India is a vast treasure house of medicinal herbs and plants which are incorporated into alternative systems of health-care like Ayurveda, Homeopathy,Naturopathy etc. Millions of people in India are followers of these systems which are practised by qualified medical practitioners.
Considering the popularity of India’s pluralistic healthcare system, the search for new clinical effects of such medicinal herbs and plants is a never ending one.Many herbal products research laboratories are carrying out extensive work on medicinal plants available in India. Various aspects like pharmacology, phytochemistry, clinical trials, formulation-research and safety studies are included in their scope of work.
Herbal product research that encompass newer approaches which combine modern technology and collective research with the set traditional health principles,will definitely yield high dividends in enhancing health.
The use of medicinal systems based on herbal drugs and remedies is also being increasingly embraced by the Western countries. This has led to an increasing international demand for such plant-origin products and as per surveys this demand is projected to grow in the future years as sales of herbal products zoom up.
Most of the West will be looking at countries like China and India which ranks second in export of medicinal plants, for fulfilment of their demand. Instead of exporting the raw material which yields low returns it makes sense for India to enhance its Research and Development abilities in the field of herbal products. Tapping the knowledge of alternative systems of healthcare and producing herbal products to be exported as finished produce will be more remunerative and bring in the much needed foreign exchange. In this context, the name of Shahnaz Husain, the woman who set up herbal business in India on a very small scale and went on to take India’s rich Ayurvedic tradition to all parts of the world has to be mentioned.
If India has to compete in the world market, it is most essential to concentrate on aspects of quality, standardisation, documentation and clinical evidence. Standardisation of products assumes great significance in this regard and techniques for standardisation of traditional herbal formulations such as marker compound analyses and finger printing are fast gaining momentum in today’s times.The Department of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy in conjunction with the Drugs and Cosmetic Act has introduced the rules for application of
Good Manufacturing Practices herbal products. This will ensure the availability of quality herbal products and also safeguard the unfavourable effects. A proper planning and implementation of policies with regard to manufacture of herbal products will alone enable India to face the challenge of becoming a leader in the drug and herbal market.
The ushering of the ‘accountability’ mantra in the herbal industry in the 21st century has made compliance to regulations an essential feature. The role of regulatory bodies in this context is of great importance. With the Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines finally in place, it is in best interests of all that the manufacturers take interest in meeting the required standards and give proof of compliance of the set guidelines through an unbiased third party audit.