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Wednesday, July 20, 2011


We first encountered the use of amargoso as supplement for diabetes in the early 1990s when a friend of the family said his blood sugar was controlled with the use of fresh amargoso as tea or eaten directly. We did not believe him until our diabetes also set in and we had to have daily maintenance. When another another friend suggested to add amargoso to our diet, we had no second thoughts because we liked it anyway.

At one point in our life we had been given insulin to control the blood glucose level and it took us both western medicine and amargoso plus other herb teas to finally manage it. Now we are taking only glibenclamide twice a day as prescribed by Doc D. Octaviano at St. Paul's.

But the budding ampalaya supplements industry almost died starting 2003 when then Secretary Dayrit of DOH dismissed ampalaya products as “folklorically documented only”! When Secretary Duque restored its status, it slowly recovered only to be dealt another blow in 2010 when the DOH came out with a memo order. “ The order directs the herbal industry to prominently place or audibly voice in all print and broadcast advertising materials of their food supplements a “derogatory” advisory in Filipino. Instead of the standard phrase "No approved therapeutic claim," the mandatory disclaimer now reads: "Mahalagang paalala: ang (name of product) ay hindi gamot at hindi dapat gamiting panggamot sa anumang uri ng sakit." (

Now like everything else Filipino, giant multi-national companies have succeeded in destroying a growing industry that has started to help Filipino farmers earn extra income by selling both the fruits and the leaves. It's just like that tyrant Vic Sotto killing the emerging market for lagundi by saying: “IT'S THE THE ONE AT HINDI DAHON!”

But ampalaya has by then established itself as a major anti diabetes supplement and again like in the early 2000s its market is gradually emerging. Ampalaya “has been scientifically noted to possess well-documented blood sugar-lowering effects. Aside from having good fiber content and nutrients such as iron and potassium, many vital compounds have been identified in the fruit, notably charantin, vicine and polypeptide-p, which is plant insulin, in which numerous laboratory studies and limited clinical trials have attributed to the plant's blood sugar-lowering effects”. (

Thus aside from these documentations, word of mouth helped create the market and this paved the way to the entry of many Filipino companies into the bandwagon of producing various products ranging from teas to liquid gels. R&D especially in packaging also helped position ampalaya as a world class supplement that major western countries even adopted the name ampalaya.

But industry players should not sleep on their gains especially on their export markets. Like the famed Virgin Coconut Oil, it may suddenly die an unnatural death if and when we have hurt the multinationals producing competing drugs. The VCO market bottomed out when soya oil got hurt even in the domestic market. They put up a large lobby fund that came out with pseudo researches on the evils of coconut oil, destroying early findings on medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid contained in VCO that helps dissolve difficult to remove blood cholesterol and lobbying for higher tariff rates that puts VCO way beyond affordability.

The amplalaya industry therefore should be ever vigilant. Not only that they should support further researches on the efficacy and other health benefits from ampalaya, they should also triple their efforts to penetrate the supplements market in high sales growth areas of the world. There is no doubt that the industry players are up against a formidable force, just like what lagundi is encountering at the home front.

The advantage of ampalaya as a health supplement is two-fold: it is natural and it is effective. But even those advantages can be easily erased when in promotions and advertisements, they are met with endorsers like Vic Sotto and tag lines like “THE ONE AND NOT DAHON”. Industry players, beware, an ad campaign might be launched against you soon and they will get another popular endorser like this heartless, idiot-looking Vic Sotto.

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