1.1. General Introduction:
A medicinal plant is any plant which, in one or more of its organ, contains substance that can be used for therapeutic purpose or which is a precursor for synthesis of useful drugs. (Sofowara, 1982, Medicinal plant and Traditional Medicine in Africa).
The plants that possess therapeutic properties or exert beneficial pharmacological effects on the animal body are generally designated as “Medicinal Plants”. Although there no apparent morphological characteristics in the medicinal plants growing with them, yet they possess some special qualities or virtues that make them medicinally important. It has now been established that the plants which naturally synthesis and accumulate some secondary metabolites, like alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, volatiles oils and contain minerals and vitamins, possess medicinal properties. Medicinal plants constitute an important natural wealth of a country. They play a significant role in providing primary health care services to rural people. They serve as therapeutic agents as well as important raw materials for the manufacture of traditional and modern medicine. Substantial amount of foreign exchange can be earned by exporting medicinal plants to other countries. In this way indigenous medicinal plants play significant role of an economy of a country.
1.2. Global view of medicinal plants:
Human beings have been utilizing plants for basic preventive and curative health care since time immemorial. Recent estimates suggest that over 9,000 plants have known medicinal applications in various cultures and countries, and this is without having conducted comprehensive research amongst several indigenous and other communities (Farnsworth and Soejarto 1991). Medicinal plants are used at the household level by women taking care of their families, at the village level by medicine men or tribal shamans, and by the practitioners of classical traditional systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, or the Japanese Kampo system. According to the World Health Organization, over 80% of the world’s population, or 4.3 billion people, rely upon such traditional plant-based systems of medicine to provide them with primary health care (Bannerman et. al. 1983). However, it is only during the last decade that the real significance of the medicinal plants sector has begun to be realized. Interest in natural materials by the dominant economic powers had waned from the late 1960s to the early 1980s as new possibilities in biotechnology and the synthesization of drugs beckoned. But by the mid-1980s, there was a renewed interest in natural materials and approaches to health care, coupled with recognition that technology alone could not solve the pressing health care needs of the world’s population (Tempesta and King 1994). This new drive for natural and plant-based medicines made it felt in the market from the mid-1980s onwards. As Table 1.1 illustrates, growth in the market in various regions is now on average 3 to 4 times the average growth rates of the national economies in the same regions. Some of these phenomenal rates, in some cases nearly 20%, imply that the market is now doubling in size every 4-5 years. Table 1.1 Natural Medicines Market: Regional Growth Rates 1991-98 (in %) Region1991-921993-98
Rest of Europe812
(1994) Source: Grunwald.
The use of such alternative medicines has become increasingly popular in the developed world. In the survey conducted in 1994, it was found that 60% of doctors had at some time referred patients to practitioners of alternative medicine. According to one account, in 1992 significant amounts of at least 74 species of medicinal plants were being commercially traded in the global market (Handa, 1992). In addition to these major species, hundreds of others are bought and sold in lesser quantities across national boundaries illegally and it is so...