Strategies for understanding medicinal plant conversation need to be developed based upon local awareness and practices. Not only do many pharmaceuticals contain medicinal plant derivatives, but approximately 70 – 80% of the global population depends upon herbal remedies and about 25 – 40% of prescription medications in the United States alone are comprised of plant-based active ingredients.
Many regions around the world depend on medicinal herbs to help maintain the overall health of it’s inhabitants, however the demand in the marketplace for these plants has caused a drain on the natural environmental resources of these locales. The most common forms of negative environmental impact are a loss or degradation of habitat, and excessive harvesting practices.
With the emergence of new herbal health supplements on the marketplace, especially those whose ingredients are gathered from the wild, the demand often is greater than what can bet met by legally obtain supply. In order to protect the indigenous populations against exploitation and environmental damage, a conservation plan needs to be instituted which will help to prevent unethical and illegal abuses. Unfortunately, too many regional communities are the victim of this type of threat, which stems from an effort to procure financial gains.
Because of the multifaceted nature of the factors involved, conservation of medicinal plant life requires a recognition of not only the potential environmental impact, but the cultural impact as well.
According to Mark McIntyre of malehealthreview.com, one of the largest regions for medicinal plants and knowledge of their use is in Asia. He says, for instance, that in the just the Himalayas and surrounding areas there can be found more than 10,000 species of plants used for medicinal and aromatic purposes, which provide income to roughly 600 million inhabitants living there. Nepal’s residents have long practiced Ayurvedic medicine, which is influenced by Buddhist and Hindu philosophies, which stress the importance of life balance.
Medicinal plants which are found in high altitudes often are known for their quality and potency, which is why they are frequently prized by not only the local population but supplement companies and drug manufacturers as well. The regional economic impact from harvesting these plants commercially is significant, providing somewhere around fifty percent of rural household income.
Many health-related herbs are also collected from the forests of Malaysia, where they also provide a significant impact to the economy, though an exact figure is not known since there have been no national studies conducted.