Researchers in a new study have encouraged the integration of herbal medicine into Cambodia’s primary health system given its common use among the population, but stopped short of endorsing its efficacy, saying traditional medicines should be further researched.

“Since the importance of [herbal medicine] is well accepted by the population and officially supported by the Cambodian government, integration of [herbal medicine] into the primary health care system should be further encouraged and supported by more specific research,” reads the study, published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine earlier this month.

Researchers found herbal medicine was commonly used across all genders, age groups and locations to treat chronic diseases. But people with higher educational attainment were less likely to use herbal medicines. And while people with chronic diseases were found to be highly satisfied with herbal medicine, more research is needed, the study says. Still, the study noted herbal medicine plays an important role in Cambodia given the high out-of-pocket costs of health care.

But Chum Sopha, executive director of the NGO Health and Development Alliance, said he wouldn’t support the integration of herbal medicine into the primary health care system.

“It seems like you go back to part of the 1980s,” he said. “The world has changed . . . Traditional medicine right now it’s just cheating and very dangerous.”

The study notes that “further research into specific formula and usages in Cambodia would help ascertain the safety of these medications”.