Traditional herbal medicine in Kenya

A draft policy addressing how to use and conserve herbal medicine was launched in Kenya last November to stimulate public debate before being taken to Parliament. A long article in the Saturday Nation today discusses the policy, and in particular the possibility of public hospitals dispensing traditional herbal medicines. Here’s a quote from the policy (reproduced in the article: I haven’t been able to find a copy of the policy on the internet) to give you the flavour: “A choice of modern diagnostic techniques and option of treatment by either traditional medicine or conventional medicine within the health care system will be encouraged.” According to the article, other issues discussed by the policy include “conservation, production and domestication, safety and efficacy, and commercialisation.” As an example, there are information and photographs on the cultivation and commercialization of native medicinal plants in Kenya here.

Farming Hoodia

Another example of a wild species being farmed: this article in the San Francisco Chronicle tells the story of Hoodia gordonii cultivation in southern Africa. The species is the source of a hunger suppressant which Unilever has been licensed to commercialize, with a royalty payment going to San tribesmen. Another Hoodia species may have potential as a salad vegetable. Prices are such that there is a thriving smuggling trade in wild-harvested product. Some Namibian farmers are trying to cultivate the plant – organically – but it is not easy.

Açaí plantations?

The juice and pulp of the fruits of the Amazonian palm Euterpe oleracea (açaí­) have long been consumed locally but are increasingly used in juices and nutraceutical beverages aimed at the North American market. They are harvested from the wild, but some people are now thinking plantations too. But speaking of wild harvesting of fruits/nuts, this article suggests that this can be sustainable only where it is not accompanied by hunting of key seed dispersers.

Woodlands as players in human history

The great Cambridge botanist Oliver Rackham has a new book out, called “Woodlands.” Insofar as it is fair to say that the life work of such a Renaissance Man has only one subject, woodlands is it, and how trees are not “merely part of the theatre of landscape in which human history is played out, or the passive recipients of whatever destiny humanity foists on them . . . (they are) actors in the play.” There’s an admiring and knowledgeable review here.