This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends developing the improvement and more effective utilization of medicinal plants and other related sources.
Paper methysticum or 'kava' is one of the more important economic plants of Polynesia. Primarily its uses serve as ceremonial and social beverage, but it is also widely recognized by natives for its application in medicine as a diuretic and soporific.
Khat is a tree which grows in east Africa and Arabia; its leaves and twigs contain active chemical compounds which provoke excitement and general euphoria. It is used for magical and euphoric purposes. Depending on the degree of freshness the leaves and twigs are either chewed or drunk in an infusion, sometimes known as 'Abyssinian tea'.
In ancient Egypt, lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac and was featured in the yearly festival of Min, an ithyphallic god of fertility and procreation. The Greeks considered it an anti-aphrodisiac and its use as a soporific continued into this century. The sycamore fig has a highly specialized fertilization biology, but does not produce seed in Egypt for want of the proper species of wasp. Ripening has been hastened since ancient times by gashing the syconia so it will not be infested by bugs and not produce flowers. To the ancient Egyptians it was a sacred trysting tree inhabited by the goddess of love and was the focus of a body of love poetry. The ancient Egyptian method for ripening sycamore fruit is still used in east-Mediterranean countries.
The Santals are one of the largest tribes of India. They chiefly inhabit the Santal Pargana district and the neighboring districts in Eastern India. The primary researcher of the Santal is the Rev PO Bodding. He has rendered a near as possible English translation of names and symptoms of diseases and of the methods of treatment. The Lodhas are a neighbouring tribe of Midnapur district, West Bengal; they use over 40 plants for herbal remedies. The Lodhas have had a rich herbal folklore, but this is fading due to increasing acculturation and depletion of plant cover.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology contains many papers on old and traditional botanical remedies. For example Howard H. Hirschhorn has screened Heyne's De Nuttige Planten van Nederlandsch-IndiÃ« (Volumes 1-IV, 1913-1922) for its economic botanical context, translated into English and summarized as a table of names, therapeutic indications, plant parts, and available details of preparation and use. The same author has also constructed a phytotherapeutic concordance between tropical American and Indonesian botanical remedies.
Herbs and plants are medical jewels gracing the woods, fields and lanes which few eyes see, and few minds understand. Through this want of observation and knowledge the world suffers immense loss. (Linnaeus 1707-1778).
Folk healers are frequently occupied with curing parasitic infestations. They are much less adept at diagnosing and treating diseases such as cancer.