India is globally known for its unique health care system called Ayurveda – Knowledge of Life, which is a system based on lifestyle management rather than using curatives. The system is millennia old. However, despite its basic emphasis on holistic living, Ayurveda also has an elaborate knowledge base on medicinal plants and herbs. Besides, there are other related systems such as Siddha, Unani and Amchi.
The Department of Biotechnology has been building on this enormous body of traditional prior-knowledge to work out methods of utilisation of India’s amazing variety of medicinal plants and herbs.
Herbal medicines are being used by about 80 per cent of the world population primarily in the developing countries for primary health care. In addition, tribal populations employ a large number of species of plants in their healing.
International trade for herbs related trade is about USD 60 billion, growing annually at the rate of seven per cent. In India, the herbal drug market is about USD one billion and the export of plant-based crude drugs is around USD80 million.
The export of herbal medicines from India is negligible, largely due to
- The lack of well-documented traditional use
- Single-plant medicines
- Medicinal plants free from pesticides, heavy metals etc
- Standardisation based on chemical and activity profile, and
- Safety and stability
However, lots of expansive work has been done in recent times by the BBT. The areas of work spans