Monday, Sep 21, 2009 Kuensel Online
BHUTAN - A vital ingredient for tablets used to treat influenza, including H1N1, is available in Bhutan, say pharmaceutical research officials.
It can be extracted from herb plants known as star anise that is found in abundance in Samdrupjongkhar and Mongar. The local names for the plant are Sengpashing and Wonbasinang. It is commonly known as Lishi in Trashigang. The plant is also found in Diafam, Radi and behind Dochula in Thimphu.
"The star anise found in Bhutan is of a different species but closely related to the one used to produce tamiflu tablets," said the officiating head of pharmaceutical and research unit at the institute of traditional medicine services (ITMS), Ugyen Dendup.
Tamiflu is a prescription drug, which prevents the influenza virus from spreading inside the body and designed to be active against all influenza virus strains.
Star anise, available in parts of China, is used to produce tamiflu tablets.
Ugyen Dendup, however, said that although there was a close relation between the star anise found in Bhutan and those found in other places, there was no study to estimate the exact percentage of the ingredient (shikimic acid) content of the Bhutanese star anise. "If the percentage of shikimic acid content is good, then there?s a huge prospect in the international market. But first there are certain exploratory works that we need to undertake."
But an ITMS report on the comparison of percentages of oil content between the Bhutanese star anise and the Chinese one found almost similar percentages. "The volatile oil content of Bhutanese star anise is within the Chinese star anise range," states the report. Star anise is not used for any traditional medicines in Bhutan, unlike in Vietnam and China where it is also used as spices.
But, according to Tashi Tshering of non-wood forest produce, under the agriculture department, they communicated with some Indian firms on the feasibility of the herb, but were told "our star anis was not highly valid". The health ministry, however, is awaiting agriculture ministry?s response to a proposal on the commercial feasibility of the herb.