Preserving traditional medicine

Increasing demand for traditional medicines is causing concerns among traditional medicine pharmacists that over harvesting may lead to the extinction of some of the plants used as raw materials.

The demand for traditional medicines has increased from seven metric tonnes in 2000 to 30, today.

This is a good indication that this traditional sector is thriving and that people are not letting an important part of our culture vanish.

But when it comes to the resources, this is a situation that is being faced elsewhere as well and from which we can learn.

The logical answer is to turn away from harvesting plants in the wild and to begin harvesting them on farms. That way we can control production and meet demand without endangering the natural environment.

Some small scale farming has already begun but if demand continues to increase as dramatically as it has, then we may have to consider expanding the amount of land to farm such plants as soon as possible.

According to the World Health Organisation up to 25 percent of modern medicines are made from plants that were first used traditionally. Therefore, there is no denying the importance of the traditional medicine sector as an area in which important discoveries can continue to be made for the modern health establishment.

But there also needs to be a balance.

It is hoped that the traditional medicine sector is working closely with their counterparts in the hospitals. We are aware that people react differently to treatments. Some who have been undergoing modern medical treatment for years find better relief after switching to traditional medicine, or vice versa.

It is also hoped that the efficacy of all the traditional medicines are being studied and measured. If the efficacy of a medicine can be objectively determined through studies, those that are not effective can be done away with so that the demand on resources is lessened.

For those medicines that require animal parts, even more scrutiny and care has to be made.

Efforts must be made to find substitutes for any animal parts, especially if this could cause illegal poaching.

Such medicines if still in existence, need to be phased out.

The traditional medicine industry has to be preserved for all times to come but adaptations are required to meet this goal.

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