List of Philippine Spices and Herbs

Written by caryn anderson | 13/05/2017
List of Philippine Spices and Herbs
Filipino herbs and spices come from many cultures. (garlic image by Norbert Tuske from

Various cultures inhabited the Philippines throughout its history, including Malays, who resided in the Philippines more than 20,000 years ago; Chinese, who created colonies on the islands between the 13th and 14th centuries; and Spain, who's occupation lasted from 1521 until nearly 400 years later. Each influenced the Philippines' cuisine and culture with their native herbs and spices.


Atsuete, or annatto, comes from the seeds of an otherwise inedible, heart-shaped fruit. The seeds lend their dark red hue as a food colouring for many Filipino fish, vegetable, and meat recipes. The seeds do not add much flavour. However, according to the Philippine Insider, Filipino cuisine categorises the seeds as a spice, which is often used in conjunction with other spices.


Bauang, or garlic, is grown in the Philippines. Filipino garlic is smaller in size and more expensive due to its pungency and quality. According to Mt. Banahaw Tropical Herbs, bauang is considered one of the Philippines "power herbs," and it is also used for medicinal purposes. Bauang is used as a diuretic, stimulant, expectorant, and a topical wound treatment. It is also hailed for its antioxidant powers.


Onions are commonly used in combination with bauang to add flavour and aroma to various dishes. Native Filipino onions are pungent and strongly flavoured. They are well-suited for pickling or sautéing. White onions are used in sandwiches and salads, and green onions are used as a topper for dishes such as rice porridge.


Dumero, or rosemary, is cultivated in the Philippines and used as a spice in many recipes.


Sili, the Philippine's native chilli, is a popular addition to Filipino cuisine. Many recipes call for this spicy addition including main courses, hot sauces, and dips. According to the Philippine Insider, popular Filipino dishes chicken tinola and pork sinigang are among just a few that feature native chilli in their ingredients.


The Asian influence on Filipino cuisine is clearly demonstrated in their use of ginger, a popular spice used in Asian cuisine. Ginger is often used in Filipino stews and soups. It provides flavour and aroma to meat dishes such as tinola, a chicken stew.

Medicinal Herbs

Damong Maria (Mugwort) leaves are used as an antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, and to treat stomach problems. Akapulko (Ringworm Bush) leaves are used to treat skin diseases, ringworm, and a diuretic. Ampalaya (Bitter Gourd) leaves and fruit are used to treat diabetes, liver problems, skin diseases, and children's coughs. Gumamela (Hibiscus) flowers are used to treat bronchitis, as an expectorant, and to alleviate fevers.

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