(1998; 88 pages)
5.2 Use of herbal medicines in health care
In many communities and families in the Region, herbal medicine is an available, affordable, effective and culturally-acceptable health care modality. The use of herbal medicine can meet certain primary health care requirements of the people, particularly in less developed, rural and remote areas. The existing community-based traditional medicine projects in several countries have demonstrated the vital role that can be played by herbal medicine in primary health care. In more developed countries, it can complement modern pharmaceutical medicines.
The knowledge available in communities about the use of medicinal plants should be collected and collated, preferably with the participation of the communities themselves. Medicinal plants commonly used in the communities should be selected. The basic criteria in the selection of plants should be: (1) locally available; (2) useful for common health problems; and (3) availability of references on their safety and efficacy. Educational and training materials on these selected plants should be prepared and disseminated. Community health workers should be trained in the identification, collection, processing, storage and utilization of the plants. Villagers should be encouraged to plant medicinal plants in their gardens or backyards.
The herbal medicine practices should be coordinated and integrated into the country's health care system. They can be components of health care establishments at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels or can stand alone. Countries are encouraged to be aware of recent developments in herbal medicine throughout the world and to adopt such treatments into their health care services as and when appropriate if it is beneficial to the community.