Interest and support for the conservation and development of medicinal plants is increasing in all parts of the world. This is due, in part, to a growing recognition given to the role of medicinal plants in the provision of culturally relevant and affordable health care in creating sustainable livelihoods and in the vital conservation of biodiversity. This has also drawn the attention of the world community towards the need for creating mechanisms to ensure sustained development of the sector and to allow sharing of information between countries, organizations and agencies.
As per World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, almost 80% of the population of developing countries relies on traditional medicines, mostly plant drugs, for their primary health care needs. In fact it is well known that even in developed countries, the use of traditional medicines is quite prevalent. Also, modern pharmacopoeia still contains at least 25% drugs derived from plants and many others which are synthetic analogues built on prototype compounds isolated from plants. Medicinal plant is increasing in both developing and developed countries due to growing recognition of natural products being non-narcotic, having no side-effects, easily available at affordable prices and sometime the only source of health care available to the poor.
In India, Medicinal plants sector has traditionally occupied an important position in the socio cultural, spiritual and medicinal arena of rural and tribal lives. Recognizing its importance, the Government of India established the Department of Indian System of Medicine and Homoeopathy, and more recently the Medicinal Plants Board to develop, promote and regulate the sector for maximizing the benefits to the people as well as to ensure sustainable growth. Medicinal plants have been identified as one of the thrust areas by the Ministry and different programmes have been initiated for conservation of medicinal plants found in the forests and protected areas as well as cultivation of these plants in the degraded forest areas.