Traditional medicine preservation project to bring new breath to Cham village

It is surprising to learn that residents of two 1,200-household villages in the central province of Ninh Thuan’s district Ninh Hai are herbalists, although Cham people are well known for their traditional medicine.

An herbalist examines a patient by feeling her pulse (Photo: SGGP)

A majority of the Cham population are living in villages Phuoc Nhon and An Nhon in Xuan Hai commune in district Ninh Hai. Most of Cham herbalists have knowledge of medicinal vegetation, including 300 species of 97 plant families.

Their age-old medicine has been influenced by herbalists of China and India, according to herbalist Nguyen Xuan Tuyen, chairman of the province Herb Association.

Of around 800 members of the association, over 640 have been trained to make drugs from plants found in nature. They net their living on the traditional medicine.

Some 13 shops selling drugs said around one ton of herbal medicine is consumed daily and most herbs are taken from the jungle, making precious herbs at risk of extinction, causing concern to experienced herbalists.

It is for this reason that the traditional medicine preservation project, funded by Global Environment Facility, has operated this year in An Nhon and Phuoc Nhon. The local government is satisfied with the project, providing one hectare of land for planting herbs with 30 households being selected to grow vegetation in their garden.

Tran Ngoc Phan, Xuan Hai commune People’s Committee Chairman, said herbalists in the two villages struggle hard to make their living in faraway districts or even in Laos, Cambodia and China; but when the village’s herb has its own brand name, they would not need to travel far from their houses, rather people would come to them to receive examinations.

Moreover, tour guides can take travelers to the village as part of sightseeing tours. Perhaps a “cure tour” to the traditional medicine village can be combined with visiting other craft villages like Bau Truc ceramic - one of the two oldest ceramic villages in Southeast Asia- Chakleng – My Nghiep weaving center with diversified well-known products in Ninh Thuan, Mr. Phan proposed.

If the plan goes well on, herbs of the Cham ethnic minority would become widely famous and lives of residents improved, said Mr. Phan.

The project brings hope that villages there will be covered with herbs and most residents could be both herbalists and tour guides and that the next generation will continue the work to ensure the two villages are prosperous in the future.

By Nguyen Binh - Translated by Quan Vu

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