Gov’t compiling info for traditional herbs database

National 2 minutes, 12 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE Traditional Herbal Research Centre (THRC) under the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism is currently compiling information for a national database of all traditional herbs in Brunei as a platform to develop the local herbal industry.

In an interview with The Brunei Times, Dr Idris Said, a botanist from the THRC said that the global herbal industry is a huge market which Brunei can tap into since the sultanate is rich in plant diversity. 

He said that from traditional herbs, two types of products can be developed and can be marketed, namely herbal food supplements and pharmaceutical drugs that can be derived from plants.

The botanist added that compiling a national database of traditional herbs is the first step in establishing a flourishing herbal industry in the country.

“Research and development is important because this database will be a very important foundation for interested entrepreneurs to derive their information from, should they desire to enter the industry,” said Dr Idris.

Once the database is done, he said, the THRC will immediately identify potential SMEs and entrepreneurs that will have the capacity to facilitate the growth of the herbal industry.

Dr Idris said that the herbal industry in the country is still at its infant stage and commented that local herb products that do exist in Brunei are home made.

He added that these herb products are often not well-branded, not well packaged and do not normally display official approvals from the Ministry of Health on their labels.

Dr Idris acknowledged the difficulty in setting up a new economic venture in the form of the herbal industry as both types of products mentioned above will take a lot of "time, effort and money."

“The cost to produce one pharmaceutical product can be as high as $2.5 billion and can take as long as 15 or more years before commercial production is achieved,” he said.

Alternatively, he said, herbal food supplements can be produced without going through the procedures undergone by pharmaceutical drugs.

“These herbal food supplements can be approved by the health ministry before they are marketed and the tests that are carried out will be more associated on safety such as the toxicity levels of the product,” he added.

Currently Dr Idris has information on over 200 traditional herbs in Brunei and added that the completion of the database will take two years taking into consideration the possibility of finding new species of herbs.

“With a proper plan of action in involving all the relevant players and stakeholders, the herbal industry can be expected to grow in Brunei which can contribute to the nation’s GDP,” added the botanist.

The Brunei Times