PNG SPECIALIST LOOKING TO REGION TO DEVELOP REGIONAL HERBAL MEDICINE INDUSTRY

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 18, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---The South Pacific has great potential for an herbal medicine industry, says leading Papua New Guinea herbal medicine specialist Andrew Bareng.

Mr. Bareng will visit other Pacific Island nations before the end of this year as part of his efforts to develop herbal medicine as an export commodity.

He said such countries as Fiji and Vanuatu are understood to be reaping huge profits from exports of kava, or yaqona.

However, Mr. Bareng said the problem in PNG, and the Pacific in general, is that governments don't have a good database on medicinal herbs.

He has urged the PNG government to improve its collecting of information on this important branch of medicine.

Mr. Bareng comes from Bogia in Madang province. He originally trained as a nurse, and then attended the International Christian Academy of Natural Therapy in Brisbane, Australia. There he studied herbal medicine and nutrition for three years, and graduated in 1996.

Mr. Bareng said research has shown that herbal medicine has been used in China for more than 3,000 years. It is an ancient system of health care that has undergone continual development over the centuries.

It is used in Chinese state hospitals alongside modern medicine, he said. Herbs are prescribed after a detailed consultation and can be taken in the form of pills, tinctures, and powders or in dried form.

The Chinese have a holistic approach to treatment, which consists of herbal therapy, dietary therapy, acupuncture, exercise and lifestyle management, he said.

Mr. Bareng's foray into herbal medicine began when he worked as a research assistant for a Belgian university. He collected biological specimens -- such as insects and plankton -- in the sea near Laing Island, off the coast of Madang's north coast, from 1982 to 1986.

He worked for the Seventh Day Adventist Church's Development and Relief Agency as the National Health Coordinator for disaster and relief until last July. Then he resigned and opened his own herbal clinic in Papua New Guinea's second largest city, Lae.

The clinic is the only natural fertility clinic in PNG. It uses herbs to treat sterile women, he said. So far they have treated more than 500 patients in the first 15 months of operation.

Mr. Bareng uses a Chinese proverb to illustrate his clinic's approach: "If you give a man a fish, he will not learn to catch fish, but if you teach him how to catch fish, he will learn to fish for the rest of his life."

His clinic processes herbs such as comfrey cream to treat mosquito bites, skin rash, and sprains. Comfrey oil is used for abdominal pains and stomach upsets, as well as a massage oil.

Noni juice is also produced from fruits bought locally.

Dried wild yam capsules have also been produced, ground into powder and sold to treat knee problems.

Mr. Bareng said the National Analysis Laboratory at the University of Technology in Lae carries out an analysis of all the clinic's products before they are sold.

Mr. Bareng has not stopped pushing his cause. He attended the PNG Medical Symposium earlier this year and presented a paper on Herbal Medicine.

He said: "We have also discussed a patent law. In May this year, the PNG government passed a patent law to legalize herbal medicine.

Because of his pioneering work, Mr. Bareng is a member of a committee researching the future of herbal medicine in PNG.

Asked about quality control, Mr. Bareng said there was a need to get an independent overseas laboratory to analyze his herbal medicines so that they can be exported overseas.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org

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