Herbal Medicine sometimes referred to as Herbalism or Botanical Medicine, is the use of appropriate plants or plant parts for their therapeutic or medicinal value. It is the oldest form of healthcare known to humanity that has been used by all cultures throughout the history. Much of the medicinal use of plants seems to have been developed through observations of wild animals, and by trial and error.
Many drugs commonly used today in the developing countries are of herbal origin and prescription drugs contain at least one active ingredient derived from plant material either obtained from plant extracts or synthesized to mimic a natural plant compound. Despite the use of herbal medicines over many centuries, only a relatively small number of plant species has been studied for possible medical applications. This may be accredited to the fact that allopathic medicines, which are known for providing quick relief from illness coupled to their rigorous testing and human trials prior to their production, give full mental assurance to its consumers in comparison to herbal medicines.
Many countries also have a national regulation on herbal medicines but the legislative control of medicinal plants has not evolved around a structured model. This is because medicinal products or herbs are defined differently in different countries and diverse approaches have been adopted with regard to licensing, dispensing, manufacturing, and trading. This has lead to decline in use and research of herbal medicine in the past decade. However in the present scenario it has become more and more noticeable that the overuse of synthetic drugs with impurities was resulting in higher incidence of adverse drug reactions (ADRs).
This naturally motivated the mankind to go back to nature for safer remedies and thus the therapeutic treatment using medicinal plants gained considerable momentum. This indicates the right time for developing countries, which are situated in the tropical belt and are endowed with rich flora, an abundant source of Phytopharmaceuticals, to boost the R&D efforts especially in the areas of cultivation (which includes agronomical techniques), use of modern tools of genetics and plant breeding, plant biotechnology, natural products chemistry, pharmacology and chemical engineering.
If properly exploited with the modern tools of science, the developing countries can increase their foreign exchange considerably from exports of products from medicinal plants and can also provide modern healthcare to the entire section of the vast rural population of these countries.
The present publication contains scientific papers and country status presentations made by the participants of a symposium organized by the NAM S&T Centre at Colombo, Sri Lanka in June 2005 and includes 47 articles by scientists and senior experts from 15 countries, viz. Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, UK, USA and Vietnam.
This publication is an excellent permanent reference material for the professionals working in the fields of Herbal Medicine, Phytopharmaceuticals and Plant sciences and will be useful in working out appropriate plans and strategies by the developing countries for enhancing research activities for probable discovery of herbal remedies to fight against life threatening diseases in order to make themselves adequately self sufficient to rule out any dependability on the developed nations.
Editor: Dr Lakshmi S.R. Arambewela, Prof. Sukumal Wimalasena, and Prof. Neelkanthi Gunawardene
Jointly Published By: Centre for Science & Technology of Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries (NAM S&T Centre) and Institute of Chemistry, Ceylon, Sri Lanka
Year of Publication: 2006
Price: Rs. 1200/US $ 85 ISBN: 955-9244-30-2