Phytotherapy is the study of botany and use of plants intended for medicinal purposes or for supplementing a diet. Credit: wikipedia
For thousands of years nature has provided us with natural resources. When used intelligently they provide an incomparable source of medicinal and health products. The Iguassu Falls region forms a small part of this natural laboratory.
Credit for the text below: Itaipu Binacional
The region of the Triple Frontier, with its enormous natural and cultural diversity (in particular by the strong indigenous presence), has a rich heritage in medicinal plants that unfortunately was losing itself, due to the environmental devastation and the fragmentation of the traditional knowledge, due to the processes of urbanization. In order to recover this patrimony, spread the use of phytotherapic compounds and the knowledge about its use, and still offer an income alternative for organic farmers, the Medicinal Plants program was created.
The first step, as in other Cultivando Agua Boa initiatives, was to seek partnerships with institutions that already worked on BP3, such as universities, laboratories, associations, NGOs and government agencies. Since then, a survey was carried out in the region on which common diseases and phytotherapy needed to be treated to treat these diseases, provided they were scientifically studied species with proven efficacy.
In 2005, Itaipu created a herb garden, with a complete structure for drying and production of herbal products, attached to the garden of 1.5 hectares. There, the collection, cleaning, processing and quality control is carried out, as well as the assembly of a kit with 18 types of medicinal plants, which are used to treat the 10 most common diseases of the region. The kits are sent to the Unified Health System (SUS).
One of the conclusions of the research is that, although most people know and use medicinal plants (82%), a considerable part (16%) used them incorrectly and still disregarded the occurrence of side effects.
Another problem identified is that health professionals were not qualified to work with herbal medicines and to act in this area, it is necessary to like the theme and be convinced of the efficiency of these plants.
Thus, for three years the project emphasized capacity building and awareness raising, seeking to overcome old prejudices and showing proven clinical results. The Brazilian Institute of Medicinal Plants, in Rio de Janeiro, which already offers postgraduate courses in the area, was hired to carry out the training courses.
The first one was held in 2007 and was attended by several health professionals, among them doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dentists. In 2009, the second course was held, specifically for prescribers (professionals who can legally prescribe drugs), such as doctors, dentists and nutritionists. In addition, the Integrated Center for Nature and Health Education Association (Aciens) promotes basic courses on food education, hygiene, sanitation and how to use and prepare medicinal plants (teas, infusions and condiments) for needy communities, landless and indigenous workers. Together, basic and professional courses have already trained more than 7,000 people.
The implementation of a project of this nature, often, runs into the difficulty of acceptance on account of the Secretaries of Health, accustomed to working with allopathic medicines. But once the efficiency of the herbal medicines, the clinical advantages and the economy for the municipality is verified, this barrier is overcome. It is important to stress that, without the support of the municipal administration, it is not possible to develop a program of this magnitude.
In addition to supplying the kits, Itaipu sponsors the courses. The counterpart of municipalities is to cede health professionals for training and provide the infrastructure. Another strategy of the program is to establish a production chain with family farming, as an alternative income, and a distribution network in BP3 with municipal health secretariats. In 1.5 hectares of the area it is possible to produce enough herbal medicines to attend 10 health posts.
The production of herbal products must be organic. In partnership with Oscip Sustentec (which also participates in the Sustainable Rural Development program), training is offered to farmers, from planting to packaging. One of the advantages of medicinal plants is that native species such as Espinheira Santa, Pata de Vaca and Embauba can be grown in the Permanent Protection Area. The program guides the farmer first to consult the list of herbal medicines of the Unified Health System (SUS), which is an indication of the market that he can explore.