For centuries, traditional medical practitioners from Malaysia have used the herb called Kacip Fatimah (Labisia pumila) to treat many disorders. Many of these include conditions related to women’s health. These include pregnancy and birthing complications.
The Labisia pumila herb is a humble forest floor creeper. But it is famous in Malaysia. The plant has been used for centuries in Malaysian traditional medicine. Its documented use has included conditions relating to the reproductive system, menstruation difficulties such as cramping, vaginal infections, flatulence, constipation and lethargy. It is also known to help relieve stress and produce better moods.
Kacip’s popularity for women’s health includes its ability to stimulate contraction of the birth channel. This allows giving birth to go much smoother, possibly preventing the need for C-sections according to traditional doctors.
Other conditions that Kacip has been used to treat include dysentery, gonnorrhea, rheumatism and post-menopausal issues. Then there is its ability to inhibit Candida infections, fight bacteria infections, boost immunity, lower triglycerides and even help prevent wrinkles. Let’s discuss some of the evidence for these qualities of this super herb:
Kacip’s fights menopause and osteoporosis
One reason for Kacip’s benefits to women’s health has to do with its estrogenic properties. Researchers from Malaysia’s National University atested this estrogen factor in Kacip. They found that this estrogenic quality renders an alternative for estrogen replacement therapy (ERT or HRT).
“Labisia pumila has been widely used by the locals in Malaysia not only to ease menstrual pain, induce labor, and promote healthy sexual function but it is also used as an alternative to estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women.”
The researchers found that the herb aids in bone health. The researchers discussed the complex physiological response in the body to Kacip in their paper, concluding:
“Labisia pumila has the potential to be used as an alternative treatment for postmenopausal osteoporosis. All in all, it is the anti-inflammatory, phytoestrogenic, and antioxidative properties of LP that make it an effective natural medicine in treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.”
Labisia fights bacteria infections
Some of these abilities have been proven out in research showing Kacip’s antibacterial abilities.
Researchers from the University of Putra in Malaysia tested Kacip’s ability to fight eight species of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria.
The researchers found that the Kacip herb extract inhibited bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, B. subitilis, E. coli, B. cereus and M. luteus.
The researchers concluded:
“In this study, it was observed the leaves of three varieties of L. pumila exhibited variable patterns of fatty acids and the microwave aqueous extraction possess anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial activities.”
Kacip fights Candida
Researchers from the Univerisity Putra Malaysia determined that the traditional Malaysian herb has antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties – and the ability to inhibit Candida.
The research, led by Dr. Ehsan Karimi, a professor and leading cancer and microbiological researcher, studied the roots of three species of Labisia pumila Benth, also called Kacip Fatimah in traditional Malaysian medicine.
The researchers tested extracts from the roots and the leaves of the three species to compare their level of activity and effectiveness.
The researchers tested the heated extract against three different yeasts/molds – Candida sp., Fusarium sp. and Mucor sp. The researchers compared the herbal extract’s antifungal properties with the antifungal drug streptomycin.
Fusarium is a fungi known to produce mycotoxins among grain crops. These can affect humans in situations where the infection is rampant.
Mucor is a species of molds known to colonize within the soil, compost and rotting matter in general. While they do not readily infect humans, their endotoxins can damage food supplies.
Candida is an opportunistic yeast species known to significantly colonize in both healthy and unhealthy humans. While typically controlled by the body’s probiotics, Candida can overgrow among the oral cavity, the intestines, the skin, vagina and other body regions. In its overgrowth state, Candida can produce a myriad of unhealthy symptoms and infectious outcomes, including headaches, digestive disorders, sleep problems, anxiety and mood issues, dry mouth, blood sugar issues, metabolic issues, immunosuppression and many others.
The researchers found that both the leaf and root extracts produced “moderate to appreciable antifungal activity” against all three yeast/molds. The root extracts displayed “higher activity” compared to the leaf extracts. However, the leaf extract of the pumila variety of the herb was found to have the most inhibitory activity against the Candida yeast.
This antifungal activity was attributed by the researchers to be the result of the herb’s content of flavonoids, phenolics, saponins, “and various volatile compounds.”
At least one of the actions of mechanism found among the extracts was the ability of the herb to decrease the nitric oxide release by the yeasts. Other research has found that yeasts utilize nitrogen oxide pathways to increase their populations and infect cells and tissues.
The researchers concluded:
“These findings suggest the potential use of L. pumila Benth. as a natural medicine and indicated the possible application of this medicinal plant such anti inflammatory activity and cytotoxic agents.”
The word “cytotoxic” indicates the ability of the herb to kill fungal cells and their spores. What is amazing is that these properties were retained even through irradiation treatment of the herb by the researchers – producing a microwave extract. Other microwave tests indicate that the whole herb or traditional-process herbal extract will likely produce even greater results.
Could reducing Candida be part of why Kacip is so good for women’s health? Quite possibly, but its certainly not the only reason.
Kacip reduces triglycerides
One of the reasons for Kacip’s usefulness for women’s conditions is its compounds appear to be estrogen-like – or at least help ameliorate the need for estrogen.
This was shown in a study of 63 post-menopausal women at the University Sains Malaysia. The researchers gave 280 milligrams per day to 29 patients, and the rest received a placebo.
After six months of treatment, the women who took the Kacip saw a significant reduction in triglycerides.
Anti-aging qualities of Labisia
If that wasn’t enough, Malaysian university researchers tested Kacip for its anti-aging ability. They found the plant’s constituents were not simply antioxidant and phytoestrogenic. They also found that the Kacip herb promoted collagen synthesis.
Kacip contains many active constituents. These include a number of flavonoids, phenolics, and triterpenoids – including saponins, phytosterols, sapogenins – steroidal and non-steroidal – and alkyl phenols. One of the constituents that leads its estrogenic abilities is called ardisiacrispin A. It also contains several fatty acids, including palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, oleic, linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids.
No wonder this herb is so popular in Malaysia – with a long tradition of usefulness among women.
Karimi E, Jaafar HZ, Ghasemzadeh A, Ebrahimi M. Fatty acid composition, antioxidant and antibacterial properties of the microwave aqueous extract of three varieties of Labisia pumila Benth. Biol Res. 2015 Jan 23;48:9. doi: 10.1186/0717-6287-48-9.
Tnah LH, Lee CT, Lee SL, Ng CH, Ng KK. Development of microsatellites in Labisia pumila (Myrsinaceae), an economically important Malaysian herb. Appl Plant Sci. 2014 Jun 4;2(6). pii: apps.1400019. doi: 10.3732/apps.1400019.
Nadia ME, Nazrun AS, Norazlina M, Isa NM, Norliza M, Ima Nirwana S. The Anti-Inflammatory, Phytoestrogenic, and Antioxidative Role of Labisia pumila in Prevention of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2012;2012:706905. doi: 10.1155/2012/706905.
Karimi E, Jaafar HZ, Ghasemzadeh A, Ebrahimi M. Fatty acid composition, antioxidant and antibacterial properties of the microwave aqueous extract of three varieties of Labisia pumila Benth. Biol Res. 2015 Jan 23;48:9.
Karimi E, Jaafar HZ, Ahmad S. Antifungal, anti-inflammatory and cytotoxicity activities of three varieties of labisia pumila benth. From microwave obtained extracts. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Jan 24;13(1):20.
Abdul Kadir A, Nik Hussain NH, Wan Bebakar WM, Mohd DM, Wan Mohammad WM, Hassan II, Shukor N, Kamaruddin NA, Wan Mohamud WN. The Effect of Labisia pumila var. alata on Postmenopausal Women: A Pilot Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:216525. doi: 10.1155/2012/216525.
Chua LS, Lee SY, Abdullah N, Sarmidi MR. Review on Labisia pumila (Kacip Fatimah): bioactive phytochemicals and skin collagen synthesis promoting herb. Fitoterapia. 2012 Dec;83(8):1322-35. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2012.04.002.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.