In Southeast Asia, the young leaves of ulam herbs are consumed raw as condiment. The regular intake of ulam is believed to assist in preventing degenerative diseases, delaying aging and improving overall health. In this review, the current knowledge on the phytochemistry and pharmacology of two ulam herbs of Anacardium occidentale (cashew) and Barringtonia racemosa (putat) is updated with some description of their botany and uses. Flavonoids and phenolic acids are the major metabolites of leaves in both species. Leaves of A. occidentale possess antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-tyrosinase and anti-quorum sensing activities. Methyl gallate isolated from cashew leaves showed potent anti-quorum sensing properties. Other pharmacological properties of cashew leaves include cytotoxic, hypoglycaemic, hypolipidemic, anti-cholesterolemic, anti-ulcerogenic, anti-hypertensive, analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities. These bioactivities affirm that cashew leaves have medicinal values, and confer their traditional uses as food and medicine. For B. racemosa, only pharmacological properties of antioxidant, antimicrobial, cytotoxic, cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory activities have been reported in the leaves unlike other plant parts that have many more bioactivities. However, excessive consumption of these two ulam herbs may be detrimental to human health due to their toxic effects.
Ulam herbs;cashew;common putat;phytochemistry;pharmacology