DUE to current global trends occasioned by COVID-19 and the resultant search for vaccines, the estimated global market size for herbal/natural medicines is expected to rise from $100 billion now to over $5 trillion by 2050. Being critical stakeholders in public health globally, herbal medicine practitioners have a huge role to play as suppliers of safe and quality herbal medicines towards achieving and sustaining efforts geared towards finding preventive or curative drugs.
That was the submission of Dr. Sam Etatuvie, director-general and chief executive, Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), at the beginning of a bio-entreptreneurship training held for herbal medicine practitioners in Lagos. Unfortunately, Nigeria, with vast bio-resources, biodiversity and investment opportunities and competitive advantage in the subsector, contributes an insignificant per cent to this market when compared with countries like China, India and some parts of Europe, he said. To reverse this trend, Nigeria, which has vast potentitals in natural medicine and traditional knowledge, needs to do something about documentation, research, development and promotion of medicinal, aromatic and pesticidal plants and traditional systems commecialisation – either as raw materials or as finished products.
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The NNMDA boss said training of herbal medicine practitioners would mitigate brain drain in the sector as well as ensuring universal healthcare coverage for all Nigerians. “However, the use of herbal products has given rise to various forms of abuse and adulteration of the products leading to consumers and manufacturers’ disappointment and in some instance fatal consequences. Generally, all medicines, whether synthetic or of plant origin should fulfill the basic requirements of being safety and effective. Safety and quality of raw materials can determine the safety, quality and efficacy of the finished products.
“As a rule, all stages of drug preparation from the cultivation, collection of raw materials to finished products must be standardised. As you may be aware, Traditional Medicine Manpower Development is a strategic and critical mandate of our agency thus, there is need to continually train and re-train practitioners of best global practices in herbal products development. The agency is committed and is firmly focused on enhancing the capacity of practitioners on safe practice and modern cultivation approach of MAPs.
“Also, with the growing problems of deforestation and the effect of climate change, modem herbal practice can no longer depend on the wild for the sustainable supply of MAPs to meet the huge market demand for herbal raw materials. So, new innovative approach needs to be deployed to improve the agricultural practice of the cultivation of medicinal plants,” he said.
The Chainman, Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board, Prof. Adefule Ositelu, commended the agency for organising the training and encouraging herb sellers to be good ambassadors of the country while rendering their services. She stated that it is worthy to note that herbs sellers play a vital role in proving herbal raw materials for qualitative healthcare at the primary healthcare delivery system in Nigeria. “Therefore, this training has been of benefits to them and the nation at large. It will create awareness among herbs sellers of the need to adopt the principles of bio-conservation and exploitation in the health sector and beyond,” she said.