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10 Traditional Herbal Remedies In Malaysia That Locals Swear By

Traditional herbal remedies in Malaysia

The phrase “slap a band aid over it” rings true to a lot of us Malaysians. We’re not going to skip a trip to the doctor’s for serious ailments, but when it comes to minor discomforts such as nagging headaches or sore muscles, we tend to reach for the trusty remedies that our grandparents swear by.

Pei pa koa is one such remedy that might be cropping up on your social media feeds in recent days. But get to know all the popular traditional herbal remedies in Malaysia that young and old alike turn to.

1. Pei Pa Koa

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - pei pa koa
Image credit: Wellcome Pharmacy

We’ll start this list with none other than Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa – or as Malaysians know it better, Cap Ibu dan Anak, because of the brand’s logo. With the likes of Grammy-nominated Jason Mraz and One Direction’s Zayn Malik calling the syrup “delicious” and “a special elixir”, you can bet that all eyes are on it.

The herbal syrup is recommended for relief from pesky coughs and various throat discomforts. Its recipe by founder Nin Jiom, which dates back to the Qing Dynasty, is a concoction of 14 traditional herbs and fritillaria, or chuan bei, honey.

As its taste departs from the typical flavour of medicine, adults and kids alike don’t mind slurping up a spoonful of the syrup. Innovative chefs have even been using it in food and drinks – case in point, this Malaysian ice cream parlour offers soothing Pei Pa Koa as an ice cream flavour.

2. Three Legs Cooling Water

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - three legs
Image credit: @eatbooksg via Instagram

Most of us have probably heard of Three Legs Cooling Water, or Cap Kaki Tiga. Found on the shelves of go-to convenience stores like MyNews and FamilyMart, this unassuming but special water comes in a slender bottle with a green cap and a rhinoceros on its label.

The Malaysian-made drink has been around since 1937, and is said to be a cure-all. Ask any local and they’ll tell you that it helps with a range of maladies, including heatiness, profuse sweating, fatigue, and red eyes. Heatiness-induced ailments, such as fevers, ulcers, and toothaches, can also be alleviated with the drink.

As for the flavour, it tastes like, well, water. But to be precise, it’s de-ionised water with cooling gypsum powder, a staple in traditional Chinese medicinal products.

3. Franch Oil

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - franch oil
Image credit: Amazon

Though it looks like a misspelling, trust us when we say that Franch Oil has nothing to do with the French language. This Ayurvedic traditional medicine contains linn plant and holy basil extracts. Whatever ailments plague you, this one is also said to provide relief from them all. Pregnancy stretch marks? Check. Constipation and scars? Check and check.

The oil, which comes in a green-capped bottle, is a common item in many Malaysian kitchens too, traditionally used for minor burns, cuts, and wounds. It’s also widely used to soothe cracked heels, muscle aches, and joint pains.

4. Mopiko

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - mopiko
Image credit: @goldenwhiskey via Instagram

In a tropical country such as Malaysia, it’s hard to completely avoid the mozzies. One way to keep insect-induced itchiness and irritation at bay is to apply Mopiko cream on bites. The white ointment, squeezable from a toothpaste-like tube, comprises menthol, camphor, and methyl salicylate – all of which work together to relieve itches from bug bites and stings.

As with the other remedies on this list, the Japan-made ointment also covers a myriad of other everyday maladies: shaving irritation, headaches, muscle fatigue, minor burns, and even pimples, among them.

5. African Sea Coconut Cough Mixture

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - sea coconut
Image credit: TNT Supermarket via website

Though less notable than Pei Pa Koa in Malaysia, many local households also rely on African Sea Coconut Cough Mixture to soothe sore and irritated throats without feeling drowsy. Also known as Ubat Batuk Cap Kelapa Laut, the tonic’s main ingredient, East African sea coconut extract, is widely believed to help cool down the body.

Despite its name, the all-natural cough mix was actually established by Chinese immigrants to Singapore in the early 1940s. They received a cough-relieving formula from a pharmacist from England, which is said to have been used for generations in Africa to keep sore throats and coughs at bay.

6. Axe Brand Medicated Oil

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia -
Image credit: @myperfumeclosetcollection via Instagram

Though it’s marketed as a handy medicine for colds and headaches on its packaging, most of us use Axe Brand Medicated Oil to relieve stomach discomforts and flatulence. More popularly known as Cap Kapak among Malaysians, the clear medicated oil has an unmistakable scent of menthol and camphor – it’s often easy to sus out unwell folks in a room from just a whiff of it.

There’s no denying the handiness of this oil either. It comes in a variety of bottle sizes, even one as small as a pinky finger, that can even fit in those tiny pockets at the front of your jeans.

7. Yoko Yoko

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - yoko yoko
Image credit: Kobayashi via website 

You might have picked up a bottle of Ammeltz’s Yoko Yoko when you were a kid and mistook it for a glue stick or those school shoe whiteners. The popular pain relief ointment’s applicator sponge ensures easy application even on hard-to-reach areas on your body – but we wouldn’t blame anyone for the honest mistake.

The Japan-made product is said to help with muscle aches and shoulder stiffness. It prides itself on being more convenient to use than medicated adhesive patches, as it works well even on hairier areas of skin and body nooks like joints and armpits, all without leaving any greasy residue.

8. Zam-Buk

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - zam-buk
Image credit: Watsons

Zam-Buk is a common feature in many cabinets. The green-coloured balm comes in a medallion-shaped tin container with just three graphics on its lid: Zam-Buk, ointment, and its tagline, “For gentle healing”.

The recommended usage label at the back of the tin provides more detail. Originally from England, the ointment is said to help with itches, pains, mosquito and insect bites, minor wounds, burns, and chapped hands.

9. Tiger Balm

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - tiger balm
Image credit: @tiger_balm_us via Instagram

Tiger Balm is the OG of all traditional ointments for sure. If not for its distinct medicinal smell, it’s the ubiquitous gold cap of the tiny jar it comes in and the roaring tiger on its label that’s unmistakable among Malaysians.

The reddish-brown ointment is superior for most when it comes to providing temporary relief from joint and muscle pain. In case you’re wondering, the inclusion of cassia oil in its ingredient list is key to achieving its trademark smell and colour, besides other staple ingredients like camphor, menthol, and clove oil.

10. Hurix’s Toothache Drops

traditional herbal remedies in malaysia - hurix's
Image credit: @itsshoppingtimejkt_ via Instagram

Hurix’s has a whole bunch of old school medicines that traditionalists rely on. For toothaches that strike in the dead of night, there’s the Toothache Drops, or Ubat Titis Sakit Gigi, that many turn to for temporary pain relief.

The drops has clove oil as an active ingredient, which is traditionally used to ease toothache pains and digestive upsets as it contains eugenol, nature’s very own anesthetic.

Traditional herbal remedies in Malaysia that locals swear by

Age aside, you’ve likely seen or heard about these over-the-counter traditional herbal remedies that are used to help ease non-serious aches and pains. Chances are, you have one or more of these from the above list lying around the house.

That being said, it’s important to read the packaging of any medicinal product and adhere to the recommended usage method and dosage. And if you’re unsure about anything, it’s best to consult with your doctor before taking or applying anything.

You might also enjoy learning more fun facts about Malaysia:

Cover image adapted from: @pancakestories via Instagram, @eatbooksg via Instagram, TNT Supermarket via website