Curbing Local Disease Through Medicinal Plants

When the Medicinal Plants program was created, the first step, as well as other initiatives of Cultivating Good Water, was to seek partnerships with organizations already working with the theme in region, such as universities, laboratories, associations, NGOs and government agencies. Thereafter, we conducted a regional survey about which were the most common diseases and what herbal remedies they needed for treating these diseases, in as much as they were species addressed by scientific studies and with proven efficacy.

In 2005, Itaipu created a herbarium, with a complete structure for the drying and production of herbal medicines, attached to a garden of 1.5 hectares. There, the harvesting, cleaning, processing and quality control are carried out, in addition to assembling a kit with 18 kinds of medicinal plants used in the treatment of the ten most common diseases in the region. The kits are sent to the National Health System (SUS) clinics. The production of herbal medicines must necessarily be organic. In partnership with Oscip Sustentec (which also participates in the Sustainable Rural Development program), training is offered to farmers from planting to packaging. One of the advantages of cultivation of medicinal plants is that native species such as Maytenus, Pata de Vaca and Emba├║ba can be grown in a Permanent Protection Area.

The program guides the farmer to look first at the list of the National Health System (SUS) herbal medicines, which is indicative of the market that can be exploited. Today, 32 health care units in the region provide herbal medicines to patients. The municipality of Vera Cruz do Oeste, for example, reduced spending by 30% with the treatment of hypertension and diabetes after the adoption of medicinal plants in its health care units. Itaipu has a garden and a structure drying of medicinal plants in Bela Vista Biological Refuge. The structure has provided more than 380,000 seedlings and eight tonnes of dried herbal medicines. In addition, it assisted farmers to organize themselves as cooperative, and in partnership with the city of Pato Bragado, created a unit of dry extract, allowing them to increase the added value to the production of medicinal plants.