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The MPNS resource

Current version of the Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) resource is V6.0, published October 2016.


MPNS has built upon Kew’s existing plant name resources to create an authoritative database of medicinal plants and their names. Up to date taxonomy is linked to pharmaceutical, drug, common and scientific names as they are used in the relevant literature and legislation. The MPNS resource currently covers approximately 17,500 species, corresponding to nearly 22,000 unique scientific names used in the medicinal plant literature. It links these to 68,000 non-scientific names and to over 228,000 scientific names (including synonyms) from Kew’s taxonomic resources drawn from the botanical and wider literature. The inclusion of non-scientific names (trade, pharmaceutical and common names in many languages) makes Kew’s taxonomic information more accessible and relevant to a wider audience.

This resource enables us to offer a range of services enabling effective communication about medicinal plants in health, regulation and research. The data in this resource is publicly available to search via our portal (see 'Related links' below).

We also offer services tailored to the specific needs of different organisations and users including:

  • consultancies
  • training
  • data services (typically provided under licence).

Please visit our services page for a list of services we provide, or contact us to discover how this could benefit your organisation.

We are continually updating the data contained in the resource, improving coverage from relevant literature and ensuring the currency of the taxonomic judgements and accuracy of the information provided. 

How the MPNS resource is built and organised


The MPNS resource is built by collecting plant names from medicinal plant literature, this includes:

  • pharmacopoeias
  • monographs
  • ethnobotanical surveys
  • regional works

Our selection of references has been guided by three main aims:

  1. To cover references of regulatory importance, for example pharmacopoeias and the EMA community herbal monographs
  2. To cover references that reflect the most commonly traded medicinal plants
  3. To be global in scope

A list of all references indexed in the resource can be viewed on our references page. We are still adding data to the resource, so please contact us if you know of additional references which you feel should be included.

Taxonomic source and scientific names

MPNS links the non-scientific names from these references to Kew’s existing taxonomic databases via the associated scientific name. We have retained the scientific name used in a medicinal plant reference precisely as it was published there (including misspellings) to enable searches to be made using names that people are familiar with, and to allow comparison with the same name as published in botanical literature. This matching is usually completed automatically, but occasionally a judgement must be made as to which name from our taxonomic resources is the one intended by the reference in question. Matching takes place against the following taxonomic resources:

  1. The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCS): peer reviewed published global accounts of 173 plant families
  2. The unpublished data from the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCS - unpublished): representing work in progress on the remaining plant families
  3. The Plant List (TPL)

Detail on the relative merits of these resources can be found on our FAQs page.

Non-scientific names

Non-scientific names are divided into pharmaceutical names and ‘other’ names. Pharmaceutical names are those used by pharmacopoeias for an individual drug (which may include more than one plant species) and are Latinized which means that they are often confused with scientific plant names. Ordinarily only names clearly identified as being pharmaceutical names in the original publication will be marked as pharmaceutical in the MPNS resource, for example: you may find some pharmaceutical names marked as ‘other’.

Plant parts & Trade forms

For most references we have collated information on which part of a plant is used. Information on how that plant part is prepared and traded, or whether a particular fraction is used (for example: oil) is included in MPNS under the heading: Trade form.

Content of current version

MPNS V 6.0 is based on our coverage of 117 medicinal plant references. This includes 6 new references in version 6.0 which are of particular significance in trade and regulation. These are:

  • China Pharmacopoeia Commission (ed.) (2015). Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China 2015, Chinese edition. China Medical Science and Technology Press, Beijing.
  • Comisión Permanente de la Farmacopea de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (ed.) (2013). Farmacopea Herbolaria de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Ed. 2.. Secretaria de Salud, Mexico.
  • ISO (2009). ISO 4720:2009: Essential oils -- Nomenclature (in English and French). [Third edition 2009-08-15]. International Organization for Standardization, Geneva.
  • Malaysian Herbal Monograph Committee (1999 - 2013). Malaysian Herbal Monograph. Volumes 1 - 3. Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
  • WHO (1990). Medicinal plants in Viet Nam (WHO Regional Publications, Western Pacific Series No. 3). World Health Organization, Manila.
  • WHO (1997). Medicinal Plants in China: A Selection of 150 Commonly Used Species (WHO Regional Publications, Western Pacific Series No. 2). World Health Organization, Manila.

In addition, a further 10 new references have been added in version 6.0 to improve our ethnobotanical and regional coverage within the following countries: Australia, China, Jordan, Nepal, Nigeria and Serbia.

V 6.0 includes 18,481 taxa: approximately 4500 more taxa than were included in the previous version. These new taxa are mostly species although some are subspecies or varieties.

Taxonomic coverage

V 6.0 includes 18,481 taxa that belong to 360 families.

The taxonomic judgements for these taxa are of variable reliability depending on the level of taxonomic scrutiny that has been applied to each.

  • 39% are of 3 star confidence/reliability
  • 58% are of 2 star confidence/reliability
  • 3% are of 1 star confidence/reliability or are “unplaced”

Names from medicinal plant references

MPNS V 6.0 contains:

51,047 scientific name records from medicinal plant literature of which 22,309 are unique.  

101,135 non-scientific name records for 68,772 unique non-scientific names including:

  • 2325 unique pharmaceutical names
  • 66,463 unique other names (common and drug names)                        

Names from taxonomic sources

MPNS V 6.0 contains:

 228,111 scientific names, of which 22,309 are derived from scientific names as published in medicinal plant references and 205,802 derive solely from Kew’s databases (scientific synonyms).

Version history

Version 6 - from 5 October 2016

Version 5 - from 6 July 2016

Version 4 - from 21 March 2016

Version 3 - from 14 October 2015  

Version 2 - from 1 May 2015 

Beta version - before 1 May 2015


Taxonomic sources: Based on Kew’s taxonomic resources. 
Medicinal sources: Data collected from medicinal plant references.
Records: One record refers to one name from one reference.
Unique names: The de-duplicated total number of names.