Categories
Archive

Traditional Medicine is now a Proven Remedy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Once dismissed as old fashioned, ineffective and unscientific, traditional medicine is now seen as a key tool in bringing healthcare and healing to poor people bypassed by existing public and private health measures.

Acknowledging traditional medicine as a useful tool goes back to the World Health Organisation’s Alma-Ata Declaration in 1978, which urged governments for the first time to include traditional medicine in their primary health systems and recognise traditional medicine practitioners as health workers. During the last 30 years there has been a considerable expansion in the use of traditional medicine across the world. Despite their ancient origins, it is still critical these medicines do meet efficacy and health standards and are proven to work.

In Mongolia, when the Soviet Union collapsed a decade and a half ago, new market forces meant that supplies of conventional medicines became prohibitively expensive for most of the population. With one doctor for 600 people in the rural areas – and the vast distances to be covered – medical services were virtually unobtainable in rural communities.

This situation led to a revival of Mongolia’s 2,000-year-old traditional medicine. This includes acupuncture, cauterisation, manual therapy, blood letting and therapies using mares’ milk – all integral to the rural way of life.

Research by the Japanese Nippon Foundation – the largest private foundation in Japan – explored how Mongolia’s public health care could be improved through traditional medicine. It focused on the possible use of traditional medicine alongside Western medicine, the depth of faith in traditional medicine, the affordability of traditional medicine, and the lifestyles of herdsmen living in remote areas away from hospitals. The project, launched in 2004, distributes medical kits with 12 types of traditional medicines to households in rural areas. As they use them, the households pay for them. The kits, which mostly target stomach and intestinal ailments and fever, have so far been distributed to 10,000 households (50,000 people) across the country. The Foundation found doctors’ house calls were down by 25 per cent after one year of the project.

In India, Gram Mooligai and its Village Herbs label helps bring quality healthcare to the country’s 170 million rural poor currently left out by public healthcare programmes, or who can’t afford private services. At present, the Indian government has been unable to find adequate funds to provide healthcare to all its people. Gram Mooligai uses a network of 300 women health practitioners to reach villagers who spend on average US $50 a year on health services – so far, they reach 30,000 households. It has built trust with the poor by offering herbal remedies based on India’s strong Ayruvedic heritage of herbal healing. It also draws on India’s rich biodiversity by harvesting medicines sustainably from native plant species – over 18,000 are known.

The company is owned by a network of rural growers that manufacture herbal remedies like Trigul balm for joint pain, Sugam cough syrup and Jwaracin fever reducer. Gram Mooligai combines modern heathcare with local remedies familiar to rural villagers.

The website gives a good example of this folksy approach. In answer to a villager whose daughter is complaining of pain in her legs and back, the villager is advised to give her milk and ghee (clarified butter). “Add nuts and dry fruits to her daily diet in small quantity. If she is lean, then a weekly massage with Lakshadi Thailam (which is available in the Ayurvedic shops) is very useful. Slightly warm the oil before massage and add a pinch of common salt to the oil for better absorption.”

Published: September 2007

Resources

  • Mongolian Traditional Medicine Website: www.baigal.com
  • Asia-Pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology Network: an excellent first stop for any entrepreneur, where they can find out standards and regulations and connect with education and training opportunities: www.apctt-tm.net and www.aptm.cn

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Finding Fortune in Traditional Medicine

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Traditional medicines and treatments could help provide the next wave of affordable drugs and medicines for the world. But a phenomenon known as ‘bio-prospecting’ – in which global companies grab a stake in these once-free medicines – has been placing traditional medicines out of reach of Southern entrepreneurs. Pharmaceutical patents (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patents) taken out by international drug companies are making traditional medicines expensive and inaccessible to the poor.

Indian scientists have identified more than 5000 bio-prospecting patents, worth some US $150 million, taken out by companies outside India.

Now governments in countries like India are moving to protect these recipes and the plants and animals they are made from.

The Indian government has labelled 200,000 traditional treatments as public property and free for anyone to use. These treatments are key parts of the 5000-year-old Indian health system called Ayurvedic medicine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayurveda) – ayur means health in Sanskrit, veda means wisdom.

“We began to ask why multinational companies were spending millions of dollars to patent treatments that so many lobbies in Europe deny work at all,” said Dr. Vinod Kumar Gupta, head of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which lists in encyclopaedic detail the 200,000 treatments.

“If you can take a natural remedy and isolate the active ingredient then you just need drug trials and the marketing. Traditional medicine could herald a new age of cheap drugs,” Gupta told The Guardian..

Currently, it is very expensive to follow the Western approach to developing drugs. A so-called “blockbuster drug” can cost US $15 billion and take 15 years to bring to the market. With patents lasting 20 years, a drug company can have as little as five years to recover its development costs. This helps explain the high prices for drugs.

Unlike traditional healers in the South, multinational corporations can marshal the money, time and legal resources to file patents.

In the past, India has fought expensive and lengthy battles to revoke patents on traditional remedies. One example is the battle over the popular Indian spice turmeric powder (used for healing wounds, among other things). A patent awarded to the University of Mississippi in 1995 was successfully withdrawn after a legal battle by the Indian government.

The Indian government’s move to make traditional medicines and therapies public property promises to unleash a new wave of natural remedies and drugs and to expand the market for Southern health entrepreneurs drawing on traditional knowledge and recipes.

As the world’s economy continues to suffer, finding new ways to earn incomes and spark a whole new generation of businesses will be crucial to recovery.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as “the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures that are used to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses.”

The importance of traditional medicines in primary health care can be seen in Asia and Africa, where its usage reaches 80 percent of the population in some countries (WHO). Herbal medicines alone are worth billions of dollars a year in sales. Examples of traditional remedies include antimalarial drugs developed from the discovery and isolation of artemisinin from Artemisia annua L., a plant used in China for almost 2000 years. In 2003, doctors found scientific evidence supporting the use of traditional Ghanaian plants to help wounds heal. Parts of the African tulip tree and the Secamone afzelli are made into pastes which are applied to wounds.

The downside of traditional medicine is the urgent need for better regulation and safety standards. While more than 100 countries have regulations for herbal medicines, counterfeit, poor quality or adulterated herbal medicines are still a major problem.

Herbal treatments are the most popular form of traditional medicine, and are highly lucrative in the international marketplace. Annual revenues in Western Europe reached US $5 billion in 2003-2004.. In China, sales of products totalled US $14 billion in 2005. Herbal medicine revenue in Brazil was US $160 million in 2007 (WHO).

One initiative is ensuring there is a solid future for traditional medicine in India. Charity Bodytree India, set up in 2004 by a group of health, human rights and education workers, addresses issues surrounding access to health care and the disappearing traditional medical practices amongst isolated indigenous communities. Bodytree has established a successful educational programme that trains young people from different indigenous communities to become community health workers and operates programmes of health education for community groups (http://www.bodytree.org/index.html).

Almost four-fifths of India’s billion people use traditional medicine and there are 430,000 Ayurvedic medical practitioners registered by the government in the country. The department overseeing the traditional medical industry, known as Ayush, has a budget of 10 billion rupees (US $260 million).

In the state of Kerala in India’s South, Ayurveda medical tourism has become a good income generator. And it is so popular in the nearby nation of Sri Lanka, hotels can have Ayurveda included in the name.

Indian entrepreneurs are drawing on increasing awareness of the importance of healthy living and rising interest in vegetarian diets – what were once holidays are now health experiences. With global obesity rates rapidly rising, along with the attended diseases like cancer and diabetes, more and more people are looking for a dramatic change to their eating and lifestyle habits to ensure long-term health. And traditional medicine has solutions.

Published: March 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Cashing in on Old Wisdom

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

India’s traditional weavers, heirs to a 2,000-year-old textile industry, are turning to the ancient practice of ayurvedic medicine to make their products more appealing and boost sales. Drawing on recipes once used by weavers to the Indian royal courts, clothes are woven and infused with ayurvedic, herb-and-spice medicinal recipes to address various health problems. Strange as it may sound, the health-giving properties of the clothes have been backed up by clinical trials at the Government Ayurveda College in Thiruvanathapuram, southern India.

The college claims the trials were successful for 40 patients with rheumatism, allergies, hypertension, diabetes, psoriasis and other skin ailments. It is believed the healing properties of the herb-and-spice-infused clothes enter the skin and contribute to healing.

Modern India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, championed hand-spun cloth and weaving. But India’s weavers have been hit hard by the rise in the rupee against the dollar and an inability to compete internationally. They are facing stiff competition from a flood of machine-made cheap clothing. According to Siddique Hassan of the Weaver and Artisans Rights Front (WARF), 1 million of India’s 5 million weavers have lost their jobs because of competition (Deutsche Presse-Agentur).

But rising interest in sustainability and natural healing is creating a growing global market for organic clothes – sales are set to triple to US $2.6 billion in 2008 (Organic Exchange).

Against this backdrop, local governments have turned to traditional ayurvedic medicine to help save the livelihoods of handloom weavers and develop a market niche for their eco-friendly fabrics.

In the technique called Ayurvastra, the clothes are dyed with herbal essences, infusing the cotton with the medicine. More than 200 herbs are used, mostly taken from roots, flowers, leaves, seeds and bark. Most of the clothes are made with cotton and silk, and some with wool and jute. A dress is marketed to people who suffer from hypertension. There are bedcovers, pillow covers, nightgowns, and even suits. It is believed the healing effect is best when the patient is sleeping.

The clothes are made in Balaramapuram, home to traditional weaving in Kerala, southern India, and sell for between 1,000 and 1,800 rupees (US $25 to US $45). Ayurvastra clothing is currently being exported to the Middle East, the US, Italy, Germany, Britain, Singapore, Malaysia and Jordan.

Acknowledging traditional medicine as a useful development tool goes back to the World Health Organisation’s Alma-Ata Declaration in 1978, which urged governments for the first time to include traditional medicine in their primary health systems and recognise traditional medicine practitioners as health workers. During the last 30 years there has been a considerable expansion in the use of traditional medicine across the world. Despite their ancient origins, it is still critical these medicines do meet efficacy and health standards and are proven to work.

Ayurvastra is a branch of the 5,000-years-old Indian ayurveda health system. Ayur means health in Sanskrit, veda means wisdom, and vastra is cloth or clothing. There are no synthetic chemicals and toxic irritants and the technique uses organic cotton that has been hand loomed.

“The entire process is organic,” said K. Rajan, chief technician at the Handloom Weavers Development Society in India, to Zee News. “The cloth is bleached with cow’s urine, which has high medicinal value. The dyeing gum too is herbal. It does not pollute like synthetic dye. And the waste is used as bio manure and to generate bio gas.”

Chaitanya Arora of Penchant Traders, an Indian company promoting and exporting ayurvastra cloth and clothing, tells how it works: “usage of the cloth is based on the principle of touch. By coming in contact with ayurvastra, the body loses toxins and its metabolism is enhanced.”

One clothes buyer, T D Kriplani, told Zee News, “Basically, I have read about the concept in newspapers… I was inquisitive and have also heard that it is in direct touch with body pores. I have come here after reading about it and hope it will benefit people.” It is even claimed the clothes can keep people cool.

Another seller of ayurvastra, Hitesh, is enthusiastic about its impact: “The medicinal clothes that we have launched is a new revolution in the textile industry. In there, we dye the clothes with ayurvedic dyes and the clothes have medicinal qualities, which hopefully are good for diseases.”

Published: February 2008

Resources

  • Think! Clothing: A stylish UK-based designer using fair-trade, hand woven clothes from Indian women from the ‘untouchable’ caste.
  • An online shopping site based in Kerala, India offers a wide range of the ayurvastra clothing: http://www.ayurvastraonline.com/
  • Fibre2Fashion: An excellent web portal can be found here to connect weavers with the wider fashion industry – basically an online marketplace for making deals.
  • Asia-Pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology Network: an excellent first stop for any entrepreneur, where they can find out standards and regulations and connect with education and training opportunities: www.apctt-tm.net

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Southern Innovator was initially launched in 2011 with the goal of inspiring others (just as we had been so inspired by the innovators we contacted and met). The magazine seeks to profile stories, trends, ideas, innovations and innovators overlooked by other media. The magazine grew from the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) since 2006.

Issue 6’s theme has been decided on: it will focus on Science, Technology and Innovation. For this issue, Southern Innovator is seeking invitations from cutting-edge knowledge and science innovators in the global South to view their work. Time is tight, so don’t miss this opportunity to let the whole global South know about your work. In the past, Southern Innovator has visited green pioneers in Cuba, a smart city in South Korea and an eco-city in China.

Contact me if you wish to receive a copy/copies of the magazine for distribution. Follow @SouthSouth1.

Southern Innovator Issue 1

Southern Innovator Issue 2

Southern Innovator Issue 3

Southern Innovator Issue 4

Southern Innovator Issue 5

Southern Innovator Issue 6

Innovator Stories and Profiles

Citing Southern Innovator

Finding Southern Innovator

Press Release 1

Press Release 2

Press Release 3

Southern Innovator Impact Summaries | 2012 – 2014

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021