RECENT ADVANCES IN THE CULTIVATION OF MEDICINAL PLANTS
Nowadays, one quarter of all prescribed drugs in the USA are of higher plants origin, exactly as it was 20 years ago. Forty species yielded the majority of plant-derived drugs which were prescribed in the USA in 1980 (Farnsworth & Soejarto, 1985). Many other species are used as galenic products in the health food markets, herbal teas, cosmetics and other similar products. It seems likely that higher plants will continue to play a considerable role in the pharmaceutical industry as well as in the health food business.
Medicinal plants can be divided into three categories according to their uses as purified active constituents, as precursors for synthesis of drugs (semi-synthesis), and as galenic preparations. While intensive chemical studies have been conducted, information about the agronomical aspects of medicinal plants is sparse. A search of the literature showed that only 3.7% to 6.1% of all the abstracts which appeared on the section of medicinal plants of Horticultural Abstracts during the period 1981–1985, were related to cultivation aspects.
The objective of this presentation is to consider the importance of improved modern cultural practices and cultivars and the future development of medicinal plants. Maximum yields of biomass and phytochemicals can be obtained by adopting three main approaches improved cultivars, optimal environmental conditions and capital-intensive-high-input cultivation methods.