Forests store an abundance of highly valuable resources to humans, many of which are yet to be discovered. On Juq Kehje Swen Island in East Kalimantan, our monitoring team has stumbled across something that has numerous benefits for humans. What could it be?
Located about 10 kilometres from the Kehje Sewen Forest, Juq Kehje Swen is a forested island covering an area of 82.84 hectares. We use this island to accommodate orangutans undergoing the pre-release stage of rehabilitation. There are currently two orangutans in Juq Kehje Swen: Desi and Kimi. Desi completed all levels of Forest School at Samboja Lestari and is now honing her skills, while Kimi is a wild orangutan living in the island’s forest.
Our monitoring team at Juq Kehje Swen Island observes these two orangutans and regularly conducts phenological surveys to collect plant data and record development. Recently, they noted a hidden treasure – a medicinal plant species with extraordinary benefits called Senna Alata, known locally as Ketepeng Cina.
This plant is found along the banks of the Wahau River, but we suspect it is present in more places. According to multiple sources, the leaves of the Ketepeng Cina have extraordinary and diverse medical benefits. They can be used as a laxative, anthelmintic (antiparasitic), antifungal, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and hepatoprotective (preventing liver damage).
These diverse properties are thought to be due to the various chemicals and components found in fresh Ketepeng Cina, including tannins, phenolics, cinnamic acid, saponins, alkaloids, flavonoids, quinones, and anthraquinone glycosides.
There are still many studies being conducted to identify the full list of benefits this wild plant can offer to humans. However, local people have long used it to treat itchy skin, malaria, and sprue. For example, the older generation in Kalimantan knows how to warm a few leaves and then grind them into a paste to treat itchy skin. For internal diseases or sprue, elders boil the leaves, drink the remaining water, or gargle it.
The various medicinal benefits of this plant show us that forests can be filled with treasures. Therefore, we must not overlook preserving our forests and all biodiversity within them!