The Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) is documenting the traditional knowledge related to medicinal plants among the Orang Asli and Malay communities so that it will not disappear over time.

Its Natural Products Division Research officer Dr Fadzureena Jamaludin said the effort was important because the knowledge and hereditary practices related to medicinal plants, handed down through generations orally, required a perfect documentation process.

"So far, FRIM has recorded a total of 677 species of medicinal plants including 2,452 herbarium specimens as a result of the documentation of traditional knowledge from 18 sub-ethnic groups of Orang Asli in peninsular Malaysia which has been carried out since 2007 until now. Of that number, 100 species have been published in book form.

"We have also recorded a total of 634 medicinal plant species including 2,144 herbarium specimens as a result of documentation from 358 Malay traditional medicine practitioners in peninsular Malaysia since 2013", she told Bernama at FRIM here.

She said FRIM had also carried out preliminary discussions with the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) and Tok Batin in the Orang Asli villages in order to make the documentation process a success.

The process of documenting medicinal plants is carried out through the storage of herbarium specimens (usually in the form of dried and pressed plants mounted on paper) and the publication of books detailing the plant's characteristics, applications and scientific names.

Dr Fadzureena said the medicinal plants obtained were also taken to the laboratory to undergo evaluation and verification tests to identify their medicinal benefits, before they were processed into product prototypes for commercialisation efforts.

"FRIM aims to commercialise these medicinal plant-based products to improve the economic level of the Orang Asli and empower local medical knowledge. We want to create a platform where the Orang Asli receive fair and equitable benefits as a result of sharing this knowledge.

"We have drawn up a draft ABS (access and benefit-sharing) agreement based on Act 795 (Access to Biological Resources and Benefit Sharing Act 2017) towards realising this effort. We are still in the process of discussions with the Orang Asli and the state governments," she said.

She said the documented findings will be submitted to the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) so that the copyright is protected and not exploited by irresponsible parties.

In addition, FRIM is also involved in various programmes to increase local people's understanding of knowledge related to medicinal plants through carnivals, exhibitions as well as seminars at local universities.

Dr Fadzureena said FRIM also participated in the government's 100 Million Tree-Planting campaign where it had implemented a commercial tree-planting programme with the Semai tribe in Oct 2022.

"I hope that everyone involved can commit to this effort, especially the state governments, in ensuring that the ABS agreement can be signed. FRIM also hopes that there will be companies interested in commercialising the medicinal plant-based products in the future", she added.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency