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Botanic Gardens Linking Plants with Improvements to Healthcare

The importance of plants for healthcare has often been underestimated. However, the use of medicinal plants is not old-fashioned, or soley an alternative to traditional healthcare: it is estimated that 80% of the world's population depends directly on plant-based medicines for their healthcare (WHO, 2003).

The Role of Botanic Gardens

Many botanic gardens play an active role in medicinal plant study and research, cultivation and conservation. Relevant activities include:

  • Working with communities to document and use indigenous and local knowledge
  • Education on the value and uses of sustainably harvested medicinal plants
  • Collecting and developing gene pools of wild stock plants, to ensure successful conservation.
  • Research to discover and investigate medicinal and toxicity plant properties.
  • Using collections to support local initiatives in primary health care, particularly in developing countries
  • Using collections to support screening programmes for pharmaceutical companies, in accordance with guidelines on Access and Benefit Sharing, and to assay the value and safety of particular medicines
  • Improving the agronomy of cultivated medicinal plants
  • Cultivating medicinal plants, to tackle unsustainable wild harvesting and improve ease of harvest.
  • Horticultural therapy, using plants and gardening to treat physical and mental disorders.

Examples of Botanic Gardens' Work

Please see the well-being case studies. Our section on conservation also holds relevant studies:

Project development

BGCI is currently planning projects to develop the role of botanic gardens in safeguarding medicinal plants and their use in healthcare, often in collaboration with partners relevant to healthcare and sustainable plant use.

A current project is assessing the role of botanic gardens in conserving and managing medicinal plants. We welcome any assistance with data collection: please contact us.

Plants for Life: Medicinal Plants Under Threat

BGCI has published the findings of a year-long investigation into the state of medicinal plants around the world.


Working With Clinics for Local Healthcare Needs in South Africa

Garden Route Botanical Garden is working with local healthcare clinics with limited supplies on conventional medications, to encourage the safe use of medicinal plants for common ailments.


CITES and Medicinal Plants Study: A Summary of Findings

BGCI is working to link plant conservation with improvements in human well-being through a new project for threatened medicinal species to help ensure on-going access to vital plant resources. Medicinal plant displays are popular features in gardens, who also contribute research and other services.



Find Out More

Indian Medicinal Plants Database
This online Encyclopedia of Indian Medicinal Plants lists the information available with Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions on each medicinal plant species such as number of vernacular names, distribution data, trade, propagation, agro-technique, seed storage, and much more.

Thrive - Using Gardening to Change Lives
Gardening can help anyone with a disability. Through its research, education and promotional activities Thrive aims to show how, why and where people with a disability can benefit.

Medicinal Plants Conservation Project - Egypt
Supported by UNDP and GEF, the MPCP aims “To eliminate the root causes of biodiversity loss and the threats to the conservation and sustainable use of wild Medicinal Plants in Egypt.” Their objectives include the creation of a National Strategy on the Conservation of Medicinal Plants.

Zulu Medicinal Plants
This inventory of nearly 1000 plants used in Zulu traditional medicine is based on a survey dating from the late-19th century to the present.