Renewed interest in traditional medical traditions is due to unprecedented challenges in healthcare management, rising medical cost, and side-effects associated with modern pharmaceutics. Local wisdom in managing health conditions, use of more locally available drug sources and prospective drug candidates from ancient repertoire are currently trending as WHO pushes for an integrative medicine policy since 2010 (culminating in WHO Strategy for Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2016-2023) in which both traditional and modern medicine are to be evaluated, and perhaps combined, in patient care.
The ancient medical manuscripts have a valuable and core role in this Integrative Medicine initiative. Way before 2010, world’s most advanced institutions have collected ancient medical manuscripts. By late 1990s leading medical schools in the USA, UK, Europe and Turkey have established specific departments and museums and offer core and elective programmes in which studies on ancient medical manuscripts from around the world take centre stage. Several manuscript-related studies have recorded astounding successes.
Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2015, for example, was awarded to a painstaking research on anti-malaria resourced from Chinese ancient medical manuscripts. This prospective benefit, unfortunately, has given rise to bioprospecting and biopiracy. Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TDKL) of India, which records formulation from thousands of Indian ancient texts and matches these to patent-applications in the USA, UK and Europe, is the most successful instance of counter measure against bioprospecting and biopiracy activities.
Malaysia and its neighbours in Southeast Asia have one of the highest biodiversities. Collectively, Southeast Asian nations stand to benefit greatly from studies on ancient Malay medical texts which contain mostly local materia medica, formulated through Malay medical philosophy. Mining the info in these manuscripts would help greatly in the nations’ effort at protecting national heritage and discovery of new drug candidates, in addition to filling in the gap in the past history of the region, in line with the decolonisation, Islamisation and contextualisation project of medical knowledge of IIUM. It would support the implementation of Act 775, which deals with the regulation of Alternative and Contemporary Medicine, by providing local researchers, entrepreneurs and medical practitioners with good resources and ethnopharmacological evidences, and the MyIPO initiative which aims to create Malaysiana/Nusantara database of medical knowledge.
HIKAM supports efforts at preserving national heritage and discovery of new drug candidates.
- To study and analyse Malay medical manuscripts as sources of history, philosophy and methodology of indigenous medical practice of the Malay civilisation.
- To disseminate and socialise the results of the study on Malay medical manuscripts in formats that are academic, contemporary and contemplative.
- To create a nexus for the creative, innovative & responsible scientific and non-scientific uses of Malay medical manuscripts.