Ethno-pharma- An emerging sector

by Rajkumar Natekar

Ethno-pharma- An emerging sector

by Rajkumar Natekar

by Rajkumar Natekar

Healthcare sector in 2021 is evolving to the greater extent owing to the initiatives and advancements taking place to futureproof the healthcare facilities from uncertain, unwanted, and deadly event like Covid-19. These advancements are happening while keeping the patients at the centre with the more focus on preventive and immune health.  

Now while talking about preventive immune health, we can see at large, traditional medicines and integrative medicinal practices are emerging in the modern scenario of healthcare. Ethno-pharma, an ethnomedicinal field, which majorly deals with traditional and folk medicines is also set to bloom in upcoming years. 

While focusing on the cultural determinants for traditional medicines and also pharmaceuticals, ethno-pharma deals with the investigational approaches in finding the possible use/perception of traditional medicines (and also pharmaceuticals) in the culture. 

Ethno-pharma and ethnopharmacology follows the ‘multidisciplinary scientific approach’ through which various holistic approaches can be made to innovate novel treatment strategies for the management of various chronic diseases and to explore their relevance to modern healthcare. 

India is widely known as the ‘home to medicinal herbs’ as traditional and integrative medicines are well-accepted and established in the country. However, the concept of ethno-pharma is yet to establish in India as very small cluster of population is aware about this field. Following are some promising approaches which can put light on ethno-pharma sector in India in coming years.  

New research and progressions in the field of herbals  

Traditional medicinal plants contain a wide variety of chemical groups which exert different biological effects through which several chronic diseases can be cured in a natural way. As ethnopharmacology majorly deals with the pharmacognostical, phytochemical and pharmacological aspects of natural drugs and medicinal plants, looking at the current advancements in Indian research and development, some promising novel herbal drugs can be invented in the years ahead.

Moreover, to develop new molecules which are safe as well as affordable, number of pharmaceutical companies are showing rejuvenated interest in natural drugs. Covid-19 and increased prevalence of lifestyle diseases and non-communicable diseases have led down a rigid platform for herbal drugs which in turn boosting the research and development in the area at 2× speed. 

Changing attitudes, driving markets

Besides Pharmaceuticals and Chemically derived entities, most of the consumers due to awareness are looking for natural medicines. Pharmaceutical medicines have its own place in curing patients and through vaccines, even preventing certain diseases, however, the movement towards natural products and enthnopharmaceuticals has social impact besides medical impact. Due to this, a great market transformation can be seen in the herbal and natural ingredients area.   

The Indian traditional medicines market is expected to grow at CAGR of 16.06% through INR 300 billion in 2018 and can account INR 710.87 billion by 2024. This market growth can be beneficial in increasing the evidence-based research in the area of ethnomedicines.  


Government bodies supporting traditional knowledge

Ayurveda and Homeopathy medicines covered under AYUSH system of medicines have a strong correlation with the ethnopharmacology as the field is associated with the traditional medicines to the greater extent. Owing to this, Ministry of AYUSH is taking several efforts to involve the ethnopharmacology model in the syllabus of alternative medicine systems. Due to such approaches, an individual subject can also be expected in the syllabus of AYUSH which can further propel the growth of ethnomedicinal sector. 

AYUSH initiatives to boost the immune health in Covid-19 through traditional remedies have emerged as an uplifting factor for natural medicines and further advancement in this area by the major companies like Dabar, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Himalaya, etc. are opening the doors wide open for the future astonishing growth in the herbal field.  

Moreover, Society for Ethnopharmacology (SFE) in India is working with the reputed academicians, researchers and industry dignitaries with the goal of ‘Globalization of local knowledge and localizing global technologies’. This society can be of great benefit in spreading the knowledge of traditional ethnomedicines to stabilize ethno-pharma sector in the country. 

To effectively march toward the healthy future of Indian population and the economy, ethnomedicinal sector should be well equipped with the technological advancements like pharmaceutical industry. Scientific-evidence based approaches for herbs, herbal products, ethno-herbal extracts are important which will drive this field much effectively and it can become more approachable for modern healthcare practices. 

Along with all these, quality control and quality assurance are the key parameters which major herbal products fail to follow as compared to pharmaceuticals. Certain policies in this area can also help to develop the natural sector in much flawless and productive manner.

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