From TRAFFIC: COVID-19 -- the role of wild plants in health treatment and why sustainability of thei
On World Health Day, 7th April 2020, the current COVID-19 epidemic is rightly at the forefront of discussions and science. Globally, the spotlight is on wild animal markets - a likely source of the epidemic. However, today’s news from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, highlights that the world’s biggest flows of wildlife trade actually involve plants, not animals. This includes orchids traded globally for a wide range of uses. TRAFFIC explains the importance of plant conservation during this global health emergency.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, it is anticipated that the use of wild plants as herbal ingredients for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and other herbal-based products globally will increase dramatically. Approximately 60,000 plant species are used globally for medicinal purposes--including hundreds of orchid species. However information about the global threats to species survival is available for only 7% of medicinal and aromatic plants, and approximately 20% of these species are threatened with extinction in the wild based on the IUCN Red List criteria.
A combination of TCM and Western treatments is being used in China to treat COVID-19 patients, and the efficacy of the application of herbal treatments to COVID-19 is a subject of research. As of 3rd March 2020, the current (at time of writing) treatment plan has been in place which includes ten TCM prescribed formulations and 13 proprietary Chinese medicine formulations. More than 125 species of plants are ingredients in these formulations, including protected species.
Herbal-based medicines have been used to treat viruses before, for example the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) disease. Integrated Chinese and Western medicines played an important role in the treatment of SARS in China.
Commercial demand can put pressure on wild plant populations, placing them in danger of overexploitation. However, it is often the case that, if properly managed, plant species can be harvested without lasting negative impacts on the population.
While the origin (wild vs cultivated or harvested in China, vs imported) of most species included in the list of recommended TCM treatments is not yet known, many species are likely to be sourced from the wild, and their use to provide remedies for the COVID-19 outbreak presents a key opportunity to emphasise the importance of ensuring long-term sustainability of the TCM sector.
Read the full article here.