Adopted From: UNU-IAS

Newman and Cragg 2007 demonstrated, through their review of pharmaceutical products developed over 25 years, that about 70 per cent of these products are still based on natural product development, with limited success from experiments with synthetic molecules. This comes as no surprise as ecosystems and resources within constantly adapt to stressors resulting in a continual evolution in their chemical constitutions. While the relevance of biodiversity to mainstream health may be more obvious given the more commercial nature of the products, their relevance to deliver health to people in insufficiently connected and economically disadvantaged regions of the world can be considered to be much more profound. Whereas on the one hand these regions are rich in resources such as medicinal or nutritional and related knowledge they are marked also by lack of sufficient public health care infrastructure and personnel.

The use of biological resources for health care has been developed in different cultures in different ecosystems based on available resources and the perceptual and intellectual acuity of people living therein. Commonly referred to as traditional medicine, it is practiced both non-formally as local healing traditions by traditional healers /shamans, and formally through recognized medical systems distinct from the western system of medicine—for example, Ayurveda, Chinese medical system, Siddha, Unani, etc. Despite the differences in approaches in these diverse medical systems, it can be pointed out that they share a common philosophy to health and healing, defined by their focus on “non-material” or “non-physical” dimensions, and a comprehensive approach to health, keeping in mind physical, mental, social and ecological factors of well-being. Health in this approach largely pertains to not just physical healing, but it also involves a mosaic of practices and resources that relate to mind-body-nature balance, nutrition, lifestyle practices and livelihoods.