ICMR releases “Quality Standards for Indian Medicinal Plants”

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The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has released the Quality Standards of Indian Medicinal Plants, Volume 14. Its Medicinal Plants Division has provided adequate scientific information that can help in either standard setting bodies or manufacturers to develop and arrive at quality specifications for 35 medicinal plants covered in this volume. The contents also help in regulatory approvals of these herbs globally.
 
Authenticated quality parameters of 484 medicinal plants and their parts is provided. In addition, specific information on standard procedure for evaluation of crude drugs, phyto chemical evaluation of raw materials, methods to isolate markers, drying and storage, and pesticide residues is also provided.
 
Data provided in this book under monographs for each medicinal plant covers botanical name, description of the parts of the plant along with colored photographs both in the habitat and the part of the plant used. It has also listed the plant names in a few Indian languages, given morphological and microscopic description, chemical constituents, Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) identity test, analytical methods for estimation of one or more components quantitatively.
 
The monograph provides short information on major therapeutic claims, safety, dose and a few references. The quality of data is appropriate and based on results of actual testing done by scientists in ICMR supported or ministry of Ayush supported laboratories. The data is also supported by well reproduced figures, pictures of microscopy features and chromatograms of compounds run apart from clearly written structural formulae of major constituents.
 
The volume 14 also provides very useful index of botanical names, other Indian names, and a common index of all monographs in volume 1 to 13 which is very useful. Any discussion about a medicinal plant based product, amongst both qualified professionals and patients or consumers always deal with quality of the medicinal plant used. This largely was a question whenever an Ayurvedic or Unani product was under debate. The question has now enlarged to health supplements, natural cosmetics and other products, said Dr. DB Anantha Narayana, CSO, Ayurvidye Trust, Bengaluru who reviewed the 394 pages hard bound copy.
 
Criticisms that scientific information on Indian medicinal plants are lacking no longer hold good with publication of this volume. Efforts of ICMR and various institutions engaged in the time consuming and innovative scientific work needs commendation in this regard. This book though provides quality standards, lacks the official regulatory status. It is not understood however that the data in these volumes 1 – 14 do not seem to have been used by the various pharmacopoeia committees in incorporating additional features of testing that guarantee the quality of raw drugs used by the traditional medicine industry, stated Dr Narayana.
 
These pharmacopoeias should actively consider upgrading their criteria and acceptable levels of tolerance while laying down standards for medicinal plants. The data in this book can quickly fill the gaps and save a lot of repetitive work and time for pharmacopoeia committees. The industry on the other hand is well positioned to adopt data from this book and develop in house specifications for their raw herbs thereby enhancing acceptability and building safety and efficacy in their products. In an online searchable publication, ICMR may consider digitizing all the volumes with a searchable data base on a subscription mode to recover costs, he added.

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