Report: Over 28,000 Medicinal Plants, yet Fewer Than 16 Percent Used

There are over 28,000 medicinal plants, yet fewer than 16 percent are used. (Image  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
There are over 28,000 medicinal plants, yet fewer than 16 percent are used. (Image pixabay / CC0 1.0)

In Kew’s second annual State of the World’s Plants report, 28,187 species of plants around the world have now been recorded as having a medicinal use. However, poor documentation of medicinal plants means people are not making the most of their health benefits, according to the report.

Prof. Kathy Willis, director of science, RBG Kew, said that the 28,187 plant species that are currently recorded as being of medicinal use “is probably a very conservative figure.” The report is also critical as to why fewer than 16 percent (4,478) of the species used in plant-based medicines are cited in medicinal regulatory publications.

It reveals that there are currently 15 substitute names for each medicinal species; this has caused confusion and risk in the sector. The report also suggests how this can be streamlined and improved in databases like Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Service (MNPS).

Her Excellency Dr. Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius, said in a statement:

New plants that have been discovered over the past year include nine species of a climbing vine (genus Mucuna) which is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. There were four new relatives of aloe vera discovered, which is widely used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

'There were four new relatives of Aloe Vera discovered, which is widely used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.' (Image: Pixabay / CC0)

‘There were four new relatives of aloe vera discovered, which is widely used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.’ (Image: Pixabay / CC0)

Two plants, artemisinin and quinine, were also discovered and are “among the most important weapons” against malaria, which killed over 400,000 people in 2015. Monique Simmonds, deputy director of science at the world-famous botanical group, said in a statement:

Prof. Willis explained how plants are the foundation of the world’s ecosystems, and hold the potential to tackle some of our most pressing issues. However, we need to strike a delicate balance between our needs and those of the natural world.

Kew’s second annual State of the World’s Plants report involved 128 scientists from 12 countries. It reveals why some plants are more vulnerable than others to global threats such as climate change, disease, or pests. It also contains data never seen before on patterns that affect plants from different regions.

This latest data shows how plants are relevant and valuable to all aspects of our lives. Willis said that the broad survey of the current state of affairs should contribute to appreciating and helping plants:

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