India and China join forces to improve herbal trade

India and China are coming together to codify and standardise their traditional herbal medicines industries. Scientists from both countries are working on a common pharmacopoeia of qualitative standards for herbal drugs and nutraceuticals.

It is expected the programme will boost herbal trade within and between the two countries by increasing the profile of herbal medicines and reducing their price, especially in regard to India?s Ayurvedic medicines, which are often priced beyond what the average Indian consumer can afford. China has been more successful in keeping a lid on the price of traditional Chinese medicines.

More than 20 important medicinal herbs have already been identified under the scheme including Swertis chirats, extensively used in Ayurveda for its hepato-protective action and immuno-modulators, and abundantly available in China, while an anti-malarial herb Andro graphis is widely available in India. More will be added.

At a recent convention in India, quality control and standardisation issues in traditional medicines were discussed. China was praised for the success of its traditional medicines sector, with strict quality control being seen as the fundamental factor in this success. Practices such as using chemical markers to ensure herbs collected from the wild have the desired compounds were highlighted as being vital to ensure product quality.

The total nutrition products market in Asia during 2001 is estimated to be worth $38 billion. The Indian herbal market grew at 12 per cent in 2003 and is projected to grow at 20 per cent in 2004, according to The Times of India. Regional growth figures are high given the presence of China, the world?s fastest-growing economy, and Japan, the world?s second-largest economy, and other populous and growing economies such as Pakistan, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.

Asia also has the fastest ageing populations in the world, with China and India together expected to have 370 million people aged over 65 by 2030.

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