Ubud, who’s name derives from Ubad (or medicine), is just full of medicinal plants and herbs. While many of these herbs are known to the Balinese, it is such second nature to them that the knowledge stays close to home.

One day while walking in the ricefields, I saw a man plucking a small white flower. I asked him what it was he said basically, that it was for the eyes – for 2020 vision! Worth a try.

He told me to soak it in water for 15 minutes, then rinse the eyes for miraculous results. It was worth a try. So I picked a couple of these flowers and took them home to try.

Suddenly it seemed that everyone knows about this flower but it’s just that no Balinese ever thinks of it as worthy of mention. As I walked into my compound my landlord said oh yes! It’s for the eyes! Ahah! Then my helper said oh yes! Very good for the eyes! How much other knowledge lies about scattered and undocumented.

It turns out this flower is known as bunga (or kemang) bintang or, in English, the star flower. It grows along lanes and dry stone walls at the sides of the rice fields, usually protected in long grasses and in the crevices of the rocks.

Information runs from highly toxic to highly advantageous.
Wikipedia describes it as “notable for concentrations of two pyridine alkaloids – lobeline and nicotine with psychoactive effects at small doses and unpleasant side effects at higher dosages.”

Others also say it can cause blindness! The Balinese swear by it and while the stinging it causes, is a little unnerving, the after effects on my eyesight were noticeable and the distance clarity is definitely improved.

Others say it also helps with eye infections. Yet, one wonders if this plant has ever been scientifically tested and what other benefits could there be just growing in Ubud’s byways.

Another definition states that “this flower is used for ayurvedic eye drops, but it is steamed and the liquid is collected, before using the solution on the eye.” Even though it can sting the first few times (I will attest to that), it does improve the eyesight probably more effectively than many of the more chemical preparations.

As the wise folk say, we can but only try!