Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Experts are now conducting a research on medicinal herbs to ascertain they contain medicinal properties that can help cure diseases, while the possibility to include them in doctor`s prescription is still a topic of discourse.

"The idea was also discussed at a health ministry`s national working meeting in Batam recently. However, many things still need to be considered before it can be implemented," the head of East Java`s health office, Dr. Dodo Anondo, said.

The Health Ministry is currently conducting a program to scientize Indonesian medicinal herbs or `jamu` in order to make them as scientifically credible as modern drugs and internationally acceptable.

Medicinal herbs have been used in Indonesia since time immemorial to heal different kinds of diseases, yet they have not gained recognition, at least until recently, by the medical world to put them on doctor`s prescriptions.

Aware of the effectiveness in curing diseases and the economic potential of at least 3,000 kinds of medicinal herbss in Indonesia, the government is now launching a program to study and scientize medicinal herbs.

In the research process, technology is important which according to natural medicine researcher Prof Dr Subagus Wahuono of Yogyakarta-based Gajah Mada University, is needed to enrich the active compounds of herbal medicine.

"There are two important things for the development of herbal medicines, namely to enrich the active compounds and their frames of the herb material," he said.
He said that although Indonesia had abundant medicinal plants yet their active compounds that could be extracted were relatively low. "For example, from one kilogram of a medicinal plant, only about one milligram active compounds could be extracted," the professor said.
Now, 12 hospitals throughout the country are prepared to join the program and to open herbal clinic services where eventually doctors can prescribe herbal medicines for their patients.

The 12 hospitals which the government is now preparing to open clinic services for patients willing to use herbal medication included the Cipto Mangunkusomo general hospital (RSCM), the Dharmais hospital, the Persahabatan hospital in Jakarta, the Sardjito hospital in Yogyakarta, the Hasan Sadikin hospital in Bandung, West Java, the Dr Soetomo hospital in Surabaya, East Java, and the Shangla hospital in Bali.

"The program to scientize jamu was started last year. The goal is to support the popular belief in their healing properties with scientific evidence," Sri Indrawati, director general of pharmaceutics and healthcare instruments management at the Health Ministry said Friday.
Under the program, the ministry was collecting relevant data on all existing medicinal herbs in Indonesia.

According to the head of East Java`s health office, Dr. Dodo Anondo, there are still several things that should be considered before doctors could actually include herbs in their prescriptions although research conducted by the health ministry`s health research and development agency had found herbs to contain real medicinal properties.

Besides, certain regulations were needed to endorse the use and distribution of herbs as legal medicines in medical practice. Therefore, Dodo said, the health office in each province should take over the control of the distribution of medicinal herbs.
Polyclinics of traditional herbal medicine which existed in hospitals or community health centers should have a legal license to operate. The legal permits would be issued by the health minister as the government agency overseeing hospitals and community health centers in Indonesia.

The preparation of implementing herbs as legal medicine for medical practice was aimed to encourage Indonesia to become a center of herbal medicine. Even more, Indonesia is a plentiful herbs country which most of the herbs can be used as medicine.

Besides hospital, there are 62 community health centers in Java island that are also participating in the jamu scientizing program. Among the provinces already engaged in this activity are Central Java and East Java.

The exact number of medicinal herbs that have been scientized is not yet made public. Even director general Sri Indrawati also did not know yet. "As to the number, I do not know, because the exact data on herbs already scientized is with the Health Research and Development Agency," she said.

Head of the Research and Development of Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicines of the Ministry of Health, Indah Yuning Prapti said that of the 3,000 kinds of herbal medicines circulating in the country, only four had undergone a scientization process.
"The four are herbal medicines for inflammation, gout, hypertension and cholesterol. There are still a lot of ones that need scientization process," she said.

The scientization of medicinal herbs is of great potential benefit because the raw materials to make jamu do not need to be imported as in the case of conventional drugs. After all, Indonesia is rich in medicinal plants. So, all it needs is to have them recognized scientifically.
Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedianingsih said, the scientization of medicinal herbs was an effort to confirm or verify their medical benefit through health services-based research.

"The goal is to provide a scientific basis for the empirical use of medicinal herbs through health services-based research," Endang said.

In addition, the scientization effort was expected to lead to an increase in the provision of safe, effective and scientifically tested jamu and its wider use in self-medication as well as at public healthcare facilities. (*)

Reporter: by Andi Abdussalam
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