Herbal Medicine Use in Primary Health Care (PHC)

Herbal Medicines or Medicinal Plants and Herbal Medicines Recommended for the Primary Health Care in Thailand

In 1978, the International Conference on Primary Health Care was held in Alma-Ata, USSR.  WHO/UNICEF issued the Declaration of Alma-Ata urging member countries to formulate national policies, strategies, and plans of actions to launch and sustain primary health care (PHC) as a part of comprehensive national health systems in order to attain “Health for All by the Year 2000” target.  This included the promotion of the maximum level of community involvement, community and individual self-reliance and participation and making the fullest use of local, national and other available resources; e.g., medicinal plants, indigenous medicine, and appropriate technology.

As a result of the Alma-Ata Declaration, the Ministry of Public Health answered the call of WHO by promoting more R&D of medicinal plants and selection of 57 medicinal plants recommended for PHC for the treatment and relief of 19 groups of common minor symptoms and diseases during the 4th National Economic and Social Development Plan (1977-1981).

In 1994, based on more recent research evidence, the list of medicinal plants recommended for the PHC was revised to 61 medicinal plants for 21 groups of symptoms and diseases.  The selection of medicinal plants for PHC was based on: –

  1. The use of medicinal plants according to Thai traditional medicine
  2. Scientific data on efficacy and safety based on: –
    • pre-clinical (pharmacological & toxicological) studies (in vivo & in vitro)
    • clinical studies, if available

The Ministry of Public Health, universities and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives collaborated in the “Medicinal Plants and Primary Health Care Project” which was funded by the UNICEF during the period 1983-1985 and by GTZ of the German Government during the period of 1986-1988.  This project has later led to more research and development of medicinal plants recommended for PHC and the production of herbal medicines by several public hospitals.  In addition, herbal medicines studied under this project were also selected into the National List of Essential Medicines; i.e., turmeric for dyspepsia, andrographis for fever and sore throat (pharyngotonsilitis), Senna alata for laxative, Plai or Zingiber cassumunarfor muscle sprain and pain.

As of 2000, there were 168 community hospitals, 22 health centers and 7 regional/general hospitals that produced herbal medicines and other herbal products to serve the community and nearby hospitals in their regions.

Herbal medicines or medicinal plants recommended for primary health care in Thailand are as follows: –

  1. Medicinal plants for the treatment of gastrointestinal symptoms or diseases
    1. Peptic ulcer: turmeric, unripe banana
    2. Flatulence & dyspepsia: turmeric, ginger, clove, garlic, holy basil, lemongrass, pepper, long pepper, galangal, Boesenbergia rotunda roots, nut grass, Siam cardamom, bastard cardamom, lime peel, Zingiber  zerumbet rhizome
    3. Constipation: tamarind, Senna alata, Senna, Senna siamea leaf, Cassia fistula pod
    4. Diarrhea: guava leaf or young fruit, aerial part of Andrographis paniculata, unripe banana, pomegranate rind, mangosteen rind, catechu
    5. Nausea & vomiting: ginger, young noni fruit
    6. Intestinal parasites: young ebony fruit, pumpkin seed, Rangoon creeper (Quisqualis indica) seed, water extract of the wood of Artocarpus lacucha
    7. Toothache: Murraya paniculata, leaf, Strebrus asper bark, Spilanthes acmella flower.
    8. Anorexia: Tinospora crispa stem, Senna siamea leaf & flower, Chinese bitter gourd, Azadirachta indica flower
  2. Medicinal plants for respiratory symptoms
    1. Dry or productive cough: ginger, long pepper, emblic myrobalan fruit, tamarind, lime juice, Solanum trilobatum & S. sanitwongsei fruit, Oroxylum indicum seed
    2. Common cold/sore throat: aerial part of Andrographis paniculata
  3. Medicinal plants with diuretic activity for the relief of the symptom of urinary tract
    1. Urinary hesitancy:  roselle, Pluchea indica aerial part, lemongrass, pineapple rhizome, Imperata cylindrica root, sugar cane
  4. Medicinal plants for skin diseases
    1. Dermatophyte: garlic, galangal, Senna alata (ringworm bush) leaf, Rhinacanthus nasutus leaf, betel leaf,
    2. Seborrhea of the scalp:  soap nut
    3. Burns: Asiatic pennywort (gotu kola), coconut oil, Aloe vera, ice
    4. Abscess, wounds: turmeric, Senna alata leaf, Aloe vera, Andrographis paniculata, garden balsam leaf or flower, Gynura pseudochina var. hispida rhizome
    5. Skin allergy, insect bites: turmeric, Coccinia grandis leaf, Ipomoea pes-caprae leaf & stem, Clinacanthus nutans leaf, Barleria lupulina leaf
    6. Hive: betel leaf
    7. Herpes simplex & Herpes zoster: Clincanthus nutans leaf
  5. Medicinal plants for other symptoms and diseases
    1. Muscle sprain & pain: Zingiber cassumunar rhizome
    2. Insomnia: Senna siamea young leaf & flower
    3. Fever: Andrographis paniculata, Tinospora crispa stem
    4. Head lice: sugar apple seed (Annona squamosa)


Institute of Thai Traditional Medicine, Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, Ministry of Public Health. Herbal Medicines or Medicinal Plants and Herbal Medicines Recommended for the Primary Health Care in Thailand, 2012.




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