The Health Ministry will push for more research and development of herbal medicines, including in universities, stating that there are some 100,000 plants in Indonesia that have medicinal potential.
"We have been looking mostly toward the West using chemical-based medicines while we have a very high level of biodiversity which is still largely underutilized," the ministry's research and development agency head Tjandra Yoga Aditama said on Saturday as quoted by Antara news agency.
Speaking at a seminar on medicine hosted by Muhammadiyah University Prof. Dr. Hamka (Uhamka), Tjandra added that it was time for Indonesia to more persistently pursue research in herbal medicine so that it could compete with chemical-based medicines on the market.
Tjandra revealed there were only 40 types of medicines using natural ingredients that had been clinically tested in terms of phytopharmacology and toxicology. Another eight types are still in the patent process.
"We are currently setting up a roadmap of health independence with a number of national pharmaceutical companies," he said.
"The public can choose whether to use chemical or natural medicines."
Meanwhile, Uhamka rector Suyatno said his university was encouraging research on natural medicines in addition to chemical ones.
"Aside from the research, we are also conducting collaborations with a number of foreign universities such as student and professor exchanges in the health sector and holding seminars that allow health experts [from other countries] to exhibit their research findings," he said.
During the seminar, Uhamka invited experts from China, Malaysia and Thailand to allow students and researchers to map out the research conditions of other countries in order to step up competitiveness.
The university's science and medical faculty has also developed a number of health experiments, such as producing low-calorie sugar from cassava and bitter black honey.