Despite its rich natural biodiversity, the country is failing to tap the true potential of traditional and herbal medicine, experts have said.
Studies have shown 9,600 out of 30,000 species of indigenous plants had medicinal properties.
However, many lacked the sufficient scientific testing — due to a lack of expertise and funds — to investigate their potential.
Inayati Ghufron, a pharmacist, said that there were not enough experts in the field, which slowed research progress.
“Around 60 percent of traditional medicine products are not marketed properly, as they fail to pass the post marketing surveillance. It also takes a lot of commitment to develop the potential of herbal medicine.”
One well known native traditional medicine is temulawak, recognized for its active ingredient curcumin, which is believed to help treat conditions such as hepatitis, Alzheimer, psoriasis and even several types of cancer.
A clinical study on chronic liver diseases conducted by Airlangga University’s gastroenology and hepatology department found temulawak to be a natural liver cleanser.
Sadly, the material is yet to be recognized globally.
“We hope we can to do more research, so temulawak’s effectiveness can be scientifically approved and benefit local and international patients,” Pangestu Adi from the university’s research team said.
In 2008, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared jamu (traditional herbal drink) as one of the country’s most recognized brands.
The Tawangmangu Declaration, announced during the third Conference on Traditional Medicine in ASEAN Countries in 2011, also agreed on the use of scientifically tested herbal medicine.
About 50 percent of the country’s population uses traditional medicines, especially the herbal types, to cure diseases.
The ministry planned to integrate traditional medicine into the existing formal healthcare system, as stipulated in one of the country’s health development goals in the 2010-2014 Health Ministry Strategic Plan (Renstra).
Indah Yuning Prapti, head of Tawangmangu, the Central Java-based Health Ministry’s center of research and development for traditional medicine, said last year the ministry had scientifically approved the formula of two herbal drinks that could cure uric acid and high blood pressure. The cost for research and development for these herbal drinks was around Rp 1 billion (US$101,000).
“Apparently the government did not allocate funds for more research. With that limited budget we still can conduct research, but it will take more time to complete,” she told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.