Despite the challenges raised above, NCRI has made a significant contribution to the development of herbal medicine in the country. The achievements of NCRI can be broken down into the following themes: Policy formulation; Research and Product Development; Training and Sensitization; and Institutional and Human Resource Development and infrastructure development. Under each of these themes that achievements are as follows:
NCRI has spearheaded the development of a draft national policy on traditional and complementary medicine (in collaboration with PPPH) and a code of ethics for traditional healers. It has also participated in the development of national policies and regulations i.e, in conjunction with NEMA, it has developed the Uganda National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, the National Environment (access to genetic resources and benefit sharing) regulations (2005). NCRL also collaborated with the National Forestry Authority in the development of the National Forest Policy and Plan (2001). It has also worked with NDA in developing guidelines for registration of herbal medicines. The department has also worked closely with Uganda National Export Promotion Board in the development of a Bio-trade programme which has helped to link herbal processors of natural ingredients for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to outside markets. The department has also contributed to the development of a strategic plan for medicinal biodiversity in East Africa in collaboration with other East African Countries with support from IDRC. In addition, the department contributed to the development of the Strategic Action Plan for HIV/AIDS of the Uganda AIDS Commission 2007 to 2012 where herbal medicine was integrated.
Research and Product Development
NCRI has contributed to placing a number of well standardized herbal products on the market. In addition, research has been undertaken on a number of medicinal plants and herbal products/formula. For example over 5000 medicinal plant species have been documented at NCRI and a good number of these plants have had their specimen prepared. Over 100 herbal samples have been analyzed chemically in the department in the last two years and some of these products have been notified with NDA. Other pharmacological studies undertaken included evaluation of Warbugia salutaris for anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, Carica papaya leaves for anti-hypertensive and diuretic properties and Fagara Zanthoxylum for pain killing properties. The Khomeni products that were claimed by an Iranian Professor for HIV/AIDS cure were investigated for safety and efficacy.
A study on evaluation of a herbal formula as an Immune System Booster for HIV is being undertaken in collaboration with THETA. The department has also contributed to value addition of natural products through the development of viable medicinal plants into herbal tonics, cosmetics and powders which have been used for training communities for product development for income generation. In addition, an ethnobotanical inventory of traditional medicine practices was carried out in almost all the districts of Uganda in 1994. This information is currently used by researchers in the traditional medicine sector.
The Institute has also carried out a needs assessment of the different traditional health practitioners in the country. Some of these needs have been included in the national policies related to traditional medicine. The department has also constructed community centers for traditional medicine in the districts of Iganga, Kabale, Luwero and Dokoro with support from IDRC. The communities in these centers were able to prioritize medicinal plants for treatment of different diseases. Some of these plants have been evaluated for safety. Two centers (Iganga and Luwero) have been operationalised for research, training and other activities related to traditional medicine.
Training and sensitization
NCRI has conducted a number of sensitization workshops for stakeholders on traditional medicine policy and legal framework through various media channels. In addition, the African Traditional Medicine day celebrations are held every year. The policy on TCM has already been submitted to cabinet. NCRI has also developed a curriculum for training health workers in the management of HIV/AIDS in East Africa. Traditional Medicine has been integrated in this curriculum.
A number of stakeholders have also benefited from training in conservation, herbal processing and research (value addition).Over 100 students from Institutions of higher learning (Kyambogo, Mbarara and Makerere Universities) have benefited in industrial training. In addition, students from Secondary Schools have also been sensitized on Traditional Medicine. As a result, many young people have picked interest in the traditional medicine sector.
Human resource and institutional development
The Institute has been able to train and also develop its staff through a number of career development trainings to enhance their skills. Most of the trainings have been in-house with few outside Uganda. The trainings included; policy, research in natural products, laboratory management and instrumentation, clinical evaluation, supervision skills and stores management and inventory. There is still need for more training to equip staff with relevant skills in their respective areas.
In 2005, the department acquired a new laboratory equipment i.e Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS). Due to attempts to vandalize the laboratory, this machine suffered loss of some valuable components. Replacement of these components will enable its full use in the evaluation of the mineral composition of herbal medicine.