History: WHO hosts traditional medicine summit for first time

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially opened its first summit on traditional medicine on Thursday (August 17). The aim of the meeting is to collect evidence and data to enable the safe use of this type of home treatment.

According to the WHO’s official website, this international high-level meeting lasted two days. At the same time, a meeting of G20 health ministers took place in the Indian city of Gandhinagar.

“We have to face the very important fact that traditional medicines are very widely used,” said Nobel laureate and chair of the WHO Scientific Council Harold Varmus.

“It is important to understand what ingredients are actually contained in traditional medicines and why they work together in some cases. And most importantly, we need to understand and identify which traditional medicines do not work,” he added.

On the same occasion, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said his party is currently working to collect evidence and data to develop standard guidelines and regulations for the safe, cost-effective and fair use of traditional medicines.

Although traditional medicine is widely used, it is believed to cause gaps in access to healthcare. Traditional medicine is also believed to increase trade in endangered animals such as tigers, rhinos and pangolins.

Quoting from the United Nations website, the United Nations (UN) health agency defines traditional medicine as knowledge, skills and practices used from time to time to maintain health and to prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental diseases.

Traditional medicines are often used, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a green herbal drink made from the artemisia plant, which Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina promoted as a medicine.

Of the 194 WHO member countries, 170 countries recognized the use of traditional and complementary medicines in 2018. But only 124 countries reported having regulations for the use of herbal medicines, and only half had national policies regarding these methods and medicines.