Bajakah: The Hallmark of Ecotourism in Kalimantan

The Dayak people drink bajakah root water directly from the cut roots in Hedda Morrison's book (1957: 205).

Ecotourism in Kalimantan differs from other places because Kalimantan boasts vast tropical forests rich in biodiversity. As the largest island in Indonesia, Kalimantan harbors many unique and untouched natural treasures. 

One of these natural treasures is the herbal plant known as bajakah (Latin: Spatholobus littoralis).

Bajakah is a highlight of ecotourism in Kalimantan due to its deep cultural significance, particularly among the Dayak communities who utilize this plant in various aspects of their lives, including traditional medicine. Moreover, bajakah attracts scientific interest for its potential as a medicinal plant, especially in modern research focusing on anti-cancer properties and other health benefits.

To learn about and appreciate the biodiversity and local cultural richness

Therefore, ecotourism in Kalimantan not only offers stunning natural beauty and thrilling adventure activities but also provides opportunities to learn about and appreciate the biodiversity and local cultural richness, including the use of herbal plants like bajakah in daily life and traditional medicine.

Bajakah, an indigenous root plant that's become quite the talk, has been known to the Dayak people of Kalimantan for centuries. But its popularity surged when students in Palangka Raya discovered its scientific benefits about five years ago. 

Growing in the forests of Kalimantan, bajakah is distinguished by its unique ability to store ample water in its roots.

When thirsty, You can cut the bajakah root

The Dayak have long relied on bajakah as a safe water source in the forest. When hunting or trekking, they don't carry water supplies but just their machetes. 

When thirsty, they can cut the bajakah root, which releases enough water to drink. This practice has been recorded in history and even depicted in Hedda Morrison's 1957 book Sarawak in where she illustrated Dayak people drinking directly from bajakah roots.

Today, scientific findings on bajakah's medicinal properties have added a new dimension to its use. 

The Dayak drink bajakah water straight from the cut roots of the tree today (similar, isn't it?). Documentation: the author.

Bajakah is known to have potential as a medicinal plant, particularly in traditional treatments for various ailments, including cancer. Its high antioxidant content and potential as an anti-inflammatory and immunomodulator make bajakah an intriguing subject for health research.

Thus, bajakah not only holds value for the Dayak's survival in the forests but also opens new avenues for scientific exploration and utilization in modern healthcare.

Here's everything you need to know about Bajakah:

Habitat of Bajakah

Bajakah is a plant native to the forests of Kalimantan, thriving primarily in lowland regions and along riverbanks. It is characterized by its tendency to climb and vine around trees and other vegetation, utilizing their support to reach sunlight and grow vigorously. 

The climbing nature of Bajakah enables it to spread across the forest floor and flourish in the dense tropical environment of Kalimantan's wilderness.

Morphology of Bajakah

   Bajakah has the following morphological characteristics:

  1.    Stem: It is a climbing plant with flexible and long stems.
  2.    Leaves: The leaves are compound, consisting of several small green leaflets.
  3.    Flowers: Bajakah produces small flowers that are purple or pinkish-red and grow in clusters.

Uses/Benefits

Bajakah is reputed in traditional Kalimantan medicine for its efficacy in treating various ailments, including cancer. Some of its benefits include:

  1.  Antioxidant:Bajakah contains antioxidants that can help combat free radicals in the body.
  2.  Anti-inflammatory:Known to reduce inflammation in the body.
  3.  Immunomodulator: Can help boost the immune system.
  4.  Anti-cancer: Believed to aid in the treatment or prevention of certain cancers.

How to Consume Bajakah

Traditional methods of consuming bajakah typically involve preparing a decoction or infusion from specific parts of the plant, such as its stems or leaves. Common methods include:

- Bajakah can be consumed directly at the site by cutting its roots, allowing the water to flow. See the example in the picture where traditionally the Dayak people have been consuming bajakah water for centuries.

- Decoction: Boiling bajakah leaves or stems with water, then drinking it as tea.

   - Extract: Bajakah extract can be made by soaking parts of the plant in alcohol or water, then extracting the liquid.

It's important to note that the use of bajakah in traditional medicine should be approached cautiously and preferably under the guidance of an experienced herbalist or medical practitioner.

-- Masri Sareb Putra

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