Birango's Blog

The herb threatens to dry up | March 20, 2009


Medicinal plants are on the verge of extinction thanks to the exploitation that is reaching alarming levels according to Sara Oldfield, secretary general of the NGO Botanic Gardens Conservation International. With this applying to the plants that are used to manufacture malarial and cancer drugs, it promises a lot of trouble.

There is though a question still hanging on whether Oldfield has researched the capacity of medicinal plants in Africa. The continent boasts of massive tracts of medicinal plants that have not yet been tapped, though the huge population explosion is threatening to interfere with the natural plant cover.

Medicinal trees at risk include the Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana), a source of the anti-cancer drug, paclitaxel; the pepper-bark tree (Warburgia), which yields an antimalarial; and the African cherry (Prunus africana), an extract from which is used to treat a prostate condition

Alan Hamilton, the author of the report about the impending problems says that the best way around is to provide incentives to the local communities. Ten grass-roots projects studied by Plantlife in India, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Uganda and Kenya showed this approach can succeed. In Uganda, the project has ensured the sustainable supply of low-cost malaria treatments, and in China a community-run medicinal plant reserve has been created for the first time.

“Improving health, earning an income and maintaining cultural traditions are important in motivating people to conserve medicinal plants, and thus the habitats,” says Hamilton. “In conservation you’ve got to go with what people are interested in.”

Hopefully that this works out in a world where the battle against most of the diseases cure rests on herbal medicine.

The pain of ignorance…

Just how many times should people be warned against misuse of drugs in Uganda. It’s a common thing for one to swallow anti-malarial tablets in Uganda as soon as he or she feels feverish. You wonder why the self prescription culture is deeply embedded in Ugandans but one thing is that some people who can not afford or would like to save money prefer not to pay the consultancy fee at health centres not knowing that fever could be as a result of an infection.

As a result of this, drug resistance is becoming the norm, especially with people who take the drugs and ditch them after feeling fine.


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