WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2002-2005
(2002; 70 pages) [French] [Spanish] View the PDF document
Table of Contents
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentAcronyms, abbreviations and WHO Regions
Open this folder and view contentsKey points: WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002 - 2005
Open this folder and view contentsChapter One: Global review
Open this folder and view contentsChapter Two: Challenges
Close this folderChapter Three: The current role of WHO
View the document3.1 Developing TM/CAM and integrating it into national health care systems
View the document3.2 Ensuring appropriate, safe and effective use of traditional medicine
View the document3.3 Increasing access to TM/CAM information
Open this folder and view contentsChapter Four: International and national resources for traditional medicine
Open this folder and view contentsChapter Five: Strategy and plan of action 2002 - 2005
View the documentAnnex One: List of WHO Collaborating Centres for Traditional Medicine
Open this folder and view contentsAnnex Two: Selected WHO publications and documents on traditional medicine
View the documentReferences
View the documentBack Cover

3.3 Increasing access to TM/CAM information

With 191 Member States, involvement in a range of TM activities and direct access to expertise on many TM issues, WHO is well placed to help increase access to accurate information on TM. This includes producing authoritative reference works - for example on medicinal plants - and guidance on national policy, training, good practice, and selection and use of therapies (see Annex 2). The Organization also increasingly facilitates information exchange.

Figure 12. WHO Collaborating Centres for Traditional Medicine - a growing resource

Authoritative information

The WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants provide scientific information on the safety, efficacy and quality control of widely-used medicinal plants. This includes concise summaries of the botanical features of medicinal plants, listings of the plants' major chemical constituents and instructions on how to ensure quality control of herbal materials derived from the plants. The Monographs also summarize medicinal use in three categories: pharmacology; posology; contraindications; and precautions against potential adverse reactions. A key reference for national health authorities, scientists and pharmaceutical companies, they are also used by lay persons to guide them in rational use of herbal medicines. Additionally, WHO Member States as diverse as Benin, Mexico, South Africa and Viet Nam have used the Monographs as a model when developing their own national mono-graphs or formularies. Volume 1 has been recommended by the European Commission to its own Member States as an authoritative reference.

Although overall responsibility for the content and production of the Monographs rests with WHO, they nevertheless represent a collaborative effort which has enhanced their accuracy and reliability. To date, more than 200 experts, in addition to members of WHO's Expert Advisory Panels on Traditional Medicine and more than 50 national drug regulatory authorities, have been involved in their preparation. Volume I of the Monographs was published in 1999 and has since been widely distributed. Volume II was published in 2001 and Volume III was finalized in late 2001.

The Regulatory Situation of Herbal Medicines: Worldwide Review was also a collaborative effort - between WHO and many of its Member States. Providing information from 50 countries on the regulation of herbal medicines, this reference work serves as a guide to health authorities in other countries now seeking to develop their own systems for regulation and registration of herbal medicines. Research institutes and the pharmaceutical industry also find the Review helpful. Quality Control Methods for Medicinal Plant Materials is another key reference recently produced by WHO.

Facilitating information exchange

In addition to making its own publications and documents widely available, WHO also facilitates information exchange through its Collaborating Centres for Traditional Medicine. Queries received from national health authorities, scientists and the public are responded to in cooperation with these WHO Collaborating Centres.

Table 12. Information exchange through WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago

WHO Headquarters or Regional Office

Number of requests received

Number of references supplied in response




Regional Office for Africa



Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean



Regional Office for the Americas/Pan American Health Organization



Regional Office for South-East Asia



Regional Office for the Western Pacific



The WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has a database on medicinal plants that contains coded information on natural products from 150 750 references. These include references relating to ethnomedicine, pharmacology of extracts and pure com pounds, and phytochemistry. Since 1994, the Centre has provided valuable assistance for the drafting of all three volumes of the WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants. It has also been providing information free of charge to developing countries. In 2000, it responded to 10 182 requests received from developing countries by WHO Headquarters and WHO Regional Offices by providing 407 840 references (Table 12).

Additionally, WHO Collaborating Centres for Traditional Medicine in China (the Institute of Clinical Science and Information, China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing), the Republic of Korea (Natural Products Research Institute, Seoul National University) and the USA (The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland) also maintain databases of information on TM/CAM which play an important and visible role in providing scientific information for both providers and the public.

Last but not least, web-sites on TM/CAM are being established at WHO Headquarters and the WHO Regional Offices to provide information on national TM/CAM policies, regulations governing practice and use of TM/CAM, and research data on the safety, efficacy and use of TM/CAM therapies.


to previous section
to next section
The WHO Essential Medicines and Health Products Information Portal was designed and is maintained by Human Info NGO. Last updated: December 6, 2017