Medicinal herbs of the Dao people

(VOVWORLD) -The knowledge of traditional therapeutic medicine was developed in Vietnam thousands of years ago, along with experience gained in using natural resources for survival. In spite of the progress of modern medicine, traditional treatments using traditional medicinal plants are often preferred in Vietnam. VOV’s Sunday show introduces medicinal herbs of ethnic people in Vietnam’s northern mountain region.

The Dao in Hoanh Bo district, Quang Ninh province, are famous for medicinal herb remedies, particularly herbal baths to cure and prevent diseases. Since they were born, they are intimately attached to the jungles and high mountains. The forests are as their houses. From the forests, they glean food, clothes, and medicinal herbs.

Medicinal herbs of the Dao people - ảnh 1 A Dao woman picks medicinal leaves.

Ban Sinh Quan, a 70 year old man in Tan Oc 2, says the Dao’s ancestors handed down remedies to use the forest leaves in the preparation of medicinal drinks, water to bathe in, and to create topical balms for pain relief.

Each physician is capable of using from 50 to 200 herbs to cure common diseases or minor wounds. They often use indigo to cure dermatitis, bites by insects and snakes, detoxification and high temperature. Turmeric is a main ingredient for treating stomachache and is a healthy medicine for postnatal conditions or abortion. A kind of chili can help stop colic or flu. Flax is used in combination with sagebrush to ease tense muscles, to treat whooping cough, constipation and also to produce a type of skin care medicament.

Medicinal herbs of the Dao people - ảnh 2 People prepare medicinal leaves and roots.

Quan said: “Herbal baths help improve health, blood circulation, blood quality and help protect a person from catching a cold. The remedies have been handed down from time immemorial. It’s difficult to collect the plants because they grow in less trafficked areas of the forests.”

In the 1990s, there were no convenient roads from hamlets to hospitals. Everything from the common cold to bone, skin and joint diseases and recovery from illnesses, depended on medicinal herbs in the forest. After giving birth, Dao women always have an herbal bath. After one week of herbal baths, she will be well enough to do farm work. Newborn babies have herbal baths to prevent skin diseases such as heat rash and pimples. Their growth will be akin to that of the plants in the forests.

Plants grow wildly in forests. But each physician has his or her own secrets to combine and process leaves, roots, branches, and fruits. They know where the plants grow at all corners of the forests or along the snaking brooks like the back of their hand. The secrets are handed down within the family.

Medicinal herbs of the Dao people - ảnh 3 Herbal bath of the Dao

Linh Du Hương followed his grandparents and parents to the forests to pick medicinal herbs since he was very small. While others bring herbal remedies to sell in other provinces, he found himself turning his group’s specialty into a commercial product. "I’ve sold herbal medicines for many years. They are truly effective. I want to expand herbal plantation and production of the Dao’s medicinal herbs.”

He found an opportunity when Quang Ninh province began new rural development in July, 2015. Linh Du Huong established the Que Son Cooperative to produce traditional bath herbs of the Dao. The Cooperative received government funding for half of its initial investment of 1.6 billion VND in the form of a workshop machines, and technology. The workshop was built in the forest and the cooperative bought wholesale medicinal plants from ethnic people. Besides other remedies, herbal bath of the Dao in Hoanh Bo district is now a popular product among tourists and a product in Quang Ninh province’s “One Commune, One Product” program. 

"After production, we are facing marketing problems. We are farmers and don’t have experience and money to introduce our products to potential customers. Our products haven’t been widely known.” Huong said.

Medicinal herbs of the Dao people - ảnh 4 Linh Du Huong in the warehouse of Que Son Cooperative.

Dang Huu Linh, Vice Chairman of Dong Son communal People’s Committee said the commune has helped Dao people to sell their products and preserve natural plants. In recent years, medicinal plants growth has reduced as they’ve gone further afield. Dong Son commune has encouraged people to pick leaves and branches, not roots and small plants. They have also grown a number of varieties in domestic garden settings.

Dang Huu Linh said:  “We’ll expand the growing area of medicinal herbs and production in the district. We have clubs for senior physicians to teach young people about herb cultivation. 10 households have been financed to grow medical herbs. We expect to generate stable income for the households to escape poverty and contribute to the local economy.”

The local administration has helped Que Son Cooperative to market the Dao’s herbal bath to tourists in Ha Long City and adjacent areas. A medicinal herb farm will be built in Quang Ninh province to turn herbal remedies into a commercial product while preserving the cumulative knowledge passed down through tradition.

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