Considering the increasing rate of extraction and collection of herbal plant species, Ministry of Health has come up with various initiatives to ensure the sustainable use of herbal plants.
The various initiatives include minimizing wastages, management of medical plants, introducing alternative collection sites, cultivation and domestication of medical plants.
Health Minister, Tandin Wangchuk, in the National Council said the ministry is working towards minimization of wastage and sustain the production of quality traditional medicine.
He said the lack of proper drying technology during collection time, coinciding with peak monsoon, contributes to wastage of herbs and deterioration of quality.
Langthel, Trongsa and Lingzhi, Thimphu serve as collection and drying centers for both high and low altitude medicinal plants. The Ministry also set up 10KW of mini-hydro powerhouse at Lingzhi for drying the herbs collected by farmers.
The medicinal plants collected by the local community are sold at the drying centers or at the factory.
For the management of medicinal plants, Lyonpo said that community based medicinal plants sustainable management associations have been established under two gewogs in Lingzhi Dungkhag. He said only those individuals with the civil registration as local community residents are authorized to collect and sell to the management.
Collection of the medicinal plants was one of the first economical activities initiated and sustained for the highland inhabitants before the collection and sale of cordyceps was legalized. It was noted that the collection of herbs last year was better for the cordyceps season was not good.
While Lingzhi has been a collection centre for high altitude medicinal plants since 1967, for sustainable harvest and conservation, other highland areas such as Dagala, Gasa and Bumthang are being explored.
An alternative collection site has been introduced at Pemaling in Tashiyangtse. Lyonpo informed the House that in terms of medicinal plants collected from low altitude areas, there is no issue of its sustainability, as it is widely available.
To ensure long-term sustainability of medicinal plants, farmers are being encouraged to cultivate medicinal herbs as a cash crop, in the same manner like fruits and vegetables, Lyonpo said.
Medicinal herbs, like Manu and Ratu have been tried out successfully in Haa and Bunthang, while Triyangku is cultivated well in Lingzhi, Doem, Go-noed, Honglen, and Parpata are some of the most successfully cultivated species at the medicinal and aromatic plant program under Renewable Natural Resources centre at Yuseypang.
Among many others non-cultivable medicinal plants, which cannot be domesticated, are kar-po-chig-thub, bya-god-pos, tsa atrong and ya-kyi-ma, which are constraint by difficult terrain and their habitats.
The medicinal plants collected from the north are known as Ngo-maen and the one collected from the southern parts are called Khiog-maen, during the last five years total of 14.6 metric ton (MT) of medicinal plants have been collected which is worth of Nu 92.47 million.
For production of essential traditional medicines and commercial products, total of 124 varieties of high altitudes medicinal plants have been collected.
More than 70 percent of high altitude medicinal plants are collected from Lingzhi Dhungkhag and the rest of it from Bumthang, Haa and Paro.
The major collections of low altitude medicinal plants are collected from Langthel Gewog in Trongsa, remaining from parts of Zhemgang, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar.
As of now, including the National Traditional Medicine Hospital which is located at Kawajangsa, there are 60 such traditional medicine units in the country with 52 Drungtsho which includes 3 on contract and 97 Menpa.
Currently, Mejong Sorig Pharmaceutical produces 95 essential traditional medicines and 14 commercial products, like cordy plus, cordy active, yung-wa-chig thang(turmeric capsule), three types of incenses and Tsheringma tea.
The requirements of essential traditional medicines have been increasing over the year, but due to the small factory size, availability of raw materials and human resource constrains, Menjong Sorig Pharmaceutical is able to produce just less than 50 percent of its requirements.
Some of the finest top ten medicinal plants collected includes ba-sha-ka, chu-shing-bu, lchag-tig, ru-rta, khan-khar, a-gar-ru, a-gar-go-nod, brag –zhun, ba-lu-kar-po and du-ra-ka.
The history of traditional medicine dates back to the arrival of Guru Rinpoche in the 8th Century. It was in 1967, that the traditional medicine gained formal recognition following the command made by late His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, to establish the traditional medicine as a service system.