Protecting medicinal plants

Conserving endangered species of medicinal plants

Eighty percent of the world's population depends on traditional medicine for their primary health car needs, a system of medicine in which most of the drugs and cures come from plants. About 25% of modern medicines are descended from plants first used traditionally. Many of these plants are increasingly threatened by over-use and habitat destruction.

Over the years, the importance of specific plant species for primary health care has received some recognition from official authorities, research and policy institutions. This acknowledgement has been extremely vital in efforts to conserve medicinal bio-diversity. But the preservation of such plants has depended mainly on how indigenous and local communities have treated ecosystems in general.

In fact, traditional healers have not only directed much of their attention to plants of direct medicinal relevance, but also to the conservation of adjoining areas where non-medicinal species grow. The health and diversity of plants in surrounding areas is crucial in providing cover for medicinal plants. As such, bio-diversity conservation has largely been an integral part of healing activities. The collective wisdom on bio-diversity conservation has been embodied in the cultures of indigenous peoples and passed on from generation to generation.

While international efforts have concentrated on issues of bio-conservation in developing countries, no formula has been devised to compensate local communities for the genetic resources, which they helped to conserve, and which have had significant pharmaceutical spin offs for industrialised countries.


Plant resources have long been used for a variety of purposes by the rural population in Nepal where varied climate and topography have marked impact in variation of biodiversity. Medicinal plants have an important role in rural economy and its primary health care. The excess collection of plants by the villagers as well as other human activities have left the natural habitat unable to regenerate. A field-based ethnobotanical study is being conducted to identify local problems and needs and to help generate peoples's participation in conservation of natural resources and the environment. The study will also serve the purpose of bridging between the national plan makers and the local inhabitants.

Native American Indian populations have long acted as agents of plant dispersal and have had a influence on native flora. The reciprocal relationships involve certain species of plants, some native Americans in the Canadian subarctic, and contemporary Euro-American and Euro-Canadian botanists.


The number of plants that have been tested for medicinal properties is a tiny fraction of the number of plants in existence. Many plants with proven medicinal properties have come from tropical forests, especially rainforests. The rate that they are being destroyed may mean that we lose valuable plants before we have a chance to test them.


Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 15: Life on Land