Bringing medicinal plants into cultivation: opportunities and challenges for biotechnology

E. Ernst, Howard Thomas, Peter H. Canter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

362 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Consumption of herbal medicines is widespread and increasing. Harvesting from the wild, the main source of raw material, is causing loss of genetic diversity and habitat destruction. Domestic cultivation is a viable alternative and offers the opportunity to overcome the problems that are inherent in herbal extracts: misidentification, genetic and phenotypic variability, extract variability and instability, toxic components and contaminants. The use of controlled environments can overcome cultivation difficulties and could be a means to manipulate phenotypic variation in bioactive compounds and toxins. Conventional plant-breeding methods can improve both agronomic and medicinal traits, and molecular marker assisted selection will be used increasingly. There has been significant progress in the use of tissue culture and genetic transformation to alter pathways for the biosynthesis of target metabolites. Obstacles to bringing medicinal plants into successful commercial cultivation include the difficulty of predicting which extracts will remain marketable and the likely market preference for what is seen as naturally sourced extracts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-185
Number of pages6
JournalTrends in Biotechnology
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005

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