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Perlis Herbal Forest The Genetic Bank For Medicinal Herb
This is the first of the two-part series on the eco- tourism attraction provided by herbs and the facilities available at the Perlis Herbal Forest.
KANGAR (Bernama) -- Perlis, the smallest state located at the northern end of the Malaysian Peninsula, boasts for many herbaceous plants with one of them being a unique orchid known as 'Sehelai Setahun' that can be easily found in many places.
Interestingly, the orchid's name that literally means one leaf per year in Malay, produces only one leaf during the rainy season and the leaf whithers and drops off during the hot spell and the cycle continues with the changing of seasons, hence its name.
"The plant's bulb is nutritious and helps improve blood circulation, improves libido and is said to cure the sty in the eyelid if the bulb is eaten raw," said the Perlis Herbal Forest Keeper Hashim Saad, 56, when this writer and friends paid a visit to the place recently.
He pointed at a type of shrub called Sabah Snake Grass or the 'belalai gajah' in Malay, and handed a few of the leaves for the visitors to taste.
The leaves were tasteless but were said rich in anti-oxidant elements and would help ensure healthy body cells and prevent cancer if it is eaten raw regularly.
Afters, Hashim shared a remedy to overcome rheumatic pain of the joints and and nerves often associated with aging through the elements found in the pandanus leaves.
"Many are aware of the goodness of the pandanus leaves boiled in water to strengthen the nerve system but the virtues of the pandanus roots are less talked about.
"Boil a handful of pandanus roots with sugar in a clay vessel, thicken it and drink it twice a day, God willing this will help to reduce joint pains", he explained while taking the group to explore the herbal world within the man made jungle.
And there were hundreds more herbs valuable to mankind available in this herbal jungle, said the keeper who was politely addressed as Pak Hashim.
A LIVING HERBAL COLLECTION
The 12-hectare herbal jungle, located within Sungai Batu Pahat near the Bukit Ayer Recreational Forest, was started in 1998 to showcase herbal plants that has been used by the locals for many generations.
In a nutshell, the Perlis Herbal Forest is a planned forest established to educate the public who want to know on how to use the rich resources of local jungles.
"This place functions as a living 'ethnobotany' museum and herbal genetic bank of the herbs that thrive in this country," explained Pak Hashim adding that the jungle park started with 400 herbal species.
Apart from the wild plants found in Perlis, there are also exotic medicinal herbs introduced in the country long ago, making the number of herb species to 1,200.
Among the more well known and commercialised herbal species that can be seen at the park is the Tongkat Ali, Kacip Fatimah, Cekor and Mengkudu.
Many of the plants found here are also planted around the house due to their medicinal value. Among them are hibiscus, wild sage (bunga tahi ayam), melastoma (senduduk), Siam Weed (pokok kapal terbang), betel leaves (sireh) and coriander (kesom).
A KNOWLEDGE STATE
In line of the efforts to present Perlis as a state for knowledge, Perlis Herbal Forest is opened daily for visitors with a token entrance fee of RM1.00 for adults and 50 cents for students.
"We often receive visits by student groups who want to learn more on the hundreds of plant species with the help of the staff here who also serve as the guide", added Pak Hashim.
Apart from learning, the park also welcomes visitors to enjoy greenery and the fresh air throughout the jungle track known as Denai Razali through relaxing activities with family including jogging.
There have been times when nearby villagers had approached Pak Hashim to acquire certain type of herbs, for example to treat broken bones.
"We encourage visitors to see, touch and feel the herbs here without damaging the plants", said Pak Hasyim while entertaining the group with the 'Misai Kucing' herbal drink prepared by the employees of Rimba Herba.
A COMPLETE HERBAL WORLD
Apart from the learning jungle track, the Herbal Forest has a captivating orchid garden complete with colourful orchids, park benches, gazebo and a place to dip one's feet in herbal oil.
The other facilities include the centre to dry Misai Kucing, briefing area, information centre, a souvenir and herbal product selling kiosk and herbal sauna.
In the efforts to diversify the eco-tourism activities in Perlis, the Perlis Forestry Department has developed a new product close by to Herba Forest - Traditional Treatment Herb Spa.
Though it is not fully in service, the spa has several sauna, Jacuzzi and traditional massage facilities. Also in the cards, is a restaurant that serves herb based foods.
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