KUALA LUMPUR, 4 November 2020 – For generations, Malaysians have been using various traditional herbs in their lives. For a long time, mothers in confinement have been provided with various natural herbs to restore the vitality of their health after giving birth.
Among the significant herbs taken by Malay mothers are manjakani, ketam uri, ubat periuk and kacip Fatimah. But, are these herbs safe for consumption?
UCSI University researchers, Assistant Professor Dr Eugenie Tan Sin Sing and Assistant Professor Dr Normina Ahmad Bustami conducted a study on “The Consumption of Manjakani During Pregnancy and Confinement among Mothers in Malaysia” to explore this issue.
According to Dr Eugenie, the research was conducted among Malay women in Kuala Lumpur who consumed manjakani during their pregnancy and confinement for 100 days.
“Most Malaysians mothers consume herbs. Based on our research, 60 per cent of mothers who are pregnant and in confinement used traditional herbs. Our research focused on manjakani and 26.6 per cent of participating mothers used manjakani. Some mothers consumed more than one herb,” she said after conducting the analysis at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) UNIPEQ’s laboratory.
She added that herbs originating from natural tree roots or tree branches contain heavy metals. However, its concentration can be relatively low.
“We found that there is no calculated risk for adverse health effects among the manjakani users during pregnancy and confinement. This could be due to the short period of consumption; typically a few months resulting in relatively low health risks,” she said.
She also highlighted that based on the research, consumption of traditional herbs during pregnancy and confinement is not related to development of jaundice in babies.
“As to date, our research indicates that there is no association between the consumption of manjakani herb and jaundice among babies. When we compared mothers who consumed the manjakani herb with mothers who don’t consume herbs, the differences were not significant.
“We also found out that there were no associations with other health concerns such as underweight babies or babies with smaller head circumference.
“However, pregnant mothers should be more cautious about their diet during pregnancy and confinement. Professional advice should be sought before consuming any supplements or herbal remedies,” she said.
Additionally, research is uncertain about possible long term health risk that could arise if consumption of herbs persists after the confinement period.
“More research needs to be conducted on effects of long term consumption taking into consideration factors such as duration of consumption, varieties of herbal remedies in diet and types of herbs consumed. As for this study, it focuses on consumption of manjakani during pregnancy and confinement.
“If a mother consumes more than one herb, its risk for adverse health effects will also increase as heavy metals were quanitified in other commonly consumed herbs such as manjakani, kacip Fatimah and others. Longer period of consumption will lead to prolong exposure to heavy metals. This is alarming as heavy metals toxicity can accumulate in one’s body” she said.
She also advises all mothers who want to consume herbs to ensure that the herbs are registered with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), or formerly known as the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (NPCB).