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  • Medicinal plants and extracts
    Medicinal plants and extracts are increasingly important export products for many developing countries. As populations age and consumers’ preference for natural health products increases, medicinal plants present a niche that exporters in many least developed countries (LDCs) are looking to develop for sustainable production and export trade. ITC’s quarterly Market News Service report on medicinal plants and extracts addresses the lack of readily available market information on the international trade of Medicinal Plants produced and exported by developing countries and LDCs.


    Medicinal & Aromatic Plants (MAPs) are botanical raw materials, also known as herbal drugs, that are primarily used for therapeutic, aromatic and/or culinary purposes as components of cosmetics, medicinal products, health foods and other natural health products. They are also the starting materials for value-added processed natural ingredients such as essential oils, dry and liquid extracts and oleoresins. There is a clear industrial demand for MAPs thanks to the increased production of herbal health care formulations; herbal based cosmetic products and herbal nutritional supplements. In addition, traditional health care practitioners, traditional healers and consumption at the household level have all contributed to the demand for herbal medicinal products. Finished products made from medicinal and aromatic plants are increasingly prescribed and bought over the counter. The global market for botanical and plant-derived drugs is therefore expected to increase from $19.5 billion in 2008 to $32.9 billion in 2013, an annual growth rate of 11.0%, according to a 2009 study by BCC Research.

    ITC publishes a market report every quarter to promote and improve international market transparency and fill in the information gap in medicinal plants and botanicals extracts. The regional reviews cover the main producing regions: Africa, China (and other East Asian countries), India (and other Asian countries), North America and South America. Information on Oceanic countries is occasionally included as well. Each regional section includes:

    • demand and supply trends,
    • industry news from the major producers in each region,
    • indicative prices of raw materials and herbal extracts, trade specifications commonly used in each region,
    • relevant meetings and trade shows,
    • a directory of global herb trade associations and special features (company profiles, regulations),
    • links to Sustainability Standards and Guidance Documents Relevant to the Global Trade of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants and Extracts

    Of the over 3,000 botanical raw material species in global commerce, the report covers the most important exported natural products (in terms of value and volume). Past editions of the report dating back to 2001 are available. Download here a sample report in pdf free of charge.

    Measuring the size of the sector is a key challenge in itself. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no comprehensive and exhaustive listing of harmonized tariff codes for MAPs and their extracts. Many countries are struggling with the lack of specificity of their tariff schedules and are looking to add more specific 8-and 10- digit codes for their most important botanical imports and exports.

    Even where national schedules of tariff codes are referenced by an enterprise, these lack the specificity to differentiate down to the botanical species level (using Latin binomials) and furthermore to the various processed forms of a species. In addition, natural botanical ingredients are not cohesively grouped within the current Harmonized System Tariff Codes. Medicinal and aromatic plants and other botanical ingredients occur throughout chapters 06, 07, 08, 09, 12, 13, 15, 18, 21, 33 and 40. A botanical ingredient may be classified by some exporters within chapter 07 (as a dried root or tuber), by others in chapter 09 (as a spice), and by others in chapter 12 (as a medicinal substance).

    Associations that can provide further information relating to Medicinal plants and extracts:

    Data and Research

    An increasing number of market surveys and studies aiming to provide analysis of the total trade value and volume of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) and extracts (natural botanical ingredients made from MAPs) are being carried out or commissioned by a wide range of stakeholders globally. These include studies for natural product companies, herbal trade associations, nature conservation organisations, governmental agencies (departments of commerce; export and import promotion organisations; ministries of health; technical cooperation, international development and aid agencies), international governmental organisations (IGOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), among other market analysts.

    Market surveys for the European market are produced by the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries and are available here 

    According to WHO estimates, 80% of the population depend on traditional medicine for primary health care in some Asian and African countries.

    ITC’s market analysis tools provide detailed  statistics on the trade and tariff levels for selected Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) covered by the report.

    Advisory Services

    Through ITC’s network of experts, qualified international and national consultants can be identified and contracted for development project assignments in the MAP production and trade sectors.


    Currently ITC offers no formalized standard advisory service specifically for the medicinal plants (and extracts) sector.


    ITC maintains contact with international medicinal plants (and extracts) experts – some of them having been associated with ITC for more than ten years and whom are still available to provide services.
     For details about how to get in touch with our networks, please contact us 


    Business Information on Traditional and Complementary Medicine for GLOBINMED (Malaysia Ministry of Health): The Ministry of Health Malaysia requested ITC, to provide information support and advisory services on the development of a web portal with specific content on traditional and complementary medicine.

    In this context, ITC and the Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysian Herbal Corporation (MHC) have entered into a partnership to strengthen the business information system, GlobinMed™ of the Ministry of Health Malaysia, a global information hub in the areas of traditional and complementary medicine.

    To initiate a project in the sector, please contact us 

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