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Herbal Medicine

Herbal Medicine preparations or derivatives of plants that are used in the treatment, cure, mitigation and management of various physical and mental diseases or ailments, and external or internal injuries of man and other animals. These are composed of powders, pastes, infusions, decoctions, extracts, and distillates or naturally produced products of various medicinal plants, and may also contain some additional inactive or neutral ingredients (such as other substances or plant-animal-and mineral origin). The plant drug in the preparations is the active therapeutic agent, which cures the disease or heals the wound or injury.

Herbal medicine preparations are prepared and dispensed in a number of dosage forms, such as liquids (infusions, decoctions, extracts, oily mixtures, gargles, etc), solids (broken pieces, powders, pills, tablets, etc), semi-solids (pastes, ointments, creams, etc) and gases (steam inhalation preparations, fumigants, incenses, etc). These preparations are used both externally (topical application) and internally (by oral administration). However, the intravenous route of administration is not used in the application of herbal medicinal preparations. This is because of the fact that most of these preparations are not suitable for this route due to their less refined forms.

Usually, local technology is used in preparing herbal medicines. However, modern technological know-how and pharmaceutical machinery are now being gradually introduced and used in manufacturing herbal medicines.

In Bangladesh herbal medicines are now officially recognised as alternative medicines and some of them are being produced in commercial scale by a number of manufacturers such as Sadhana Aushadhalaya, Sakti Oushadhalaya, Hamdard, etc. Commercial manufacture of herbal medicines in Bangladesh is done according to two recognised traditional systems, viz, Unani and Ayurvedic systems. Raw forms of herbal medicines are also used in the rural areas of the country as a part of folk medicine. All these forms of herbal medicines have wide acceptability among the general populace, particularly in rural areas of the country. Many herbal medicines here have reputation as good and efficacious remedies for a number of diseases. The practitioners of herbal medicine are Hakims (who practice the Unani system), Kavirajes (who practice the ayurvedic system) and Quacks.

Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially recongised and recommended large-scale use of herbal medicines, particularly in the developing countries, as an alternative system of medicine to provide health care services at the primary health care level. An estimated 1.5 billion people of the world's population, according to WHO, are now getting treatment with Herbal medicines. [Abdul Ghani]

See also folk medicine; herb; traditional medicine.