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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 333: WOCMAP I - Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Conference: part 1 of 4

UNIDO DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES ON INDUSTRIAL UTILIZATION OF MEDICINAL AND AROMATIC PLANTS

Author:   T. Silva
Abstract:
Plant based traditional medicines play a vital role in the health care of the majority of the people in developing countries. These medicines are still prepared using the age old traditional methods. There has not been any significant research and development work on these medicines despite the advances in science and technology in other areas. Furthermore, traditional practitioners have resisted any such attempts as being detrimental to their practice. The difficulties associated with continuing the practice of having the practitioner prepare the drugs himself have resulted in some centralized production, thus paving the way for the introduction of modern technology. The demand for standardized quality herbal preparations has also increased as a result of the resurgence of interest in natural medicines among people in the industrialized countries. Hence research and development activities in this area is on the increase.

The lack of access to modern therapy is still a factor of crucial importance in maintaining primary health care for major segments of the population in developing countries. The need to provide less expensive standardised quality preparations based on medicinal plants induced UNIDO to launch a programme of development assistance in this important and environment friendly area of activity.

An integrated approach was adopted exploiting fully this natural resource and developing small-scale agro-based industries. Along with the development of good quality traditional medicines, the possibilities of extracting known drugs, intermediates and the production of standard galenicals were explored. The other area that was considered important was the development of the essential oils industry, as many developing countries have rich resources of raw materials or the climatic conditions for the initiation of cropwise cultivation programmes. Though a lot of research has gone into synthetic substitutes for essential oils, the demand for natural oils has not declined. Hence the production of essential oils could still be a good source of foreign exchange revenue for developing countries.

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