We Must Get More Benefits from Medicinal Plants

We should develop our own system on medicinal plants


On a Saturday afternoon two weeks ago I participated in a coffee shop talk called locally as “Kapihan,”

It was the first meeting of a diverse group: geneticist, accountant, marketing expert, animal science expert, land reform officer, fisheries expert, extension expert who is also an entrepreneur in medicinal plants. I am an agriculturist specialized in development communication or one who bridges the gap between the scientist and layman. Another participant was a meteorologist who is co-winner of the Nobel Prize for peace being a member of the International Panel on climate change, in 2007 together with former vice president Albert Gore.

Some have been exposed to medicinal plants for some time, others are neophytes. The entrepreneur and myself are long timers, so to speak, the geneticist is a consultant on biotechnology so she is adept at medicinal plants. The others were visibly enthusiastic.

How it started

The Kapihan was spurred by the death of a common friend or contemporary who had heart bypass, who stuck to taking of conventional medicines. He used to be dean of the College of Forestry of the University of the Philippines, Los Banos campus. The implied concern was how could someone taken cared of by conventional medicine die? Could alternative medicine, albeit medicinal plants, save him?

The entrepreneur was the host of the Kapihan who did more of the talking because of his long experience with medicinal plants.

Some of the participants have relatives living in the United States or are having dual citizenship of being American and Filipino. They are exposed to the influence of Big Pharma and HMO or health maintenance organization. So there is some concern as a victim of forced selling or medication or bureaucracy in medication.

I must have been carried away. I said we should not copy the example of the United States where Big Pharma has been established. The Philippines is habitat of a lot of medicinal plants, over a thousand of them.

I know this Kapihan group is highly technical so I had to tailor my language to their level.

I said, we should have a paradigm shift. (That is simply a change in framework.)

We should start with open mind that medicinal plants can prevent, treat and cure disease. Along the way, we will find out by means of medical research the efficacy, effectiveness, safety and applications of medicinal plants.

Big Pharma

In the framework of Big Pharma, no drug may be applied or prescribed if not approved by conventional medicine that ultimately caters to Big Pharma. Any drug that had not been formulated by Big Pharma may be approved as a drug. So a natural cure is virtually illegal.

In simple language, a natural cure can treat or cure but a government agency or a quasi-regulatory body has made it illegal to use it.

So a quasi-regulatory body like American Medical Association (AMA) and a government agency like Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have ruled as illegal the use of a natural cure (like essiac) for cancer. Power and profit motive play the major roles here, not scientific or medical sense. Health and well being play second fiddle.

The development and accumulation of such power in America may be unique to the American culture or system.

We, as a nation, must not copy that system. We must develop our own system.

On second thought, I might have been marching too far ahead or I could be a dilettante, naive on power. A developing country that cannot even manufacture its own vaccines should not dare resist giants like Big Pharma!

Even the American people can’t resist Big Pharma.

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