The Fragrant Premna is a small tree or shrub which can flower at 3 or 4 metres high, but which can grow to heights of 8 metres. It is a member of the mint or Lamiaceae family, or the Verbenaceae family. This being so it is related to marjoram, basil, Holy basil, oregano, savory, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, bugle, motherwort, self-heal, wall germander, cat nip, the Chaste tree, ground ivy, Jupiter’s sage and hyssop and a whole host of other plants. As one of the verbenas it is allied with vervain (Verbena officinalis) and lemon verbena.
  This tree or shrub is native to the Philippines, where it is used for a number of ailments in folk medicine. It has aromatic leaves which are fragrant when crushed, thus giving rise to the Latin name odorata, meaning fragrant. Its flowers, which are a green-white, grow in clusters as do those of the elder tree and its dark purple berries are also reminiscent of those of the elder.
  A decoction of the leaves mixed with sugar or honey and lemon juice is drunk for coughs, while a decoction of the fresh leaves is used for vaginal irritation. The fresh leaves, applied over the bladder area promote urination it is believed. An infusion of these is given for flatulence, and when children have tympanites (a swollen abdomen due to gas or air in the abdomen or the peritoneal cavities) the leaves are mixed with coconut or sesame oil and this lotion is applied to the swollen area. A decoction of the leaves and flowers is given to remedy fever, stomach pains and dysentery, while a decoction of the roots, leaves, flowers and fruit is given for chest complaints such as coughs and bronchitis.
  When the leaves are boiled in water, the liquid is used to bathe babies, and the boiled leaves are also applied externally for beriberi which is a deficiency of thiamin (vitamin B1). A decoction of the young shoots kills parasites too, and it is believed that if you chew the root and then swallow the resulting saliva, this is good for heart problems.
  Clinical trials have shown that extracts from the plant have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties (Lunesa C.Pinzon et al. “Isolation and characterization of antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive flavones of Premna odorata Blanco” Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, Vol.5 (13) pp2729-2735, 4th July 2011). It has potential in cancer treatment too but the study concludes with the sentiment that more research is needed to ascertain how the tree and its extracts can be used for the benefit of patients.

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