Assessing species admixtures in herbal trade
The global economy of the international trade of herbal products has been increasing by 15 percent annually. Southern and south-east Asian countries supply raw materials for most of the herbal products. In India, of the 8,000 species of medicinal plants harvested in the wild, around 960 species are in the active trade. However, with increasing international trade in herbal medicines, there is also a growing concern about widespread adulteration and species admixtures in raw herbal trade. The adverse consequences of such species admixtures on the health and safety of consumers are only recently beginning to be recognised and documented. In the last three years, with funding from the Department of Biotechnology, New Delhi, this project has established DNA barcodes for several medicinal plant species and assessed the extent of adulteration in the medicinal plant trade in Southern India. It revealed that over 80% of herbal products are adulterated. The project also assessed the nature and magnitude of species admixtures in raw herbal trade and the underlying drivers that might lead to such admixtures.