The campaign to integrate herbal plants into modern medicine aims to increase their market value to between 90 and 100 billion baht by 2027. This plan was devised in response to the “Herbal Champions” initiative launched by the Ministry of Public Health, which identified 15 Thai herbs for potential expansion into the global market, according to Dr. Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, Director-General of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTTAM).
An academic study estimated that domestic sales of herbal medicinal products amounted to around 43 billion baht in 2018. The Herbal Champions list categorizes the plants into two groups: those that are ripe for further development, including turmeric, green chiretta, and black galingale; and those with development potential, such as kodavan, emblic, plai, ginger, galingale, aloe vera, kwao krua kao, bitter gourd, veldt grape, kratom, hemp, and cannabis. These plants, which feature on the National List of Essential Medicines, have the capacity to thrive in the global market.
However, Dr. Thongchai noted that these herbal plants are seldom utilized in hospitals that practice modern medical treatments, which led the DTTAM to formulate a plan for promoting the herbs. The department intends to partake in the application and production processes, laying the groundwork for the evolution of herbal drugs and therapies.
In the application stage, the department will concentrate on fostering patient confidence in traditional medicine by endorsing research and advocating its use in treatments, Dr. Thongchai explained. “The herbs will be employed to substitute treatments for certain conditions that modern medicine cannot entirely remedy, such as office syndrome, paralysis, drug addiction, and some skin diseases,” he said. During the application process, herbal replacements for modern medications, backed by credible research, will be accentuated.
Regarding the production process, the department aims to decrease imports of particular herbal extracts and motivate cultivators to generate products that satisfy Good Agricultural and Collection Practice (GACP) quality standards, ensuring they are devoid of pesticides and toxins. Moreover, the department will emphasize the role of the Economic Herbal Plants Trust as an intermediary between growers and entrepreneurs, Dr. Thongchai added.