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[NAIROBI, KENYA] A herbal medicine processing plant has been launched in Kenya amid a raging debate over the government’s intention to introduce herbal drugs in public hospitals.

The plant — the first of its kind in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region — will allow large scale production of herbal medicines in tablet, capsule or syrup form, and will act as a training centre for herbal practitioners in the region.

Jack Githae, head of the Kenyan School of Alternative Medicine and Technology (Samtech), says the facility will enable herbal practitioners to update their knowledge on traditional medicine, in line with the demands of modern medicine.

But the 6000-member Kenya Medical Association (KMA) opposes the project, arguing that traditional medicine practitioners lack knowledge of modern medicine, and that the effectiveness of most herbal drugs has not been scientifically proven.

The Kenyan government, however, is already planning to introduce a bill in parliament that will allow prescription of herbal drugs in public hospitals (See Kenyan doctors oppose herbal remedies).

The US$18,000 plant, which will be based in Nyeri, about 200 kilometres east of Nairobi, is the result of collaboration between Samtech and the Essential Nutrition Company of London, which donated herbal medicine processing machinery through the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

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