Blumea balsamifera is a perennial, robust bush that grows naturally in whole Southeast Asia. It is also often cultivated for both homeuse and on commercial scale, as it is commonly used as a herbal medicine. It have a very long traditions of use in medicinal systems of China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Indonesia, The Philippines and other tropical and subtropical countries of that region. It have many health benefits and is famous for being good source of essential oil rich in borneol - compound that is similar but superior to camphor. That oil obtained from Blumea Balsamifera (by steam distillation) is called Ngai Camphor and is said to have better properties than Camphor oil obtained from Cinnamomum camphora and so its price is usually higher. But it is not rated as high as Camphor oil from Dryobalanops spp.The leaves of B. balsamifera are noted in Neatherlandish Pharmacopaeia, Pharmacopeia of India and Chinese Materia Medica, it is used both in Ayurveda and Unani.
There are several species of Blumea that have recorded medicinal use like Blumea lacera, Blumea axillaris, Blumea lanceolaria, Blumea laciniata, Blumea densiflora and it is all used in the same way as Blumea balsamifera, which is the most robust and aromatic from Blumea species. Before this plant was called Blumea balsamifera it was already known as Conyza balsamifera, it also have other synonyms like Pluchea balsamifera, Baccharis salvia, Blumea grandis, Conyza appendiculata to name just few, but all those names are now out of use.
Here are some of the most common names of Blumea balsamifera used in different countries, regions and languges: Ngai Camphor Plant, Nagi Camphor, Blumea Camphor, Camphor Plant (English), Camphrier (France), Poung-ma-theing, Phone-ma-thien, Hpone-mathein (Myanmar), Bai Mat (Cambodia), Cai dai be (Vietnam), Nat (Laos), Nat-yai (Thailand), Ai na xiang, Pen tsao (China), Chapa, Bonga Chapa (Malay), Kukundara, Kukkuradru, Kukudru, Gangaapatri (in Ayurveda, Sanskrit), Kakarondaa (in Unani medicine system), Kukronda, Kakoranda (Hindi), Bhambuda, Bhamaruda (Marathi), Kukur-soka, Kuk-sungh (Bengali), Mugongre (Assam), Sembung Utan (Sundanese), Sembung Gatnung (Javanese), Sembung, Capa (Indonesian), Sambong (Tagalog), Lakadbulan (Bikol), Alibon (Visayan), Sobsob (Ilokano).
Blumea balsamifera is perrenial, evergreen, bush, with strong erect stems and big, narrow ovate leaves (up to 40cm long). Its outlook is quite attractive, so aside its practical uses it can be planted for sheer ornamental purposes. Both leaves and young stems are all covered with short, dense, white velvety-woolly hairs, but plants that grow in lowlands are usually less velvety than those that can be found in mountains (it grow at elevations up to 2200m above sea level). Sambong can grow in both tropical or subtropical regions, it usually naturally grows on forest edges and both wet river banks and dry open spaces like grasslands, but it hardly tolerates shade, and the less sun it have the less aromatic it is. If cutted it can remain as a small shrub, but in wild, within just few years it can become even a small tree, around 4m hight and sometimes the same in width. B. balsamifera is often taking over places that are regularly burned, as it sprouts back from its roots after its overground part get burned. It can cope well with extreme heat, scourging sun and resist even long term drought, but might temporarily loose most of its leaves. Low temperatures are harmfull to Sambong, the plant will die when it drops just slightly below 0'C. Blumea balsamifera can be propagated from seeds, cuttings and threw layering. Its leaves can be picked for use any time when required, but the best time for harvesting is just before flowering. Whole stems can be also cutted, which is convenient for hanging to dry. On commercial scale leaves are gathered up to four times a year, and sometimes whole young plants are harvested.
Blumea balsamifera essential oil can be used for fumigation of storaged corn grains against maize weevil bug (Sitophilus zeamais), leaves and roots are used as a pesticide against Leaf Hoppers in rice, Spiralling Whitefly (Aleurodicus disperses), and also as a fungicide.
In the Philippines infusions from dried or chopped fresh leaves of Blumea Balsamifera are drunk as a tea substitute. I personaly prefer the one made from fresh young leaves, as it is more aromatic than the one from dried leaves, and less bitter than the one made from older fresh leaves. The leaves are also used fresh to make pungent chutney - Shaphinyaba in Assam, and both dried or fresh as a bitter aromatic spice, in the same way as Sage or Artemisias.
Essential oil destilled from Blumea balsamifera is not a popular oil when it comes to western aromatherapy, in fact it cannot be found encyclopedias of aromatherapy. Even though Camphor is mentioned here and there, it is allways Camphor oil obtained from Cinnamomum camphora, Ngai Camphor from Blumea is nowhere to be found. But B. balsamifera essential oil have been allways important substance used medicanally in many countries in Southeast Asia. It is yellow or brown-yellow in colour and have camphorous but unique pungent smell, consisting mainly on borneol and camphor (Ngai camphor consist mainly on l-borneol, but is redistilled to to obtain refined camphor for medicinal use in India.). It is gently worming, relaxing but slightly stimulating oil. It acts as bronchodilator, detoxicating, antibacterial and antifungal, heat-clearing and pain relieving, promote circulation and lower blood pressure, stimulate digestion and relief cough and insomnia. Ngai Camphor can be applied on burns, wounds (but not open ones), scars, swellings, skin diseases, painfull joints, insect bites and stings.
Blumea balsamifera have been used in traditional healing for centuries in many Southeast Asian countries, where it is now popular and importand drug in mainstream herbalism and even in orthodox medicine. Nearly every country of the region have its contribution in modern research about properties of this herb, as in recent years quite few labolatory studies on medicinal actions of Blumea have been conducted. B. balsamifera leaves in teabags are widly aviable, esspecialy in the Philippines where it is called Sambong and is one of the most popular herbal teas. It is one of the ten medicinal herbs aproved by the Philippines Departament of Health, and promoted for home selftreatment. In the broshures issued in 1992 it was written - '' Indicated primarly as diuretic. It is adviced for persons with edema (manas), high blood pressure and kidney troubles. Clinic trials showed similar effects with Furosemide.'', '' Boil 4 tablespoon of crushed dried leaves (6 tablespoon of chopped fresh leaves) in two glasses of water for at least 15 minutes. Cool, strain and divide decoction into three parts. Drink one part three times a day.''
In 1903 in book '' Materia Medica of India and Their Therapeutics '', Blumea Balsamifera was describes as '' A new substitute for quinine. It produces no head symptoms, such as ringing in the ears, deafness and temporary delirium. Given in rheumatism, sciatica, neuralgia and general malaise. In rheumatism, scarlet fever, diphtheria, &c., it is given hot until perspiration and urination are established.''
In China B. balsamifera is considerd as a herb that is worming stomach and spleen, eliminate dampness, expelling phlegm, dispelling pathogenic wind, activating blood collaterals and stopping bleeding, relieving pain and removes toxins.
Medicinal actions of Blumea balsamifera are astringent, expectorant, pectoral, stomachic, carminative, antispasmodic (but it couses contractions of muscular fibres, mucus membranes and other tissues), antioxidant, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, febrifuge, driuretic, anti-urolithiasis, antifungal, antibacterial, anthelmintic, antimutagenic, insecticide, mild stimulant, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-angiogenic, hepatoprotective, anti-hepatocelluar carcinoma (inhibit growth of liver cancer cells), antitumor, anti-plasmodial, vulnerary, postpartum remedy, reduce blood glucose level.
Decoctions and infusions made from all parts of Blumea balsamifera (but mainly leaves) are drunk to cure: colds, influenza, sinusitis, to resplve flegm and ease cough, rheumatism, arthritis, dysmenorrhoea, intestinal diseases, stomachache, cholera, indigestion, diarrhoea, dysentery, ulcers, colic, diabetes, hypertension, respiratory tract complaints, bronchitis, asthma, dropsy, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, gonorrhea, fevers, malaria, scabies, eczema, tinea, beriberi, lumbago, paralysys agitans (Parkinson's disease), headache, toothache, insomnia, worms, taeniasis, menorrhagia, leucorrhea, dysmenorrhoea, and as an antidote for scorpion stings, snake bites.
Sambong pounded leaves poultice, fresh squeezed juice or dried leaves powder is applied on skin to treat itch, ulcers, abscesses, eczema, haemorrhoids, wounds (not open ones), burns, swellings, scabies, tinea, lumbago, painful joints, arthritis, rheumatism and bone diseases. Decoctions of Blumea leaves are used for the same ailments as lotion or for wraps. Alcoholic macerations are also made for use as liniment for rheumatism.
In Indo-China smoke from burning leaves of B. balsamifera is believed to be ideal for restoring normal breathing functions. In the Philippines leaves are burnt on hot coal to generate smoke for inhaling to relief asthma, for this purpose it is sometimes combined with Euphorbia hirta. In Bangladesh B. balsamifera fumigation is used in rheumatism and headache. In Thailand cigarettes made of Sambong leaves are smoked to reliev sinusitis pain. This smoke act also as a insect repellent. Blumea leaves can also be used for makeing steam inhalations, helpfull in headache, sinusitis, respiratory problems, colds etc.
In India this herb is called Kukundara and is used as a tranquilizer in excitement and insomnia, fresh juice is squeezed from the leaves and dropped into the eyes in chronic purulent discharge. In Myanmar juice squeezed from the leaves is used as an eye-drop during malaria, and drunk in doses 20-60ml. In Bengal powdered leaves are snuffed and eaten with butter for nose disease called ''Ahwah'', which causes strong fever and back pains. In the Philippines pounded leaves are applied on foreheads to relief headache.
Blumea balsamifera is also used for making aromatic baths good for rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica and respiratory system ailments. Blumea infusions are used for baths for women in childbith, after childbirth and for soothing the skin of young children. Leaves and roots decoctions are drunk as a postpartum remedy. Leaves are also used in hot fomentation over the uterus to induce rapid involution in postpartum. Sambong is also used in treatment of postpatum joint pains. Fresh pounded leaves mixed with coconut oil are rubbed over the abdomen of children with gas pain.
Blumea balsamifera is traditionaly used as a antifertility herb, this action was proved in tests on mice, and therefore it should be avoided by pregnant women.
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Blumea balsamifera—A Phytochemical and Pharmacological Review
RP-HPLC Analysis of Quercetin in the Extract of Sambong (Blumea balsamifera (L) DC) Leaves