“Ethno-pharma” Opportunities in India

6 mins read

In the new normal scenario of Healthcare, where the approaches are patient-centric and no longer product-centric, traditional and integrative medicinal practices are rooting to the greater extent so does the ‘Ethno-pharmacy’.

At the intersection of social and natural sciences, Ethno-pharmacy is a field that focuses on the traditional medicines (and pharmaceuticals) and the cultural determinants to investigate the possible use/perception of traditional medicines (and also pharmaceuticals) in the culture.

Often known as the ‘multidisciplinary scientific approach’, Ethno-pharma mainly deals with indigenous drugs to explore their relevance to modern healthcare. The traditional system of medicines is one of the complex multi-parameters systems. To understand this system, several holistic approaches are undertaken in the Ethno-pharma field. And these approaches seem to be extremely beneficial in innovating novel treatment strategies for the management of various chronic diseases.

Following are some factors owing to which India can taste some realistic opportunities in the field of ethno-pharma in recent years-

Evolving research scenario of Natural molecules

Ethnopharmacology, one of the allied branches of ethnomedicines, has an important role in establishing new research and developments in traditional medicinal plants. Through these research approaches, numerous biological effects of several chemical groups in a wide variety of medicinal plants are investigated.

Many of these plant actives are currently used in modern healthcare practices and the pharmaceutical industry is also exploring the opportunities in this area. Pharma companies are putting tremendous efforts to boost the ethnopharmacological research in the natural therapeutic ingredients as a huge number of actives of medicinal plants are part of pharmaceutical formulations which are used to treat critical diseases. Such efforts are mostly concentrated in the area of exploring viable sources of medicinal plants and the development of new novel molecules which are affordable and safe.

Moreover, having the heritage of medicinal plants and knowledge, greater advancements in the research and development field of ethno-pharma is expected in the coming years.

Favorable attitudes toward natural products

One of the driving factors for this research and development in ethnomedicines is could be the changing perspective of the patient toward traditional and natural medication in recent times. Several drawbacks of pharmaceuticals including the side effects, addiction, expensiveness, etc are influencing the patients to rethink their reliance on chemical entities. 

Due to this shift in patient’s perspective along with other driving factors, the Indian traditional medicines market is expected to account for INR 710.87 billion by 2024 growing at the CAGR of 16.06% through INR 300 billion in 2018. An astonishing growth of about USD 34.197.9 million by 2027 is expected for Chinese traditional medicines as well. These figures are enough to show the implications of traditional ethnomedicines in the population.

Keen interest groups in India for the betterment of Ethno-pharma

In India, Society for Ethnopharmacology (SFE), registered under the West Bengal Society Registration act 1961, is working in the field of ethnopharmacology with esteemed researchers, academicians and, industry people, having a clear goal of ‘Globalization of local knowledge and localizing global technologies. For the greater spread of knowledge about natural health products, this society is actively operating in this area.

In the Ayush system of medicines in India, Ayurveda and Homeopathy medicine practices are widely studied as compared to other medicine systems and these two traditional medicine systems have a strong connection with Ethnopharmacology. To boost the outreach of ethnopharmacology, Ayush is making several attempts in involving the ethnopharmacology model in the syllabus of alternative medicine systems. Moreover, approaches are in the process to introduce an individual course in this subject. Following are some of the institutes involved in Ethnopharmacological research in India-

  • Medicinal Plants Unit of ICMR
  • Natural Products Division of NIPER, Mohali
  • Institute of Traditional Medicine, ICMR, Bangalore
  • CSIR Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu
  • National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow
  • Dept of Pharmacology, PG Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh
  • Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (Postgraduate diploma in Ethnopharmacology)

Marching toward a better future for Indian ethno-pharma

Although India is actively exploring the space of Ethno-pharma, many aggressive efforts are essential to boost the research and create evidence for ethnomedicines with the help of technological advancements. Developing an agricultural economy with rare and highly effective herbs, herbal products, ethno-herbal extracts to establish its superior niche for specific indications is very crucial to make progress in this area. Moreover, creating nomenclature, discipline, quality control, and branding of ethnomedicines would be some promising checkpoints on the list to achieve overall sustainable growth for the Indian ethno-pharma sector.

Author: Dr R. B Smarta. Dr Smarta is the Founder and Managing Director of Interlink, a Business performance consulting firm operating in the Pharmaceuticals, Nutraceutical and Wellness domain for over 35 years.

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