The decimation of wild medicinal plants could threaten the health of millions of people around the world who rely on traditional medicine to treat serious illness, according to scientists.
Plantlife, the conservation charity, point out that traditional medicine is the primary source of health care for more people worldwide than western medicine – often because it is the only affordable treatment available. For example plants in east Africa are used to treat malaria and opportunistic infections caused by HIV Aids.
However around 15,000 species are under threat from pollution, over-harvesting and habitat loss, including Himalayan Yew, known as a source of anti-cancer drugs. The decimation of the plants is not only leading to a loss of traditional knowledge but could prevent a breakthrough in treating conditions like migraines, fever and even cancer.
Plantlife have compiled a report on the best way to protect plants for the future, following a three-year study of projects around the world involving medicinal plants. Projects included developing medicinal first aid kits in Uganda, establishing China's first ever community nature reserve for wild medicinal plants and promoting the cultivation of medicinal plants by local farmers in Nepal.
Alan Hamilton, the author of the report, said protecting medicinal plants is not only important for human health but for the surrounding ecosystem.