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Medicinal Plants And Its Importance To Health

Integrating the use of Traditional Medicine (TM) in the treatment of incurable disease such as AIDS to boost immunity is wiser than waiting for the immune system to weaken to begin antiviral therapy as is the common practiced, especially when evidence exists that 11 of the anti-infective herbs in Chinese TM have shown to be anti-HIV.

According to WHO 25% of modern medicines are made from plants first used traditionally. One recent example is the use of Artemisinin based drugs for treating malaria due to the malaria parasite exhibiting drug resistance to previously prescribed drug therapies. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used to effectively treat malaria with cultivated Artemisia plants for over 2500 years.

In South Africa, the Medical Research Council is conducting studies on the efficacy of the plant Sutherlandia Microphylla in treating AIDS patients. Traditionally used as a tonic, this plant may increase energy, appetite and body mass in people living with HIV.

The World Health Organization launched its first ever comprehensive Traditional Medicine strategy in 2002. The strategy is designed to assist countries to: 

• Develop national policies on the evaluation and regulation of TM/CAM practices; 
• Create a stronger evidence base on the safety, efficacy and quality of the TAM/CAM 
   products and practices; 
• Ensure availability and affordability of TM/CAM including essential herbal medicines; 
• Promote therapeutically sound use of TM/CAM by providers and consumers; 
• Document traditional medicines and remedies. 

At present, WHO is supporting clinical studies on antimalarials in three African countries; the studies are revealing good potential for herbal antimalarials. 

Over one-third of the population in developing countries lack access to essential medicines. The provision of safe and effective TM/CAM therapies could become a critical tool to increase access to health care.

China, the Democratic People Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea and Vietnam have fully integrated TM into their health care systems, many countries are yet to collect and integrate standardized evidence on this type of health care.