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Advancing organic cultivation of medicinal plants boost economy, healthcare

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Zobo plant

*BION, RMRDC partner to locally cultivate King of bitters, Zobo petals, Scent leaves

As part of efforts to ensure continuous availability of medicinal plants as raw materials for the production of drugs, the Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION) and Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) are advancing organic cultivation of medicinal plants.

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President, Bioresources Development Group (BDG), Prof. Maurice Iwu, and Director General, RMRDC, Prof. Ibrahim Hussaini, at a two-day workshop organised by BION and RMRDC on Organic Cultivation of Medicinal Plants: Andrographis paniculata (King of bitters); Hibiscus sabdarifa (Zobo petals); and Ocimum species (O. gratissimum and O. Sanctum)- Scent leaf said Nigeria can make billions of naira yearly from the sale of medicinal plants.

BION is a subsidiary of BDG.

Iwu in his presentation titled “Money does grow on trees and in forests too!” said: “The global nutraceuticals market stood at US$184.10 billion in 2015 and expected to reach US$302.31 billion by the end of 2022. The nutraceuticals market in Africa accounted for $2.53 billion in 2014 and is anticipated to garner $4,82 billion in 2022.”

Iwu, who is also a professor of pharmacognosy, said key drivers of medicinal plants trade and increasing demand include: concern about the adverse effects of pharmaceutical drugs; the perceived safety and efficacy of herbal medicines; questioning of orthodox medicine, and concern about physician and prescription costs; increased risk of long-term chronic illness, for which pharmaceutical drugs are seen to be ineffective; and increased access to health information, and herbal medicinal products, through the internet.

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He said the organic cultivation involved plants products that are used as food and in the preparation of traditional medicine remedies; plants used in the preparation of formulated and packaged medicines, which are usually registered or listed by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC); and specialty crops that are often in pharmacopeias or official monographs that are used for the production of standard herbal medicinal products.

Iwu said the value of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) increases with the added processing, packaging, and differentiation.

He said the stages of MAPs sector, including collection (wildcrafting), cultivation (especially organic), processing (from cleaning, sorting, grinding, extraction), distance marketing value addition, and manufacturing. Iwu said each stage on its own forms a base for an exclusive enterprise. Iwu invites Nigerians to participate in multi-billion businesses. He said there is financial support through several Federal Government and State-sponsored agriculture intervention programmes; buy–back supply arrangements – interested farmers will engage in the Bioresources Development Group raw materials supply scheme and independent marketing of products to domestic consumers and export.

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Iwu said organic cultivation of medicinal plants such as Moringa, Ocimum, ginger, turmeric; Andrographis among others are cultivated to meet United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for organic products.

He said BION has multiple farm locations in Olabochai – Benue, Kuje – Abuja; Nsukka- Enugu State; and Okigwe- Imo State. Iwu said BION has an agro-processing facility located in Okigwe Imo State, involved in a production center for a range of teas; oils, hair and body care products; state-of-the-art (GMP) manufacturing equipment; infrastructure investments in power, water, and security; and bio-entrepreneurship training.

The pharmacognosist said InterCEDD Health Products (IHPs) is a health and Wellness Company specialised in high-quality herbal and dietary supplements produced in the laboratories of InterCEDD and BION.

He said IHP focuses on the development, sales, and awareness of health and wellness products.

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Iwu said organic cultivation of medicinal plants is advantageous from many points of view, which include the following: it ensures a correct natural source of the drug; the process of collection and harvesting of the drugs can be effectively monitored under cultivation, that is, they can be collected at the right time and in the proper manner; drying and storage of the drugs from cultivated sources can be more effectively regulated and controlled ensuring the production of good quality drugs; purity of the finished product is assured under cultivation as weeds and other contaminants can be removed by careful weeding during the growth of the crop.

He said quality and production of the drug can be improved under cultivation by the selection of high-yielding and disease-resistant seeds and varieties; the use of natural and synthetic fertilizers, which increase the total yield of the plants and their active constituents, example, nitrogenous fertilizers increase alkaloid content of solanaceous plants; the production of hybrids with high yielding and disease resistant properties; cultivation ensures constant and regular supply of genuine drugs; prices of Crude drugs and monopolies of their products can be controlled and reduced by cultivation; illegal trade of dangerous drug like Cannabis and Opium can be restricted by controlled cultivation of such drugs.


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