India has 15 Agroclimatic zones and 17000-18000 species of flowering plants of which 6000-7000 are estimated to have medicinal usage in folk and documented systems of medicine, like Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy. About 960 species of medicinal plants are estimated to be in trade of which 178 species have annual consumption levels in excess of 100 metric tones.
Medicinal plants are not only a major resource base for the traditional medicine & herbal industry but also provide livelihood and health security to a large segment of Indian population. The domestic trade of the AYUSH industry is of the order of Rs. 80 to 90 billion (1US$ = Rs.50). The Indian medicinal plants and their products also account of exports in the range of Rs. 10 billion.
There is global resurgence in traditional and alternative health care systems resulting in world herbal trade which stands at US$ 120 billion and is expected to reach US$ 7 trillion by 2050. Indian share in the world trade, at present, however, is quite low.
The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) set-up in November 2000 by the Government of India has the primary mandate of coordinating all matters relating to medicinal plants and support policies and programmes for growth of trade, export, conservation and cultivation. The Board is located in the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha & Homeopathy (AYUSH) of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.