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5 things you might not know about torch ginger or bunga kantan

Torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) is widely known as bunga kantan in Malaysia. It is also known as ginger flower, torch lily, Philippine wax flower, Indonesian tall ginger, rose de porcelaine and porcelain rose.

Here in Malaysia, the bud of the torch ginger makes an important ingredient in dishes such as laksa and nasi kerabu.

But did you know Malaysians are not the only ones who love this plant?

Here are 5 things you might not know about torch ginger or bunga kantan:
Torch ginger’s flower.
1.The plant is used in different kind of cuisines throughout Southeast Asia.

In North Sumatra, Indonesia, the locals used the flower buds for a stewed fish dish called Arsik ikan mas.

Meanwhile in Bali, people use the white part of the bottom of the trunk for cooking chilli sauce called “Sambal Bongkot” and the flower buds to make chilli sauce “Sambal Kecicang.”

In Thailand, young shoots and flowers of the plants are served raw with nam phrik phao (a type of Thai spicy chilli sauce).

2.The leaves of the bunga kantan is commonly used as post-partum home treatment.

In Malaysia, the leaves of the bunga kantan is mixed with other traditional herbs such as ginger leaves, turmeric leaves and betel leaves in water. Then post-partum women would use it as bathwater to get rid any body odour.

Thanks to its pretty and bright pink appearance, this plant is also used as decorative plant.
3.It is used to cure the symptoms of typhoid fever and other diseases.

A community in Porehu district of Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia use the plant to cure symptoms of typhoid fever.

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Apart from that, they also believe that consuming the plant could cure various kinds of diseases such as diarrhea, canker sores, cough and heartburn.

This traditional knowledge has been passed down for generations.

4.Essential oil from torch ginger could be used as an ingredient for sunscreen.

There have been a few studies done on the phytochemistry of this plant. For example, a study done by Royal College of Medicine Perak which was published in Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science in 2017 had proven that there were two benefits of torch ginger’s essential oil.

The researchers found that the torch ginger essential oil provided phytochemical screening, photo-protective as well as anti-oxidant properties.

Hence, the study suggested to use torch ginger as a new source of natural anti-oxidant ingredients that can be incorporated into sunscreen cosmetic products.

Torch ginger tree.
5.The inflorescence of torch ginger is potentially used as a preservative.

Meanwhile, another research study done by Universiti Sains Malaysia had found the benefits of oil and extracts derived from the inflorescence of torch ginger.

They found that the oil and extracts had rich antibacterial activity and possessed great potential to be used as a preservative in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

The essential oil of this plant is potentially be used as sunscreen.
Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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