Sun, 05 Sep 1999

Nun cultivates traditional medicines

By Yacob Herin

MAUMERE, Flores (JP): Traditional medicinal plants in Indonesia have helped to a great extent the poor people who cannot afford to pay for medicine produced by pharmaceutical works.

In Kewapante village, Sikka regency, on Flores island, a three-hectare area is planted with medicinal plants under the program of Family Medicinal Plants. The area, located nine kilometers from Maumere, capital of Sikka regency, is managed by Sister Revocata SSps who employs 10 workers.

"We cultivate various kinds of plants. Then we produce various kinds of traditional medicine and sell them cheap to the people to help them cure their illnesses," said Sister Revocata.

Sister Revocata, 64, from Austria started studying the production of traditional medicine in Manggarai, Flores and in Java in 1983/1984.

"Actually, as a young girl in an Austrian village at the time of the Second World War, I worked as a nurse assisting the army. Traditional medicine was used alongside pharmaceutical products from factories," she said.

Sister Revocata came to Indonesia in 1958. She was assigned to Surabaya and then later moved to Flores where she joined the Hokeng convent. She moved further to Maumere, Lela, Mataloko, Ndora and now she lives in Kewapante village.

Sister Revocata produces medicine against liver ailments, hepatitis B, malaria, amnesia, high and low blood pressure, tuberculosis, coughs, diabetes, lung diseases and typhoid. Production also includes anti-smoking and anti-alcohol medicine.

"The medicine can cure the habit of smoking and alcohol drinking. Many inhabitants around Kewapante and Maumere have taken the medicine and have given up smoking and alcohol drinking," said Sister Revocata.

Moreover, they produce various all-purpose ointments. A medicine called minyak penenang (tranquilizing oil) is said to have the potential to cure stomach disorders, cramps, tetanus, fever, liver diseases, hardening of the spleen, itching and menstrual disorders.

"The medicine we sell is not expensive, from Rp 1,500 (about US$.20) a bottle to a maximum of Rp 15,000," said Sister Revocata.

They are also planning to cooperate with the Maumere Caritas Foundation to increase production and open a traditional medicine shop at the old market center in Maumere. Funds are yet to be found to produce the traditional medicine.

Sister Revocata's efforts run parallel with the government program in which the health minister F.A. Moeloek has persuaded the community to use the area of their yard by cultivating medicinal plants for their own use or for the market to increase their income.

"The minister hopes that the industry of pharmaceutical raw material using medicinal plants will be further developed in a concrete way, including the development of agromedicine that is able to supply the need for the needy people, and of good quality and in big quantities," said Sister Revocata.

"Accordingly we will build a center for drug manufacturing from plants, concentrating on a wide marketing orientation, both for the domestic and the export market," she said. Thus, Indonesian medicinal plants can be used to improve the community's health and can also yield foreign exchange with added value.

"Based on my experience in Indonesia and the findings of scientific research, many medicinal plants can be used to maintain health. Some of them have even shown their effectiveness in curing certain types of diseases," she said.

"All of us are therefore obliged to safeguard, cultivate and preserve traditional medicinal plants handed down by our ancestors in order that they will not vanish from Indonesian soil, especially Flores."