Previous PageTable of ContentsNext Page

Trade in Medicinal Plants

Sophie Emma Kuipers

Natural Medicine Marketing
261 Portobello Road
W11 1LR London, UK
Tel/Fax:++44 171 727 1753 Email: sophie@nat-med.demon.co.uk

Abstract

Medicinal plants play a critical role in the healthcare provision of much of the world's population. Whether they are used to make a decoction in rural Africa, to extract an alkaloid in Switzerland or as a health food supplement in the United States, demand is increasing. This paper attempts to examine the trade in medicinal plants; determine the volume of medicinal plant material that is traded and identify the main sources of demand and supply. In so doing the paper addresses the conservation implications arising from the trade and considers some possible solutions.

Medicinal plant demand

Before considering the sources of medicinal plants and mechanics of the trade, an understanding of where the demand for medicinal plants comes from is needed.

Medicinal plant material is used by a large number of industries. This paper attempts to focus mainly on demand from industries which use these plants for their medicinal or health giving properties as explained below. The problem lies in the fact that statistical data do not usually differentiate between these groups and other users such as manufacturers of: cosmetics, detergents, dyes, insecticides, foods, paints etc.

Pharmaceutical companies

This sector uses medicinal plants:

- for the isolation of single purified drugs, e.g. digitoxin extracted from digitalis and vincristine from Catharanthus roseus.

- in advanced extract form where the extract is highly standardised in terms of the active constituents it contains. In many cases, these are in admixtures with other ingredients, e.g. senna extract from Cassia senna.

- as starting material for the production of other semi-synthetic pharmacologically active substances. For example, plant saponins can be extracted and altered chemically to produce sapogenins required to manufacture steroids.


Demand for medicinal plants from this group alone is significant with an estimated 25% of prescription drugs in the US containing plant extracts or active principles prepared from higher plants (Farnsworth and Soejarto, 1985).

Phytopharmaceutical companies

In some countries (e.g. Germany), there is little distinction between pharmaceutical and phytopharmaceutical companies as both may sell products made from standardised extracts of plant material. However, in other countries where the licensing criteria for plant extracts are very different from those for medicines, there is more of a distinction.

Phytopharmaceutical companies not only use plant extracts but also raw plant material for example to make tinctures, teas or in capsule form.

Health product companies

Examples of some of the more important health products are garlic, ginseng, propolis, royal jelly, tonics, guarana and herbal drinks for which there has been a growing demand recently.

There is also a fine line of distinction between health products and phytopharmaceuticals as many health products are being marketed as such in order to avoid the need to license a product as a medicine (a costly and complex process).

Traditional medicines

Although traditional medicines could equally be covered under phytopharmaceuticals, a distinction is made here in order to highlight their importance in the medicinal plants trade. The WHO estimated that 80% of the population of developing countries rely on traditional medicines (primarily plant drugs) for their primary healthcare needs.

The most renowned traditional systems are Ayurvedic, Unani and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In addition, there are many less well documented systems of traditional medicine which have been handed down from one generation to the next by word of mouth and practised in many parts of the world. In the Côte d’Ivoire, a market survey of 800 households found that traditional medicines were not just used in rural areas but increasingly in urban areas as well (Bodeker, 1997).

Alternative practitioners

In addition to the traditional medicine practitioners in developing countries, there are an increasing number of alternative practitioners of natural medicine in the developed world.

Demand for medicinal plants is undoubtedly increasing in all the above sectors (with the possible exception of their use as pure chemical isolates) and this growth is fuelling an increase in both the number of species and volume of plant material being traded. What we now need to consider is from what sources this demand is being met.

Medicinal plant species

It is estimated that some 10,000 plant species are used medicinally, most of these are used in traditional systems of medicine. However, only a relatively small number of species are used in any significant volume. For example, in TCM, 9,905 botanical materials are used but only an estimated 500 are commonly used. (Natural Medicine Marketing, 1996).

A study undertaken by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in 1982 suggested that 400 species were used in Europe (ITC-UNCTAD GATT, 1982). More recent findings suggest that the number could be closer to 1,500 including those used in homeopathy (Lange, 1996). There are no reliable data on the number of plant species that are currently traded in high volume; indeed, such a list is badly needed.

An analysis of plant derived materials used in prescription drugs during 1980 found that only 40 species of higher plants are used as sources of drugs. (Farnsworth et al., 1986).

Medicinal plant supply

There are two sources of supply of medicinal plants, viz. material collected from the wild and cultivated material. Surprisingly, the bulk of the material traded is still wild harvested and only a very small number of species is cultivated.

Wild harvested material

Wild harvesting is the collection of plant material such as the herba (plant above ground), flos (flowers), folia (leaves), lignum (wood), or radix (roots) from wild sources. In many traditions of medicine, wild harvested material is considered to have higher therapeutic benefits, and therefore, for example in China, commands higher prices.

Although there are many common species that can be harvested sustainably and with little impact on their survival, an increasing number are not in this category. A study undertaken by WWF found that in several African countries, wild harvesting for local requirements was not detrimental to plant survival as the quantity collected tended to be small and also most of the material collected came from the more common varieties (Hamilton, 1990).

What is of major concern is the fact that a major part of wild harvested material is now traded commercially. As the prices paid to the gatherers tend to be very low, commercial plant gatherers, often ‘mine’ the natural resources rather than manage them, as their main objective is to generate an income.

A critical factor in wild harvesting is the availability of cheap labour to undertake the very labour intensive work of gathering. As in many cases income from such sources represents the only form of paid employment for members of remote rural areas, there is an eagerness to undertake such work.

Most countries have little or no regulations controlling the collection of material from the wild. India is one exception and has banned the export of several wild species in the form of raw material although the export of finished products containing the material is allowed. Despite this, an estimated 95% of medicinal plants collected in India are gathered from the wild and the process of collection is said to be destructive (Vinay, 1996). Equally, a major part of the high range Himalayan plants are wild harvested and many of these are close to extinction from over-harvesting or unskilful harvesting e.g. Nardostachys jatamansi, Aconitum spp.

An estimated 70-90% of the medicinal plant material imported into Germany is wild harvested and only 50-100 species among these are currently propagated on a large scale (Lange, 1996).

In China, the output of the area cultivated is estimated to be between 300,000 and 400,000 tonnes whilst in 1994 the total demand for medicinal plant material was 1,600,000 tonnes. This huge gap must be made up from wild harvested material. What is particularly worrying is that TCM tends to use the roots of plants which are the most difficult plant parts to harvest sustainably.

Although the major part of wild harvested material is sourced from developing countries, a surprisingly high amount is also gathered in developed countries. For example, in the United States, an estimated 200 tons of Echinacea angustifolia is wild harvested annually (Foster, 1994) and 220,589 pounds of ginseng was wild harvested in 1992 (Gaski and Johnson). In France, more than 500 species were wild harvested during 1988-89, including those used homeopathically, i.e. in minute quantities. Volumes harvested for the most important among these are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Tonnage of wild harvested material for leading medicinal plants in France during 1988-89 ( adapted from Rolland, 1991)
 


Plant species
Tonnage of dried plant material
Arnica montana

Betula pendula& Betula pubescens

Calluna vulgaris

Conyza canadensis

Fraxinus excelsior

Hippophae rhamnoides

Hypericum perforatum

Prunus spinosa

Rhamnus frangula

Rosmarinus officinalis

Ruscus aculeatus

Sorbus aucuparia

Filipendula ulmaria 

3-6

5-10

50

50

50

5-10

50-100

5-10

5-10

50-100

5-10

50

5-10

Although one can cite data for some such specific cases, there is very little global data on the volume wild harvested. This is partly because it is very difficult to distinguish between wild and cultivated material, as such wild harvested material is often sold as cultivated. This means that even CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) data are often questionable given that the process of issuing licenses and acquiring import/export papers as required by CITES is rarely checked and may often be the subject of corruption.

Cultivation

The other main source of medicinal plants is from cultivation. Cultivated material is infinitely more appropriate for use in the production of drugs. Indeed, standardisation whether for pure products, extracts or crude drugs is critical, and will become increasingly so, as quality requirements continue to become more stringent.

Examples of countries that do cultivate on a large scale are Hungary, Poland, India (psyllium), China, Spain (liquorice), and Argentina (chamomile, psyllium). Requirements of successful commercial cultivation operations are to produce high quality drugs using low input cultivation methods keeping in mind that the material has to compete within a highly competitive international market.

Given the higher cost of cultivated material, cultivation is often done under contract. In the majority of cases, companies would cultivate only those plant species which they use in large quantities or in the production of derivatives and isolates, for which standardisation is essential and quality is critical.

More recently, growers have set up co-operatives or collaborative ventures in an attempt to improve their negotiating power and achieve higher prices. One such co-operative is VNK in the Netherlands; others have also emerged in Eastern Europe to help them compete in a now privatised sector. Eastern Europe exports significant quantities to the rest of Europe and North America. Before the subsidies were cancelled post-1989, these countries were reliable suppliers of good quality material. However, since then reliability and quality have become a problem.

The question that begs to be asked is why more material is not cultivated internationally. There are several reasons, notably the low cost of wild harvested material, and the fact that cultivated material requires management/agricultural expertise, time (sometimes more than 10 years before the crop is ready for harvesting), land, financial resources etc. before an income can be derived.

Channels of supply

The following section considers the different forms of trade that exist and examines the channels through which medicinal plants pass.

Cunningham (1996) describes three trading sectors for medicinal plants:

On the first level, there is the national trade in medicinal plants which can involve hundreds of species. This trade would be undertaken at regional medicinal plant markets where hundreds of plant species are traded. For example in urban markets in Kwa Zulu, Natal, more than 400 species were being traded out of a total 1,000 that were used medicinally in the area.

The second level again is informal and consists of trade across national borders but within the same continent. This trade tends to consist of fewer number of species, although many of these are threatened. For example in Africa, Warburgia salutaris and Siphonochilus aethiopicus are two species with high demand and very scarce supply. In Asia, Nardostachys grandiflora and Valeriana jatamansi are examples of species which are threatened, but both are still traded from Nepal to India (Cunningham, 1996).

The third level comprises formal export trade. In Africa, Cunningham found that at this level only a limited number of species were traded in significant volumes. Cunningham cites Cameroon which exports four species to Europe including Prunus africana (a bark extract of which is used in the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy), all of which is exported to France; and Pausinystalia johimbe, 65% of which is exported to Holland, 18% to Germany and the rest to Belgium, Luxembourg and France.



However, based on the imports of plant material into Germany, a significant number of species are indeed traded internationally, i.e. at this third level, and several hundred species in significant volumes.

From the source of collection, plant material passes through a network of buyers including collectives' organisations and state run organisations, and agents or subsidiaries of the plant traders.

The major part of material is sold to plant trading companies. These plant traders hold enormous stocks, and also have the facilities to undertake the quality controls required for raw material used in the production of drugs. The major trading companies are located in Hamburg, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. They play an enormously powerful role in the medicinal plant trade, partly because of the large quantities they purchase which enables them to more or less dictate the price. In addition, their ability to reliably undertake the quality control analysis also helps to protect their position of power.

The situation in Germany illustrates the critical role of the traders, where ‘drug’ imports of medicinal plants is undertaken almost entirely by 20 drug trading companies (Lange, 1996).

Another critical point which helps safeguard the position of the traders is the guarantee that they will supply material of a specified standard of quality at a fixed price. This price and quality guarantee is a major incentive to the end user, for whom cost, quality, reliability and flexibility are said to be the key requirements for purchasing pharmaceutical raw materials (Lapinskas, 1993).

There are also brokers who buy plant material and sell it on adding a commission; however, they do not stock material or have any warehousing facilities. In the past the brokers played a more important role as they had the contacts at the purchasing level.

Other traders have been emerging, referred to as the ’ecological trade’ by Lange (1996), they source botanical material for use generally by the smaller herbal medicine/health product companies and alternative practitioners. These trading companies tend to be more discerning/ethical in their purchasing approach, and often trade extensively in organically cultivated products. They often establish their own contacts in the source countries and have shorter sales routes involving fewer parties, partly as they purchase only raw material not extracts.

One such example is a company in the United Kingdom called Hambledon Herbs (HH), who endeavour to build relationships with trustworthy and ethical suppliers who practise sustainable harvesting or organic/semi-organic cultivation methods. For example, Hambledon Herbs source Harpagophytum from Namibia as part of a conservation project that they have set up with Oxfam. The material is collected from the wild in a controlled and sustainable way, planting is encouraged, and quality control measures have been introduced. HH are now the leading supplier of Harpagophytum, supplying an estimated 50 tonnes per annum.

Plant extracts

A significant percentage of medicinal plant material is used to make plant extracts. This process is carried out either by the end product manufacturers or by extract companies. Sales of plant extracts is undoubtedly increasing as evidenced by the growth of one of Europe’s leading extract suppliers, Indena, which increased its operating revenue by 92% from 1991 to 1994 (according to F&S Database compiled by Frost and Sullivan Publishers, London).

More recently, several extract companies have been set up in the Far East, in an attempt to increase the value of the raw material through processing. For example, Qingdao Huanzhong Pharmaceutical Ltd is a Sino-Japanese joint venture in China with a production capacity of 240 tonnes of extracts all of which is destined for export to Japan and other international markets. Another example is that of Southern Herbals in India which started production in 1992 of plant extracts and is reported to be supplying companies such as Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Fujisawa with vincristine and vinblastine from Catharanthus roseus.

Volume traded

Having examined the channels of supply, consideration needs to be given to the volume that passes through those channels. Unfortunately, there are very few data on the volume of international trade in medicinal plants. What little data there are, are further complicated by the fact that medicinal plants are, as previously mentioned, used in many other industries.

Much of the following data have been sourced from the UNCTAD COMTRADE database and compiled from statistical information from approximately 100 countries. The other main source of data is the market report published by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Lange, 1996). With both sources, the SITC codes used to compile the data (Table 2) need to be considered in the light of the fact that they are not exclusively used as medicinal plants.
 

Table 2. SITC codes and Commodity codes.

 


SITC code   Commodity code
292.4 Plants and parts of plants (including seeds and fruit) of a kind used primarily in perfumery, in pharmacy, or for insecticidal, fungicidal, or similar purposes 140190 00 0
292.41 Liquorice roots 1211.10
292.42 Ginseng roots 1211.20
292.49 Others including pyrethrum, tonquin beds, mint, linden, verbena, Origanum vulgare and Salvia officinalis 1211.90

Furthermore, the data do not include the trade in glycosides and vegetable alkaloid derivatives which are both important raw materials to the pharmaceutical industry. Table 3 provides some perspective on the growth in sales of glycosides and vegetable alkaloids based on the increased quantities being imported globally.
 

Table 3. Global imports of vegetable alkaloids, glycosides and their derivatives.

 


Year
Imports of vegetable alkaloids and derivatives
Standard units in Million kg
Imports of glycosides and derivatives
Standard units in Million kg
1966
1,922,449
312,252
1976
4,339,750
621,569
1986
13,359,933
1,984,916
1988
13,839,193
2,524,890
1990
12,516,068
3,016,647
1991
11,412,323
2,929,112
Source: United Nations Statistical Division (1992)

Major supplying countries and regions

This section seeks to identify the major source countries for medicinal plants traded internationally.

The main geographical areas supplying medicinal plants to Germany are listed in Table 4 which provides an understanding of the source of material used in Europe and North America.

Table 4: Quantity of imports of commodity groups 1211 90 80 and 1211 90 90(0) [Plants and parts of seeds…-others] classified according to areas of origin (adapted from Lange, 1996).
 
 
Volume tonnes
1994
1993
1992
1991
Europe(incl.regions of the formerUSSR) 
Asia 
Africa 
America 
Australia & New Zealand 
Others

14,062.9 
7,708.1 
7,374.8 
5,065.0 
416,5 
734.9

11,932.4 
7,518.1 
6,047.7 
6,258.4 
419.3 129.8

16,578.6 
9,080.3 
4,949.6 
7,705.5 
530.4 
106.7

14,799.2 
9,487.3 
4,642.4 
5,257.1 
651.7 
69.6

Table 5 provides more information on which countries in each geographical region, are important suppliers of raw material to Germany (indicative of trends in exports to Europe and North America).

Table 6 gives more of an international perspective in that it identifies the leading exporters of medicinal plant material in general, i.e. not to any specific market. Again these data highlight the importance of Asia as a supplier of medicinal plants.
 
 

Table 5. Countries with exports to Germany in excess of 500 tonnes for Commodity Codes 1211 90 80bzw 1211 90 90 (0) (adapted from Lange, 1996). Volume exported to Germany in tonnes.
 
 
Country
1994
1993
1992
1991
EUROPE
France
1,011.4
1,016.7
748.7
670.0
Netherlands
641.6
   
684.5
Greece    
580.9
601.5
Austria
1,125.3
1,169.9
1,247.6
 
Yugoslavia      
1,457.6
Croatia
557.8
     
Poland
2,065.8
2,168.3
2,142.8
2,209.2
Hungary
2,185.0
2,039.5
2,170.2
1,623.5
Rumania
656.9
 
747.5
 
Bulgaria
2,723.3
1,360.1
3,487.6
3,644.3
Albania
1,471.4
1,158.7
2,296.9
1,876.2
ASIA
Turkey
608.4
500.1
1,208.4
990.1
India
4,247.3
4,294.3
3,981.3
6,040.1
Thailand  
651.1
1,236.9
 
China
1,594.6
1,336.7
1,633.3
1,420.5
AFRICA
Morocco    
567.8
562.5
Egypt
1,729.1
1,351.2
1,687.0
1,987.0
Sudan
3,755.4
2,891.4
1,949.1
1,655.8
Zaire
912.1
728.4
   
AMERICA
USA
1,172.7
789.3
1,767.3
1,119.8
Brazil  
658.8
670.0
579.2
Chile
1,711.3
2,440.6
2,934.4
961.7
Argentina
1,129.0
1,477.2
1,812.9
2,204.5
OTHERS 
Australia    
530.4
648.2
Anonymous countries
535.7
522.5
899.3
952.0
TOTAL
35,362.1
32,832.5
42,346.7
35,849.1

Table 6. Leading exporters of PHARMACH PLANTES NES (sitc. 3 29249 cccn:1211): value in in excess of US$ 10,000,000.
 
 
COUNTRY Unit US$ 000

1995

INDEX 1995/1991
SUM WORLD
879,757
136
China
337,162
204
Germany
49,887
89
USA, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands
36,269
146
France
23,505
84
OTH ASIA NES
23,148
84
Korea Rep. 
20,125
112
Bulgaria
16,049
111
Italy
15,865
125
Thailand
15,806
100
Vietnam
15,237
283
Egypt
13,789
109
Hong Kong
12,767
103
Chile
10,582
239
Morocco
10,558
89
Albania
10,036 
102

Major importing countries and regions

Germany


Germany dominates the European trade in medicinal plants as it dominates the European market for phytopharmaceuticals. During the last three years, 40,000 tonnes of ‘botanicals’ were imported annually into Germany with a value of US$ 109 million (DM 160 million) (Lange, 1996). These were from a total of 109 countries and one-third of the material was re-exported as finished plant based products primarily to Western Europe and the United States.

North America
North America is another important importing region for medicinal plant material. IUCN/WWF sources estimate the annual turnover of the plant derived pharmaceuticals industry in the US at US$ 10 billion (IUCN-WWF, 1988). Retail sales of the herbal medicines industry in 1994 were estimated at US$ 1.6 billion. Indeed, the North American health products market is a fast growing market and its demand for medicinal plant material is significant. The major part of material is sourced from Europe (notably Eastern Europe) and Asia. Over the last five years, demand in North America for Latin American herbs and Chinese and Indian material has also been significant.

Asia
The major importers of medicinal plants in Asia are Hong Kong (most of its imports being destined for mainland China), and Japan.

Traditional systems of medicine
When considering major sources of demand, the volumes of material used in traditional systems of medicine, particularly in Asia, need to be taken into account.

China’s total output of medicinal plants from both cultivated and wild harvested sources is 1,600,000 tonnes. In comparison, that of Germany is relatively small at 40,000 tonnes. China is also a significant exporter of medicinal materials with export sales in 1993 reported as US$ 270 million although this figure does not only include plant material but also animal and mineral matter (Natural Medicine Marketing, 1996).

Ayurvedic and Unani herbs are also traded in large quantities and over a very wide geographical area. For example in 1992, an estimated 4,117,254 kg were exported, largely to Bangladesh, Japan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and the UAE.

As already noted above, the major importers of medicinal plant material are Germany, China (via Hong Kong and Singapore) and Japan. The data presented in Table 7 substantiate this and identify other leading importers.

Table 7. Leading importers of PHARMACH PLANTES NES (sitc. 3 29249 cccn:1211): value in excess of US$ 10,000,000
 
 
COUNTRY UnitUS$000

1994

INDEX 1995/1991
SUM WORLD
824,212
227
Hong Kong
125,277
1,092
Germany
86,496
166
Japan
73,927
328
Singapore
60,519
729
OTH, ASIA NES
57,004
232
Korea Rep.
49,884
2,219
France
49,748
206
USA, PR, US VI
47,787
110
Malaysia
36,068
244
Italy
22,629
140
Switzerland
17,649
144
United Kingdom
17,504
150
Spain
15,636
121
Saudi Arabia
15,314
192
United ArabE
12,572
237
Canada
12,507
147
Belgium/Luxembourg
11,396
100
Netherlands
11,104
108

Conservation implications of medicinal plant trade

It is evident that the trade in medicinal plants has serious implications on the survival of some plant species. If one considers that 70-90% of material imported into Germany and 75% of material collected in China are wild harvested, the survival of some of these species may well be under threat, given the increasing demand for medicinal plants.

Although there are only a relatively small number of species that are traded in any significant volume, the fact that so few species (50-100) (Lange, 1996) are produced entirely under cultivation is a matter of great concern. Examples of major cultivated species are: Catharanthus roseus, Chamomilla recutita, Cinchona spp., Digitalis lanata, D. purpurea, Duboisia spp., Mentha piperita, Papaver somniferum and Plantago ovata (Lewington, 1993).

There are a number of reasons as to why the trade in wild harvested material has been left to reach such a critical point:

International policy and regulation

Despite the seriousness of the problem, there exist a limited number of measures for controlling international trade in medicinal plants. Currently the main form of regulation is through CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). However, this agreement is not specifically concerned with medicinal plants and, in fact, has only a limited number of medicinal plants listed in the Appendices.

The CITES treaty was signed in Washington in 1973, and has signatories from 99 countries. The treaty functions on the basis of its three appendices, each of which sets out different trade restrictions (with no trade allowed for species listed under Appendix I). Only very recently has a list been compiled of medicinal plants that are included in CITES and only for plants that are in trade in Germany. Included in this list are 43 species. All except two are under Appendix 1 (more information on CITES, including the lists of species on the three appendices, can be downloaded from:http://www.unep.ch/cites.html).

New policy is needed and an easier mechanism to control the trade of plants. Apart from the recent (and continuing) involvement of The World Bank, most of the current conservation efforts seem to be led by non-governmental organisations and privately funded international agencies, notably World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Nature Conservancy (of USA), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), several botanic gardens, mainly Kew, Edinburgh, Missouri and New York.

The problem lies in the fact that there is little or no legislation restricting the use of wild-harvested materials in finished products, or for assuring the sustainable utilisation of medicinal plants.

The World Bank in its document ‘Medicinal Plants; A Growing Role in Development’ (Srivastava et al., 1995) suggests that any national strategy for medicinal plant development needs to consider the following:

- ‘Is the use of medicinal plants encouraged in healthcare programmes?
- Are there policies for conserving medicinal plants and incentives to encourage local community participation?
- Is there a policy for restoring plants harvested in the wild?
- Are there incentives for collectors and farmers to keep the production of medicinal plants sustainable?
- Does the Government support research into these plants?
- What are the policies regarding the export of medicinal plants?
- Are only raw materials exported?
- Is "in-country" processing (which may further help the trade in medicinal plants) being promoted? ‘

This same paper highlights the need for greater awareness of the issues particularly among government officials, farmers and scientists. It is also very obvious that there needs to be greater awareness amongst the end users, e.g. the pharmaceutical, phytopharmaceutical and health products companies, as to the consequences of their trade on the future availability of medicinal plant resources.

Dr Dagmar Lange suggests a combined approach where an attempt is made to encourage greater responsibility from not only the plant trading companies but also the end user companies and the consumers. Collective consumer pressure is a powerful tool in bringing about change in commercial practices. As such, consumers should be made aware of the problems with the medicinal plant trade and encouraged to only purchase products made from plants cultivated or collected on a sustainable basis. Perhaps an international logo similar to those used for recycled goods or for organically farmed foods can be used.

Although the problem of wild harvesting is of international concern, perhaps the developed world should first try to reduce the demand for such material.
 
 

References

Bodeker, G.C. 1997. Wound healing, traditional treatments and research policy. In: Houghton, P.(ed) Modern Medicine and Traditional Remedies. London, UK; Royal Pharmaceutical Society (in press).

Cunningham, A.B. 1996. Medicinal plant trade, conservation and the MPSG (Medicinal Plant Specialist Group) Medicinal Plant Conservation 2: 2-3.

Farnsworth, N.R.& Soejarto, D.D. 1985. Potential consequence of plant extinction in the United States on the current and future availability of prescription drugs. Economic Botany 39: (3) 231-240.

Farnsworth, N.R., Soejarto, D.D.& Bingel, A.S. 1986. Medicinal plants in therapy. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 63: (6) 965-981.

Foster, S. 1994. Commercial herb production: Conservation by cultivation. Herbalgram 32: 38.

Gaski, & Johnson, ‘Prescription for Extinction’ World Wildlife Foundation

Hamilton, A. 1990. La Conservation des plantes médicinales et autres végétaux utiles. Bulletin de la Société Industrielle de Mulhouse. No 819. pp 19-24.

ITC - UNCTAD GATT. 1982 Markets for Selected Medicinal Plants and Their Derivatives. Geneva, Switzerland; International Trade Center.

IUCN-WWF. 1988. Biodiversity: the Key to role for Plants. Kew, pp 7.

Lange, D. 1996. Untersuchungen zum Heilpflanzenhandel in Deutschland. Bonn, Germany; Bundesamt fur Naturschutz.

Lapinskas, P. 1993. Factors affecting the commercial success of a novel crop. Acta Horticulturae 333: 73-79.

Lewington, A. 1993. A Review of the Importation of Medicinal Plants and Plant Extracts into Europe. Cambridge, UK; TRAFFIC International. 37 pp.

Natural Medicine Marketing. 1996. Market Report - Traditional Chinese Medicine - the Chinese Market and International Opportunities. London, UK; Natural Medicine Marketing.

Rolland, A. 1991. Qualité des plantes médicinales, interêt et utilité des fiches de spécification. Le Devenir des Plantes Utiles. No 819. pp. 39-44.

Srivastava, J., Lambert, J.& Vietmeyer, N. 1995. Medicinal Plants: A Growing Role in Development. Washington, D.C., USA; Agricultural and Natural Resources Department, The World Bank.

UN Statistical Division. 1992.

Vinay, T. 1996.Camp workshop: Plants under threat - New list forged’ Medicinal Plant Conservation Volume 2. Newsletter of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. Bonn, Germany; Bundesamt für Naturschutz.

PreviousTop of PageNext Page