I Almost Fell Over Backwards…

Dear Health-Conscious Reader,

“This is a cananga flower…” Westi picked one off of the small tree behind his shop.

“That looks like ilang-ilang (ylang-ylang).”

“Yes. It is from the same tree family. Smell… it’s very fragrant.”

I took some of the yellowish green petals from Westi. “That’s beautiful.”

“The ilang-ilang tree is very tall. Cananga is small, so I can have one here by the shop. Lelir will use the flower to make Jamu.”

Jamu is the name for the ancient group of natural cures and medicines they use in Bali.

The Balinese don’t like pharmaceuticals, and don’t really trust Western-type medicine. So they come to my new friends’ Lelir’s and Westi’s shop in the town of Ubud to get herbal cures instead.

“There are only a few flowers on this cananga tree. Where do you get the rest?” I asked.

“Down there we have a big ilang-ilang. You want to see?”


“Come on,” Westi said, and he took off around the corner and through the courtyard into their “back yard.”

I ducked through the dense shrubs and came out in a clearing…

His home is built on top of a steep hill. And in back, all over the hillside, grow trees and plants you can’t even imagine.

There was a giant ilang-ilang tree, with its soft, aromatic flowers that smell so good their oil is the base for the famous Chanel No. 5 perfume.

My friend Westi’s herb garden
on the tropical island of Bali.

There were cacao trees full of cocoa beans, jackfruit trees with their giant watermelon-sized fruit hanging on the trunk, and teakwood. Teak is expensive, and used for some of the finest woodworking in the world, and here were dozens of the trees just scattered everywhere.

Westi also has a durian tree, the tallest fruit tree I think I’ve ever seen. It’s kind of a weird tree because the flowers bloom at night, so bats pollinate them. It was so huge I almost fell over backwards with my video camera trying to get it all in the shot.

Westi’s very knowledgeable about the trees and their leaves, and about the herbs he grows, too.

He’s also very motivated to use his modern knowledge along with traditional teachings. He’s taken it upon himself to show people the traditional, sustainable ways of farming the small amount of land they have in Bali.

Westi talks about this a lot. It’s how he views what he wants to accomplish with his education and the land he inherited from his father.

He wants to build a healing resort. A place where people can come and learn about the traditional ways, but also be able to get Jamu, which includes herbal massages and formulas.

He gives tours he calls “herbal walks” around the area near his home in Ubud. He shows tourists and others the different roots and plants he and his wife Lelir use to make the health products in their shop.

I wrote to you about the tour he gave me. Westi and Lelir took me to his private garden on his father’s land, and showed me dozens more plants they use to make their health and beauty products.

In fact, I’m in the middle of writing a new book on these plants called Healing Herbs of Bali. I’m working on it with Westi. We’re going to bring you the stories of how Westi and his family began growing the herbs and plants, how Lelir and her family have used the herbs for generations, and how you can use them too.

We’ll also be growing even more herbs in his garden, and testing them in Lelir’s shop so that you’ll have access to unique healing formulas that you can’t get anywhere else.

I’ll be bringing my new book and the herbal formulas to you soon, but let me give you a sneak peek at three of these unique healing plants:

Baluntas: Balians use the fresh leaves and bulbs from this small shrub to help relieve digestive problems. It can also eliminate body odor, and reduce back pain.

The leaves and roots have the flavonoid rutin, which is anti-inflammatory. The root extract is also a strong antioxidant1 and improves circulation.

In Bali, they use the entire plant, and often make tea with it. You can buy dried baluntas (also called pluchea indica) at herbal stores, or online at places like beautiquethai.com or raksaherbs.com.

If you would like to grow baluntas, you can search for sellers at myfolia.com/plants. Remember that the shrub needs lot of sunshine and a dry area to grow properly.

Bunga Sungsang: This plant is becoming rare, so we’re eager to start growing it in Westi’s garden. It’s also called flame lily because they have these incredible reddish yellow flowers that look like giant tongues of fire.

The different parts of the plant can be used to improve the appearance of your skin and get rid of many skin problems including eczema and rashes.

You can buy bunga sungsang (also called gloriosa superba) seeds online at tmseeds.com, and davesgarden.com has a listing of the few retailers that sell the plant.

Lamtoro: The seeds of this tree are like a superfood. They have 10% protein, and a mix of glucose, sucrose and fructose, so eating them for energy is a good idea. They’re also used to treat diabetes and they’re full of vitamins A, B1, C and calcium.

Lamtoro can only survive in tropical climates, so it’s best to buy the seeds instead of growing a tree. You can get “miracle tree” seeds at seedwonder.com or b-and-t-world-seeds.com.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

1 Sen, T., Dhara, A.K., Bhattacharjee, S., et al, “Antioxidant activity of the methanol fraction of Pluchea indica root extract,” Phytother. Res. June 2002;16(4):331-5