Kew activities involving medicinal plants
Kew is involved in a number of initiatives involving medicinal plants such as the authentication of Chinese medicinal plants and economically important species, the documentation of uses of plants from arid and semi-arid lands, the collection of raw materials and artefacts from useful plants, and the provision of consultancy and scientific services.
CMPAC offers an independent, not-for-profit scientific authentication service for the wide and increasing range of Chinese herbs currently available on the international market.CMPAC identifies and, where possible, evaluates the quality of Chinese medicinal herbs. This is carried out using CMPAC's purpose-built materia medica collections, currently totalling over 4,000 accessions. These samples represent authentic drugs with corresponding herbarium specimens, collected by CMPAC staff from living plants in China, together with trade samples, including substitutes, adulterants and counterfeits.
These unique reference materials are coupled with Kew's state-of-the-art laboratory facilities to deliver a high quality service, based on replicable techniques.
Habitat loss, through changes in land use and climate change, is placing pressures on plant diversity and the sustainable supply of plants for use by local communities as well as for those entering the trade. These challenges to plant diversity are occurring at a time when there is an increased interest in plant-based products for use in cosmetics, herbal medicines, functional foods, potpourri, dyes and pet products, as well as bio-fuels.
Kew’s Authentication and Chemical Fingerprinting initiative uses a range of analytical methods based on chemical and DNA fingerprinting to identify the species of plants being traded, assess their quality and keep track of new uses. Authentication of material entering the trade involves not only its identification but also investigating whether the plant-derived products contain the appropriate range of compounds associated with their proposed use. Kew is also working with others to evaluate whether the plants are being supplied from sustainable sources.
Kew is one of the world's leading powerhouses in plant-based science, knowledge and expertise. Kew’s Innovation Unit facilitates access to Kew’s world class plant-based consultancy, horticultural and scientific services. It provides advice, development and solutions to plant-based problems, design, conservation and management. Kew seeks to work with partners to assist them to make a real difference in global biodiversity conservation and management.
SEPASAL is the world’s most comprehensive online source of information on useful ‘wild’ and semi-domesticated tropical and subtropical dryland plants, with a focus on Africa.
SEPASAL documents and disseminates published scientific information on the uses and related properties of these plants, bringing together information which is otherwise scattered in the literature, and making it available to scientists, aid and development agencies, and extension workers active in improving livelihoods in dryland countries which/who would otherwise not have ready access to such information.
The Economic Botany Collection is one of the largest collections of specimens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It contains about 85,000 plant raw materials and artefacts representing all aspects of craft and daily life worldwide, including medicines, textiles, basketry, dyes, gums and resins, foods, and woods.
The Collection was founded in 1847 as the Museum of Economic Botany and continues to grow by about 800 accessions each year.
Details of all specimens can now be searched via the Economic Botany Collection online database.
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