Traditionally rural Karen communities in Eastern Burma use herbal medicine extensively. The medicine is used to treat common illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea and skin disease. Due to the ongoing civil war, displacement and globalization factors there has been a loss of traditional medicinal knowledge. Communities are becoming reliant on western medicine which is difficult to access and often unaffordable.
KESAN believe that establishing community herbal medicine forest for the community and promoting traditional medicinal knowledge can be very effective in natural resources management and biodiversity conservation if people preserve their forest for the use of herbal plants in traditional herbal medicine treatment.
Since 2004, KESAN works with Karen health organization and leaders to preserve Karen traditional medicinal knowledge and promote its use by empowering communities to control their own primary health care through the establishment of herbal forests and herbal gardens, producing traditional medicine handbooks, and establishing herbal treatment clinics and training centres. There are currently 4 herbal medicine forest, (6) clinics supported by KESAN in the Karen State. This establishing of herbal medic ne forest and promoting traditional medicinal knowledge help Karen community to be able to produce herbal medicine that have been applied in the treatment of more than 150 different kinds of diseases and illnesses including cancer, gastrointestinal, and respiratory diseases, fevers, colds, malaria, spasms and partial paralysis. After more and more people gained knowledge of traditional medic in treatment, more people want to preserve their forest for herbal medicine plants. Moreover, more and more community likes to have their own community herbal medicine forest and reduce activities which will affect their forest. This has become a great effective in forest protection.