With the rapid growth of the global herbal medicine market, which the World Health Organisation estimates would be valued at $3tn by 2020, researchers have said Bangladesh has the potential to tap the market with its medicinal plants.
Speakers at a daylong international conference in Khulna Saturday said Bangladesh is the home to over 550 medicinal plants of which 300 are commonly used in the preparation of traditional medicines around the country; the market for traditional and herbal products is worth around Tk3.3bn annually.
Khulna University Vice Chancellor Mohammad Fayek Uzzaman inaugurated the day-long conference styled “Updates on Natural Products in Medicine and Health Care Systems” attended by renowned scientists from the UK, India and different Bangladeshi universities.
“The main objectives of the conference were to see and update the knowledge on the contributions of natural products, such as plants from the Sundarbans for example, to medicine and healthcare,” said the UK’s University of Wolverhampton Prof Satyajit D Sarker.
Sarker leads a team that carries out collaborative research between the Department of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering of Khulna University (KU) and the Department of Pharmacy of University of Wolverhampton (UoW), which has been funded by a grant from the British Council. The three-year collaboration has explored the bioprospecting potential of the plants from the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.
The main partner from KU’s Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Discipline and Conference Convener Dr Morsaline Billah said identifying recent advances in analytical techniques for natural product research, public perception and uses of natural product based traditional medicine are also the focus of the papers of the conference.
Addressing a plenary session, Prof ABM Faroque of Dhaka University’s Pharmacy Faculty and president of Bangladesh Pharmaceutical Society said natural compounds are contributing towards medicine and healthcare systems, and their use is not really declining.
“In Bangladesh, if we consider traditional medical knowledge and home remedies as a baseline, natural products and traditional medicine is being used possibly by 80% of our population,” he says.
Prof Sitesh C Bachar of Dhaka University’s Department of Pharmaceutical Technology says the government should extend more funding and other forms of support for the development of the traditional systems of medical care, since these are popular because of their effectiveness and relative safety.
He valued the Bangladesh market for traditional and herbal products at about Tk3.3bn annually. WHO forecasted the global market at $3tn in 2020 and at $5tn by 2050.
Diversity, flexibility, easy accessibility, broad continuing acceptance in developing countries and increasing popularity in developed countries, relatively low cost, low levels of technological input, relatively low side effects and growing economic importance have been identified as some of the positive features of traditional medicine, Prof Satyajit D Sarker pointed out.
In this context, mainstreaming traditional medicine into public health care to achieve the objective of improved access to healthcare facilities needs to be considered, he says.