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The Taheebo plant has many medical properties

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I observed the locals using a plant that was unfamiliar to me, They were using various parts of the plant for treatment of different ailments as traditional medicine using the fresh foliage regularly in their diet. The leaf, stem, bark, root, and seed can be consumed through their cooking or as teas. The flowers of the plant has a soft yellow colored bud which blooms white with distinctive features. The bloom is quite spectacular and would accent any garden.


I had tried to dig the information out of my library and extensive internet search photos with no success. I member many FB groups on Philippine organic farm and gardening as well as fish farming. I decided to post a photo on a plant identification group and a member on my friends list sent me the correct name. It was a plant he remembered from his college studies in Iran. He is looking to continuing his studies to earn his doctorate in aquaponics and I hope him success.


I took his informaion and with a little more research I discovered the proper name of the species

"Orthosiphon aristatus" (balbas pusa). It is an erect, slender shrub that can grow 1-2 meters in height. The leaves are semi-deciduous, light to dark green in color and are borne in distant pairs that is about 5-10 cm long.. The stalk is reddish-brown, that is slightly puberulent. The flowers forms a pagoda like shaped with 5-6 cm long stamens that resembles a cat’s whiskers, hence the name 'balbas pusa' in Tagalog and 'cat's whisker' in English. The color of the flowers varies from white to purplish.





Pau d'Arco - Tabebuia - "Balbas Pusa", "Orthosiphon aristatus"

Tabebuia – genus (trees & shrubs) Tabebuia impetiginosa (TI) (Pau d'Arco). Medium shrub yellow bud, white ornamental flower. Originally from South America it can be commonly found from Florida to Argentina and the Philippines. Tree / scrub plant.


Tahee plant (Balbas pusa) "Orthosiphon aristatus" is also known as:

Balbas-pusa (Filipino)
Kabling-parang (Pilipino)
Yaa-nuat-maeo (Thailand)
Cat's whisker (English)
Indian kidney tea (English)
Java tea (English)
Kidney tea (English)
Mao xu cao (Chinese)

pokok misai kucing (Malay)


"Orthosiphon aristatus" is a tropical herbaceous perennial plant native to the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia. "Balbas pusa", commonly referred to as Java tea is a herb that has been used in traditional medicines for many centuries.

This variety of teheebo Is a medium to large bush with thick leaves and large white ornamental flowers produce a nectar that attracts butterflies, native bees, and honey bees. It is an ideal plant to use on properties being used for honey bee production. The leaves and inner wood is used in teas  No part of the plant is ingested so the bulk of the vegetation, stems, roots and discarded tea grounds can go directly to livestock/ fish feed or in compost piles. The shrub variety in these photos I took has a fancy white flower where as the much larger tree form variety will have large pink trumpet blooms. The white blooming plant in these pictures was taken at our farm last week. There are 100 species of Tabebuia which are divided into three separate genera. Sixty-seven species remained in Tabebuia.

The locals will sun dry the taheebo leaves and seeds then grind them together and roll into cigarettes. The fishermen smoke the cigarettes to relieve sea sickness and stomach aches. I see they use it regularly as a tea. My wife makes several natural native teas were this plant is used. One is the taheebo leaf blended with the leaves of the large lavender Crape Myrtle which also seems to have an anti-inflammatory property when ingested. The Philippines grows many other plant species that are healthy and readily available. The following link is an excellent site that list both English and Tagalog names for medical plants that grow here in the Philippines.  



In doing the reading to research the taheebo and have seen where there are claimes that it strengthens the body's immune system, and aids with cancer and tumors (HIV, cause of AIDS) anti-biotic use, steroid use. Proponents belive the plant has benefits as an anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, diuretic and hypoglycemic. The leaves used for gout and renal disorders, poultice of chewed leaves used for tooth pain. Tea is used for treatment of kidney and bladder diseases, renal inflammation, kidney flush, kidney stones, dysuria, genitourinary diseases, bladder catarrh, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney diseases, and hypertension and as diuretic.

I have seen claims that since the early 1980s that health food stores in the United States have been selling pau d’arco, promoted as a treatment for many kinds of medical complaints. In 2012, Brazil has listed the pau d’arco tree as endangered; which most likely limited the availability of the tree bark which would increase the price for the harvested bark..




The plant is toughed as a dietary supplement and as a treatment aid for arthritis, ulcers, diabetes, and cancers.


Proponents claim that when taken internally, pau d’arco promotes digestion, helps protect against cardiovascular disease, assist with high blood pressure, relieves infections, reduces inflammation, flushes toxins, and strenghten the immune system.


Proponents use various parts of the plant are utilized as treatments for lupus, osteomyelitis, Parkinson’s disease, psoriasis, and to also relieve pain.


Proponents use the boiled bark externally as a poultice or use the strained liquid as a wash to treat skin inflammations, fungal infections, hemorrhoids, eczema, and wounds. There are multiple companies making available capsules, tablets, salves, liquid extracts, powders, and teas from local health food stores and drugstores. It is from the larger tree varieties "Tabebuia avellanedae" or "Tabebuia impetiginosa" (Taheebo) tree  that they extract the inner bark.


There are other varieties that can reach medium tree size. The Taheebo fruit, bark, and lumber are harvested from the larger members of this genus




The larger varieties of this species such as "Tabebuia genus" is used for timber. The two larger tree varieties will be the subject to further research to determine over all profit harvesting from limited tree production. It is from these larger tree varieties that the bulk of the tree bark is harvested. This bark is widely used in teas and supplements. Well I hope you find this of interest and perhaps something that benefits your lives.  I have been using the tea for the last five years and like the effects on my body and I will continue to use and cultivate this plant on my own farm.


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Great info James. What does the tea taste like? Sweet, bitter, or ? 

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Great info James. What does the tea taste like? Sweet, bitter, or ? 

It has a pleasant light green tea taste that can be severed unsweetened either hot or cold and is delicious severed with honey as the sweetener. I will drink it two to four days a week. My wife makes several traditional teas and so does her family, her being Boholano, Castilian Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese means teas are a deep part of her upbringing as tea is a integral part of the her heretical culture.


I do not drink alcohol often and at my age I wish to cut out sodas to help watch my sugar and salt levels in my diet. And teas are an excellent alternative and ring a little to my own South Texas upbringing were hot and cold teas were an integral tradition.  She is at the farm right now and I am in the city but when she returns I get her to write some of her tea blends down and I will share them in a thread. I have never seen a thread done on the subject of tea on the Gardening section, but I can see were it could be a useful thread and allow tea recipes from other regions to be posted and shared. 

Edited by JamesMusslewhite
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when she returns I get her to write some of her tea blends down and I will share them in a thread


Thanks! That would be great! 

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I know that members here often look to seek the identification of a plant, bush, or tree. I mentioned in the OP that even with my library and the internet search engines it can still be difficult. When I tried to identify the Taheebo plant on our property I was lucky as I was directed to a Facebook group where a photo of a plant can be uploaded and other members can then help to identify the plant for you.


I only post this group URL as I personally have found it to be useful and there is no cost for using the group.

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