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ESSENTIAL DRUGS MONITOR. 1991; (11):15-7.The WHO Programme on Traditional Medicine has joined WHO's global program on drug management and policies because there is a need for recognition that an adequate technological infrastructure must be in place to maximize plants for their medicinal value, especially in the context of primary health care (PHC). PHC places traditional medicine high on its list of priorities and emphasizes the availability and use of appropriate drugs. For example, countries should distribute seeds or plants to be cultivated in home or community gardens and taken as infusions. Scientists have not studied most medicinal plants which can be a rich potential resource for developing countries. Countries should apply known and effective technologies to meet health needs in a culturally acceptable manner and to promote self reliance. They must 1st strengthen data gathering and analysis capabilities needed for economic mapping of medicinal flora, then develop data centers on medicinal plants and plant derived products, such as the WHO Collaborating Center in Chicago. Clinical research should focus on the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines used by traditional health practitioners and on developing antiinfective agents. For example, 2 WHO agencies are collaborating on identifying, preparing, and testing extracts for medicinal plants for antiHIV capabilities. WHO favors developing the knowledge and skills of traditional health practitioners within the framework of PHC. Further, interregional workshops promote selection and use of traditional medicine in national PHC programs. Since there continue to be much public interest in medicinal plants, accurate information must be disseminated to the public and health professionals so they can know both the potential benefits and harmful effects of these remedies.
Geneva, Switzerland, WHO, 1978. 41 p. (Technical Report Series No. 622)A WHO meeting to study the promotion and development of traditional medicine was held in late 1977. Traditional medicine concepts and its place in health care are discussed. The fact that traditional medicine consists of a great deal more than the use of medicinal plants is illustrated with discussions of indigenous medical systems from various countries. Much of traditional medicine has been shown to have intrinsic value. It should be evaluated and its efficacy, safety, and availability improved. This should be done because the use of traditional medicine is the surest means of achieving total health care coverage of the world population, using safe, acceptable, and economical means, by the year 2000. The meeting discussed methods of integrating traditional medicine and traditional medical practitioners into the national health care systems of developing nations. Examples of such integration from various countries are cited. Manpower in this area can best be developed by utilizing and retraining, if necessary, existing personnel, including TBAs (traditional birth attendants). Research priorities in the field will vary with cultural settings. The various possible research approaches are illustrated with case studies.