Approximately 15,000 species of plants used in traditional medicine are at risk of dying out because of pollution, habitat depletion and over-harvesting. Millions of people may lose their medicine for a host of dangerous and even deadly diseases.
Plants like these are the primary source of health care for the majority of the world, being used to treat everything from fevers to symptoms of AIDS. Their depletion is leading to a loss in traditional knowledge as well as the essential plants themselves. Some doctors believe that traditional medicine may the key to helping us find breakthroughs in fighting diseases such as cancer.
The recent study of traditional medicine by Plantlife suggests that this angle may be the best way to preserve these important plants. People will likely support conservation efforts when economic viability of the plants, their potential to add knowledge to western medicine, and their necessity to people in Africa, Asia and South America is demonstrated.
Alex Hamilton, the author of the report, says that “focusing on medicinal plants has the potential to be a major motivating force behind nature conservation. Improving health, earning an income and maintaining cultural traditions are important to us all – wherever we live – and all three are involved in motivating people to conserve medicinal plants, and thus the habitats where they grow.”