Tours now available for S'pore's first 'Healing Garden'

PHOTO: Tours now available for S'pore's first 'Healing Garden'

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Botanic Gardens' Healing Garden, which has a collection of 500 healing plants, will be holding its first public tour on March 3.

Subsequent tours will take place from 9am and 10am on the first Saturday of each month. The Botanic Gardens is open from 5am to 7.30pm daily.

Designed in the shape of a human body, the 2.5 hectare garden - the largest such garden in the region - is laid out thematically relating to parts of the body such as the head and neck, and the digestive systems.

The garden's extensive collection of plants were gathered from all over South-East Asia, and took three years to set up.

It was launched in October last year by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Dr Nigel Taylor, the director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, hopes that visitors will become more aware of the "fast-forgotten knowledge" of the use common plants in traditional medicinal.

For interested visitors who are interested in going after tour hours, an iPhone application is available for download describing the various plants found in the garden.

Read on to see the highlights in store and the traditional healing qualities of some of the plants.

Respiratory & circulatory systems

 Catharanthus roseus

Kamunting China, periwinkle

Native to Madagascar, cultivated around the world ornamentally.

Leaves are traditionally used to treat diabetes and rheumatism. In modern medicine, extracts from the plant are used with chemotheraphy to treat cancer.

Clitoria ternateaBlue pea, mussel shell

Widely used in India, the leaves are good for pimples, pustules and snake bites.

A decoction of the root bark relieves irritation of the bladder and urethra. Owing to its shape, it was traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and to cure sexual ailments. 

Morinda citrifoliaNoni

A species originating mostly from New Guniea and Borneo, it is used as a herb in traditional Japanese, Chinese and Korean medicine.

The over-ripe fruit stimulates menstruation. It is also used for diabetes and dysentery.



Head, neck, ear, nose & throat

Sansevieria trifasciataMother-in-law’s tongueA herbaceous tropical plant originating from Africa, it is used commonly as a house plant but it has many medicinal properties. The leaves are used to treat shingles. The juice extract of fresh leaves is used to treat pharyngitis and hoarseness of the throat. 

Bixa orellanaAchuette

Originated from Americas and introduced by the Spaniards to Asia centuries ago. The pulp surrounding the seeds has many medicinal uses including treatment of tumours.

The twigs are used to treat liver disorders. Roots are used to treat fevers.

Pogostemon cablinPatchouli

A bushy herb from the mint family. In Japan and Malaysia, it is used as antidote for venomous snake bites.

The scent from it is used for perfume and incense. Chinese medicine uses the herb to treat headcaches, colds, nausea, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Alternative pharmacy uses it as a source for aromatherapy oil.


Digestive system

Hibiscus sabdariffa RoselleKnown as Asam Susur in Malaysia, the plant has antihypertensive properties.Used in folk medicine across the region as a mild laxative. Good for people who have water retention problems.In Myanmar, the leaves are eaten as vegetables. In Thailand, the leaves are drunk as tea.  

Sesbania grandiflora Agati, katurai

Also called hummingbird tree, the leaf is used to remove intestinal worms. In herbal medicine, one drop of leaf juice is used as nasal drops to cure fever, sinusitis and headache.

Myristica fragrans Nutmeg

Indigenous to Banda Island, Indonesia, nutmeg seed is used to treat digestive disorders such as bloating, cramps and diarrhoea.

Used to flavour many dishes, the essential oil maybe hallucinogenic.

Cissus quadrangularisDevil's backbone

Found in India, Africa and South-east Asia, it is used in Ayurvedic classical medicine to heal broken bones.

It is also used in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, irregular menstruation, indigestion, piles, worms and venereal diseases.


Reproductive system

Cardiospermum halicacabumBalloon vineAlso called love in a puff, it is a weed often found along roads and rivers. The roots promote urination, increase sweating, reduce fever and induce vomiting. The roots are also used against bladder and urinary tract diseases.


Labisia pumilaKacip Fatimah

Called the tongkat ali for women, the leaves are traditionally used as tea by women with loss of libido. Used by many generations of women to induce and facilitate childbirth. In Borneo, it is used to strengthen reproductive muscles after childbirth.

Muscles, skin & skeleton

Andrographis paniculataKing of bitter

Native to India and Sri Lanka, it is used to treat common cold and flu.

Paste of the fresh plant can be applied to the scalp to kill head lice.

Sap from crushed leaves is used for treatment of itchy skin eruptions. Also used as a poultice on swollen feet.

Moringa oleifera


Also known as the miracle tree as every part of it can be used. An infusion of roots is used to treat gout and rheumatism. The leaves are rich in vitamins and are used in the treatment of scurvy. The fruit is used to treat diseases of the liver.


Lawsonia inermisHenna

A flowering plant used to dye skin and hair as well as to temporarily tattoo the body since the earliest of times, it is commercially cultivated in many countries.

Henna leaves are effective in the treatment of rheumatic joints, skin swelling and leprosy.



Toxic plants

Cerbera odollamPongpongAlso called suicide tree, it is common in Singapore parks and roadsides.Ingestion of its poisonous seeds causes vomiting, purging and death. The bark is used to expel ringworms.


Gloriosa superbaClimbing lily

Also known as tiger’s claws, it is found in Asia and Africa and is a popular landscaping plant.

Its tuber, which resembles yam, is the most poisonous part and may be fatal if eaten.

Antiaris toxicariaBark cloth tree

Hainanese islanders refer to the tree as the poison arrow tree.

Its sap is so lethal it was used on arrowheads for warfare. In Java, the leaves and roots are used to treat mental illness.