Professor wants to turn Vietnam into an “herbal medicine garden”
Associate Prof Tran Van On, dean of botany at the Hanoi Pharmaceutical University, is on a mission to develop Vietnam’s medicinal herb market to match its great potential.
On’s office at the university gives out an aroma of citronella. “My grandfather was a San Chi ethnic minority healer, who could cure a lot of diseases with Vietnamese traditional medicine,” he told visiting reporters.
When the grandfather passed away, On met many men cured by the grandfather at the man’s funeral. The men said they considered the healer as a parent.
On then decided to conduct research on herbs and plants in the mountains and forests.
“It is a pity that modern people no longer attach much importance to Vietnamese traditional medicinal herbs. The urbanization process has deprived herbs of their habitats. People now tend to use western medicine. As a result, traditional remedies have fallen into oblivion,” he said.
However, he said many traditional remedies have been handed down to future generations in rural areas and the task of scientists is to collect the original remedies.
The problem is that though Vietnam has a valuable treasure of medicinal herbs, they are not used extensively. Besides his job of teaching and research, On said he wants to support the community to develop medicinal herbs with the dream of turning Vietnam into the world’s herb garden.
He has been to many localities throughout the country, including remote areas such as Nam Dam and Quan Ba in Ha Giang province, persuading locals in cooperatives to make medicinal herbs and explaining how to develop companies and find markets.
“When locals set up businesses, I act as a mobile banker: I lend them my own money and show them how to create products and increase the products’ added value. I show them how to register the products, build infrastructure items and show them how to market the products,” he said.
Believing that university students can play an important role in developing the medicinal herb industry, On has organized extracurricular classes for people interested in the field.
On specifically designs lessons for students, takes them to the field and conducts market surveys. He also provides knowledge about value chains and techniques to process herbs into medicinal products./.