Medicinal Plant Names Services

A global nomenclatural indexing and reference service for medicinal plants aimed at those involved in global health, regulation and research.

Bags of Chinese herbs

Visit the MPNS portal (V10 was released February 2021)

Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) provides a global nomenclatural indexing and reference resource enabling health professionals and researchers to access information about plants and plant products relevant to pharmacological research, health regulation, traditional medicine and functional foods.

Medicinal plants are used globally and are known by different names in different communities, health traditions, generations and languages. The same name may be applied to several different species.

To find all information published about a particular plant it’s necessary to underpin its identity with an unambiguous scientific name in order to find all the possible names that have been used, and any possible confusion caused by ambiguous terms

Organisations and individuals working in the health and research sectors, as well as those in the herbal or pharmaceutical industries, need to access information about plants and to communicate with one another accurately and effectively.

What we offer

  • An online portal which provides access to medicinal plant data and medicinal plant reference citations using any pharmaceutical, drug, common or scientific plant names.
  • Validation We can validate, update and enrich your list(s) of plant names. We'll also correct spellings, detect ambiguities and duplication, provide a consistent modern plant taxonomy. Your dataset can be enriched with all known synonyms for each plant and we can embed persistent digital identifiers to facilitate data maintenance and future updates.
  • Harmonisation This involves, for example, mapping your list of plants onto lists used by other organisations or that are published in legislation. In addition, we can validate both lists, detect gaps and overlaps ensuring a coherent single list and reliable data exchange despite the use of different names in the multiple lists.
  • Data We can supply subsets of MPNS data tailored for use for your own database.
  • Web updates We offer a web-service for regularly refreshing plant names data.
  • Consultancy Contact us for expert advice on the use and interpretation of medicinal plant names, on devising work flows to capture and store scientific plant names appropriately and on how to design database structures to manage scientific plant and herbal drug names appropriately.
  • Training We provide specialist best-practice training for people working with medicinal plants or building medicinal plant databases to promote safe, efficient working practices and advice re: best practice, work flows and systems design. Find out more about our training programme Use of Scientific Plant Names for Herbal Products.

Who we are

Programme Manager 
Bob Allkin

Nick Black

Content editor
Kristina Patmore

Our partners and supporters

We are grateful to the following charitable trusts for providing seed funding:

  • The Wellcome Trust
  • The Wolfson Family Charitable Trust


  • Uppsala Monitoring Centre, World Health Organisation, International Drug Monitoring, Sweden
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Washington, USA
  • Food Databanks National Capability, Quadram Institute, Norwich, UK
  • University of Trans-disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology, Bengaluru, India
  • Institute. of Ayurvedic and Alternative Medicine, Beruwela, Sri Lanka

Access the MPNS Resource

The MPNS portal enables users to disambiguate terms for herbal substances by finding the currently accepted scientific name for a plant, all of its synonyms, which medicinal references cite this plant, and the diverse and conflicting names those sources employ, as well as the parts of the plant they suggest are used medicinally and in what form. 

The nomenclature and taxonomy are refreshed regularly to reflect continual improvement in Kew’s global plant names reference resources.

MPNS Version 10 was published on the 25 February 2021 and contains data relating to:  

  • 33,443 plants (an increase of 22% on V9)
  • 191 pharmaceutical or medicinal plant publication and data sources 
  • 313,000 unique scientific names
  • 203,000 unique pharmaceutical, drug or common plant names in multiple languages and scripts

Access the MPNS Resource


Get involved

Medicinal Plant Names Services is interested to hear from organisations and individuals wanting to join the User Group or to work with us as partners.

For further information about any aspect of Medicinal Plant Names Services, please contact us at:

Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS),
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew,
Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AE, UK 

Contact us:
Receive updates about our work: Sign up to the MPNS newsletter
Find us on Facebook: MPNS Facebook page
Follow us on Twitter: Tweets by @MPNS_Kew

Data protection 
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, will use your personal data for the purposes of managing and processing your application, including for record keeping and enquiry purposes. Please take time to read our Privacy Policy which explains in more detail what data we collect and why, how we use it and other information relevant to the privacy of your data.

Updates from MPNS

  • Close up of Yarrow white flowers

    Drug Safety Matters

    Listen to the podcast episode 'Navigating the plant names jungle' from WHO’s Uppsala Monitoring Centre’s podcast series on pharmacovigilance and patient safety.

  • Bluebell at Kew

    "What's in a name?"

    How Kew helps drug regulators disambiguate the messy welter of medicinal plant names to shore up regulation and save lives.

  • Pink flowers

    Kew’s Plant Names Services adopted by global health

    Find out how Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) is involved in helping the world’s health regulators to ensure that herbal products are traded safely by supporting development of an important new medicinal standard.

  • Herbal medicines on sale in South Korea

    Names matter: trade of threatened medicinal plants

    Why do plant names pose practical problems for the regulation of international trade in medicinal plants? And what are the Medicinal Plant Names Service (MPNS) are doing to help?