Even with modern forms of conventional medication available in the masses, Bruneians are still considering complementary and alternative medicine and therapy as options for health maintenance, prevention or treatment of ailments among others.
This is evident through the presence of local businesses like Laila's Leech Spa Healthcare Centre which has been around for four years. Located in Kampung Menglait, this healthcare centre offers leeches to support an alternative form of medication. It is the first licensed leech therapy spa in Brunei.
Entering the doors of Laila's Leech Spa Healthcare Centre, one is comforted with the cleanliness and fine aroma of the place together with the friendly nature of the owner, Masri Shahri Abdul Wahid who is the husband of the founder, Nuraini Hassanuddin Masri.
"Leech therapy is an alternative form of medication, we are doing well but not in the sense of making money. It has become a way to help people cure or manage their medical problems," said Masri in an interview with The Brunei Times.
According to Masri, leech therapyis mainly used to dispose of contaminated blood formed in the human system through diet and sickness.
"It is an effective alternative as it is one way of getting bad blood out of your system. The leech injects enzymes, dilutes your blood and sucks the bad blood out," said Masri.
Over the four years, Masri's leech spa have been able to cater to clients suffering from migraine, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, rheumatism, period pain, stroke, bruises and slip discs.
"The response from the public has been good," said Masri.
Clients also sought their beauty therapy treatments. Masri dubs it as their kind of "botox" treatments, but with a more natural approach to beauty care. The botox leech beauty therapy can cure acne, remove flak and wrinkles as well as tighten the skin face.
"We cannot offer what the medical people can, but this is an alternative," said Masri.
Today, leech therapy has received several criticisms. Cases have surfaced where the leeches are recycled, allowing the same leech to be used for different clients thus posing risks such as the spread of diseases.
Masri assures that at Laila's Leech Spa Healthcare Centre, no such concerns can arise.
"Our leeches are clean and bred in medicated water and feed on eel which contains Omega 3. We do not recycle the leeches and we dispose of them right in front of our clients," said Masri who keeps a leech farm.
Masri and his wife, Nuraini have attended seminar and workshops overseas to keep up to date with best practices in leech therapy.
"We have a lot of clients. Today the society is more confident and open to try other forms of treatments," said Masri.
Masri and his wife believe leech therapy provides a way in offering medical solutions and spreading new knowledge.
"We do not want to monopolise this form of therapy so we are willing to share the knowledge, especially to anyone who wants to get into this kind of business," said Masri.
Traditional health supplements or Jamu is another form of medicinal alternative among Bruneians. Most especially since it roots back to the Malay tradition of healthcare hundreds of years ago.
"The use of Jamu comes from the past. The recipe was passed down to me from my grandmother, who in turn received it from her grandmother. These herbal medicines would be used to cure all types of sickness in the past," said Hjh Zaliha Hj Minudin.
Hjh Zaliha is the owner of a cottage industry business, selling traditional Brunei jamu, Syarikat Dyg Hjh Zaliha & Anak-Anak.
Sixty-year-old Hjh Zaliha has been in business since she was 26 years old specialising in herbal medicines for women.
"According to old folks tale when a woman gives birth, she experiences 40 nerves being cut off. Such herbs heals the women after birth to maintain a healthy married life," said Hjh Zaliha.
In business for over 30 years, Hjh Zaliha is now offering 17 different products ranging from herbal pills and herbal massaging oil. Hjh Zaliha's Jamus and herbal oil are made 100 per cent out of natural products, made locally with a strict adherence to cleanliness.
"You do get jamus from Indonesia and Malaysia sold in stores however the reasons it last long is because it is made with additives, our products are purely natural," said Hjh Zaliha.
Hjh Zaliha's business is operated within the family where it recently received government support, indicating support for local demand and supply of Jamus.