Herbal medicine boom on the cards

With the aim of developing Thailand as a “world herb hub” within the next 20 years, government and private agencies inked an agreement yesterday to help advance the development and professional use of herbs for better health.

For Thailand to be the centre of the herb trade, the groups agreed to develop a globally accepted standard for herbs with proven health benefits.

The deal was signed at the 15th National Herb Expo that is being held at Bangkok’s IMPACT Arena from this Wednesday to Saturday.

“The public, especially older people, are growing more interested in herbal and holistic remedies both in Thailand and overseas,” said Kiattibhoom Vongrachit, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative medicines (DTAM).

The global market for medicinal herbs is estimated to be worth US$92 billion (3 trillion baht). While figures for the Thai market can vary by source, Thailand exported over 500 million baht of herbs in 201, which experts say leaves much room for growth.

The signing of the MOU this week could pave the way for the Thai herbal trade to double in value by 2022, Mr Kiattibhoom said.

Signatories to the MOU included the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), DTAM, the Tobacco Authority of Thailand (TAT), and private organisations such as Biopharm, DOD Biotech and Bio Wealth.

Current problems include a lack of standardisation when it comes to the quality of Thai herbs, health risks stemming from cadmium-contaminated soil, and a lack of peer-reviewed scientific tests to confirm the health benefits of certain herbs, he added.

Cadmium is highly toxic and can be deadly when ingested, meaning extra precautions must be taken to ensure it does not find its way into herbal products on market shelves.

Thai herbal health care recently received the approval of the Thai Industrial Standard Institute, laying the framework for Thai traditional medicine and indigenous herbs to feature as part of a Standard Developing Organisation (SDO), officials said.

This approval is likely to raise the standard of Thai traditional medicine and drive greater acceptance of time-worn herbal remedies among young people, who increasingly rely on antibiotics.

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