Africa needs to develop standards to assure safety and benefit of its herbal medicines, says Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius.
Speaking during the Centre for Pharmaceutical Advancement and Training (CePAT) awards for 2017 in Ghana, in January. Gurib-Fakim also paid tribute to African women “for their relentless effort towards the promotion of traditional herbal”.
Gurib-Fakim, who was honoured with CePAT Honours Lifetime Achievement Award, says herbal medicines have been the mainstay of economies of Africa.
CePAT honours, which are biennial awards launched in 2014 by the US Pharmacopoeial Convention’s CePAT, acknowledges valuable contributions of African female agents of change and celebrate their contribution in global health.
According to Gurib-Fakim, indigenous medicine remains the most important form of treatment, and culturally accepted practice of a diverse local health system yet African herbal medicine relies mainly on wild harvested plants with sustainability causing concern.
“Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands contain around 60,000 species of higher plants – roughly a quarter of the world’s total. Yet, in spite of this diversity, the region has contributed only less than 8% of the total 1100 medicinal plants commercialised internationally,” says Gurib-Fakim, adding that medicinal plants account for over 40% of licensed drugs.
Gurib-Fakim indicated that important conventional medicines for curing major diseases are from traditional herbs, citing the antimalarial Artemisinin extracted from Artemisin annua.
Whereas there is a place for standardised extracts of medicinal plants in primary healthcare systems, Gurib-Fakim notes: ‘The pace of growth, however, has been slow because of lack of robust standards to guide their manufacture and use. This is especially true for many important African medicinal plants.’
She said that without standards there can be no guarantee of quality, safety and positive health outcomes.
She used the meeting to call for the development of structures, institutions and consolidation of human capacity to not only ensure that traditional medicines are safe, efficacious and of good quality, but also for documenting these traditional practices.
Picture, courtesy of SciDev.Net