Medicinal plant cultivation for sustainable use and commercialisation of high-value crops
Keywords:traditional medicine, medicinal use, unsustainable use, medicinal plant trade, medicinal plant industry
Many traditional healing systems are based on natural biological resources, and there is a general shift in most parts of the world towards natural medicine, with direct implications on the demand and supply of medicinal plants. This review highlights the economic importance of medicinal plants, their contribution to healthcare systems, and potential opportunities for rural economic development through cultivation. A systematic literature review with specific search terms related to medicinal plants was used to collect scientific and non-scientific information from peer-reviewed literature and grey literature databases. The findings indicate that trade in medicinal plants is increasing, and although they are considered minor crops compared to major food crops, their value is among the highest in the list of traded plants globally. The trade also serves as a revenue source for many rural livelihoods, with women playing a significant role. Medicinal plants contribute to primary health care in many developing countries, and they are also an essential source of modern drug discovery. Cultivation of medicinal plants offers emerging rural farmers an opportunity to grow these plants as new and alternative crops, thus reducing unsustainable wild harvesting and competition with established commercial farmers who mostly focus on food crops. Furthermore, medicinal plant cultivation should be promoted as one of the options for local economic development and sustainability through job creation, the revival of the rural economy, and income generation for small businesses, such as the transport businesses, involved in the value chain. Land accessibility, financial resources, and direct market access for rural communities can elevate their contribution to the industry. Formalisation of the lower levels of the medicinal plant trade is also recommended.
- Cultivation is a viable option for biodiversity conservation of medicinal plants and ensuring a goodquality supply of plant materials.
- Cultivation of medicinal plants – a source of natural products used in product development – can contribute to job creation, income generation, and rural economies in developing countries.
- This review underlines the importance of medicinal plants in product development, the contribution of the industry to economies of different countries, and the potential for cultivation.
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