The use of plants as medicines has been taken for granted on the assumption that the plants will be available on a continuing basis. However, many medicinal plants face extinction or severe genetic loss. The forty-first World Health Assembly (1988) adopted a resolution which endorsed the call for international cooperation and coordination to establish a basis for the conservation of medicinal plants to ensure that adequate quantities are available for future generations. Each individual country is encouraged to develop programmes to preserve the continuing existence of local medicinal plants and, if applicable, to introduce additional plants through appropriate processes.
Guidelines on the conservation of medicinal plants prepared by WHO, IUCN (The World Conservation Union) and WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) should be followed by Member States when a national programme on herbal medicine is prepared.
Medicinal plants are valuable natural and genetic resources and an inventory and survey of medicinal plants should be conducted in each country regularly. A list of endangered species of medicinal plant in each country should be prepared and actions for their protection and conservation should be taken, preferably by the Government, including the establishment of seed banks.
The cultivation of plants needed for medicinal purposes should be encouraged to ensure adequate local supply. Incentive schemes could be devised to support this.