Curing herbal extinction

BN Khaniya


Much has been said about protection and preservation, development and commercialisation of indigenous knowledge and herbal resources. Herbal resources have been over exploited as usual and indigenous knowledge either humiliated or under threat of piracy. It has been estimated that four out of five medicinal plants utilised by human beings are collected currently from the wild. Since herbal resources are one of the most reliable sources of income for a majority of the people living in rural areas, competition for harvest begins before the right season. Locals do not have scientific knowledge or technology and tools to harvest. Probability of regeneration, therefore, becomes lesser by the year and finally reaches extinction. There are two urgent steps required to check this: First, the local people who rely on such natural resources for their lives must be trained; second, encourage them to cultivate these herbs commercially. Research has found that due to change in socio-psychological factors and educational patterns, the present generation of traditional healers do not follow the old methods. This is a threat to indigenous knowledge.


Steps must be taken to identify traditional healers in the country, document their knowledge and identify locally used medicinal plants. Their recognition and registration, monograph development, digital recording of classical manuscripts, recording of traditional technology and recipes are of primary importance. A clear national policy to protect knowledge, to identify the role of practitioners, to develop and utilise traditional medicine for national health care would help development. Community knowledge and community innovation should be encouraged by scouting, spawning and protecting these rights. Laws and guidelines to ensure benefit sharing with the communities for commercial use of traditional knowledge should be developed. International cooperation for implementation and enforcing legislation to protect and promote traditional medicinal knowledge should be encouraged.