Artemisia annua L. is a medicinal plant being used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years for treating many disorders including malaria. The isolation of artemisinin from Artemisia annua L. and the characterization of its antimalarial effect in the 1970s was initiated by Chinese scientists, which is regarded as one of the most important advances in malaria control in modern times.
In response to increasing levels of antimalarial resistance, since 2001 WHO has recommended artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) for falciparum malaria.
At present, artemisinin compounds are derived from a raw substance extracted from the plant Artemisia annua L. Cultivation of this plant requires a minimum of 6 months, and extraction, processing and manufacturing of the final product require at least 2–5 months depending on the product formulation. Agricultural production is not a problem or limiting factor. However, if the rapid increase in demand for the pharmaceutical products is not predicted in time to allow for increased agricultural production, there could be temporary shortages in supply. Reliable forecasting of global ACT requirements is thus essential.
With this in mind, WHO developed this model monograph on good agricultural practices for Artemisia annua L. to facilitate cultivation of this particular medicinal plant with reliable quality and to ensure a sustainable supply to meet market demands.
Thee objectives of this model monograph are to:
- provide practical and specific technical guidance on the cultivation and collection of Artemisia annua L. of good quality and a high yield;
- contribute to alleviating the shortage of artemisinin-based medicines;
- provide a model monograph as a basis for countries and researchers to develop further monographs on good agricultural and collection practices (GACP) for other medicinal plants;
- protect the wild resources of medicinal plants, in particular Artemisia annua L., to ensure their sustainable use.
The monograph provides a detailed description of the techniques and measures required for the cultivation and collection of Artemisia annua L. The cultivation of high-yield, good quality medicinal plants depends on a number of factors such as the geographical environment, altitude, temperature, rainfall and soil characteristics.