Have you ever wondered about the herbs or herbal products that you have been taking, whether are they really helpful for your condition or are they really safe? Are raw herbs better than products or is it the other way round? How can we know if the herbal product used is of good quality? Perhaps it is time we ask ourselves the important question of “What is the science behind herbs and scientific evidence of herbal products and medicine?”, the very same question that we, at the Herbal Medicine Research Centre (HMRC) have been venturing in, for the past two decades.
HMRC was established in 2001 to provide scientific evidence for the safety and efficacy of herbal products. Over the years, the research work in HMRC has expanded following the herbal medicine discovery pathway. The long-term goal of our Centre is to achieve successful herbal medicine discovery and development through strategic planning, execution and collaboration with related parties. The HMRC also supports the national herbal research ecosystem by providing consultation and advice to stakeholders as subject matter experts and encourages herbal research-related knowledge and skill transfer.
At present, the research activities that are being conducted currently in our centre include:
- Rapid review generation and conducting extensive systematic reviews on various herbal and traditional & complementary therapies related topics;
- Phytochemical analysis and structure elucidation to identify active phytoconstituents as well as standardisation of herbal products;
- Pre-clinical efficacy evaluation of herbal extracts and phytoconstituents using cells and tissue culture followed by in vivo experiments;
- Safety evaluation of herbal products in various in vitro and in vivo systems; and conducting Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)-compliant in vivo general toxicity studies in a GLP-certified laboratory.
Our current research areas of focus are anti-microbial agents, cancer chemopreventive, neglected tropical diseases, and non-communicable diseases.
HMRC consists of five units that play their essential roles distinctively as well as collectively in the herbal drug discovery pathway. These units are:
- Integrative Health Information Unit
- Phytochemistry Unit
- Bioassay Unit
- Toxicology & Pharmacology Unit
- GLP Section
Currently, HMRC is also expanding its capacity in clinical trials by being actively involved in the planning and conduct of herbal-related trials in collaboration with other research institutes and agencies.
Figure 1: The Units in HMRC are designed to address the evidence-based data development along the herbal medicine discovery pathway