A number of components will be important in the development of an effective policy on herbal medicine. The policy should recognise the contribution herbal medicine can make to the overall health care system of the country.
4.2.1 Recognizing the role of herbal medicine in the health care system
It is noted that herbal medicine has been used by traditional systems of medicine for a long time. Prolonged and apparently uneventful use of herbal medicine is highly suggestive of its safety and efficacy. Traditional use of herbal medicine is usually an integral part of the culture, which developed within an ethnic group before the spread of modern science. The principles of the traditional system of medicine must be respected when a policy on herbal medicine is prepared. As a general rule, traditional experience should be taken into account along with the medical, historical and ethnological background of the medicine.
4.2.2 Supporting the appropriate use of herbal medicine
The policy should address the importance of herbal medicines in the health care system by identifying the health, economic, social and other benefits of their use. The policy may need to make reference to specific strategies for promoting and incorporating the use of herbal medicines.
4.2.3 Developing appropriate human resources
To ensure the safe and effective use of herbal medicines, the training requirements of practitioners and regulators need to be addressed. This should include reference to quality training programmes for practitioners, and consideration of the educational requirements of regulatory and other personnel.
The policy should also address the education of medical practitioners, pharmacists and the community to facilitate the safe and effective use of herbal medicines as an integral part of the total health care system.
4.2.4 Establishing suitable management and regulatory measures
The needs of consumers and industry, the role of practitioners, and the responsibilities of government should be clearly established in this regard. Policies should be responsive to these identified needs and be designed to ensure they best serve the public in terms of the delivery of safe and effective herbal medicines. The policy should consider the regulatory framework necessary to oversee the manufacture, processing, storage, distribution, sale, import, export and use of these products.
4.2.5 Planning for research and development
The direction and priorities for research and development should be identified. These should take into account such matters as the nature of the country's health care system, the economic and social situation, the availability of health and research personnel, and the degree of access to orthodox and herbal medicines. Account should also be taken of associated research activities occurring in the Region and globally.
4.2.6 Supply of herbal medicines
Where appropriate, the policy should address the need for, and mechanisms to ensure reliable supply of quality herbal medicines. These measures may include policies to manage the utilization of local natural resources, and cultivation and trading with attention to minimizing contamination.
4.2.7 Subscribing to the conservation of medicinal plants
The policy should address the need to preserve endangered species, particularly those identified as requiring conservation nationally and internationally. Practical measures for conservation may need to be identified, particularly for those plants identified as having significant therapeutic use and other benefits to the country.
4.2.8 Provisions of funds
For a national policy to be realised, the policy should identify the costs associated with any national programme and the expected sources of funding. The cost-benefit of the national herbal medicine policy and programme may need to be identified.
4.2.9 Technical cooperation among countries
The importance and benefits of cooperation with other countries, particularly on technical issues, should be recognized. Mechanisms to facilitate this cooperation should be included in the policy.
4.2.10 Monitoring and evaluation of national herbal medicine policies
A process for monitoring and evaluating of the progress and success of the policy should be an integral part of the herbal medicine policy. This will provide the basis for any adjustment to the policy as it evolves, and support for ongoing funding.