Phyto-therapy medicine, good for human beings: Prof. Lin Chau Ming

In Prof. Lin Chau Ming, you will find both an acclaimed agronomist and a seasoned botanist, for he has done two PhDs. A Brazilian, but Chinese by birth has 17 books on medicinal plants and extensive array of work on traditional vegetable crops is fondly called a ‘Generalist Agronomist’!

A leader of Ethiopia-Brazil-Mozambique joint project team on traditional edible plants during his visit to Ethiopia, shed lights on wide range of issues pertaining to agronomy and his mission to coax people into including traditional edible plants in their cuisine in Brazil, Ethiopia, etc.

He said, Brazil is the richest nation in the world in terms of plants as it is home to 15% of 300,000 species existed in the world; and over 5000 medicinal species are used by traditional communities of Brazil. We have 10,000 types of phyto-therapy medicines which contain some parts of plants or extracts that range from 10 to 15% of them and rest are pure chemicals.

On plant’s extracts are almost rare in medicine, he said, ‘‘Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies force doctors to prescribe allopathic drugs. Brazil has around 100 medicine colleges of which only one belongs to phyto-therapy, hence, students have less chance to study plants and their efficacy; so, when they become doctor, they do the same.’’

On future, he said, to spread awareness on phyto-therapy, presently, Brazilian government has identified 73 plant species and incentivized its study so that agronomists can guide their appropriate usages. Market and pharmaceutical companies are urged to keep those products on their shelves to attract the clients.

On Amazon forest, he said, during 19th century it was a reservoir of herbal drugs to be sent to Europe, as many explorers took Brazilian plants; but now pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries are exploiting it to produce perfumes, etc.

On traditional plants, he said, ‘‘We are working on medicinal and vegetable crops as I focus on plants native to Brazil and some of them are like Lippia Alba, Plantago Major, Ilex, Piffafia Glomerata, Maytenos Ilicifolia, Rio Negro, Mato Grosso, etc.

He adds, for indigenous people, tradition is important for food is linked to their culture; it  satisfies them on two counts, first, it makes them feel proud of ethnicity and food typically has their trademark that makes them comfortable. I try to convey about its importance, by organizing a fair in semi-ethnic community; we also distribute seeds and urge them to plant such crops.

In Ethiopia context, he said, here cuisine is linked to tradition and culture, yet Ethiopians seem to be consuming less vegetable. Therefore, it will be important to go to small communities to observe their eating habits and promote this kind of traditional edible crops.

During visit, he noted that In Ethiopia native plants are hardly grown; Enset, most favorite traditional food is available in the street markets but missing from supermarket. In Brazil, school feeding program is supported by civic government that can be replicated in Ethiopia to promote such plants. Under the project, books on Ethiopia and Mozambique’s traditional edible plants are planned as required money for the same is available, he informed.

Presently, Prof. Ming, who, teaches in Sao Paolo State University in Botucatu, Brazil, on first job, said, ‘‘I started as an extension worker in Parana state (1982-91) with farmers, and had no idea of becoming a professor. I taught to store and dry corn sans chemicals, how to grow vegetable, medicinal plants, fruits, to raise cows and control chicken’s disease, etc.

‘‘During my UG, I loved to study Amazon Botany because still many dream to know about it so, for the first time in 1979, I stayed in Amazon forest for 40 days, studying systematic botany of natural reserve and nativity of Amazon,’’ he added.

He has written 17 books on horticulture, medicinal plants and ethno-botany; his book titled, ‘Medicinal Plants in Brazil’, was a blockbuster for 30,000 copies were sold in 1999. And being a chronicle writer he has had five books to his credit and his college website has space devoted exclusively for him, where he writes about anything under the sun.

(Corporate Communication Directorate)