The term “traditional medicine” refers to ways of protecting and restoring health that existed before the arrival of modern medicine (WHO,1996). As the term implies, these approaches to health belong to the traditions of each country, and have been handed down from generation to generation. In practice, the term “traditional medicine” refers to the following components: acupuncture, traditional birth attendant, mental healers and herbal medicine (WHO, 1996). Traditional medicines are relatively inexpensive, locally available and are usually readily accepted by the local populace. It was reported that about 60 – 85 percent of the population in developing countries depend on traditional or indigenous form of medicine (African Pharmacopoeia, 1985; Farnsworth, 1988). It is in recognition of these facts that the WHO has been attempting to incorporate traditional medicine officially into the health care systems of developing countries. Traditional medicine is plagued with disadvantages that include lack of scientific proof of efficacy of its remedies, lack of precise diagnosis of ailments by the traditional practitioners and lack of precise dosage of their medication that are not standardized (D’Arcy, 1991; WHO Drug Information, 1995). It is erroneously believed that herbal medicines as natural products are safe and thus lack toxic effects (D’Arcy, 1991; WHO Drug Information, 1995). Several reports and reviews have recently shown that these so-called safe herbal preparations are either toxic or have several side effects (D’Arcy, 1991; WHO Drug Information, 1995). Plants are regarded as nature’s bio-chemical factory because they serve as source of various types of chemical compounds. Prominent among these compounds are the plant secondary metabolites which are diverse complex molecules that are valued and exploited by man for their pharmacological and other properties (Miller, 1973). Over the years, the World health assembly has adopted a number of resolutions drawing attention to the fact that most of the populations in various developing countries around the world depends on traditional medicine for primary health care, that the work force represented by practitioners of traditional medicine is a potentially important resource for the delivery of health care and that medicinal plants are of great importance to the health of individuals and communities (WHO,1996).
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