ESTABLISHMENT AND MANDATE
The Institute of Traditional Medicine, previously known as Traditional Medicine Research Unit was established under the Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, Act of Parliament no. 9 of 1991, Section 10 (1) (c). The Act provided for an Institute Board that reports to the Academic Board of the College. The Institute is charged with the responsibility to research into traditional healing systems, in Tanzania, to identify useful practices which can be adopted and also to identify usefulmateria medica which can be modernized and developed into drugs for use to improve human health.
Tanzania is estimated to have over 80,000 traditional healers with varying specialities. The majority of healers are herbalists using mainly plants and a few animal and mineral products in their practices. Traditional healers are likely to be first consulted health provider due to socio-cultural settings in rural Tanzania.The estimated traditional healer:population ratio is 1:400 compared to 1:30,000 doctor to population ratio. Over the 12,000 higher plant species growing in Tanzania, at least a quarter have medicinal values and some of them already have a big market potential worldwide and can be exploited for local drug production. Some examples include Cinchona ledgeriana, Artemisia afra, Rauvolfia caffra, Rauvolfia serpetina, Atropa belladonna, Catharanthus rosea, Pischiera fuchsiaefolia, Moringa oleifera, Vuacanga africana, Prunus Africana, Aloe vera, Hibiscus sabdariffa, and Waltheria indica, to just mention a few. The Institute is already poised to play a leading role in the development of this vast resource by strategically creating expertise in all areas related to drug development, including research and training in good practices, basic science knowledge, phytochemistry, biological testing, pre-clinical studies, clinical trials and evaluation, pharmaceutical technology, standardization of herbal pharmaceuticals, biotechnology etc. The goal is to produce herbal medicines with best levels of active molecules.
To become the leading institution in Africa in training, consultancy and research in developing quality herbal medicines for the healthy well being of the people, and contribute to poverty reduction through community based cultivation of specific medicinal plants
THE MISSION OF THE INSTITUTE
To research on traditional medicines and promote the development of standardized herbal and plant derived pharmaceuticals and useful non-material aspects of traditional medicine through teaching and consultancy for the improvement of the health of the Tanzanian people
While conducting its daily research and development activities, the Institute shall uphold the following values as its guiding pillars:
To achieve its mission the Institute has the following set goals:
To promote the use of traditional medicines and traditional methods of healing
The Institute shall use available expertise to evaluate, rationalize and promote the use of natural products, and beneficial customs and practices of traditional medicine. It will carry out clinical observations and toxicological studies as a means to promote safe products and to identify and discourage harmful products, customs and practices which are detrimental to health. Useful practices and methods will be researched on and promoted.
To promote commercial exploitation and conservation of medicinal plants
The Institute shall organize itself to promote trade in herbal medicines, as a way to contribute to National Growth and Poverty Reduction. In collaboration with other institutions, it intends to promote community based cultivation of medicinal plants and sale of their extracts and possibly isolated pure compounds within the country and abroad. This will promote commerce in medicinal plants and, therefore, become a source of income for the people.
To contribute to the discovery of new drugs
The Institute will, through collaboration with traditional healers and traditional birth attendants, conduct scientific investigations on plants, animal and mineral products that are used traditionally as medicines with the purpose of developing new drugs. The pursuit of patents shall be part of the core activities of the Institute and shall serve the purpose of discovery of new drugs to treat conditions that are prevalent in Tanzania and also serve as a source of income by generating new drug molecules, which are of interest to the pharmaceutical industries. The Institute shall build a strong team of natural product chemists and experts in biological testing to address this goal.
To contribute to the local production of pharmaceuticals
There are a number of established medicinal plants growing in Tanzania. The country continues to import drugs derived from these plants while their production could be done locally. The Institute has already started to pioneer the production of drugs from known plants that grow in Tanzania. Efforts to build capability in terms of equipments are underway and strengthen machinery for laboratory to semi-industrial production of some formulations. A few machines have been acquired for production of capsules, powders, liquid formulations and skin preparations. The Institute needs analytical equipment for the analysis of content and ingredients in pharmaceutical formulations, and for stability testing to establish shelf life of drugs that will be produced. There is an urgent need to strengthen capability for standardization of herbal medicines.
To disseminate knowledge on traditional and plant derived medicines.
Knowledge generated from research in traditional medicines should be disseminated to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Currently the Institute participates in teaching undergraduate students in the Schools of Pharmacy, Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing. The institute also started teaching Master of Science in traditional medicine development that brings opportunity to disseminate knowledge emanating from research. Opportunities exist in the areas of phytochemistry, botany, pharmacology, microbiology, pre-clinical safety studies, standardization of herbal medicines, and clinical evaluation.
The Institute has been conducting training at PhD levels. In the next five years this ambition will be vigorously tracked.
To build relevant capacities to enable the Institute to achieve its vision and mission
The Institute shall endeavour to build adequate infrastructure to accommodate its staff, research and development activities, modern housing for research animals, and teaching equipment and facilities for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.