Electronic Journal of Biotechnology ISSN: 0717-3458
  © 1999 by Universidad Católica de Valparaíso -- Chile
Vol. 2 No. 2, Issue of August 15, 1999

Table 1. Examples of national activities concerning medicinal plants





  • Need for conservation of several medicinal plants e.g. Ferula foetida, Scorodosma foetida, etc. endangered by war-stricken conditions
  • Potential market remains underdeveloped.


  • Rich history of use and export of medicinal plants
  • Over 3200 species described and conserved for use and export.


  • Asian-Australian Centre for the Study of Bioactive Medicinal Plant Constituents was set up in 1992 at La Trobe University for conduction of research in collaboration with Chulalongkorn and Chieng-Mai Universities in Thailand
  • Inter-university research work focuses on:

    - The bioactive constituents of turmeric e.g. curcumin
    - Islamic medicinal plants
    - Antifungal proteins and secondary metabolites in crop plants, e.g. in cotton and yellow mustard Sinapis alba
    - Marine toxins
    -Collaboration on medicinal plants with scientists from Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Singapore, Kuwait and New Zealand.


  • Research on cultivation and biochemical aspects of medicinal plants
  • Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Laboratory at Chittagong oversees development of appropriate chemical technologies, and pharmacopoeia of plants.


  • Sustainable protection and use of forest resources and development of plant tissue culture
  • Capacity building in plant biotechnology for rural markets and development of forest seedlings Indigenous Hospital in Thimphu has recorded 180 species of medicinal and aromatic plants


  • Southern Crop and Food Production Centre of Agriculture and Agrifood Canada mandated to develop novel technologies in production and protection of new crops inclusive of medicinal plants
  • Active research on crop production, genetics, germplasm improvement, micropropagation, and protection of medicinal herbs. Attention is given to research in developing base-line agronomic information, elucidating the chemistry of bioactive principles, etc.

China astralgus

  • Chinese root extracts from Astragalus membranaceus have been developed for use as a general tonic food and for boosting immunity
  • Institute of Medicinal Plants established in 1983 with branches in provinces of Yunnan, Hainan and Guangxi 
  • Used in Chinese herbal medicine to strengthen the vital energy Qi in general health and well being
  • Product widely used in China, and South Asia
  • Work deals with the development, conservation and utilisation of medicinal plant resources, and the discovery of new potent drugs. The Institute is also recognised as a WHO Collaborating Centre on Traditional Medicine
  • Hong Kong Society for Traditional Medicine and Natural Products Research
  • Established in 1995, activities focus on research, training and public education in traditional medicine and natural products. Professional services available for commercial, government and industrial sectors.

Dominican Republic

  • Launched in 1982 as a traditional medicine for the islands (TRAMIL) network with support from IDRC, activities focus on developing scientific proven medicinal plant remedies as alternatives to patent drugs that are expensive and difficult to obtain in rural populations
  • Regional node was established in Panama in 1994 to cover area from Belize to Panama. Over 150 medicinal plants evaluated and results disseminated in Caribbean Pharmacopoeia. TRAMIL widely recognised in Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama as effective mechanism in devising primary healthcare programmes.


  • Network of plant genetic resources inclusive of medicinal plants
  • Development of computerised genebank system at Jogeva Plant Breeding Institute linking inputs from the Polli Horticultural Institute and the Estonian Agricultural University and Botanical Garden.


  • Farmaya Laboratory, following screening of 700 different plants, has developed 15 pharmaceutical products using traditional knowledge of indigenous and rural groups; Farmaya engaged in organic cultivation of medicinal plants, pharmacological research, production of plant-derived pharmaceuticals, and engaged in developing protocols for the safe use of medicinal plants
  • Collaborates with the Central America Centre of Studies on Appropriate Technologies (CEMAT)
  • Created a National Commission for the Use of Medicinal Plants which serves as a model for other Latin American countries in developing guidelines and standardised protocols for production of plant-based pharmaceuticals
  • Co-operates in the IDRC project on the Application, Research and Dissemination of the Use of Medicinal Plants in the Caribbean.


  • Governmental programme launched in 1993 for implementation by an NGO called "Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions"
  • 30 in situ "Medicinal Plant Conservation Areas" (MPCA),
    15 ex situ "Medicinal Plant Conservation Parks (MPCP), and one Model Production Unit (MPU) have been established in the programme, for large-scale production in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • Herbal Gene Bank at the Tropical Botanic Garden Research Institute at Thiruvananthapurnam
  • All-India ethnobiological project for the development of drugs from medicinal plants and herbs. Promotion of ethnopharmacological research
  • Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic plants in Lucknow
  • Institute deals with plant tissue culture of medicinal plants of commercial significance; monitors All-India Co-ordinated project on Conservation of Endangered Plant species; maintenance of living herbaria or plant gardens that feed traditional systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Unani and Sidha. Ayurveda recognised by WHO as an alternate system of medicine.
  • Germplasm Bank, Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary
    Tamil Nadu
  • More than 40 species of medicinal plants are maintained and protected. Examples are Manilkara hexandra to treat jaundice, Salvadora persicum to treat ulcers; Mucuma purata used for preparation of a health tonic.


  • Tsukuba Medicinal Plant Research Station focuses on plant cultivation breeding and conservation methods of medicinal plants; and research on the development of bioactive components
  • Affiliate of the National Institute of Health Sciences, this Medicinal Plant Research Station maintains an exchange programme with about 400 research programmes in over 60 countries.
  • Medicinal plants such as Duboisia, Scopolia, Curcuma, Salvia and Zingiber are maintained in tissue cultures
  • Research Centre of Medicinal Resources Medicinal Plant Gardens, Chiba University
  • Chemical, biochemical and pharmacological studies on plant secondary metabolites.
  • Pharmacological studies of neurotoxic proteins in Lathyrus sativus.
  • Screening for biologically active products in Asian medicinal plants.


  • Conservation of crop germplasm (wheat, barley, maize,
    rye, medicinal plants)
  • Development of national programme to increase drought, disease and frost-resistance of plants of economic significance.

Korea, Republic of

  • Natural Products Research Institute
  • Has played, for over 50 years, leading role in research of natural drugs in Korea. Designated in 1977/1978 as Headquarter Centre for UNESCO Regional Network for the Chemistry of Natural products in Southeast Asia, and in 1988 as WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine. In 1997, the Institute was appointed as the Korea-China Collaborating Centre for Traditional Oriental Medicines Research


  • National Network of plant genetic resources inclusive of medicinal plants
  • Development of computerised database at the Institute of Biology of the Latvian Academy of Sciences pooling inputs from 8 different Latvian institutions


  • Network of plant genetic resources
  • Lithuanian Institute of Agriculture co-ordinates collection of agricultural crops, hops and medicinal plants in Kaunas Botanical Garden, herbs in the Botanical Institute in Vilnius, and industrial plants in the Horticultural Institute on Babtai.


  • Malaysia Natural Products Society formed in 1994 overseeing co-ordination of activities with medicinal
    plants and eventual release of Malaysian Pharmacopoeia
  • Screening of marine and terrestrial biochemical diversity for medicinal principles, phytomedicinals and nutraceuticals
  • Active partners are:
    Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia; Universiti Pertanian Malaysia; Universiti Teknologi Malaysia; Universiti Sains Malaysia; Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, which are pioneering research into the isolation, screening and crystallisation of bioactive compounds and phytomedicinals from e.g. Mitragyna speciosa, Alstonia anguslifolia, and Dehaasia incrassata that have been used in traditional medicine.


  • Medicinal plants are widely used as part of folk medicinal remedies. Well-known Maltese examples are: fejgel, faqqus il-hmir, and hobbeja.
  • Need for conservation since land exploitation and recovery is destroying natural habitats.


  • Crop improvement and seed distribution programmes
  • Development of disease, pest, and environmental-stress resistant of oil-bearing and medicinal plants.


  • Inventorization and classification of more than 450 medicinal and nutritional herbs
  • Institute of Botany, Mongolian Academy of Sciences. Research results reveal more than 30 new flowers.


  • Conservation of plant genetic resources and medicinal plants
  • Research programmes at Yangon (formerly Rangoon) University focus on folk medicinal herbs; pharmacognostic studies; and bioassay of plants credited with anti-tumour, anti-pyretic and anti-diabetic properties.


  • Plant biotechnology, mushroom cultivation, bioenergy production, environmental microbiology and medicinal plants
  • University programmes in plant tissue culture, and environmental microbial-based technologies; medicinal plants widely cultivated in Shivpuri, Doti, Tistung, Urindavan and Tarakava Herbal farms. Herbal products widely marketed as Ayurvedic therapeutics.

New Zealand

  • Conservation of medicinal plants used in Maori medicine
  • Coprosma robusta - a sacred Maori medicinal plant, and Aristotelia serrata used by early settlers maintained in nurseries.


  • Preservation of Nigerian genetic patrimony comprised of 5000 acquisitions of edible, fodder, forest, industrial and medicinal plants
  • Research supported by National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology which functions also as affiliate of International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.


  • Collaborative project between UNESCO and Governmental agency
  • Conduction of research work in the origins, uses, trades, and constraints in the cultivation of medicinal plants in Mozambique and Madagascar by students at M.Sc. level.

Pacific Islands

  • Noni, a Tahitian herbal tonic derived from Morinda citrifolia is used as a general tonic food and energiser
  • Product widely used in China and South Asia and widely marketed throughout the pacific islands.


  • Non-governmental organisation Consejo Aguaruna y Huambisa comprised of 30,000 members harvesting and supplying plant material on sustainable basis
  • Cooperates with Shaman Pharmaceuticals in ensuring employment and income for indigenous populations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • Cooperation focuses on protection of biological and cultural diversity.


  • Medicinal Plants reared and protected as economic bioresource in Karadag Reserve
  • Karadag Reserve serves as a base for studying the bioecological properties for Crimean medicinal plants such as Rosa canina.

South Africa

  • A traditional medicines programme (TRAMED) was started in 1994 at the University of Cape Town to promote the cultural, health, environmental, scientific and socio-economic benefits to be obtained from the development, conservation and sustainable use of east and southern Africa's medicinal plants
  • Integral part of WHO collaborating Centre for Drug Policy based in the University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape.
  • Collaborating partners are:

  • - University of Durban-Westville, Durban
    - Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
    - WHO Collaborating Centre for Adverse Drug Event Monitoring, Uppsala, Sweden
    - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, U.K.
  • TRAMED activities focus on

  • -Development of database for east and southern Africa
    - Laboratory screening of traditional medicines in malaria and tuberculosis
    - Development of eastern and southern Africa network as first step in evolution of an All-Africa network of traditional medicines
    - Inventorization of indigenous rural and tribal knowledge of traditional medicines
    - Articulation of national policy for the conservation, control, regulation and use of traditional medicines in South Africa.

Sri Lanka

  • General biotechnologies, medicinal plants
  • Possesses rich history of medicinal plants intricately linked with religious and cultural practices. Ayurvedic system of medicine is widespread.


  • Suriname Bioprospecting Initiative
  • In co-operation with governmental authorities development of

  • -pharmaceutical industry in Suriname catalysed by collaboration with US pharmaceutical industry
    - economic incentives for conservation of biodiversity of medicinal plants
    - compensation protocols for acquisition of tribal knowledge and medicinal recipes.


  • Laboratory of Natural Products - research on medicinal plants 
  • Species been investigated are: Look Tai Bai (Phyllanthus amarus), Chai aim Thai (Derris escalata, and Carophyllum inophyllum).
  • Based at the Chulabhorn Research Institute, research activities deal with the preparation of dietary supplements and therapeutics from traditional medicinal plants.


  • Medicinal and Aromatic Plant and Drug Research Centre
  • Established in 1982 at Anadolu University, Es Kisehir, the centre is engaged in:
  • UNIDO/Turkey project on Production of Pharmaceutical Materials from Medicinal and Aromatic Plants
  • in the preparation of pharmaceuticals, perfumes, cosmetics, dyes, etc.
  • in the preparation of surveys concerning the assessment of phytochemical and phytopharmaceutical units.


  • Shaman Pharmaceuticals, based in the San Francisco uses ethnobotany as foundation of drug development process
  • Conduct studies on epidemiology, traditional medicine, culture and ecology of the region and its environment
  • Active in 30 countries.
  • National Germplasm Resources Laboratory of the US Department of Agriculture hosts PHYTOCHEMECO, a phytochemical/geographic database
  • Contains unique blend of phytochemicals taxonomic, ecological, geographic and climatic aspects

  • - phytochemical database contains data on over 16,000 chemical compounds present in some 16,000 plants of economic importance, and of some 1500 specific activities of some 4,000 plant-derived chemicals
    - taxonomic database contains plant names of over 8,000 taxa
    - ecological database contains growing locations of some 6,000 taxa
    - yield database contains crop yields of some 239 taxa
    - geographical/climatic database holds data on some 18,000 worldwide locations (with details on latitude, longitude, elevation, soil type, rainfall, temperature and life zones.
Supported by UNESCO / MIRCEN network