Initiative to improve African herbs

An African initiative to enhance the quality of its top 50 herbal products is seeking to benefit from intensified interest in the continent?s diverse range of medicinal plants.

The research programme is being funded by the European Union?s Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) and will focus on good manufacturing and agricultural practices rather than monographs. A CDE-organised meeting was held in Pretoria last month where it was hoped blueprints for 20 European-level herbs? trading standards would be established. The CDE?s herbals and pharmaceuticals adviser Denzil Phillips said these standards could be published within three months.

?We are preparing these standards to help improve trade between Europe and Africa,? Phillips said. ?Each product is being fingerprinted so there will be some standardisation.?

African herbs such as hoodia have attracted the attention of major players, with Unilever and UK-based drug developer Phytopharm investing millions in a joint venture to license and develop the purported appetite suppressant. It is estimated there are more than 1,000 medicinal plants in Africa and the programme is seen as necessary if these herbs are to hold market share against increasingly high-quality Chinese, Indian and South American medicinal plants.

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