Mass Extinction Crisis – Status of medicinal plants


Importance & Contribution of Medicinal Plants

Medicinal plants play a very vital role for human & animal health care and also healthy environment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) up to 80% of developing country populations rely on traditional/herbal medicines for their primary health care. Global herbal market is around US$70.5 billion which is growing rapidly with an average annual growth rate of 10-12%. The world Bank estimated global trade of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants and their products at US$5 trillion by 2050. Medicinal plant cultivation may be an effective tool for poverty alleviation, self-employment and women empowerment in the rural area by utilizing marginal fallow land.

  • Number of drug molecules from plants used in modern medicines 121(1995); 130(1997); 143(2000); 166(2006); 170(2008).
  • 61% of the small molecule - New Chemical Entities (NCE) introduced as drugs world wide during 1981-2000 can be traced to or were inspired by natural products.
  • In both 2001 and 2002, about one quarter of the best selling drugs worldwide were natural products or derived from natural products (Butler 2004).

Therapeutic Classification of Herbal Drugs

23 New drugs derived from natural sources have been launched on the market during 2000-2005 after having been approved for the treatment of Cancer, Neurological, Cardiovascular, Infections, Metabolic, Immunological, Inflammatory Diseases and Genetic Disorders.

Impact of Mass Extinction of Medicinal Plants

From the above scenario it is clear that, the medicine industries regardless of traditional or modern medicines dependent on natural sources i.e. medicinal plants. "But some 15,000 of 50,000 medicinal species are under threat of extinction”, according to a report from international conservation group – Plant life. Shortages have been reported in China, India, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda which countries are well known among the big suppliers and also consumers of herbal materials. Many important medicinal plants are at risk include the Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana), a source of the anti-cancer drug, paclitaxel; the pepper-bark tree (Warburgia), which yields an anti-malarial; and the African cherry (Prunus africana), an extract from which is used to treat a prostate condition. If this current trend of medicinal plant species loss continues the consequences would be terrible in the near future. “The loss of medicinal plant diversity is a quiet disaster", says Sara Oldfield, Secretary General of NGO Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

Mass extinction of medicinal plant species from the nature might lead human and animal health at serious risk and also the whole ecosystem could be disrupted.