Projects & Activities
Since its inception in 1981, the Centre has been in the forefront of traditional herbal medicine research, research training, and consultative services. The Centre’s spectrum of activities encompass all four of its terms of reference, and count among its accomplishments basic and clinical research on botanical dietary supplements/herbal medicines; the dissemination of information on the chemistry and biology of medicinal plants through the NAPRALERT database to scientists and non-profit organizations in developing countries; the writing and editing of the WHO Monographs on selected medicinal plants (Vol. 1-4), and a number of technical guidelines, including the General Guidelines for Methodologies on Research and Evaluation of Traditional medicine, and Good Agricultural and Collection Practice (GACP) on medicinal plants; the research training of more than 200 scientists from developing countries; and as short term consultants/advisors to WHO/TRM (HQ) and its WHO Regional Offices, including the AMRO, WPRO, SEARO, EMRO and AFRO in providing consultative services to ministries of health, academic and research institutions in developing countries, as well as participation in WHO consultations on subjects ranging from the quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicine to the conservation and intellectual properties of medicinal plants. Further, two Centre staff (Norman R. Farnsworth and Harry H.S. Fong) serve as members of the Expert Advisory Panel on Traditional Medicine (WHO, HQ)
Complementing the activities and achievements of the Centre s the presence of the companion UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research, sponsored, in part, by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), which is the only other institution in the USA also designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine.
Representative Centre activities in the 2000-2005 period are summarized below:
1. NAPRALERT Database
NAPRALERTsm (NAtural PRoducts ALERT) is a relational database of all natural products, including ethnomedical information, pharmacological/biochemical information of extracts of organisms in vitro, in situ, in vivo, in humans (case reports, non-clinical trials) and clinical studies. Similar information is available for secondary metabolites from natural sources.
More than 200,000 scientific papers and reviews are included in NAPRALERT, representing organisms from all countries of the world, including marine organisms. About 25% of the database is derived from abstracts and 75% from original articles.
The Centre’s research activities are multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted, focusing on both traditional herbal medicine and modern drug discovery. Research activities in the area of herbal medicine include the collection of ethnomedical information in the field; computerization of the world's literature on the chemistry and biology of medicinal natural products (NAPRALERT); phytochemical analysis and standardization of natural products and herbal products; and the standardization, phytochemistry, biological activity evaluation, metabolism, pharmacokinetics and clinical studies of botanical dietary supplements (herbal medicine) for women's health and Chinese herbal formulae for arthritis and for irritable bowel syndrome. Drug discovery research involving the isolation and biological evaluation of anticancer, cancer chemoprevention, antimalarial, anti-HIV, anti-TB, analgesic, and other disease target agents from natural sources; biodiversity conservation based collection of medicinal plants for chemical and biological investigation; and chemical carcinogenesis.
3. Research training
Since its inception, the Centre has provided research training to more than 200 pre-doctoral (graduate students) and post-doctoral visiting scientists/scholars from developing countries in the areas of taxonomic botany, biodiversity conservation, chemistry, biology, pharmacology, toxicology and clinical evaluation of medicinal plants. In the 2000-2005 period, the demographics of the pre-doctoral and post-doctoral scientist trainees are as follows:
Pre-doctoralresearch training was provided to 43 Ph.D. students from: Colombia (2), Egypt (1), India (7), Malaysia (1), Mexico (1), Nicaragua (1), Philippines (1), P.R. China (22), Republic of Korea (5), Singapore (1), and Turkey (1).
Post-doctoral research training were provided to 33 visiting scientists/scholars from Brazil (1), India (1), Indonesia (1), Mexico (1), PR China (14), Philippines (1), Poland (2), Republic of Korea (5), Russia (1), Turkey (1), Uganda. (1) and Vietnam (4).
4. Short term advisors and/or consultants
Members of the Centre served in the following advisory capacity to the WHO/TRM and its regional offices as Short Term Consultants in the 2000-2005 period:
- World Health Organization, Programme on Traditional Medicine, “Consultation on methodologies for Research and Evaluation of Traditional Medicine” (Hong Kong, SAR) 2000.
- WHO/WPRO Regional Workshop on Traditional Practice of Medicine and Health Sector Development, Apia, Samoa, 3-8 November 2000
- Ministry of Health, Jakarta, Indonesia, 20-21 September 2000. (Terms of Reference: Provide consultation and advice on quality control analysis of Jammu medicine)
- WHO/PAHO Workshop on Traditional Medicine, Kingston, Jamaica, November, 2000.
- WHO Interregional Workshop on Intellectual Property Rights in the Context of Traditional Medicine, Bangkok, Thailand, 6-8 December, 2000.
- World Health Organization, Programme on Traditional Medicine, Third Consultation on WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants, Vol. 3, (Ottawa, Canada), 16-19 July, 2001.
- World Health Organization, Programme on Traditional Medicine, Informal Meeting on Methodologies for Quality Control of Finished Herbal Products, (Ottawa, Canada), 20-21 July, 2001.
- Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Health Organization (WHO) Workshop on Policies, Plans, and Programs on Traditional and Complementary Medicine in the Americas, 19-20 May, 2001, Guatemala, “Research and Research Training on the use of Medicinal Plants in Primary Health Care”.
- World Health Organization, Western Pacific Regional Office, Consultant, The Working Group on Harmonization of Standards and Regulatory Framework of Herbal Medicines meeting (Seoul, Republic of Korea) 27-30 November 2001. (This consultation led to the formation of the Western Pacific Regional Forum for the Harmonization of Herbal Medicine [FHH]).
- PAHO/WHO Regional Meeting on Traditional Medicine, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 18-20 February 2003.
- Meeting of the Working Group on Medicinal Plants of the Pan American Network of Drug Regulatory Harmonization (PANDRH), Guatemala City, Guatemala, 20 February 2003.
- World Health Organization, Programme on Traditional Medicine, “Consultation on Good Agricultural and Field Collection Practices for Medicinal Plants” (WHO HQ) 2003.
- WHO/WPRO, The “Second Consultation Meeting on Traditional and Modern Medicine: Harmonizing the Two Approaches”, Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, 17-20 September 2003
- WHO/PAHO, “Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Therapies into National Health Systems Workgroup”, Washington, D.C. 15-17 December 2003
- World Health Organization, Programme on Traditional Medicine, “Consultation on Contaminants and Residues in Herbal Medicines”, Milan-Loveno di Menaggios, Italy, 12-14 July 2004.
- World Health Organization, Programme on Traditional Medicine, “Consultation on Selected Medicinal Plants. Vol. 4”, Salerno-Paestum, Italy, 3-7 October 2005.
- WHO/WPRO, Institute for Medical Research, Ministry of Health, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, "Management of Herbal Research Centres", 4-24 June, 2005.
- World Health Organization, Programme on Traditional Medicine, “Meeting of the Directors of WHO Collaborating Centres for Traditional Medicine”, Shanghai, China, December 3-9, 2006.
- World Health Organization, Programme on Traditional Medicine, “WHO Monographs on Medicinal Plants Commonly Used in the Newly Independent States”, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland, July 4-7, 2006.
5. To perform ad hoc projects as required.
Since its inception in 1981, the Centre has had a major role in performing ad hoc projects for the WHO/TRM (HQ) and its WHO Regional Offices in support of the work on traditional medicine. Among the major ad hoc projects carried out by members of the Centre include the following:
- Respond to specific technical queries from WHO/TRM and Regional Offices and other stakeholders.
- Drafting, editing and final revision of the “WHO Monographs on selected medicinal plants”, Vol. 1-4. Volumes 1-3 have been published, and Vol. 4 is in the stage of final editing.
- Drafting, editing and revision of the technical guidelines, including the General Guidelines for Methodologies on Research and Evaluation of Traditional medicine, and WHO Guidelines on Good Agricultural and Collection Practice (GACP) on medicinal plants
- Assist a WHO/WPRO member state ( Papua New Guinea ) in drafting a 10-year (2000-2010) national policy on traditional medicine.
- Draft of a WHO/WPRO document: “ Apia Action Plan on Traditional Medicine in the Pacific Island Countries (Apia Action Plan 2000)”, Manila, WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, 2001
- Preparation of an IP document: “Briefings on Intellectual Property Rights and Traditional Medicine“ for WPRO/TRM (2001).
- Preparation of the proceedings of the “Second Consultation Meeting on Traditional and Modern Medicine: Harmonizing the Two Approaches”, Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, 17-20 September 2003, Manila, WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, 2004
- Provided information and technical assistance in the preparation and review of the “WHO Monographs on Medicinal Plants Commonly Used in the Newly Independent States”
6. Publications In addition to the aforementioned medicinal plant monographs, research guidelines and official documents on traditional medicine prepared on behalf of the WHO/TRM (HQ) and its WHO Regional Offices, Centre members have authored or co-authored a collection of reviews or general interest articles relevant to traditional (TRM) or complementary and alternative (CAM) medicine and more than 85 research and scholarly publications on the clinical use, chemistry and biology (pharmacology, biochemistry) of herbal medicine/botanical dietary supplements and medicinal plants.