Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Uses and Identification
Medicinal plants harvested from the wild remain of immense importance for the well-being of millions of people around the world. Providing both a relief from illness and a source of income, over 70,000 plant species are thought to be medicinal. Loss of habitat combined with over-harvesting threatens the survival of many of these plant species.
Botanic gardens are important agencies for ensuring their conservation. The original purpose of the earliest botanic gardens established in Europe in the sixteenth century was the cultivation and study of medicinal plants - at a time when medicine and botany were essentially the same discipline. The tradition of cultivating and displaying medicinal plants has been retained by many botanic gardens.
For example, a study by BGCI in 1998 highlighted the medicinal plant collections of 480 botanic gardens. Conservation of threatened medicinal plants has become an increasingly important role through ex situ conservation as an insurance policy against loss of resources in the wild, informing visitors about the value s and conservation needs of these special plants and working with local communities to show how the plants they rely on can be cultivated or harvested sustainably. The multitude of ways in which botanic gardens support the conservation of medicinal plants is highlighted by this report. And yet much more needs to be done.
To enhance the conservation and sustainable use of threatened medicinal plants to address human well-being and livelihood issues as a contribution towards Targets 3 and 13 of the CBD Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Botanic gardens around the world have been involved in the study and cultivation of medicinal plants for over 500 years. Collectively they provide an important repository for medicinal plants and the associated knowledge about these important species. Recognizing this, BGCI has taken various steps to promote the conservation of medicinal plants by the botanic garden community since its establishment 20 years ago.
Conservation organizations such as Plantlife International, TRAFFIC and the IUCN SSC Medicinal Plant Specialist Group have all highlighted the valuable skills and expertise of botanic gardens that can and should be made available to provide integrated conservation solutions for medicinal plants. Botanic gardens have shared practical case studies and expressed their willingness to take on more conservation commitments.