Many of the approaches used in 'alternative' or 'complementary' medicine in North America, Western Europe and Australasia have their origins in long-standing traditional forms of health care from what are now known as developing countries.
According to the World Health Organisation, these traditions continue to serve the health needs of between 60 and 80 per cent of the population in their countries of origin.
International conservation organisations, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), have declared that the world's medicinal plant stocks are endangered through deforestation and over-harvesting.
In order to ensure sustainability in plant-based or natural health care strategies for future generations, policy makers will need to address the fundamental interaction between health and biodiversity. This will require new bilateral and multilateral investments in medicinal plant conservation and cultivation. It will also require strengthening-in some countries, creating-policies and an organisational infrastructure for the development of traditional medicine. Finally, it will require the generation of new and affordable clinical research methodologies along with national policies for ensuring the safety and efficacy of plant-based medicines.
An integrated approach to health and biodiversity planning is essential if sustainability is to be achieved in the traditional approaches to health care that continue to serve the majority of the population in developing countries and in the alternative approaches which serve a growing proportion of the population of industrialised nations.
Many of the approaches used in 'alternative' or 'complementary' medicine in North America and Western Europe have their origins in long-standing