BY | February 10, 2009

Medicinal plants have always been considered a healthy source of life for the people. Therapeutical properties of medicinal plants are very useful in healing various diseases.

There are more than 8000 medicinal plants listed in different classical and modern texts on medicinal plants. Around 960 medicinal plants are in active use in all India trade and around 2000 species are documented in Indian Systems of Medicine like Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha. Similarly, around 4000 species are used by rural communities in local health practices. The All India Ethno-biology Survey estimated that over 7,500 plant species are used by 4,635 ethnic communities for human and veterinary health care across the country. In 1993, the Government estimated that between 60-80% of India’s population rely on medicinal plants for health care. Medicinal plants are particularly important to the rural poor, who are able to harvest these from the wild to meet their primary health care needs. The Botanical Survey states some of the common medicinal herbs as Brahmi, Babul gum, Bail, Satawar, Neem, Tesu/Gul Palash, Dalchini, Bhringraj, Amla, Jatropha, Nagkesar, Jaiphal, Ratanjot, Isabgo, Reetha, Kuth (Bitter), Chiraita, Jamun, Arjun, Behera, Harad (Choti), Harad (Pili) etc

Nodal Agency on Medicinal Plants

The National  Medicinal Plants Board is the designated nodal agency on all issues related to medicinal plants. It works under the Department of AYUSH, the Ministry of Health and Family welfare. Besides number of organizations and departments, Viz., ICMR, CIMAP, DBT, DST, NBPGR, and Ministry of Commerce are also engaged in handling the subject of medicinal plants but each one has a specific mandate. While it is research for the first three organisations, it is ex-situ conservation for NBPGR, and marketing for the Ministry of Commerce. Similarly, research on cultivation of medicinal plants, especially pertaining to standardization of agro-technology & breeding techniques is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Genetic Conservation of Medicinal Plants

The Department of Biotechnology has already set up three national gene banks on medicinal and aromatic plants at the Central Institute of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi and Tropical Botanic Garden & Research Institute (TBGRI), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. They are engaged in collection, conservation and characterization of the precious wealth of medicinal and aromatic herbs which are rare/threatened/endangered or are being used in traditional system, or those which are commercially exploited. The Regional Research Laboratory (RRL), Jammu, Jammu & Kashmir, is the forth gene bank which covers the North-Western Himalayan region. A germ-plasma repository for medicinal plants used in Ayurveda has also been established at Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal, Kerala. More than 9,000 accessions of important medicinal and aromatic plant species are being maintained as live material in field gene banks, in the form of seed, in vitro material and DNA. For long-term conservation, the accessions are stored under cryogenic conditions.

Thrust   on National Afforestation Programme

The Ministry of Environment and Forests  has taken various measures for conservation and proliferation of rare medicinal herbs. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Project entitled ‘National Programme on Promoting Conservation of Medicinal Plants & Traditional Knowledge for Enhancing Health & Livelihood Security’ is in operation. It  is  being  implemented in nine States-Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. The project is being coordinated by Foundation for Revitalizing of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT) **, Banglore. These states are of two categories – one, with five States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra & Tamil Nadu) wherein medicinal plants conservation activities have been initiated and the second, with remaining four States in which the conservation activities are to be initiated under this project for the first time.

The main aims are to establish a system for Rapid threat assessment and trade regulation; establish a Network of Medicinal Plants Conservation Areas (MPCAs); establish a state level medicinal plants seed center; establish Home Herbal Gardens (HHGs) and prepare Community Knowledge Registers (CKKs); capacity building on community owned medicinal plants enterprises programmes; communication and advocacy programmes for outreach and a multi-lingual website programme on Home Doctor.

Another UNDP-GEP project, “Mainstreaming Conservation and Sustainable use of Medicinal Plant Diversity” covers three Indian States – Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. The National Medicinal Plant Board, Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), State Medicinal Plant Boards and FRLHT, Banglore are executing partners in this project. The main objective of the project is to mainstream the conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants with particular reference to globally significant medicinal plants.

A Centre of Excellence on ‘Medicinal Plants & Traditional Knowledge’ at FRLHT, Banglore also supports this activity which is recognized .

Implementation of the National Afforestation Programme (NAP) Scheme  include models such as ‘Mixed Plantation of Trees having Minor Forest Produce and Medicinal Value’ and Regeneration of Perennial Herbs and Shrubs of Medicinal Value’ that relate to promotion of medicinal plants through afforestation and regeneration. The States have been advised to give requisite thrust on plantation of medicinal plants and bamboos on degraded forest lands and contiguous areas in addition to other species of local ecological and economic importance in the afforestation activities. This is intended to contribute towards poverty alleviation and also to ensure livelihood security of forest fringe dwellers besides ameliorating soil conditions and improving/increasing forest cover. The States have been also advised to consider setting aside 10% of the project area for plantation of bamboos and medicinal plants under the NAP.

Conserving and protecting medicinal plants is being carried out through enforcement of the Indian Forests Act, 1927; Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972; Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and the rules under these Acts.

Biological Diversity Act, 2002

The Government has enacted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 and notified the Biological Diversity Rules in 2004, with the aim of conserving and sustainably using biological diversity, and regulating the biological resources (including the medicinal plants) and associated traditional knowledge of country with the purpose of securing equitable sharing of benefits arising out of these resources and associated knowledge.

Harvest of Medicinal Plants

Over Ninety-five   percent of   India’s medicinal plants are harvested from the wild. Over 200 medicinal plant species in southern and northern India are classified as rare, endangered or threatened. The true number  of threatened species are, including globally significant species, is likely to be far higher, but the status of many species is insufficiently unknown.

Banned for Export

About 29 species of medicinal plants have so far been identified and notified by Director General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce, New Delhi. Export of these 29 plants, plant portions and their derivatives and extracts as such obtained from the wild except the formulations made there from is prohibited as these species required protection against over-exploitation.


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  • chetan marwah

    The information provided in the news titled Conservation of Medicinal Plants is very general. I have gone through the same news (the language & formation may be different) in so many other mails,alerts, articles, notification etc. But the problem is that i have a good piece of 7.2 acres of self irrigated land in Nagpur (Maharashtra) & i am very much interested in cultivation of medicinal plants. Not only cultivation but also equally interested in propagating the concept in the rural areas that how they can make use of thier land for such cultivation along with their traditional cultivation. for this i tried to contact Ayush, NMPB & a few agencies by email, but no response till date.i think i tried only by email thats why there is no response, perhaps they are not use to of it. i will try to take out some time & visit the respective offices. can any one give me some ideas for the same.
    i sincerely request you keep my mail id in your mailing list & forward all news related with ayurvada, cultivation, trade fare, expo, van mela, herbal trekking etc. in your region.

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  • Vivek Chandel

    “Conservation of medicinal plants”
    I want to know the list of these 29 species of medicinal plants which are identified and notified by Director General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce, New Delhi. Export of these 29 plants, plant portions and their derivatives and extracts as such obtained from the wild except the formulations made there from is prohibited as these species required protection against over-exploitation.

  • Joe Zziwa- Mbarara Uganda

    I have gone through the text, but it wasn’t very clear on the need for conservation of medicinal plants

  • Dr. Irshad A. Nawchoo

    The proetection of medicinal plant wealth of India especially Himalayan region should be prioritized so that this wealth is maintained as long as possible. What we see every day is increase in no of plants labelled as RET (Rare, Endangered and Threatened). This is primarily because of illegal trade, over-exploitation and habitat destruction. I have been working on medicinal Plants of N.W. Himalaya for the last 20yrs and what I see is destruction of more important sites through urbanization, development of tourist resorts, trekking routes widening and construction of residential and commercial resorts in these important sites. The Govt. and Research institutions should prioritize the conservation and domestication of important medicinal plants prior to labelling these as important natural wealth for trade. If it does not happen soon chances are that in near future majority of MP will be lost for ever.

  • Abram Carriveau

    Superb site, where did you come up with the information in this posting? Im glad I found it though, ill be checking back soon to see what other articles you have.

  • Dr.R.S.Kanaujia

    I believe and perhaps it is true that nature has created a balancing system of supply and demand.Where ever there are diseases,their reme alsdies are also present in the nature at a contemporary time.I think this has been the basis for exploration of medicinals both plants and animals.The conservation of these medicinals must be the first hand priority of every person of the society.The work that can make these medicinals known to society should be done more and more.There should be a general compulsory course at secondary and degree levels in colleges and universities so that we may grow a healthy and cheerful future generation

  • Dr.R.S.Kanaujia

    The idea has getting the momentum in certain parts of the society.Persons are aware off ceating new curiosity among people for organically produced mdicines but other edibles also.In this context one such seminar was organised by Indo-Canadian Farms and resorts Pvt. Ltd ,Pune where Dr.R.S.Kanaujia,Dr.R.R.Tripathi from Baster,Dr. S.B.Tripathi fron TERI,New Delhi,Dr.Tripathi from Tripathi from Mumbai,Dr. S.P. Tripathi from New Delhi,Medicinal Scientists from National Instt.of Ayurvedic and Basic Sciences,Pune and hundreds of persons interested in organically produced medicinal plants and plant products took part.Indo-Canadian Farms & Resorts is in the process of farming rare, economically viable,endangeard and other important species of medicinal plants in its 200 acre Farm near Supe in Ahmeadnagar district.The gathering of persons from every walk of society in the name of medicinal plant and medicines produced from them is a sign of society to pledge for protecton and conservation of indigenous medicinals growing in this part of country.An Association for growing the medicinal plants has been formed and it is gaining high profile attention of various sectors of the society. I as a Director (R&D) of Indo-Canadian Farms & Resorts,Pune am committed to make this aim a reality.