Thailand Tropical Jungle Plants: edible and medicinal wild plants of Southern Thailand

All Paddle Asia tours are educational. Here are just a few of the many wild edible plants we encounter on our jungle survival tours in Khao Sok National Park and Phang Nga Province. The tropical jungle in Thailand offer a wide array of useful edible and medicinal plants. Rural villagers still utilize this bounty. Here is a brief selection of the many plants available.

wild edible plants Fishtail Palm common wild edible plants Fishtail Palm

Fishtail Palm

The inner core of the Fishtail Palm offers a sweet starch (carbohydrate) along with a refreshing taste. The downside is that you have to kill the whole tree to get it, but in a survival situation this is a good idea. In Southern Thailand, this is a very common plant. It can be found in both coastal areas as well as thick old-growth jungles.

taro wild food

Taro

Taro is fairly common in the wild. If not taro, the colocasia family is readily available. The root or corm is the standard part that you eat, though the stems and leaves are also edible. The stems and leaves must be cooked to dissolve the raphides (sharp calcium oxalate crystals). Once dissolved, they are a form of usable calcium.

The root is a very good source of carbs. 100 grams of root contains about 26 grams of carbohydrate. This is about 20% of your daily requirement, so a couple of roots could be equal to about half of your daily carb requirement, which is certainly enough to keep your energy level up and your brain functioning properly.

Taro is a decent source of B-complex vitamins.

Minerals include zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, and of potassium.

If you eat the leaves, which you should in a survival situation, you can add vitamin C (100 grams provide approximately 80% RDA), Phosphorus, Calcium, and trace amounts of Selenium and other minerals.

In sum, finding a patch of Taro in the wild would go a long way towards enjoying your involuntary camping trip.

Colocasia thailand wild edible plants

Colocasia

Taro and other plants in the Colocasia family (Araceae) are quite common in this region. They also contain all of the essential amino acids and in the proper usable proportions. Your body stores non-essential amino acids, so eating other wild plants in a survival situation would provide you with a complete protein. You DO NOT have to eat these amino acids in the same meal... again, your body stores the amino acids to be combine when needed.

Some wild fruits would provide some of the missing aminos. The legumes from the Sataw tree seeds (Parkia speciosa) are the perfect compliment to Taro.

This tropical fruit contains calcium, phosphorous, iron and vitamin C.

pepper wild medicinal plants

Wild Betel Leaves

Wild Betel is in the Piperaceae family. It’s called bai chaphlu in Thai. This leaf is a key ingredient in a traditional Thai snack called ‘Miang kham’. You form a bowl with the leave and add chopped up chilies, onions, roasted coconut, small dried shrimp, ginger, peanuts, and a sweet sauce. Each crunch releases a host of mixed flavors.

Along with the usual green leaf nutritional values as far as vitamins and minerals are concerned, Betel leave are medicinally valuable as a cough suppressant, supposedly influential in curing malaria, an analgesic, and a digestive aid.

wild edible ginger

Ginger family

The Ginger family (Zingiberaceae) is big in Thailand. Globally, there are over 1,300 species! Ginger has B-5, B-6, potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium.

Gingerols, the oils present in ginger, help the gastrointestinal tract as well as being an analgesic, a mild sedative, anti-inflammatory, and having antibacterial properties. Ginger is good for combatting motion sickness.

wild edible torch-ginger

Torch Ginger

Torch Ginger flower (genus Etlingera) contains approximately 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per 100 grams.

wild edible plants Paco Pak Goot Fern

Paco Fern (Diplazium Esculentum) – Pak Goot in Thai

The young ferns fronds are quite nice, especially the tops. This is equivalent to the rather expensive and difficult to find Fiddlehead Ferns elsewhere. It’s a treat eating this tasty plant.

They can be eaten raw, but Thais usually blanch them first. Eating them raw would provide more nutritional value.

There is only just over 30 calories in 100 grams of Pak Goot, but the other nutrients make it a very worthwhile addition to your survival diet. There are antioxidants, vitamins (especially A and C), plus omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. The Beta Carotene content is also fairly high. Minerals include potassium, iron, manganese, and a bit of copper.

Thailand wild medicinal plants Pak Tamlueng

Ivy Gourd - Pak Tamlueng

This climber is Coccinia grandis. The leaves, young shoots, and berries are all edible. This wild plant is very common and it’s used in a few popular Thai dishes.

Medicinally, this is a wonder plant! It’s anti-inflammatory, used to heal wound, has anti convulsive properties, used to treat respiratory inflammation, anti ulcer, a cough suppressant, an astringent poultice, used to treat diabetes, gout and skin diseases, and it’s used to calm a fever.

Thailand wild herbs Fireweed Erechtites hieracifolia

Fireweed

One of the most tasty plants in the jungle and it's fairly common. This is called Fireweed (Erechtites hieracifolia).

I can't describe the flavor other than it tastes 'healthy'.

amorphallus wild edible plants

Elephant Foot Yam

Elephant Foot Yam (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius) has an edible tuber root that is antibacterial, low on the glycemic index, and high in omega 3 fatty acids. It has vitamin A, C, B6 and the minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and small amounts of zinc, copper and selenium. It is fairly common in the wild.

wood sorrel common edible plant

Wood Sorrel

Wood Sorrel (family Oxalidaceae) leaves, flowers, seeds, sprouts, and roots are all edible. It is very similar in look and taste to clover.

Wood Sorrel is packed with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, vitamin C, lecithin, vitamins A, vitamin E, B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), iron, zinc, and selenium.

Approximately 70% of the caloric value of Wood Sorrel is in the form of amino acids. Wood Sorrel is not a complete protein, but if eaten with something that supplies the missing amino acids, it would make a respectable protein supplement.

When in the sprout form, which is always the most nutritious stage in a plant's life, 100 grams of Wood Sorrel provides 4 grams of protein.

Wood Sorrel flowers are, of course, high in carbohydrates (sugar) and as sugar is converted to glucose, which is the brain's fuel, you would definitely be doing yourself a favor by eating as many clover flowers as possible.

So, in a survival situation, you should grab all of the Wood Sorrel you can find, pull up the roots too if possible, and eat it all.

common wild edible plants sataw bao lead tree

Lead Tree

This small tree is a relative of both the peanut family (leguminosae) and the Mimosa family (Minosoideae). It's very common throughout southern Thailand.

The shoots and young leaves are edible. They are often eaten raw with chilli paste.

If not cooked however, the tannic acid can be a bit strong. In fact, this plant used to be used to treat leather.

edible ficus young leaves shoots

Fig (Ficus)

The young leaves of this particular ficus species are edible. They don't have a strong taste. I'm sure they would have some nutritional value. They are plentiful, so they would be a good choice in a survival situation.

wild edible plants parkia speciosa

Stinky Bean ( Parkia speciosa)

This tree that is common in the tropical jungles of southern Thailand comes into seed in the early summer.

It's called Sataw in Thai. When they're ready, Thais from all walks of life crave them despite the fact that they give you very bad breath.

The young leaves are edible, but it's the seeds that the Thais really desire. They dip the raw or roasted seeds chillie paste and they cook them in curries.

wild plants Bai Toey Pandanus amaryllifolius

Bai Toey (Pandanus amaryllifolius)

Bai toey leaves (in Thai) are common in Thai markets. This popular plant actually sells out quickly most of the time as it's so prized. The leaves can be boiled to make a lovely sweet tea. An extract is made from the leaves to put in candies and sweet bread-type snacks. You can also wrap meats in these leaves when grilling to add flavor.

Nutritionally, there is some carbohydrate value, some C complex, some B vitamins, and it has antioxidant and liver detoxing properties.

Though cultivated in some areas, this is a wild native plant. It grows in abundance in moist area, especially around water. This photo is from Khao Sok National Park.

In a survival situation, adding some leaves to your boiled water adds some carbs and it also makes it taste better, thus helping your morale.

Sprinkle tea made from boiling the leaves to keep insects out of your camp or you can rub it on your skin as mosquito repellent.

Pandanus utilis Thailand wild edible plants

Screw Pine Pandanus

Screw Pine (Pandanus utilis) has a small amount of edible pulp in the seeds. It’s a lot of work to get at it, but if you’ve got nothing better to do, it’s probably worthwhile.

The ‘utilis’ part of the name is due to the usefulness of the strong fibers of the prop root system. The leaves are superb for weaving. They are very pliable and strong.

Broad Leaf Ginseng

All parts of the Broad Leaf Ginseng plant (Talinum triangulare) are edible. This is one of the wonder plants. It’s anti inflammatory, anti fungal and it’s anti bacterial. As such, it is used both internally and externally. Externally, the crushed leaves are used to combat swelling and inflammation. Internally, it’s used to combat anemia, gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, diarrhea, peptic ulcers, various inflammations, measels, high blood pressure, and it has been used in cancer patients. As a digestive aid, this plant has more pectin than apples, along with the necessary pectinase to break down the pectin. Pectinase is a polysaccharide that is found in the plant’s cell walls.

The amino acid content is impressive. It has vitamins A, C, B complex, and E. Minerals include calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and trace amounts of cadmium and copper.

This plant has oxalic acid, so those who have kidney stones, gout or rheumatoid arthritis should use caution.

wild plant tea drink Dok Anchan Clitoria ternatea

Butterfly Pea

This is the Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea) or Dok Anchan in Thai. The most common version is purple, but there is also this white one. It makes a wonderful tea that has a calming effect. When you boil the purple version of these flowers it makes a lovely blue tea. If you add lime, the acid actually makes it turn a beautiful purple tea.

This tea also has antioxidant properties and thus boosts body immunity.

edible sea hibiscus flower

Sea Hibiscus

The amazing Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) has an edible flower and young leaves. Though considered famine food, you can eat the young leaves, inner bark, and roots. They don't taste good, but they are edible. The bark is some of the best rope-making material available. The wood is some of the best for starting a fire, both and tender and kindling. It's also extremely good for making a friction fire either with a bow and drill set or as a fire plough.

Wild edible water lily plant

Water Lily

You can eat most of the Water lilies (Nymphaea pubescens). The young leaves and unopened flower buds are edible. Boil them first. The seeds are high in carbohydrates, amino acids, and oil (calories).

You can actually roast them and then grind them into a flour if you wish. The rhizomes (roots) are edible as well.

Check out this wild edible fruit information.

Check out this video of edible plants in my yard. Qutie a few are available in the jungle.

There are, of course, many more edible and medicinal plants in southern Thailand. Check out our blog and our FaceBook jungle survival pages for a lot more information and wild edible plant images.

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