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Cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants in India - a commercial approach

Chatterjee, S.K.
Acta horticulturae 2002 no.576
Aconitum, Berberis, Dioscorea deltoidea, Rauvolfia serpentina, Rheum, biodiversity, climate, conservation programs, cosmetics, developed countries, dietary supplements, drugs, essential oil crops, exports, forests, habitats, harvesting, markets, medicinal plants, raw materials, topography, France, Germany, India, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States
India (8o-30o N and 68-97.5o E) exhibits a wide range in topography and climate, which has a bearing on its vegetation and floristic composition. This subcontinent is one of the World’s 12 leading Biodiversity Centres, encompassing 16 different agro-climatic zones, 10 vegetation zones, 25 biotic provinces and about 426 habitats of specific species. It has been estimated that about 45,000 plant species (nearly 20% of the global species) occurs in the Indian Sub-continent. About 3,500 species of both higher and lower plant groups are of medicinal values. More than 80 percent of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAP) are collected from 17 million hectares of Indian forest land. However, many of these, due to over-exploitation have become rare (Rheum emodi, Aconitum deinorrhizum), threatened (Rauvolfia serpentina, Berberis artistata), or endangered ones (Sassurea lappa, Dioscorea deltoidea). Problems arising out of rapid genetic loss of medicinal plants forced the need for international co-operation and co-ordination to undertake programmes for conservation of medicinal plants to ensure that adequate quantities are available for future generations. Cultivation of medicinal and aromatic species gives scope to improve the quality of the drugs. Merits of commercial cultivation of MAP is the outcome of implementation of number of critical factors like locate-selection; good genetically stable planting materials; good agrotechnological practices; nutrient input; harvesting management and implementation of suitable post harvesting techniques to preserve the end product till smart and effective marketing arrangements are made. There is a growing demand today for plant-based medicines, health products, pharmaceuticals, food supplements, cosmetics etc. in the international market. The international market of medicinal plants is over 60 billion US dollar per year, which is growing at the rate of 7 percent per annum. The present export of herbal raw materials and medicines from India is about US dollar 100-114 million approximately per year. India is one of the major exporter of crude drugs mainly to six developed countries viz. USA, Germany, France, Switzerland, U.K. and Japan, who share between them 75-80 per cent of the total export market.