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All about Sampaguita (Jasminum sambac [L.

] Sol) Botanically known as Jasminum sambac, this plant is a member of the olive family (Oleaceae). The genus name is the Latinized form of a Persian name, Yasmin, meaning gift from god. The plant is commonly called Arabian jasmine, sacred jasmine, Asiatic jasmine or sambac (English); Jasmin d'arabie (French); gesimino d'Arabia (Italian); bogarim (Portuguese); Bali hue or Moli hua (Chinese); pikake (Hawaii); melati or menur (Indonesia); melor (Malaysia); jazmin de Arabia or sampaguita (Spanish), among others. In the Philippines, the plant is locally known as sampaguita or sampagita (all over the Philippines); hubar or malur (Tausug); kulatay, pongso or sampagang (Kapampangan); kampupot (Tagalog and Kapampangan); lumabi or malul (Maguindanao); manul (Bisaya); sampaga (BisayaHiligaynon); and sampaga wakat-dangka (Hanunuo). Sampaguita is a spreading, semi-climbing, evergreen, perennial, viny shrub that grows up to 3 meters high. The simple leaves are in pairs or in whorls of three, about 2.5-9.0 centimeters (cm) long and 2.0-6.5 cm wide, with the broadest portion at the base. The egg-shape (ovate) leaf blade is smooth (glabrous) except for a few hairs (finely pubescent) at the venations near the basal portion. The white, star-like fragrant flowers bloom all throughout the year and are produced in solitary or clusters of 3 to 12 (racemes) formed at the tip of the branches. Each flower is about 2-3 cm wide with a basal tube about 1 cm long, terminated by elongated spreading lobes. The flowers usually open around 6 to 8 in the evening and close in the morning, a span of 12 to 20 hours. If pollinated, a purple to black berry is formed, about 1 cm in diameter, which contains 2 seeds. The plant can easily be propagated through stem cuttings or marcotting. In tropical climates, it is an easy plant to grow in the yard or in a pot. However, because of its ability to flourish so easily, it is listed as a potential introduced weed in other countries like USA and is not recommended for landscaping. Sampaguita is a native of India but has spread to different countries in the world. As a common Buddhist and Hindu temple plant, it must have been introduced to the Philippines by the early Chinese Buddhists. Most of the time, the flower is associated with religious ceremonies like wedding or offering to saints, deities and icons, usually in leis or garland forms. Sometimes, it is also used in funeral rites. Chinese used the dried flower to flavour their famous jasmine tea. Indonesian culture regards sampaguita as a sacred flower of purity and sincerity. In Thailand, the flower is the gift of choice for Mothers Day. Reports revealed that there are at least three ploidal races of J. sambac in India and probably exhibits selfincompatibility, thus, a need for cross-pollination. These factors cause the high variability of this species creating several forms under cultivation. In South India alone, there are at least 17 cultivars developed. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, three types of Sampaguita are usually grown: the single petal; the semi-double petal, one of which is known as Belle of India; and the multi-petal variety called Grand Duke of Tuscany, also known as kampupot doble. Jasmine oil extracted from sampaguita has a wide range of medicinal applications and can be used in perfumery, soap, flavoring and the cosmetic industry. Phytochemical studies show that the compounds responsible for its unique scent are benzyl acetate, indole, methyl anthranilate, jasmone, and methyl jasmonate. Jasmine oil is also famous for the treatment of dry, greasy, irritated and sensitive skin. It can be used to soothe irritating coughs, alleviate muscular pain and for treating sprains. Therapeutically, jasmine oil is considered as an antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, sedative and uterine tonic. In traditional medicine, a decoction of leaves is used internally against fever. A poultice of the leaves is applied to treat skin problems or applied to womens breast to stop milk secretion (lactifuge). Leaf extract can also be used as astringent and antiamoebic. Research shows that leaf extract contains potential medicinal properties described as antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, antitumor, and pesticidal. An infusion of the flowers is applied to the eyelids as a decongestant. The root is given fresh to treat venereal diseases and fever. A tincture made from the root is said to have very strong sedative, anaesthetic and vulnerary properties. Roots are used as poultices for sprains and fractures. A decoction of the roots or an infusion of the flowers is employed in pulmonary mucus inflammations (catarrh), bronchitis and asthma. The stems are employed as an antipyretic and in the treatment of abscesses. It is said that sampaguita came from the word sumpa kita which is a pledge of mutual love and devotion made by a couple during the wedding ceremony, where the groom places a string of sampaguita flowers around the brides neck. Emotionally moved by this tradition, and the unique characteristics portrayed by this plant, Governor Frank Murphy proclaimed sampaguita as the national flower of the Philippines on February 1934, despite the fact that the plant is not native in the country. Jorge R. Sahagun

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