just to start, so a major sponsor like DOST (Department of Science and Technology) is needed to fund this research,” Soriano said. “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.”

Velasco said the DOST should spearhead the funding of human clinical trials.

“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,” he said.

Velasco said 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 from January to June 2022.

Over the period, deaths due to diabetes mellitus reached 16,970, with a 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,” Velasco said.

Meanwhile, he said the MTFI intends to plant 10 million trees in critical watersheds by 2030.

“The endangered Narra has been identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as one of the suitable trees for forest restoration and urban forestry in the country,” Velasco said.

“A million trees can save lives,” he said, adding that 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,” he said. (PNA)

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