As defined above, TRM encompasses knowledge and practices used for diagnosis, prevention and cure. An important part of TRM knowledge refers to the properties of natural materials used in their wild form, or as part of a preparation or mixture. Such materials include plant based or “herbal medicines”, 22 as well as animal parts and minerals.
22 See definition above.
“Folk” traditions as well as other systems of TRM use a large number of medicinal plants. As a result of this extensive use of plants,23 the concept of TRM is more often known as being linked to plant-based medicines. However, animal-based medicines have played a significant role in healing practices, magic rituals, and religions of many societies. In fact, of the 252 essential medicines selected by the World Health Organization, 11,1 per cent come from plants and 8,7 per cent are derived from animals (Medeiros Costa Neto, 1999, p. 6).
23 In India, for instance, the codified systems of medicine utilize about 2000 plant species for medicinal purpose, while the tribal communities, who live in and around the forests, utilize over 8000 species of plants, most of which are otherwise not known to the outside world (Pushpangadan 2002, p. 5). See, also, Shankar, 1996, p. 170.
In addition, TRM encompasses a great variety of methods of diagnosis and treatment, including physical, mental and spiritual therapies. The application of such methods is strongly influenced by the culture and beliefs dominant in a particular community,24 to the extent that they may be ineffective when applied in a different context.
24 Physical methods of treatment involve muscle manipulation and massage. Mental methods of treatment involve self discipline in the form, for instance, of a strict diet. Spiritual methods of treatment include, for instance, prayers and use of holy water (Koon, 1999, p. 167).
TRM includes, thus, knowledge concerning medicines and their use (appropriate dosage, particular forms of administration, etc.), as well as the procedures and rituals applied by healers as part of their traditional healing methods. In some cases therapies are primarily applied without the use of medication, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, Qigong, T’ai Chi, yoga, naturopathy, thermal therapy, and other physical, mental, spiritual and mind-body therapies.
As discussed below, while some products used in the context of TRM, as well the processes for their preparation, may find protection under patents and other IPRs, methods of diagnosis and treatment generally would not, unless the protection of such methods is specifically provided for by national law.