The Covid-19 pandemic has forced villagers from Khleng Por village of Prey Moul commune of Rolea Ba’ier district of Kampong Chhnang province to flock to the province’s forests and valleys to find medicinal plants. for sale through brokers to people who need it for traditional Khmer. Medication.
Kheng Por village chief Kao Moeun told the Post that the business was a secondary profession used to supplement the family’s income on top of what they did from farming.
He adds that in the beginning, about half a dozen families – including his family – were engaged in this activity in addition to farming, but now local villagers have taken over this activity in almost every household since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Once a week, I go up the mountain to dig up the tubers of medicinal plants. I take them to my wife who chops and dries them to resell them to brokers who resell them to traditional medicine vendors in Phnom Penh. Thanks to this parallel trade, my family can earn an additional income of 30,000 to 40,000 riels [$7 to $10] per month,” he says.
According to Moeun, he spends a few days in the forest hiking to find medicinal plants according to the orders of middlemen – like wild grape tubers and many other traditional Khmer herbaceous plants. Prices depend on the type of medicinal plant and the season.
“In the dry season, prices are not very high. Around 500 to 3,000 riels per kg, depending on the type of plant and its popularity,” he says. “Because in the dry season many villagers have these medicinal plants to chew or sell because they are easier to find.”
Chhoeung Khea, a 56-year-old carpenter from Kleang Por village, told the Post that he had never been to the forest to find medicinal plants to sell. In addition to farming, he has often been hired to build houses in his village or in other nearby villages and districts, but since the coronavirus outbreak, he has not been able to earn this additional income. while doing construction.
“Farming alone cannot improve our family’s livelihood,” he says. “That is why my wife and I, together with our two children, went to the forest to look for vines, roots, barks, mushrooms and tubers of medicinal plants to dry and sell them to support our life. of family.”
Although this new part-time job may help increase her family’s income to some extent, Khea is not very happy when asked how much her family earns in a month from this business.
“Only 20,000 to 30,000 riels. Because sometimes brokers don’t buy them and claim there are no orders from Phnom Penh,” Khea says with a sigh.
Khea says that although he and the other villagers know the names of medicinal plants, no one knows how to combine them to treat illnesses. Otherwise, they might sell the package at a higher price.
According to Khea, about 30 to 40 families in her village are currently engaged in this sideline business. This trend has led to a further decline in the prices of medicinal plants and some environmentalists fear that it may even lead to the loss of some medicinal plants from the forest due to overexploitation.
Around the corner near the Orussey market in Phnom Penh, there are many traditional medicine shops that testify to the rapid growth of traditional medicine business in Cambodia. Most herbal medicines are sourced from brokers and imported from the remote countryside of Cambodia, while some are imported.
Traditional medicine shop owner Kong Khieu Chheng, 36, told the Post that her shop sources herbs from provinces across the country, but mainly from Kampong Chhnang, Battambang and Preah Sihanouk.
“Our shop does not collect directly from people and not all kinds of medicinal plants. We order from brokers in the provinces according to the requests of the traditional healers who are our clients,” she specifies.
Although he is a trader of traditional medicine ingredients, Khieu Chheng does not know how to combine these herbs to cure diseases except that some herbs are believed to cure chronic gastrointestinal disorders and some are believed to cure rheumatoid arthritis. , high blood pressure or high blood sugar.
“I may be familiar with some of the herbs that can treat conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, arthritis, high blood pressure or high blood sugar, but I am not a traditional healer, so when clients [who aren’t healers] come and buy them and ask for a combination of them to cure a disease, I always refuse,” he says.
Chan Sineth, a herbal medicine and secondary medicine specialist at the Cambodia-China Sen Sok Referral Hospital, told The Post that mixing traditional herbs to cure illnesses without consulting a traditional healer first and knowing the dosage Appropriate use of the chemicals in the plant can pose a serious health risk, such as causing cirrhosis of the liver or sudden death.
“The combination of tubers, roots and barks of medicinal plants to treat a disease without weighing them properly for dosage or taking into account whether they have been boiled in water or steeped in alcohol can damage the liver and cause cirrhosis of the liver. It can also poison a person or even cause immediate death if overused,” he says.