UK survey finds 28,000 plant species for medical use

May 18, 2017 by Maureen Cofflard
Despite their potential, just 16 percent of the plants Kew, seen in 2016 during a plant DNA extraction process, recorded as being for medical use are cited in regulatory publications

More than 28,000 species of plants around the world have a medical use but poor documentation means people are not making the most of the health benefits, according to a survey released on Thursday.

Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London recorded 28,187 species in its latest annual survey and said it was probably a "very conservative figure".

New discovered over the past year include nine species of a climbing vine used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, the survey found.

"The report is highlighting the huge potential that there is for plants, in areas like diabetes and malaria," said Monique Simmonds, deputy director of science at the world-famous botanical group.

The report said two plants, artemisinin and quinine, are "among the most important weapons" against malaria, which killed over 400,000 people in 2015.

Despite their potential, just 16 percent of the plants Kew recorded as being for medical use are cited in regulatory publications.

Kew's expansive gardens in west London and vast botanic collections, containing over 8.5 million items, are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The institution's second annual "State of the World's Plants" report involved 128 scientists from 12 countries, who since the first survey have discovered 1,730 new plant species.

They include five new species of Manihot found in Brazil, seven new Aspalathus plants used for making South African rooibos tea, and a new parsnip uncovered in Turkey.

Risks from globalisation

The report also traced the destruction of plants by analysing satellite imagery.

In doing so Kew found that over the past 16 years "an average of around 340 million hectares of the Earth burns every year", which Kew researcher Sarah Wyse likened to the size of India going up in flames annually.

While the figure appears alarming, Wyse said some plants require fire to regenerate.

"These fires are not inherently bad for many ecosystems because most plants adapt to fire," she told AFP.

Researchers also look at the health of plants, warning the world could face a $540 billion (492 billion euros) annual bill if the spread of invasive pests and pathogens is not stopped.

Kew blamed increased travel and trade in plants for spreading pests and called for stricter biosecurity measures as they are sent around the world.

As well as being costly, the impact can also be deadly, with Kew citing starvation in Africa caused by maize crops decimated by the armyworm.

The director of science at Kew, Kathy Willis, said the broad of the current state of affairs should contribute to appreciating and helping plants.

"I hope this will enable us to have a global conversation about what we need to protect and conserve," she said.

Explore further: Botanists warn on threats to world's plant kingdom

Related Stories

Botanists warn on threats to world's plant kingdom

May 10, 2016

Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens warned Tuesday about the threats facing the world's plant kingdom in the first global report of its kind aimed at drawing attention to often-overlooked species.

Two new species of orchids discovered in Okinawa

April 10, 2017

Two new species of parasitic plants have been discovered on the main island of Okinawa, Japan. The discovery was made by Project Associate Professor SUETSUGU Kenji (Kobe University Graduate School of Science), who named them ...

How do people choose what plants to use?

January 23, 2017

There are about 400,000 species of plants in the world. Humans use approximately 10-15% of them to cover our basic needs, such as food, medicine and shelter, as well as other needs, such as recreation, art, and craft. But ...

Recommended for you

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 20, 2017
I am very slow getting around. I am now 52 years old. I am forgetful at times and have difficulty expressing myself. I have difficulty swallowing at times. I become tired easily, I also become quite dizzy when performing any athletic function (jogging). I was on Levodopa/Carbidopa, 100/25. nothing was really working to help my condition. Finally i started on parkinson's natural herbal formula i ordered from Health HERBAL CLINIC, i read alot of great reviews from other patients who used the parkinson's herbal treatment. My symptoms totally declined over a 4-5 weeks use of the Health herbal clinic Parkinsons disease natural herbal formula. , its effects on parkinson's is amazing, all My symptoms gradually faded away, I have been active and hope to continue! (Visit www. healthherbalclinic. net or email at Info@ healthherbalclinic. net) I recommend this Parkinson's herbal formula for all Parkinson's Patients.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.