WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants

Manila Bulletin, August 31, 2008 | Go to article overview

WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants


The WHO expressed special acknowledgment due Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, Harry H.S. Fong, and Gail B. Mahady of the WHO Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago for drafting and revising the monographs of the medicinal plants selected by members of the advisory group. The content of the monographs was obtained through a systematic review of scientific literature from 1975 to the end of 1995: Review articles; bibliographies in review articles; several pharmacopeias - the International African, British, Chinese, Dutch, European, French, German, Hungarian, Indian, and Japanese; as well as many other reference books. Draft monographs were widely distributed and some 100 experts in more than 40 countries commented on them. Experts included members of the various WHO Advisory Panels and members of drug regulatory authorities of 16 countries. A WHO Consultation on Selected Medicinal Plants was held in Munich in 1996 in which 16 experts and drug regulatory authorities from Member States participated. Following extensive discussion, 28 of 31 draft monographs were approved. At the subsequent eighth ICDRA in Bahrain in 1996, the 29 approved monographs were further reviewed and endorsed. Volume 1 containing the 28 model monographs was published by WHO in 1999 under the title WHO monographs of selected medicinal plants. Member States requested WHO to prepare additional model monographs.

The same procedure for the preparation of the monographs in Volume 1 was followed in the preparation of Volumes 2 and 3. The same group at the University of Illinois at Chicago was specially acknowledged for drafting and revising the monographs for both volumes. An increasing number of experts from the WHO Advisory Panels, from drug regulatory authorities of more participating countries, and WHO Consultations on Medicinal Plants were involved in providing comments and advice on the draft monographs. At the ninth ICDRA in Berlin in 1999, the 30 draft monographs presented were reviewed and endorsed to the WHO for publication as Volume 2. At the tenth ICDRA held in Hong Kong in 2002, the 31 draft monographs presented were adopted for Volume 3. Volume 2 was published in 2002 and Volume 3 in 2007.

The purposes and content of the monographs as stated in the Introduction in Volume 1 are to: (1) Provide scientific information on the safety, efficacy, and quality control/assurance of widely used medicinal plants, in order to facilitate their appropriate use in Member States; (2) provide models to assist Member States in developing their own monographs or formularies for these or other herbal medicines, and (3) facilitate information exchange among Member States. The term "monograph" is used here as a technical term only and it does not have the same meaning as a pharmacopeial monograph.

The WHO monographs start with a Definition which specifies the medicinal plant part used as crude drug material and provides the Latin binomial name based on the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature Adopted by the International Botanical Congress. The Latin name is the most important criterion in identity assurance. The first part of each monograph consists of pharmacopeial summaries for quality assurance, namely: Botanical features, geographical distribution, identity tests, purity requirements, chemical assays, and active or major chemical constituents. The second part summarizes clinical applications, pharmacology, contraindications, warnings, precautions, potential adverse reactions, and dosage. The descriptions included under medicinal uses do not imply official endorsement or approval by WHO. They only represent the systematic collection of scientific information available at the time of preparation for the purpose of information exchange.

The format used for Volume 3 essentially follows that of Volume 2. However, after intensive discussion at the Third WHO Consultation on Selected Medicinal Plants held in Ottawa in 2001 to review and finalize the draft monographs, some changes in format were introduced. …

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