The Role of Botanical Medicine in Primary Health Care



The concept of primary health care (PHC) has been redefined time and time again. Today’s PHC systems have evolved dramatically and are quite different from the PHC systems we saw a few decades ago. PHC focuses on the concept of providing the best essential healthcare services to a community. As a result, the way communities change over time has a huge impact on the evolution of primary health care.

What is Primary Health Care in the 21st Century? 

According to WHO and UNICEF, primary health care in the 21st century focuses on universal health coverage (UHC) and sustainable development goals (SDGs). Thus, PHC aims to provide communities with high-quality healthcare services and an even distribution of resources for patient needs. This includes providing treatment to patients as soon as possible along with disease prevention, palliative care, and rehabilitation care.

The concept of PHC also represents a commitment to equity, social justice, and participation. The focus of PHC is to help communities achieve good health according to the highest standards, which is a fundamental human right. Therefore, primary health care also considers the mental, physical, and social aspects of health and wellbeing, not just treatments for specific diseases.

Importance of Botanical Medicine in Primary Healthcare

In recent years, global communities are experiencing higher incidences of chronic disease while being bombarded with rising healthcare costs. As a result, patients and healthcare providers are searching for health care services that are more patient-centric. Therefore, the effectiveness and affordability of natural plant-based medicines will play an important role in providing effective primary health care products and services in the future.

According to reports published in IntechOpen in 2019, herbal medicine is recognized as the preferred primary health care treatment in several global communities. Around 60% of the world’s population and 80% of the population in developing countries use medicinal plants for medical purposes because of the health benefits, accessibility, and affordability of herbal medicine.

How Are Medicinal Plants Used For Primary Healthcare?

Different parts of a medicinal plant can be used in multiple ways for primary health care products and services. For example, cascara bark is used in medicinal preparations such as infusions and decoctions, and is also effective for treating constipation, liver ailments, and gallstones. Dioscorea yam is used for extracting purified substances from existing natural products for medicinal use, and can be used to treat coughs, colds, fungal infections, skin diseases, dysentery, and burns. Microscopic plants such as actinomycetes and fungi are used for the development of drugs such as antibiotics. In addition, food and spice plants such as turmeric and ginger also provide multiple health benefits for patients and fiber plants such as flax, jute, and cotton are used in the preparation of surgical dressings. Thus, medicinal plants are versatile and have the potential to revolutionize primary health care ecosystems.

Botanical Medicine For the Prevention & Treatment of Disease

Consumer and patient demand for herbal medicines and supplements has increased in recent years. Scientists such as pharmacologists, botanists, phytochemists, and microbiologists are using plant-based compounds to develop medicines for a variety of common diseases. Examples of herbal medicines that are used to treat common diseases include the following:


Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, Terminalia ivorensis, Elaeis guineensis, Phyllanthus emblica, Syzygium aromaticum , Goniothalamus marcanii, Casearia sylvestris, Xylopia emarginata, Xylopia aromatica, Aspidosperma macrocarpon , and Azadirachta indica


Echinops adenocaulos, Verbascum fruticulosum, Parietaria judaica, Urtica urens, and Beta vulgaris

Vibrio Cholera 

Terminalia chebula, Syzygium cumini, Syzygium cumini, Butea monosperma, Euphorbia serpens, Acacia farnesiana, Artemisia ludoviciana, Ocimum basilicum, Opuntia ficus, and Lawsonia inermis


Anogeissus leiocarpa, Terminalia avicennioides, Capparis brassii, Combretum spp, Solanum torvum, Galenia Africana, Allium sativum, Allium cepa, Cinnamomum verum, and Acalypha indica


Curcuma longa, Aerva lanata, Cynodon dactylon, Piper betle, Lepidium sativum, Curculigo orchioides, and Casuarina equisetifolia

Scope of Botanical Medicine in Primary Health Care

According to a 2021 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), about 930 million people worldwide are on the brink of poverty due to rising healthcare costs. The report states that this situation can be reversed by increasing primary healthcare interventions, especially in low and middle-income countries, which can save up to 60 million lives and improve life expectancy by 3.7 years by 2030. Many botanical medicines are easily available and more affordable than conventional drugs. Including more botanical medicines in primary health care treatments is one of the best solutions to tackle rising healthcare costs globally.

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