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Commercial herbal preparations in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: The urban face of traditional medicine

Ndhlala, A.R., Stafford, G.I., Finnie, J.F., Van Staden, J.
South African journal of botany 2011 v.77 no.4 pp. 830-843
Internet, economic impact, employment, entrepreneurship, ethics, industry, marketing strategies, medicinal plants, radio, supermarkets, television, traditional medicine, South Africa
The modern trend in traditional medicines reflects an increase in the sale of complex herbal mixtures rather than those prepared from single plants. This trend is well documented in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and can be seen in recent developments in African traditional medicine. An increase in the prevalence of locally produced herbal preparations, especially those containing complex mixtures of several medicinal plants, sold in numerous retail outlets, including supermarkets and pharmacies has been observed. The appearance of these preparations is not surprising in rapidly urbanizing societies where traditional products are still desired but the users have neither the time nor resources to produce them. The production of these herbal mixtures has resulted in a growing herbal industry with about 50 to 100 private entrepreneurs in the informal market and has also contributed to creation of numerous jobs. The products are extensively advertised in newspapers, on the internet, television and radio programmes as well as through pamphlets and posters. This review examines and documents the prevalence of commercial herbal mixtures and preparations common in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Different types of herbal mixtures, claims, ethical and legal implications are discussed. Methods of preparation and marketing strategies as well as the way forward in ensuring economic impact, safety and efficacy of this new aspect of South African traditional medicine are also highlighted.