Conference Highlights Recent Advances in Frankincense, Medicinal Plants Research

Muscat, The First International Conference on “Frankincense and Medicinal Plants: Recent Advances in Research and Industry began at the Sultan Qaboos University’s (SQU) Conference Hall today under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Hinai, State Advisor.

The three-day conference is organised by SQU, University of Nizwa, the Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre, and the Quranic Botanic Garden in Qatar.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference, Dr. Rahma bint Ibrahim al-Mahrouqi, SQU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies and Research, said that the use of medicinal plants has the potential to offer alternative approaches to drug development and the treatment of disease.

It is also viewed by many as having significant cultural and historical value that is associated with the preservation of living heritage and tradition. One prime example of this is the place that medicinal plants, and, in particular, frankincense, has played in Oman’s history over the course of thousands of years. The Sultanate of Oman is blessed with a high degree of biological and environmental biodiversity that includes a wide range of medicinal plants, she noted.

Dr. Rahma added that, for many hundreds of years before the advent of the country’s modern era and the establishment of a universal health care system, these plants played an intimate role in the lives of people and communities all across the country. Even now with the great strides that the Sultanate has made towards modernization, one need not look far to find numerous examples of the importance of medicinal plants in the lives of many Omanis. These include the traditional medicinal uses of aloes, clove, cinnamon bark, garlic and so on for a variety of ailments ranging from colds and fevers to stomachaches and insect bites, she said.

Dr. Rahma further said that frankincense is one of the natural substances that is most immediately identified with Oman is frankincense. The rich history and varied uses of frankincense, including as incense, in perfume, to repel insects, and in traditional medicines, we will learn a great deal more about during this conference. One of the main aims of this conference is to promote the exchange of knowledge and information about medicinal plants, including frankincense, and to build informed networks of academics, producers, businesspeople, consumers, and all other stakeholders who share an interest in field-related developments and directions, the SQU Deputy Vice Chancellor said.

In his speech, Prof. Ahmed al-Harrasi, Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Nizwa, Conference Chair, noted that Oman’s diverse and fascinating flora and marine species coupled with the demand to exploit natural resources makes it an ideal location to conduct studies on natural products. This country is blessed with over 250 reported species of medicinal plants that could be decisive in treating some of the world’s current and future diseases. Among these medicinal plants, frankincense comes on the top. Among the 19 species of frankincense trees reported worldwide, Oman hosts one of the best quality frankincense that comes from Boswellia sacra, he said.

Fatma al-Khulaifi from Quranic Botanic Garden, a member of Qatar Foundation, in her speech, said that the Quranic Botanic Garden contains many medicinal plants collected from various geographical habitats including tropical desert and Mediterranean. We focus on having a big volume of scientific studies especially those concerning botany and medicine based on the Prophetic Sunnah to display and document the scientific achievements of those plant species.

The conference brings together internationally recognised experts in medicinal chemistry, micro-and molecular biology, horticulture and medical sciences, as well as frankincense-based industries from 25 countries. The three-day conference features eight plenary talks, four featured talks and 42 oral presentations.

The conference includes an exhibition where a number of organisations are represented. These include the Public Authority for Craft Industries (PACI), the Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre, the Oman Botanic Garden, the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), the Natural and Medical Sciences Research Centre at the University of Nizwa, the SQU College of Agriculture and Marine Sciences, and the Qatar Quranic Botanic Garden. Many other entities are involved in the exhibition, including Al-Shua’lah Perfumes, Origo Integrated Projects, Neal’s Yard Remedies, and Business International Group. These organisations showcase samples from resins and medicinal plants, fragrance and beauty products, and the tools used to distill frankincense. Another part of the exhibition will be devoted to the conference posters arranged by more than 30 researchers from the Sultanate of Oman and overseas.

Source: Oman News Agency