The World Health Organization is fully aware of the importance of herbal medicines to many of its Member States and supports the use of medicinal plants and their products. In early 1978, the World Health Assembly, the WHO governing body, adopted a resolution on drug policies and management of medicinal plants, which recognized the importance of medicinal plants in the health care system. The World Health Assembly proposed coordinating efforts through the preparation of an inventory of medicinal plants, the development of criteria and methods for proving the safety and efficacy of medicinal plant products, and the dissemination of relevant information. In 1987, 1988 and 1989, three more resolutions were adopted covering the identification, evaluation, preparation, cultivation, utilization, regulation and conservation of medicinal plants.
Based on those resolutions, WHO's policy on herbal medicine may be summarized as follows:
(1) WHO is fully aware of the importance of herbal medicines for the health of a large number of the population in today's world. Herbal medicines are recognized as valuable and readily available resources, and their appropriate use is encouraged;
(2) To promote the proper use of medicinal plants, a comprehensive programme for their identification, evaluation, preparation, cultivation, recognition as valuable and readily available resources, and their appropriate use is encouraged;
(3) It is necessary to make a systematic inventory and assessment (pre-clinical and clinical) of medicinal plants; to introduce measures on the regulation of herbal medicines to ensure quality control of herbal products by using modern techniques, applying suitable standards and good manufacturing practices; and to include herbal medicines in the national standard or pharmacopoeia.
(4) As many of the plants that provide traditional and modern drugs are threatened with extinction, WHO endorses the call for international cooperation and coordination to establish programmes for the conservation of medicinal plants, to ensure that adequate quantities are available for future generations.