Traditional Malay Medicine

The traditional Malay medicine practised in Malaysia has been influenced over the centuries by Indonesians, West Asians (especially Arabs) and Indians. The knowledge of treatment methods was imparted orally from generation to generation. In the case of specific skills, only selected pupils, who were trusted by the practitioner, would be taught. Therefore, without documentation, that knowledge would be lost forever.  Traditional Malay healers comprise the `bomoh’, `tukang urut’ (masseur), `tok mudin’ (circumcision specialist) and `bidan’ (midwife) (Haliza, 1988). Some of the local medicinal plants normally used by Malay practitioners are shown in Table 4 (Latiff, 1985a, 1985b).


Table 4. Some local medicinal plants used by Malay practitioner

Scientific name and local nameUses
Goniothalamus macrophyllus (selayak hitam) Used as an arbortifacient in Kedah
Andrographis paniculata (hempedu bumi) Used as poultice for muscular spasm, and as agent for anti-diarrhoea, lowering blood sugar, laryngitis and diabetes
Eurycoma longifolia (tongkat ali) Used as an aphrodisiac
Brucea javanica (lada pahit) Used to treat diarrhoea.

Source: Latiff (1985a, 1985b)

Eight common medicinal plant species are used as major ingredients in local herbal products in Malaysia (Azizol & Rasadah, 1998): tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia), kacip fatimah (Labisia pumila), pegaga (Centella asiatica), teja lawang (Cinnamomum spp), temu lawak (Curcuma xanthorriza), akar cerita (Andrographis paniculata), mengkudu (Morinda citrifolia) and cekur (Kaempferia galanga). Other species with high utilization potential are jerangau (Acorus calamus), misai kucing (Orthosiphon aristatus), gelam (Melaleuca cajaputi), lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), lempoyang pahit (Zinziber zerumbet), setawar (Costus speciosus) and kecubung (Datura metel) (Latiff, 1997).