Documentation Of Traditional Knowledge Of Medicinal Plants For Primary Health Care Of Rural Women

Author

Ferdousi Begum, DEBTEC- Development of Biotechnology & Environmental Conservation Centre (Member of IUCN), House No. 90, Road No. 11/A,Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka-1209, Bangladesh

Proceeding

1st International Conference & Exhibition on Women's Health & Asian Traditional (WHAT) Medicine

Date

23/8/2005

Keyword

medicinal plants, traditional medicine, primary health care, documentation

Abstract

Traditional knowledge is an immensely valuable resource that provides mankind with insight      on how communities have interacted with their changing environment. Traditional knowledge is essential to the food security and health of millions of people in the developing world. In many countries, traditional medicine provides the only affordable treatment available to poor people, up to 80% of the populations depend on traditional medicines to help meet their healthcare needs. In addition, knowledge of the healing properties of plants has been the source of many modern medicines. Traditional knowledge systems have always been refined and passed on from generation to generation but have never been systematically documented in written form. Thus many of this knowledge are being lost, due to the lack of proper documentation by any central authority and have also become victims to Bio-piracy. Along with the loss of knowledge, the medicinal plants are also becoming extinct without any proper conservation and cultivation and are not readily accessible to health researchers, development practitioners and policymakers. Though the therapeutic capability of medicinal plant may not have sufficient scientific data but for hundreds of years the general public of our country are using it as a traditional medicine with a reputation of it being an effective remedy. In all countries of the world there exists traditional knowledge related to the health of humans and animals. The importance of traditional medicine as a source of primary health care was first officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Primary Health Care Declaration of Alma Ata (1978) and has been globally addressed since 1976 by the Traditional Medicine Program of the WHO. However with the availability of modern medicine, interests have temporarily shifted into drugs which have short term benefits and some even carry side effects. Ironically urban people have started to realize the benefits of herbal medicine and along with the rural people who went back into believing in their traditional and indigenous knowledge, have both created a huge demand for the medicinal plants. Thus the rural women can be empowered socially and economically by cultivating and supplying some of the demanded types of medicinal plants. In Bangladesh, medicinal plants constitute the basis of primary health care for a majority of the population. However, these resources and its local knowledge are being threatened by commercial exploitation, unsustainable use, cultural change and a lack of institutional support. Primary health care is a necessity for everyone.  The primary health care is looked after by the women in every society of the world which is called as “Grand Mother Pharmacy”. For people in rural areas, medicinal plants have been used as primary health care for time immemorial. Usually the rural women have been using these MP from wild habitat and their backyard. Dakkhin Maguri is a village within the district of Luxmipur in the southern region of Bangladesh, comprising approximately five hundred families. This is a unique place and flood free area where people cultivate crops round the year. The people of the village represent the old tradition of knowledge, culture and lifestyle. Most of the people are accustomed to using the medicinal plants for basic cure of disease for Primary Health Care. There are some old persons (grandfather, grandmother) who pass the traditional knowledge about the use of medicinal plants for health care and to cure of basic disease. These plants are particularly found in the village abundantly as wild. Nobody cultivates these plants for any purpose. Our main objective was to motivate the local people about the importance of wild habitat and medicinal plants and motivate them to document the knowledge about the medicinal plants. This work that has been conducted is aimed at documenting the social status of traditional knowledge related to medicinal plants.