Non-wood forest products consist of goods of biological origin other than wood, as well as services derived from forests and allied land uses.


Beeswax is a natural wax secreted by various species of honey bees. It is obtained from old and damaged combs and from the cappings with which the bees cover cells containing honey. A substantial portion of beeswax exported from developing countries comes from wild bee combs' which are damaged during the process of honey collection.

The cosmetics industry is the largest user of beeswax. Cosmetics containing beeswax include skin creams (e.g. cold cream for facial use), emulsions, make-up foundations, face powders, cheek pomades, hair creams, lipsticks and eye make-up (e.g. eyebrow pencils and mascara). The pharmaceutical industry is the second largest user of beeswax; it is used as an ingredient in certain ointments, for coating pills, and in some manufacturing processes. Candle manufacturers are the third major users. Other uses include preparation of polishes for furniture, wood and leather; finishes for leather, rexine, wood and paper; lithographic and engraving materials; castings; dental equipment; ornaments and confectionery. (Source: Iqbal, M. International trade in non-wood forest products: an overview. Working Paper No. 11. FAO. 1993.)


The term sandalwood has been applied at various times to oils from several different sources. Today, almost all the sandalwood oil traded internationally is the so-called East Indian sandalwood oil distilled from the heartwood and roots of Santalum album. Australian sandalwood oil from S. spicatum and West Indian and African "sandalwood" oils are no longer produced.

Sandalwood oil has a characteristic sweet, woody odour which is widely employed in the fragrance industry, but particularly in the more expensive perfumes. It has excellent blending properties and the presence of a large proportion of high-boiling constituents in the oil (about 90 percent santalols) also makes it valuable as a fixative for other fragrances. In India, where it is produced, it is used in this manner for the manufacture of traditional attars such as rose attar; the delicate floral oils are distilled directly into sandalwood oil.

India and Indonesia are the two major producers and exporters of sandalwood oil. The United States and France are the two largest importers.

Sandalwood oil is one of the most highly priced items in the essential oil trade, reflecting the nature of the raw material source and the scarcity of supply. In the late 1980s it was fetching almost US$200/kg. Throughout 1992, the price of oil of Indian origin offered by London dealers was about US$140-150/kg; Indonesian oil was about US$5 lower. In mid-1993, the price of Indian oil rose again to US$180/kg and this was still the price in early 1994.

Cultivation of sandal in India has had limited success. While it might be expected that the destructive nature c sandalwood oil production, which entails the uprooting of mature trees, would put inexorable pressure on the wild resource, there is little or no quantitative information available on which to judge the extent to which this has occurred. Other Santalum species occurring in Australia and the Pacific islands have been, or are, harvested for their fragrant wood, although none (with the possible exceptions of very small quantities of S. austrocaledonicum and S. yasii) are currently used as sources of internationally traded oil. These include S. spicatum and S. lanceolatum (Australia), S. ellipticum (Hawaii), S. yasii (Fiji and Tonga), S. macgregorii (Papua New Guinea), S. austrocaledonicum (New Caledonia and Vanuatu) and S. insulare (French Polynesia). (Source: Coppen, J.J.W. Flavours and fragrances of plant origin. Non-Wood Forest Products, No. 1. FAO. 1994.)


The Institute of Wood Science and Technology in Bangalore, India, has identified genetically superior sandal trees in southern India under its tree improvement plan. A germplasm bank and clonal bank have been established at Gotipura and Naual in the Bangalore district. Clonal seed orchards have been set up in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Karnataka, with Mysore as a central point, along with Tamil Nadu has been the major sandalwood-growing tract of the country. The area in which sandal occurs in these two states has been estimated to be 8300 km2.

For more information, please contact D.N. Tewari, Director-General, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Dehra Dun, India


Rosewood oil is obtained by steam distilling the comminuted trunkwood of the Amazonian species of the genera Aniba.

The oil possesses a characteristic aroma and is a long-established ingredient in the more expensive perfumes. Although formerly it was used more widely as a fragrance, particularly in soaps, where the strong top note could be used to advantage, its relatively high price now makes it uncompetitive with the cheaper, larger volume oils.

Rosewood oil is rich in linalool, a chemical that can be transformed into a number of derivatives of value to the flavour and fragrance industries and, up until the 1960s, rosewood oil was an important source of natural linalool. With the advent of synthetic linalool this use has largely disappeared. For those applications where natural linalool is preferred, rosewood oil has been displaced by cheaper alternatives (Chinese Ho oils from Cinnamomum camphora). There does remain, however, a very small niche market for the preparation of linalool derivatives possessing an "ex-rosewood" character.

Use in aromatherapy formulations, a relatively recent application, has become less attractive as environmental concerns have grown over the destructive nature of rosewood oil production in Brazil.

In the 1960s, exports of rosewood oil from Brazil alone were around 500 tonnes per year. Today, the world market for rosewood oil is about 100 tonnes per year, the decline in use arising largely from its displacement by synthetic linalool. Brazil is now the only supplier of rosewood oil. Demand is reported to be stable, since those who moved away from using rosewood oil in their formulations did so many years ago. Some of the top perfumery houses have expressed concern over the destructive manner of producing rosewood oil and would welcome a transition to sustainable production.

The United States is the principal importer, followed by Switzerland, France and a number of EC countries. All major importing countries have published standard specifications for Brazilian rosewood oil and there is also an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard. These specify the botanical source and physiochemical requirements, including the alcohol content (usually in the range of 84-93 percent determined as linalool). These standards are minimum trade requirements, and for perfumery applications individual batches of oil must conform to the aroma expectations of the buyer. FOB prices for Brazilian rosewood oil have been in the range of US$18-32/kg during the 1987-93 period. (Source: Coppen, J.J.W. op. cit.)


Nutmeg oil

The dry kernel (seed) of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) typically contains between 8 and 15 percent of essential aromatic oil obtained by steam distillation. The main constituents of the aromatic oil are terpenes, mainly sabinene and Beta pinene; however, the important fragrance and flavour constituents or aromatic ethers which are found in the small oxygenated portion - are myristicin (which can be produced synthetically), safrole, elemicin and iso-elemicin.

Nutmeg oil is a colourless, pale yellow or pale green liquid with an odour and taste of the spice. The market makes a distinction between East Indian, West Indian and Sri Lankan nutmeg oil - the East Indian oil is regarded to be superior in flavour and odour. Nutmeg oil is mainly used in flavourings. especially for soft drinks (colas in general) and meat products. It is used in cosmetics and toiletries because of its aromatic properties, especially in men's fragrances, as well as in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and in flavouring tobacco. The main importer of nutmeg oil is the United States, accounting for around 50 percent of total global imports, followed by the United Kingdom with approximately 10 percent.

Indonesia dominates the United States market as the main supplier of nutmeg oil.

Nutmeg butter and myristic acid

Nutmegs contain between 25 and 40 percent of fixed oil which can be obtained by expression. The nutmeg butter obtained is a highly aromatic, orange-coloured fat. It is composed of 70 to 85 percent of trimyristin and other material including myristicin. Poor-quality nutmegs are used for nutmeg butter production.

Myristic acid, a C14 fatty acid, is the predominant fatty acid of the nutmeg family, comprising between 70 and 90 percent of the glycerides of nutmeg butter.

Myristic acid is commercially available as a fractionally distilled product of 90 percent purity. It is used in the preparation of soaps, liquid detergents, shampoos, shaving creams, perfumes; in the production of plastics; in compounding rubber, paints and greases; in the synthesis of ester for flavours and perfumes; and as a component of food-grade additives. (Source: Nutmeg and derivatives. FO MISC/94/7. FAO. 1994.)


Nutmeg oleoresins, obtained by solvent extraction from the dried spice of nutmeg, are used in colouring and flavouring in the food industry. The extracted spice oleoresin is a direct competitor of the dry spice.

While the main end-user of the spice oleoresins is the food industry, recent trends may revive the fragrance sector, particularly the use of essential oils in aromatherapy and the "home fragrances'' market niche. It has been reported that the main constituents of nutmeg and mace - myristicin, elemicin and iso-elemicin - when presented in aroma form acted as stress relievers. In Japan, many companies are diffusing aromas through air ventilation systems to improve the work environment as well as the quality of the air. The same principle is now available for the home in different forms, such as scented candles, potpourris, atomizers and other aroma products. According to a recent report, the United States market for home fragrancing is valued at US$500 million.

(Source: Chemical Marketing Reporter, 16 May 1994.)


Cubeba oil is distilled from the small, pepperlike fruits of the tree Litsea cubeba.

Of Chinese origin, cubeba oil is the only source of internationally traded material. It is rich in citral (about 70 percent) and has an intense lemon-like, fresh, sweet odour. It competes to a limited extent with lemongrass, another citral-rich oil, in fragrance applications such as household sprays and fresheners, although it is less suitable than lemongrass oil for use in soaps since it has less fixative power.

Its major use, however, both in China and in international markets, is as a raw material source for the isolation of citral. This is used in its own right for flavour and fragrance purposes or converted by the chemical industry to a number of important derivatives.

Small quantities of Litsea cubeba oil are produced on Java, Indonesia, but from the leaves rather than the fruits and the oil is not rich enough in citral to be suitable for export.

Although cheap synthetic citral (ex-turpentine or petroleum hydrocarbons) is readily available, and has displaced much of the citral ex-lemongrass previously used for derivative manufacture, a significant market for natural citral remains which low-priced Litsea cubeba oil has been able to meet. However, the oil is not separately specified in trade statistics and this, coupled with the lack of reliable data for Chinese production or exports, makes it difficult to quantify the demand and identify all the consumers. The United States, countries of Western Europe and Japan are all major importers of cubeba oil: Total imports are probably of the order of several hundred tonnes annually, although trade in some years is estimated at up to 500 tonnes.

The price of cubeba oil in early 1994 was about US$4.30/kg. (Source: Coppen, J.J.W. op. cit.)


Gum karaya, also known as Indian tragacanth, is obtained mainly from the Indian tree Sterculia urens and to a lesser extent from S. villosa. In the Sudan, and elsewhere in Africa, gum karaya can be obtained from S. setigera. The exudates from these three species are very similar in chemical composition and physiochemical characteristics. Accordingly, in terms of current legal definitions of identity and trade specifications, exudates from any Sterculia, or admixtures, can be offered for sale.

Figure 8

Of all the gum karaya produced, only 10 percent is used as a food additive; the remainder goes into pharmaceutical products. The pharmaceutical applications of gum karaya include medical colostomy bag fixings, dental fixatives and bulk laxatives. Colostomy bag fixings are the most common use of gum karaya, in which the gum's qualities are difficult to equal. Its use in dental fixatives started to decline when research showed that habitual use of acidic gum karaya had an adverse effect upon the remaining natural teeth. Its principal food applications include ice creams, ice follies, sherbets and salad dressings. Gum karaya is classified as "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) within the United States for use up to specified upper limits and in specified food products and as "acceptable daily intake (ADI) not specified" by the joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). At present the Scientific Committee for Food of the EC, in contrast, restricts the human intake of gum karaya (E416) to an upper limit of 12.5 mg per kg body weight per day; it has however never been permitted in Germany for its food applications. (Source: Iqbal, M. op. cit.)


Copaiba oleoresin is provided from a number of species of Copaifera. Copaifera multijuga, a large tree growing in the forests of Brazil, is the more commonly exploited species for oleoresin.

Oleoresin is extracted from the stem and leaves. There is a great demand for it on the Brazilian and international markets, as a component of high-temperature-resistant varnishes, for cosmetics (as a perfume fixative), and in the pharmaceutical industry. It is also used to improve the clarity of the image in low-contrast areas in photographic film development, and as a substitute for linseed oil in paints, because of its drying properties. It has even been claimed that copaiba oil can substitute for diesel oil. It is further reputed to be used in the paper industry as a fixative.

Copaiba oleoresin is composed of various sesquiterpenes, among which are cubebene, cadinene and tocoferol.

Copaiba is popularly used in Amazonia to treat throat infections, bronchitis and other respiratory problems; as an antiseptic for wounds and scratches; and as a cure for diarrhoea and problems of the urinary tract. In weak doses it is a stimulant for the appetite, with direct action on the stomach. It is currently being commercialized in Manaus, Brazil in the form of capsules to treat infections, reputedly as an antiinflammatory. (Source: Clay, J.W. & Clement, R. Selected species and strategies to enhance income generation from Amazonian forests. FAO. 1993.)


Resins are complex mixtures of terpenes and terpenoids (or flavonoids), compounds which may contain both volatile or non-volatile components. If the percentage of volatile component is high, the substance will be more liquid and may be labelled oleoresin or wood oil. Volatile terpenoids and related compounds occurring with no nonvolatile fractions are termed essential (aromatic or volatile) oils.

"Naval stores" is an inclusive term used to denote pine oleoresins and their derivatives. Over the centuries pine resin and pitch were so useful to the sailing ships of the navies of the world that even today the most commonly used term for pine oleoresin products is "naval stores". The term is now a misnomer, as only a small fraction of the products derived from the oleoresins is used for these purposes; nevertheless, the term is still widely used in trade to denote these products. The crude oleoresin is processed to yield turpentine, an essential oil and nonvolatile rosin, among other products.

Turpentine and rosin are two constituent parts of the pine oleoresins. One tonne of oleoresin provides about 700 kg of rosin and between 100 and 200 litres (about 87174 kg) of turpentine. For many years they were used in unprocessed form in the soap, paper and varnish industries. Today, most rosin is used in various modified forms in a wide range of products, including paper size, adhesives, printing inks, rubber compounds and surface coatings. The composition of turpentine varies according to the species of pine exploited. Turpentine and its constituents, especially alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, are widely used in the chemical industry, particularly in fragrance, flavour, vitamin, insecticides and polyterpene resin manufacture.

At present China and Portugal dominate the world's production of oleoresin. China has emerged as the world's largest producer of rosin, with an annual production level of 400000 tonnes (and 46000 tonnes of turpentine). Other producers include the United States, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, France, India, Malaysia, Russia, Poland and Honduras. (Source: Iqbal, M. op. cit.)


In a major development that will boost the quest for new, environment-friendly insect-control agents, Indian scientists have produced a crystalline form of a chemical extracted from the neem tree.

Two research groups in Madras have jointly synthesized crystals of "azadirachtin-A", extracted from the neem tree. This chemical inhibits some 200 insect species and is a prime candidate as a source of plant-based insecticides.

The process, developed by scientists at the Spic Science Foundation (SSF) and Madras University (MU), leads to crystals of azadirachtin-A of the highest attainable purity.

Although azadirachtin-A was first isolated from neem by scientists abroad in the 1960s, researchers have never really understood its detailed physical structure or the mechanism by which it attacks insects. By producing crystals of azadirachtin-A, the Madras research team has paved the way for further studies of its structure, aimed at gaining better insights into the remarkable anti-insect activity of the chemical. (Source: Times of India, 11 April 1994.)

For more information, please contact T. R. Govindachari, Spic Science Foundation, Madras University Biophysics Centre, Madras, India.


Neem is a wonder tree of the humid tropics. In India alone some 20 million trees are grown in a variety of agroclimatic regions. In the tropical countries where the trees grow, neem toothpaste is thought to reduce tooth decay, neem tea is believed to combat ulcers and neem leaves are mixed with stored grain to repel insect pests. Neem extracts are also known to have anti-inflammatory powers. Laboratory tests have shown that neem leaves and seeds contain substances that kill bacteria.

Scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture's research service in Beltsville, Maryland, have found that a light coating of neem oil cuts in half the loss of storage apples to fungal rots, a major problem in the apple industry. The United States scientists say that millions of people consume neem-derived chemicals every day without apparent harm. Although over 40 neem-based products are available, its full potential in pest control, medicine, soil conditioning, etc. remains unexploited because of an incomplete understanding of the active principles. (Source: From a report in Hindu, 1 April 1994.)


The origins of traditional medicine predate all existing records and the knowledge accumulated over thousands of years in different parts of the world is enormous.

The traditional Indonesian herbal medicine is popularly known as jamu, and it has been known for centuries. It was only until relatively recently, however, that it gained popular appeal across the nation and across the world.

Most of the written studies on jamu were undertaken by the Dutch and later the Japanese.

The oldest publication available is De Indiae Utriusque Naturali et Medical Written by Botius in 1685, it was followed by many other works, including Hervarium Amboinense by Rumphius in 1741, History of Sumatra in 1783 (in which William Marsden made notes about herbal medicine used in West Sumatra), A naturalist in North Celebes by S.J. Hickson in 1889 and Malay drugs by H.N. Ridley in 1906.

Jamu was initially a secret cherished among barefooted shamans who passed the mysterious ingredients on to following generations orally or through records written on stones or papyrus. Over the years jamu has become very popular. The first "big business" in jamu was set up in 1918. Now there are some 300 registered companies dealing in jamu. This does not include unregistered cottage-scale industries which are estimated to equal, if not exceed, the registered ones.

In 1976, the Government of Indonesia formed the Traditional Medicine Supervision Directorate at the Directorate-General for Food and Drugs Supervision. The following year, the Ministry of Health introduced the use of jamu at puskesmas or grassroots public health centres on a trial basis. Three years later they propagated the "green pharmacy" concept to encourage rural residents to plant medicinal plants in their gardens. The programme was later renamed TOGA for Tanaman Obat Keluarga or family medicinal plants.

Jamu gained full legal acceptance in 1988 when the Five Year Development Guidelines stipulated that it was part of the nation's heritage and deserved preservation. The assertion was reiterated in the 1993 Five Year Development Guidelines.

According to a survey, jamu products have six functions: as medicine, stimulants, health tonics, cosmetics, relief of menstruation problems and as aphrodisiacs. Recently the Indonesian Ministry of Health announced that the government will be including jamu in the National Public Health Services System. (Source: Special feature in Jakarta Post, 10 October 1994, written by Johannes Simbolon.)


Sometime around 3000 BC the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung wrote down what is believed to be the earliest recorded use of plants as medicine. He noted that chalmugra oil, an extract from Hydnocarpus spp., was an effective treatment against leprosy. The ancient classical Ayurvedic texts Charaka Samhita, Susruth Samhita and Ashtanga Hrdaya Samhita mention a large number of medicinal plants for curing different ailments.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote the book Materia Medica which discusses some 400 medicinal formulae using herbs such as mint, sage, rosemary and verbena as well as opium. Then Paraclesus (14901541), a Swiss alchemist and physician, developed the doctrine of signatures and similarities. His doctrine, widely accepted among his peers, stated that medicinal herbs resembled the part of the body they were able to heal. For example, plants with heart-shaped leaves heal diseases of the heart, those with leaves that look like liver heal liver diseases and plants with milky juice increase lactation in women.

It was not until the eighteenth century that the pursuit and popularity of science allowed medicine to begin to evolve. It was backed up by the simultaneous advances in chemistry, bacteriology, pathology and pharmacology. Among the first group of medicinal herbs modernized by science was foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. For centuries, dropsy sufferers in England were effectively treated with an extraction taken from 20 different plants, including Digitalis purpurea. Dropsy, also called oedema, is a heart condition that leads to fluid retention and hence a general swelling of the body.

The number of plants at present forming the sources of modern medicine probably runs to hundreds. A recent study indicated the number of internationally traded medicinal plants to be between 500 and 600.

(Source: several.)


Curare was unknown to the West until the sixteenth century when a group of Spanish conquistadores first recorded its deadly effects. Curare was widely used as an arrow poison at that time by many Amazonian Indian groups and this use continues (although by fewer people) today. Many different sorts of curare are distinguished, each one based on the compounds contained within a different plant or plants. In some cases fruits are used - as with Ocotea venenosa used by the Kofan Indians of Colombia and Ecuador, but some of the best publicized ingredients come from species of Chondrodendron and Strychnos vines. For two centuries the exact contents of curare poison remained a mystery to Western observers and it was not until 1800 that Alexander von Humboldt, who had witnessed the preparation of one kind of curare by Indians of the Orinoco river, gave the first accurate account.

Early experiments demonstrated that curare killed by immobilizing the striped (voluntary) muscle tissues so that breathing became impossible. It did not, however, affect the cardiac (involuntary) muscle which meant that as long as breathing was artificially maintained curare could be used as a muscle relaxant. It was not until 1939 however, that the active principle of curare, tubocurarine, was isolated and not until 1943 that it was introduced successfully into anaesthesiology.

Today the alkaloid tubocurarine (used intravenously as a clear, colourless solution) is obtained from extracts of the stem of Chondrodendron tomentosum, a liana found in the Brazilian and Peruvian rain forest. Its use extends to the treatment of tetanus convulsions, multiple sclerosis, shock therapy and such delicate operations as tonsillectomies and eye surgery. (Source: Lewington, A. Plants for people. WWF. 1992)


Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is a widely used plant with medicinal properties. The first record of the plant dates back to the sixteenth century, but researchers believe that people had been using it for longer than this. The plant was used by Italian women to brighten their eyes - a drop of the plant extract widens the pupil - and they named it "belladonna" or beautiful lady. Research found that the active substances in the plant are atropine, hyoscyamine and hyoscine, all of which are antispasmodic. Atropine, for example, is used today in tablet and injection form to stimulate the nervous system. Hyoscyamine prevents motion sickness.


Ginseng (Panex schin-seng, P. pseudo schin-seng, P. quinquepolium) is a perennial herb with knotted root stock. Its natural distribution extends from the eastern Himalayas through northern Myanmar, southeastern Tibet to western, central and northern China and grows well in soil with thick humus. Ginseng roots (from five- to six-year-old plants) are highly prized for their medicinal value.

Ginseng was mainly cultivated in China, the Republic of Korea and Japan. Over the last 12 to 15 years, ginseng cultivation has been taken up on a sizeable scale by North American farmers. Altogether, about one-sixth of the world's US$945 millions' worth of ginseng root supplies is now grown in North America

Ginseng root has been a mainstay of Chinese medicine for the past several thousand years. A regular dose of ginseng is thought to reduce fatigue, to improve short-term memory, to lower blood pressure, to regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels, to reduce symptoms of the menopause, to reinforce the immune system and to increase longevity. It is also said to be an aphrodisiac. Ginseng products consist of slices, powders, tonics, tablets, teas, liquid extracts, confectionery, and fruit and mineral drinks - or just plain root. Such products generate worldwide sales of roughly US$3.75 billion.

(Source: The Economist, p. 82, 22 October 1994.)


Boldo (Peumus boldus or Boldus fragrans) is an endemic tree of Chile that reaches a height of 200 m and grows in the semi-arid regions of the country from sea level to an altitude of 1000 m.

The leaves of boldo are dried, minced and packed in bags to prepare infusions with hot water after meals.

Boldine, the active substance of the leaves, is extracted and used in medicine for its analgesic, diuretic and antirheumatic properties. It also helps to avoid the formation of gallstones.

For more information, please contact Torsten Frisk, FAO Regional Forestry Officer, Santiago, Chile. Fax: +56 2 6961121.


Sea buckthorn (Hippophae spp.) is a shrub or small tree that is distributed extensively in the temperate zones of Europe and Asia. Its root, stem, leaf, fruit and seed contain biologically active substances that are very valuable when used in medicine, or as a tonic agent. Sea buckthorn has been exploited and utilized for a long time. Early in the eighth century, the Tibetan medical classics rGyud Bzi (The four books of pharmacopoeia) had listed 84 prescriptions for the preparation of sea buckthorn medicines.

China has a rich resource of sea buckthorn, with a total area of more than one million hectares, mostly wild; new areas are being planted with the species. The country has established a national sea buckthorn office in order to promote the development of sea buckthorn exploitation and utilization. Similar organizations have also been set up in the key provinces. The Success of sea buckthorn exploitation in China has attracted the world's interest and an International Symposium on Sea Buckthorn was held in China in 1989.

For more information, please contact China National Sea Buckthorn Office, No. 11 Yuetan Bei Xiaojie, Beijing, China. Fax: +86 18312176.


The ancient Greeks named the genus Hippophaë, or "glittering horse", because they believed that horses became plump and healthy when maintained on pastures with these arborescent shrubs. Today, herders in northwestern China often feed sea buckthorn leaves to their animals. In the former USSR, fodder supplements of sea buckthorn by-products are reported to improve live weights and coat condition. Feeding poultry with meal made from sea buckthorn fruit and fruit oil has been observed to increase the pigmentation of egg yolks and body fat. The oil also increases flesh pigmentation in rainbow trout.

Sea buckthorn fruit is rich in vitamins C, E, K, B. and B2, as well as niacinamide, pantothenic acid, carotenoids and other substances such as oil, sugar, malic acid, amino acids and pectin. The vitamin C content of the Chinese sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides subsp. sinensis) fruit can be as high as 1253 mg/1009.

The plant was widely used as a folk medicine in ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, Mongolia and the former USSR. Oils from the fruit act as an antioxidant and may thus be used to treat wounds, frostbite and pathological problems of the alimentary mucous membranes. Serotonin (5-hydroxy-tryptamine) extracted from sea buckthorn possesses antitumour capabilities.

Hippophaë leaves also contain various nutritious substances and minerals. The leaves are commonly used as tea.

Numerous food products are made from the fruit of this species. For instance, sea buckthorn wine is well known in the former USSR and a new variety has been bred by hybridizing geographically distant plants; this variety produces as much as 10000 kg of fresh fruits/ha. In China, poor peasants have become prosperous by collecting and processing the fruit. (Source: NFT (nitrogen fixing trees) Highlights, NFTA 93-02, June 1993.)


The kernel of the babassu palm (Orbignya phalerata) contains 6070 percent of a vegetable oil rich in lauric acid, similar in composition to that of coconut (Cocos nucifera) or African oil palm kernel (Elaeis guineensis).

In the course of this century, babassu has become an important subsistence resource in southeastern Amazonia, especially in Maranhão and Piaui, Brazil. Some 300000 families harvest babassu in Maranhão, and are often dependent upon this activity for their economic survival. All parts of the plant are used in the rural household subsistence economy. Although it is extremely important in rural areas, it is difficult to quantify its economic value because most of the uses cited are subsistence-based.

Figure 9

Babassu kernel oil first became an important commodity during the First World War, when other sources of vegetable oil were scarce in Europe. At that time it was used principally as an edible oil, both for making margarine and as a cooking oil. Babassu kernel exports peaked during the Second World War, at 40000 tonnes (= 26000 tonnes oil), and fell to zero by the mid-1960s. Occasional exports are still processed if international prices are attractive.

After 1965, the Brazilian soap and cosmetic industries absorbed all babassu oil production (peak production was about 150000 tonnes in 1985). Currently babassu oil remains Brazil's most important source of lauric acid oils. (Source: Clay, J.W. & Clement, R. op. cit.)


Peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) is a prime example of a forest species, long utilized by the Amerindians, now finding its way out of the forest on to urban dinner tables, where both fruits and palm heart are appreciated. The tree can furnish renewable fruits year after year and, under "ratooning", palm hearts for more than one season. Costa Rica is now canning the hearts commercially. (Source: Duke, J.A. Tropical botanical extractives. Caderno de Farmacia, Vol. 9(1): 7-16.1993.)


Aphandra natalia is economically one of the most important palms in Ecuador. The main economic product from A. natalia is its fibres, which are used to produce the majority of Ecuadorian brooms. In earlier times, before fibres were used commercially for brooms, they were used to make rope for tying up cattle; this use was one of the reasons why the palms were left in large numbers in some pastures when the forest was cleared. The ropes made from its fibres were of a poor quality, and today they have been replaced by synthetic rope. However, partly because of this use the palm was protected during a critical period and, today, its fibres represent a significant income for farmers with palms on their land.

The fibres are produced from the leaf sheaths and petioles and they can only be harvested by cutting the leaves. Aphandra natalia never grows very tall and, depending on the size of the palms, fibres are harvested from the ground.

Fibres are sold through small local merchants and larger mobile merchants to broom-producing factories in various parts of Ecuador. Neither brooms nor fibres are known to be exported.

The quality of A. natalia fibres is generally low (brooms wear out quickly) and the fibres have never been in demand internationally, unlike Leopoldinia piassaba and Attalea funifera, two other neotropical fibre palms. The relatively low quality of A. natalia fibres makes exportation of a surplus crop unlikely. (Source: Pedersen, H.B. Uses and management of Aphandra natalia (Palmae) in Ecuador. Bull. Int. Fr. Etudes Andines, 1992, 21(2): 741-753.)


Palms of the species Phytelephas are known as tagua. Phytelephas spp. can be found in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Panama.

The principal use of the tagua palm lies in the endosperm of its seeds. This material is hard and heavy, and has a cream colour; when polished, it is quite similar to true ivory (hence the name vegetable ivory), although the materials differ in their properties. Tagua softens when hydrated, recovering its hardness with drying, and it dissolves when soaked in water for long periods; ivory remains hard in water. Tagua nuts are easy to polish and dye, and are suitable for carving figurines, chess pieces, scrimshaws, handles and other items. The most important use in the past, however, was in button production. The first statistics of tagua production come from Colombia for the period 18401841, and it was one of the five major forest products in Colombia and Ecuador during the 1870s. Tagua button manufacturing was a major industry during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Tagua continued to be used in small-scale souvenir industries in Colombia and Ecuador.

The "rediscovery" of a sustainable source of vegetable ivory has aroused a growing worldwide interest in this material. When fashioned into jewellery, tagua is gaining a reputation, and tagua watches, earrings, bracelets and necklaces are now obtainable in some luxury shops. (Source: Clay, J.W. & Clement, R. op. cit.)


In 1990 Conservation International (CI), based in Washington, DC, launched the Tagua Initiative, a programme aimed at linking the tagua producers in South American rain forest areas with international markets. The initiative is a project of SEED (Sound Environmental Enterprise Development) ventures, a CI programme that creates incentives for conservation by developing international markets for products such as plant fibres, oils, fruits, nuts and latexes.

Two clothing companies in the United States initially joined the programme by buying a first lot of one million buttons. Three companies have since joined the programme. Revenues from the Tagua Initiative are reverted through the local partner NGOs into conservation and sustainable development programmes in the areas where tagua is produced. This programme is now being developed in two areas: the Santiago River basin, in northwestern Ecuador, by CIDESA, and the Pacific coast of northwestern Colombia, by Fundación Inguedé. Community management of tagua exploitation, as promoted by the Tagua Initiative, offers an attractive economic alternative requiring forest conservation by local inhabitants.

For more information, please contact Michael Saxenian, Senior Director for Conservation Enterprises, Conservation International, 101518th St, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20036, USA. Fax: +1 202 8875188.


Production of natural palm syrup from sap of the indigenous palm, Jubaca chilensis, has been going on in Chile since 1878. The sap is collected from the growing end of the palm after it is felled. In order to facilitate oozing of sap, it is necessary to dress the growing end of the felled palm. The number of palms to be felled annually is controlled by the government to ensure sustainable utilization.

The sap collected in the field is processed in the mill by converting the sap into concentrates and by adding other ingredients. One felled palm will yield about 100 litres in the form of concentrated sap or about 180 litres of fresh sap. The syrup can be kept for over 20 years, improving its quality over the years. Palm syrup in cans is sold nationally through supermarkets and local retailers. A limited quantity is also exported to neighbouring countries. It is used mainly to sweeten bananas and pancakes. The palm also produces about 29 kg per year of small nuts that are sold on the market and are also pressed to produce an oily ingredient that is added to a certain quality of syrup.

For more information, please contact Torsten Frisk, Regional Forestry Officer, FAO Regional Office, Santiago, Chile. Fax: +56 2 6961121.


Edible bamboo shoots represent an expanding and fashionable export market, valued at millions of dollars. Shoot production varies with species and locality. In China, shoot production of Phyllostachys pubescens may range from 18 to 30 percent of the total volume, compared with 8 to 15 percent from Dendrocalamus asper plantations in Thailand.

In China, tender shoots of about 100 species of bamboo are edible. Their production averages one million tonnes annually. Thailand is a major exporter of canned bamboo shoots. The bulk of the exports goes to the United States and Japan followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, France and the Republic of Korea. Japan is the main market for bamboo shoots in Asia. (Source: Iqbal,. M. op.. cit.)


Bamboo mat board is produced in China, India and Thailand. In India bamboo mat board was developed in 1983 at the Forestry Research Institute, Dehra Dun, but the process could not be utilized because of the high cost of production. A cost-effective process was developed at the Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute in 1982 and a factory in Angamally, Kerala started production of boards soon afterwards.

Although there was widespread interest in bamboo mat board as a substitute for thin plywood, entrepreneurs were not enthusiastic for a number of reasons. The most important factor was the large quantity of resin required to make the board, since about four times as much resin as the quantity used in plywood is necessary.

As a result of IDRC-sponsored research carried out over the last two years, a highly cost-effective, vastly superior and durable board has been developed. An inexpensive preservative treatment with boron vapour has also given encouraging results. This should further optimize production costs. Two units, namely the Andamans Timber Industries Ltd and Meghalaya Plywoods Ltd. have commercialized the process and started manufacturing boards after having successfully carried out industrial trials.

Figure 10

Research is also being carried out to develop bamboo mat board products, conforming to relevant Indian standards, for housing, packaging and storage. Doors, apple-packing boxes and grain storage bins that have been developed are undergoing evaluation in accredited institutions.

A bamboo mat board training workshop hosted by the Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute in February 1994 involved participation from Bangladesh, China, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal and Viet Nam. This was an important step in disseminating technological information related to bamboo mat production. (Source: INBAR Newsletter, March 1993 and March 1994)

For more information, please contact International Network on Bamboo and Rattan, 17 Jor Bagh, New Delhi, 110003, India. Fax: +91 114622707.


The Eindhoven University of Technology of the Netherlands has been carrying out research on the greater role that bamboo can play in construction, especially in structural applications.

Widely grown in most Asian, African and South American countries, the annual crop of bamboo worldwide is estimated at about 10 million tonnes. For use as a construction material, bamboo presents many advantages: it is strong and stiff, yet lightweight; material requirement is 40 percent less than wood; culms can be cut annually; there is no waste such as bark; shipping is simple; bamboo can be cultivated by individual villages; and the return on investment is faster than that for wood.

"Plyboo", a hard flooring product made solely of bamboo, has reportedly passed the stringent tests of the most experienced parquet layers in the Netherlands. The product is expected to come on the market shortly. (Source: INBAR Newsletter, No. 4, September 1994.)


Barkcloth beaten from the best of the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) is one of the most commonplace but significant products, with a symbolic value, in Fiji and other South Pacific Island countries. The bark of paper mulberry stems is peeled, the inner bark stripped and steeped in water, cleaned with shell scrapers, and then rolled up for storage. Before being beaten into cloth the rolls are soaked in water, the strips are then laid over a narrow log, and beaten with a series of mallets made from extremely dense wood. The grooved faces of the mallets are used first to spread the bast, the plain faces to smooth and finish it. As they widen, the beaten strips are felted together to form even-textured barkcloth.

Barkcloth is made in different shades of colours, mostly white and brown. Often they are elaborately painted in a wide range of patterns. In the traditional context, the colours and patterns have social/ceremonial significance. Normally, painting is done by hand, often with the aid of pandanus leaf stencils. Natural colorants such as mangrove (Elaeocarpus pyrliformis) and candlenut (Aleurites triloba) bark are used to paint designs. Barkcloth materials in the form of wall hangings, tablecloths, fancy bags, etc. are now available in souvenir shops. As a cottage industry, the production of barkcloth provides income to the village artisans. (Source: Travel notes of C. Chandrasekharan, FOPN/FAO, Rome, May 1994)


As defined by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), gum arable, also called acacia gum, is a dried exudation obtained from the stems and branches of Acacia senegal closely related species. It consists mainly of high molecular weight polysaccharides and their calcium, magnesium and potassium salts, which on hydrolysis yield arabinose galactose, rhamnose and glucuronic acid. Unground gum arabic occurs as white or yellowish-white spheroidal tears of varying size or as angular fragments. It is also available commercially in the form of white to yellowish flakes, granules, powder or spray-dried.

Gum arabic has been used in a wide range of food products for many years. Because of shortage of supply, fluctuating prices and growing competition from new generations of permitted modified cellulose, modified starches and biosynthetic gums, gum production in the Sahelian countries has decreased from 70000 tonnes annually in the 1960s, and 40000 tonnes in 1980, to around 25000 tonnes at present. It nevertheless remains a major industrial food hydrocolloid. The current price is about US$2300 per tonne ex-Port Sudan. The Sudan exports 85 percent of the world's consumption, about 80 percent of which is used in food products. Around 50 percent is used in high concentrations as a confectionery ingredient. The remainder is used in minor proportions as a food additive, mainly as an emulsifier, stabilizer and thickening agent. A major outlet for very high-quality gum is as an emulsifier for flavour oils in soft drinks, particularly of the cola type and for use in medicinal substances such as excipient ingredients for tablet production.

Taking into account all gums used as food ingredients and food additives, the main trend that has enhanced the use of gums over the past decade has been the increasing consumption of convenience foods. As in most other sectors of the food additives industry, increasing health-consciousness has tended to fuel growth in the use of thickeners of natural origin.

The latest JECFA gum arabic specifications for identity and purity were prepared by the Expert Committee in 1989. The specifications developed by the Committee have three purposes: to identify the substance that has been subject to toxicological testing; to ensure that the substance is of the quality required for safe use in food; and to reflect and encourage good manufacturing practices.

The Government of the Sudan has requested FAO's technical assistance and guidance in upgrading the quality of gum arabic so that it meets the specifications of JECFA. This would lead to higher export prices, and hence increased foreign exchange earnings. The guidance would include parameters and procedures through which compliance with the JECFA specifications could be secured. (Source: FOPN files.)


Burdock (Arctium lappa) is a herbaceous plant primarily eaten as a vegetable in Japan. Its roots, seed, stalk and leaves are all used in Chinese herbal medicine. China exports the roots of burdock to Japan and Southeast Asian countries for medicinal purposes. They were also exported to the Republic of Korea, the People's Democratic Republic of Korea and Japan as salted or preserved edible wild herbs, but there have been no exports recently. Japan's reported production of burdock is about 250000 tonnes.

In the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System of the Customs Cooperation Council, burdock was considered classifiable under heading 12.11, considering its primary use to be as medicine. In early 1994, a proposal was made by Japan, and adopted by the Customs Cooperation Council, to transfer burdock as classifiable under 07.06, considering its primary use to be as an edible root. (Source: Customs Cooperation Council, Doc. 38.563E 13th Session of Harmonized Systems Committee, April 1994.)


Pendula nut is obtained from the fruit of the tree, Couepia longipendula, which occurs throughout central and western Amazonia and the western Guiana shield. In Brazil it is found in western Pará, in all of the Amazonias, and in the southern port of Roraima. It is common in the forests near Manaus.

The fruit is an egg-shaped drupe and each fruit contains one large nut with a light-green endosperm and a mild sweet flavour. Throughout its distribution, the pendula nut is a popular product during the fruiting season as a fresh or toasted nut. Although popular, it is rarely found on the market and, if found, is only in shell, never prepared. Its mild-flavoured, slightly sweet nut is very agreeable fresh or toasted, frequently comparing favourably with the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa). (Source: Clay, J.W. & Clement, R. op. cit.)


The Afromontane hardwood tree Prunus africana (Rosaceae; African cherry, red stinkwood) is a multiple-use tree species with local and international economic and medicinal value.

Bark is the major source of an extract used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, an increasingly common health problem in older men. All bark is taken from wild P. africana populations in the Afromontane forests of Cameroon, Zaire, Kenya and Madagascar. Bark or processed extracts are then exported to Europe (primarily to France or Italy) for preparation of the drugs sold under the brand-names "Tadenan" (France) or "Pygenil" (Italy).

Despite assurance from senior management of the two major companies involved in the harvest and processing of P. africana bark, considerable concern has been expressed by rural communities, traditional healers and government departments in East and Central Africa about the sustainability of this international trade. Similar concern has also been shown by international conservation agencies such as the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Cameroon has been the major source of P. africana bark since 1972.

Concern about overharvesting of P. africana bark resulted in a partial ban on bark extraction in 1991. Despite the ban, during 1991 over 3898 tonnes of bark (twice the annual average) were processed. (Source: Cunningham, A.B. & Mbenkum, F.T. Sustainable harvesting of Prunus africana bark in Cameroon. People and plants. Working Paper No. 2. WWF/Unesco, 1993.)


A major educational campaign entitled "Buyer Beware!" was launched in the United Kingdom at Gatwick Airport on 27 April 1994 by WWF-UK, TRAFFIC International and HM Customs and Excise. Buyer Beware! aims to inform travellers about wildlife souvenirs that they may find while on trips overseas and it offers advice on those items that should not be brought home. Endangered species of animals and plants, and souvenirs made from them, can be purchased in many popular holiday destinations. However, the majority of travellers do not realize that it may be illegal to take them out of the country and bring them home. Posters, leaflets and video footage were used to promote the message: "if in doubt, don't buy". Animals, plants, and manufactured items that had been seized by United Kingdom Customs were also on display as examples of wildlife souvenirs that should be avoided. The campaign emphasized that live CITES-listed species and souvenirs manufactured from them may be purchased but require import permits issued in the United Kingdom before the journey is undertaken, as well as export permits from the country of origin. Live mammals and birds additionally require health certificates. (Source: Traffic Bulletin, Vol. 14, No. 3, May 1994.)


Liquorice is obtained from the dried roots and rhizomes of several Glycyrrhiza species, in particular G. glabra - all perennial herbaceous shrubs indigenous to southern Europe and the Near East. Most of the world's supply comes from plants gathered wild in the former USSR, Spain, Turkey, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq and Afghanistan. Around 50000 tonnes of liquorice extract are produced each year.

The main active ingredients in the plants are saponin-like glycosides, of which glycyrrhizin (between 5 and 10 percent) is the most important. In crude extract form liquorice is used as an expectorant and anti-inflammatory, and it is common in cough syrups, sweets and pastilles. Liquorice is also used to disguise the bitter taste of other medicines. Many non-medicinal foods and drinks are flavoured with liquorice, as well as tobacco, toothpaste and breath fresheners. It is also often present as a foam stabilizer in fire extinguishers!

Ipecac. About 100 tonnes of ipecac are produced each year from Cephaelis ipecacuanha - mainly grown in Nicaragua, Brazil and India - for treating coughs, bronchitis and amoebic dysentery, and for use as a powerful emetic.

The bark of the thickened, annulated roots, which should be collected when the plant is in flower, contains most of the active ingredients - the alkaloids emetine, cephaline and psychotrine. These same alkaloids cured Louis XIV of dysentery in the seventeenth century and today are valued for the treatment of other parasitic infections such as bilharziasis and guinea worms. The popularity of ipecac in traditional medicine as a cancer cure may also be well founded. The Guaraní of Brazil and Paraguay were the first to discover the virtues of ipecac; their term i-pe-kaa-gueñe (roadside sick-making plant) gave rise to the Portuguese name ipecacuanha.

Camphor. The camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), an evergreen native to China, Japan and Taiwan (Province of China) has been used for centuries to help alleviate cold symptoms. Its distilled wood yields camphor and white oil of camphor, both of which are slightly antiseptic and have expectorant and analgesic properties. Most often applied externally, as in camphorated oil, rheumatic pain and inflammation, fibrositis and neuralgia have also been relieved by its use. Some disinfectants also incorporate camphor oil in their formulation.

While most natural camphor oil is currently exported from Taiwan, synthetic camphor derived from coal tar and turpentine is now a common substitute for the plant-derived compound. (Source: Lewington, A. Plants for people, p. 142. Natural History Museum Publications [in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and WWF-UK]. 1990.)

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