News Release

India's wild medicinal plants threatened by over-exploitation

24 November 2008
A close shot of medicinal plant Timur (Zanthoxylum arnatum). Photo © Giridhar Amatya, IUCN Nepal

India is a hub of the wild-collected plant medicine industry in Asia, but key species have declined due to over-collection to supply domestic and foreign medicinal markets, according to IUCN and TRAFFIC researchers.

The report focuses on seven plant species of conservation concern protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Wild plant species form the foundation of healthcare practices throughout much of Asia, particularly traditional practices, such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Tibetan medicines. Compounds such as reserpine from Snakeroot and paclitaxel from Himalayan Yew have important pharmaceutical uses in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Some species are in demand for their aromatic properties too. The use of Jatamansi oil dates back over 1,000 years, whilst Red Sanders is also in demand for its timber and as a source of red dye. In India, collection and processing of medicinal plants contributes at least 35 million workdays per year to the poor and under-employed, but rising demand is threatening this vital source of livelihood income both in India and elsewhere.

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