PRESERVE FIJI’S TRADITIONAL HERBAL MEDICINE 

Editorial

PRESERVE FIJI’S TRADITIONAL HERBAL MEDICINE

Fiji Daily Post

SUVA, Fiji (June 12) - Naitasiri (16 miles from Suva City ) herbalist Alipate Raicebe, who likes to be called "the Bush Doctor," has been prescribing indigenous herbal medicine for the past 16 years to people around the country and from all walks of life.

He is among a dying breed of indigenous Fijian herbalists whose knowledge and experience on all sorts of human ailments have been passed down through hundreds of years of trans-generational teaching and cultural nurturing.

Native and indigenous peoples have long relied on herbal medicine and native medicinal plants for preventative and curative health. Herbal medicines are used worldwide and even today some sections of modern society and even some pharmaceutical companies have rediscovered the preventative and curative effects herbal medicines and native medicinal plants.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that nearly 80 percent of the world population is dependent on traditional medicine for primary health care. The WHO has published guidelines for the assessment of herbal medicines in an attempt to help the ministries of health of all governments develop regulations that ensure medicines are labeled properly, and that consumers and practitioners are given proper directions for their use.

The traditional approaches to healing and illnesses such as indigenous herbal medicines have long been ignored since the advent of modern medicine in our country. Modern stereotyping has relegated traditional and indigenous medicines to the realm of the shaman or witchdoctor, a common misperception. This has been due mostly to the influence of the early missionaries on indigenous cultures and customs where anything to do with pre-Christian Fiji was frowned upon as evil.

Today the biggest threats to this proven ancient art of healing are: profit-oriented multi-billion dollar medicine/drug companies who artificially raise consumer demands for their products; deforestation resulting in the loss of native rainforests where medicinal plants thrive and; bio-pirates who poach on indigenous intellectual property and native plant varieties to make profit.

Raicebe and his Green Cross Association are calling for the development of a national policy on traditional medicine that will enable the incorporation of traditional and indigenous medicine into the national health care system.

His association argues that such a policy should be geared towards developing and promoting the sustainable use of indigenous herbal medicines, native medicinal plants and practices; and in doing so to advance the continuation, evolution and preservation of indigenous cultures and their natural environment.

Traditional medicines and treatment practices rely on the availability of native medicinal plants many of which are endemic and only found in some of Fiji’s most isolated and pristine environment. In this regard promoting and developing the sustainable use of traditional medicine will also have the desired side effect of preserving our native rainforests.

We will also be able to preserve what has been nurtured by thousands of years of indigenous cultural evolution.

We must not let this important part of our indigenous heritage die away or be grabbed by unscrupulous profiteers.

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