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This is a contributed text on traditional medicines throughout the world. Almost 20 years ago the World Health Organization estimated that 'In many countries, 80 per cent or more of the population living in rural areas are cared for by traditional practitioners and birth attendants'. It has since revised its view, adopting a rather safer position, now stating: 'most of the population of most developing countries regularly use traditional medicine'. Whereas most people use traditional medicine in developing countries, only a minority have regular access to reliable modern medical services. Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America use traditional medicine (TM) to help meet some of their primary health care needs. In Africa, up to 80 per cent of the population uses traditional medicine for primary health care. In industrialized countries, adaptations of traditional medicine are termed 'Complementary' or 'Alternative' (CAM). Over one-third of the population in developing countries lack access to essential medicines. The provision of safe and effective traditional medicine therapies could become a critical tool to increase access to health care.