General Information
What is Traditional Medicine & Herbal Medicine?

  • Traditional medicine is the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures that are used to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses

    Traditional medicine that has been adopted by other populations (outside its indigenous culture) is often termed alternative or complementary medicine.
  • Herbal medicines include herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations, and finished herbal products that contain parts of plants or other plant materials as active ingredients.

What is Medicinal Plant?

  • A considerable number of definitions have been proposed for medicinal plants. According to the WHO, "A medicinal plant is any plant which, in one or more of its organs, contains substances that can be used for therapeutic purposes, or which are precursors for chemo-pharmaceutical semi-synthesis." When a plant is designated as 'medicinal', it is implied that the said plant is useful as a drug or therapeutic agent or an active ingredient of a medicinal preparation. Medicinal plants may therefore be defined as a group of plants that possess some special properties or virtues that qualify them as articles of drugs and therapeutic agents, and are used for medicinal purposes
  • A total of 2, 50,000 species of flowring plants are referred to as medicinal plants. The World Health Organizations (WHO) enlisted some 21,000 medicinal plant species.

Who uses traditional medicine?

  • In some Asian and African countries, 80% of the population depends on traditional medicine for primary health care.
  • In many developed countries, 70% to 80% of the population has used some form of alternative or complementary medicine (e.g. acupuncture).
  • According to WHO About 25% of modern medicines are descended from plants that were first used traditionally. Likewise, almost 70% of modern medicines in India are derived from natural products.

Medicinal Plant for Biodiversity conservation:



Figure: A pictorial view of medicinal plants for biodiversity conservation

Global Overview
Global Market Trend & driving factors:

Currently the total global market of Herbal Products and Medicinal Plants is US$ 60 billion with a double digit growth. The diversified use of plant derived products and its acceptance worldwide made the sector very promising one. According to the World Bank Report 1998, world trade in medicinal plants and related products is expected to be US$ 5 trillion by 2050.





Some of the factors which indicate good potential are as under-

  • Market for Dietary supplements growing in both USA and EU markets.
  • More than 70% of population in developed countries have tried and regularly depend on Natural products for health care solutions
  • Chinese & Indian medicinal products and practice have found good acceptance in majority countries of the world
  • YOGA as a science has been well accepted and is gaining firm footing in health care segments in most developed countries.
  • Wellness and Wellbeing centres/ Spa's are a growing fancy in western countries.
  • There is a definite interest in Ayurvedic courses in curriculum of major US Universities. Diploma courses have been instituted in colleges in the United Kingdom.

Major countries of Herbal Market:

  • The largest global markets for medicinal and aromatic plants are China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the US.

    Region Million US$
    EU 6,000
    Asia 2,300
    Japan 2,100
    Japan 2,100
    2,100North America1,500
    Rest of Europe 500
    Total 12,400

    Table: Sales of herbal medicine in 1994 (Source: Grunwald 1994)


    Pie Chart: World market for herbal medicine in 2002 (Source Laird and Pierce, 2002)

  • It is estimated that Europe alone annually imports about 400,000 tonnes of medicinal plants with an average market value of US$ 1 billion from Africa and Asia.
  • Japan has the highest per capita consumption of botanical medicine in the world. Botanical medicine market in Japan in 1996 was estimated at US $ 2.4 billion and sales have grown rapidly in recent years.
  • China's total output of medicinal plants from both cultivated and wild harvested sources is 1.6 million tones. The total value of the finished TCM in 1996 was US$ 3.7 billion. This estimate excludes domestic consumption, the inclusion of which would result in a far higher figure. Overall sale of botanical medicine products in China in 1995 was estimated at US$ 5 billion.
  • Studies suggest that approximately 20% of people in the United States use herbal supplements, and the amount of money spent on these products exceed $4.2 billion per year.
  • The UK imports up to 90% of its medicinal herb requirement. The current total market is 139 million euro.
  • India is a major exporter of raw medicinal and aromatic plants and processed plant-based drugs. Exports of crude drugs & essential oil from India in 1994-95 were valued at US$ 66,469 million. Important crude drugs included Plantogo ovata (psyllium), Panax spp. (ginseng), Cassia spp. (senna) and Catheranthus rosesus (rosy periwinkle). Essential oils included santalum album (sandlewood), Mentha arvensis (peppermint) and Cymbopogon flexuosus (lemongrass). Seventy percent of total exports from India are sent to six countries. France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. Other major importers are Bangladesh, Pakistan and Spain

World Health Organization (WHO) & Traditional Medicine Sector:

WHO and its Member States cooperate to promote the use of traditional medicine for health care. The collaboration aims to:

  • Support and integrate traditional medicine into national health systems in combination with national policy and regulation for products, practices and providers to ensure safety and quality;
  • Ensure the use of safe, effective and quality products and practices, based on available evidence;
  • Acknowledge traditional medicine as part of primary health care, to increase access to care and preserve knowledge and resources; and
  • Ensure patient safety by upgrading the skills and knowledge of traditional medicine providers.
National Overview
Sector Profile - Bangladesh, Current Status of Medical Plant & Herbal Product Industry in Bangladesh

  • In Bangladesh, a long tradition of indigenous herbal medicinal systems, based on the rich local plant diversity, is considered as very important component of the primary health care system. In Bangladesh, about 500 plant species have been identified as medicinal plant because of their therapeutic properties (Ghani, 2000).
  • In the mean time, a large number of industries (400 herbal factories) have been established in this country for producing Ayurvedic and Unani medicines. It has been estimated that Bangladesh has a market of about 330-core taka worth herbal products annually.



  • Graph: Yearly turnover of traditional medicine sector of Bangladesh

  • A recent study on Medicinal Plants Marketing in Bangladesh sponsored by SEDF and Interco operation (IC) conducted in October 2003, reviewed the current status and estimated the quantity and value of medicinal plants used as raw materials both in organized sector (large companies, small companies), unorganized sector (herbal doctors/practitioner) and spent annually on approximately 17500 tones medicinal plant (mostly dry) materials accounting approximately Tk. 81 Cr.

  • Sector Local (Cr Tk) Imported (Cr Tk) Total (Cr. Tk)
    Unani 12.7 12.7 25.4
    Ayurverdic 8.2 10 18.2
    Herbal Doctors 4.5 5.4 9.9
    Self Treatment 7.6 20 27.6
    Sub total 33 48.1 81.1
    Tonnes 12500 5000 17500


  • Currently, the export of medicinal plant is in a rising state. But considering the huge export market globally, we are still in a rudimentary stage. United Arab Emirates is the top export market for Bangladesh followed by Pakistan and United Kingdom.




  • Figure: Export market trend of Medicinal Plant sector of Bangladesh (Source


  • In terms of volume, about 70% of the medicinal plants used as raw materials (over 12.5 thousand tones) come from local Bangladesh source and the remaining part is imported. In terms of value, however, the medicinal plants materials grown in Bangladesh accounts for 40% only, thus reflecting need of both crop diversification as well as quality assurance of the locally grown medicinal plants. The large 20 herbal medicines processing companies of Bangladesh alone utilizes about 25% of raw material (950 tones imported and 4500 tones of Bangladesh produce) demand, whereas another 400 smaller processing companies accounts for 30% of the demand (1150 tones imported and 4900 tones local produce).
  • In terms of volume, about 70% of the medicinal plants used as raw materials (over 12.5 thousand tones) come from local Bangladesh source and the remaining part is imported. In terms of value, however, the medicinal plants materials grown in Bangladesh accounts for 40% only, thus reflecting need of both crop diversification as well as quality assurance of the locally grown medicinal plants. The large 20 herbal medicines processing companies of Bangladesh alone utilizes about 25% of raw material (950 tones imported and 4500 tones of Bangladesh produce) demand, whereas another 400 smaller processing companies accounts for 30% of the demand (1150 tones imported and 4900 tones local produce).
  • Currently Government is taking following initiatives for the development of this sector-
    • The herbal medicine sector also received a further boost as the government termed herbs and herbal medicine as one of the five priority sectors to diversify the country's export basket.
    • An independent and autonomous council named Medicinal Plant & Herbal Product Business Promotion Council formed under Ministry of Commerce. The council is working as public-private partnership for export diversification and overall business development.
    • A dedicated board under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare formed as Bangladesh Board of Unani and Ayurvedic systems.
    • Government formed a cell for medicinal plant in the 'Ministry of Environment and Forest'. The cell is working in different dimension for developing the medicinal plant sector, like (1) a research center for medicinal plant, (2) promoting nim Plantation, (3) medicinal plant seedling production through tissue culture, and (4) leasing of lands for medicinal plant cultivation.
    • At the same time some initiatives are also taken by the Department of Forestry. Fifty seven different medicinal plant varieties are planted in the adjacent area of Salna national park, Gazipur. In 2001-02 financial year, it was only on 2.02 acre land. Later in the year they extended it to 35 acre land.
    • The government is also selling different medicinal plants at a subsidized rate in 400 different government nurseries all over the country. There are also 450 sub-centers in each upazila under the 400 government nurseries.
  • Initiatives from the private sectors are also mentionable-
    • Currently following six associations are working with Ministry of Commerce for the development of the sector-
      • Bangladesh Homeopathic Medicine Manufacturers Association (BHMMA)
      • Bangladesh Unani Aushadh Shilpa Samity (BUASS)
      • Bangladesh Herbal Food & Cosmetics Association (BHFCA)
      • Bangladesh Herbal Products Manufacturing Association (BHPMA)
      • Bangladesh Ayurvedic Aushadh Shilpa Samity (BAASS)
    • There are some private companies like 'Gemcon Food Products' or 'Nim Foundation' who have farms of medicinal plants. 'Gemcon Food Products' are preparing some herbal medicine in their cottage industry which are available in the market. The farms are at Dinajpur. The 'Nim foundation' also have a medicinal farm at Faridpur district. They planted different medicinal plants basically nim plants. They are preparing different nim beauty products.

From the above discussion, it is clear that the medicinal plant cultivation is still in a rudimentary stage. Business Promotion Council under the supervision of Ministry of Commerce is actively identifying and working with the development issues and factors for the infrastructure development as well as export diversification of Medicinal Plants & Herbal sector.

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