Oman blessed with nearly 250 species of medicinal plants, says Dr Nadiya.
Muscat: Oman has been blessed with over 250 reported species of
medicinal plants, the Indian Ocean Rim Association's First Meeting
and Exhibition on Medicinal Plants was told on Monday. The event was
opened on Monday by the Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre
(OAPGRC), in partnership with the Dhofar University and the Indian Ocean
Rim Association's Regional Centre for Science and Technology
Transfer (IORA-RCSTT), in Salalah under the patronage of Sheikh Salim
bin Mustahail Al Mashani, adviser at the Diwan of Royal Court.
Attracting more than 50 high-profile scientists and researchers from
nine countries, Dr Nadiya Al Sdy, OAPGRC's executive director said
in her opening speech at Dhofar University: "Medicinal plants play
an important role in today's healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
And Oman has been blessed with over 250 reported species of medicinal
plants that could be decisive in treating some of the world's
current and future diseases." According to the World Health
Organisation (WHO), approximately five billion people rely on
traditional medicines for primary healthcare and about 85 per cent of
traditional medicine involves the use of plant extracts. But the use of
medicinal plants is by no means restricted to developing countries.
Twenty-five per cent of prescription drugs in the US contain plant
extracts or active principles prepared from higher plants and in Japan
herbal medicinal preparations are in greater demand than mainstream
pharmaceutical products. Of the 252 drugs considered as basic and
essential by the WHO, 11 per cent are exclusively of plant origin and a
significant number are synthetic drugs obtained from natural precursors.
In his comments made on the sidelines of the meeting, Professor Aril
Kumar Tripathi, director of India's Central Institute for Medicinal
and Aromatic Plants, and Sirinan Thubthimthed, Senior Researcher at
Thailand's Institute of Technological Research agreed that
"the Salalah event is important in that it gives IORA member states
an opportunity to meet, exchange knowledge and ideas on medicinal plants
and work to enhance future collaboration". Interest in medicinal
plants and their potential to yield useful drugs has seen a significant
increase over the past few years. "With the increase in global
consumer demand for 'natural' products, I fully expect this
trend to continue. In fact, the large and rapidly growing international
market for medicinal plants presents an interesting opportunity to
promote sub-sector development and rural economic growth in Oman,"
suggested Dr Al Sdy. Research by the International Council for Medicinal
and Aromatic Plants shows that medicinal plants constitute a $60 billion
industry globally with the bulk of demand coming from Germany, Japan,
France and the US. The International Council for Medicinal and Aromatic
Plants estimates that global demand is growing at eight to 10 per cent
annually. Treasure trove "This positive economic data offers
countries like Oman that have a treasure of medicinal plant resources,
significant commercial opportunities. Omani farmers, entrepreneurs and
pharmaceutical companies could all gain from our reserves of indigenous
medicinal plants," suggests the OAPGRC executive director.
"However," warns Dr Al Sdy, "hundreds of medicinal plants
are at risk of extinction from over-collection and deforestation.
Hoodia, originally from Namibia, is attracting interest from
pharmaceutical companies researching weight loss drugs, but is on the
verge of extinction and the Autumn Crocus, which is a natural treatment
for gout and is being linked to helping fight leukaemia, is also at
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