Discover the World of Medicinal Plants



9 Questions

What is the estimated annual global export value of medicinal plants?

What percentage of drugs prescribed to patients are derived from medicinal plants?

What are the three main benefits provided by medicinal plants?

What are some common methods for the preparation of herbal medicines?

What is the potential usefulness of herbal medicines according to clinical trials?

What are the risks associated with plant medicines?

What is the Royal Botanic Gardens' report on medicinal plants?

What is the World Health Organization doing to improve the quality and regulation of medical products made from medicinal plants?

What are some threats to medicinal plants harvested from the wild?


Medicinal plants have been used since prehistoric times in traditional medicine practices for various functions such as defense and protection against insects, fungi, diseases, and herbivorous mammals. The earliest records of herbs are found in the Sumerian civilization and the Ebers Papyrus from ancient Egypt. Medicinal plants are widely used in non-industrialized societies and are cheaper than modern medicines. The annual global export value of medicinal plants was estimated to be US$60 billion per year and is growing at 6% per annum. Medicinal plants are used with the intention of maintaining health or for a specific condition. Around a quarter of the drugs prescribed to patients are derived from medicinal plants. The use of plant-based materials is increasing in developed countries, and this brings attendant risks of toxicity and other effects on human health. Medicinal plants may provide three main kinds of benefit: health benefits to the people who consume them as medicines, financial benefits to people who harvest, process, and distribute them for sale, and society-wide benefits. Different species of medicinal plants require their own distinct conditions of cultivation, and the World Health Organization recommends the use of rotation to minimize problems with pests and plant diseases. Common methods for the preparation of herbal medicines include decoction, powdering, and extraction with alcohol, in each case yielding a mixture of substances. Traditional poultices were made by boiling medicinal plants, wrapping them in a cloth, and applying the resulting parcel externally to the affected part of the body. Commercial quantities of the drug may be synthesized or extracted from plant material, yielding a pure chemical when modern medicine has identified a drug in a medicinal plant.Overview of Plant Medicines

  • Plant medicines are widely used around the world, especially in rural areas where traditional medicine is the only source of healthcare.
  • Products made from medicinal plants are often marketed aggressively in developed countries, but their safety and efficacy have not been tested systematically.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine uses a wide variety of plants, and researchers have identified numerous plant species used for traditional medicines in Central America and the Brazilian Amazon.
  • Drugs derived from plants, including opiates, cocaine, and cannabis, have both medical and recreational uses.
  • Clinical trials have demonstrated potentially useful activity in nearly 16% of herbal medicines, but there is limited evidence for roughly half of them, and some have never been studied scientifically.
  • The World Health Organization is coordinating efforts to improve the quality and regulation of medical products made from medicinal plants.
  • The pharmaceutical industry has roots in the use of traditional medicines, and many important drugs have been derived from medicinal plants.
  • Plant medicines can cause adverse effects and even death, and their safety is not guaranteed just because they come from nature.
  • Pharmacologically active plant extracts can interact with conventional drugs and be dangerous during pregnancy.
  • Herbal medicine and dietary supplement products may not have sufficient standards or scientific evidence to confirm their contents and safety.
  • Medicinal plants harvested from the wild are subject to both general and specific threats, including climate change, habitat loss, and over-collection.
  • A report by the Royal Botanic Gardens in 2020 identified 723 medicinal plants at risk of extinction, partly due to over-collection.


Do you know the benefits and risks associated with using medicinal plants? Test your knowledge with our quiz on plant medicines. From their historical use to their modern-day applications, this quiz will challenge your understanding of medicinal plants and their impact on human health. With questions ranging from the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine to the potential dangers of pharmacologically active plant extracts, this quiz will provide insight into the world of plant-based medicines. Sharpen your knowledge and take the quiz today!

Ready to take the quiz?

Start Quiz