|Medicinal plants: Rescuing a global heritage (WB, 1997, 80 p.)|
Of all the possibilities for improving the lives of the rural poor, medicinal plants are one of the best. It is unlikely that the vast majority of peoples in developing countries will ever be self-reliant in their primary healthcare needs without recourse to these plants. Indeed, it is unlikely that drastic social, technical or economic changes are going to upset the medicinalplant situation in the majority of developing countries during the next decade. Hence, the establishment of local herbal-product industries would go a long way to provide for local healthcare needs.
Women in many parts of the world are the key to the future integration of traditional and Western medical practices. They must play a pivotal role in defining future medicinalplant conservation, cultivation and enhancement strategies.
Immediate research efforts should be directed towards those traditional medicines that may be of use: (i) in combating "refractory diseases" for which Western medicine has no longlasting remedies; and (ii) as supplements to Western drug products.
An important first step to characterize this informal sector is the development of appropriate value indicators that reflect the perceptions of different stakeholder groups. Such indicators should include aspects of indigenous medical, cultural, ecological, and environmental values placed upon medicinal plants by local people in developing countries. The investment costs would be relatively small, and the acquired knowledge and experience would prove useful when the diversification stage is reached.