Articles

Background

In the last 30 years there has been a resurgence of interest in the use of plants as medicines. As the world population increases, plant-rich habitats such as the tropical forests dwindle steadily and there appear to be no concerted effort in research and conservation.

Forests have long been regarded primarily as a source of timber, but now the value of non-wood forest products is becoming increasingly appreciated. Medicinal plants are important non-wood forest products and should therefore be a priority in forest protection measures. They are used as raw material for extraction of active constituents in pure form, as precursors for synthetic vitamins and steroids and preparations for herbal and indigenous medicines. Plants are not only major source of energy-rich foods in most societies, but are also an indispensable source of vitamins and other substances promoting health. It is therefore gratifying that biodiversity prospecting and its policy implications for medicinal plants are now recognised as an important issue in conservation. Much of our biological diversity has yet to be scientifically investigated. There is a need to enhance efforts in research and development. Our scientific base needs to be developed and strengthened so that opportunities in fields such as genetics, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and agriculture could be fully exploited.

Given the increasing importance of plant resources in the development of our national economy and demand for natural resources, it is necessary to document our flora well. Illustration and habit of the plants would provide better understanding of the plants. Furthermore, currently there is also a lack of effective and sustainable information gathering and dissemination system for local economic plant species. It is the aim of this project to collate and provide botanical information on the plants with medicinal values through a one-stop-centre.

Although there is a large pool of resources in this region, they are hardly tapped as information and are not easily retrieved and obtained. Hence, it is assumed a databank on medicinal plants of the region would address this problem and perhaps encourage major pharmaceutical companies to invest and bio-prospect in tropical plants resources in a sustainable manner.

The objectives of this project are therefore to document the existing wealth of information on the medicinal plants and to disseminate the information for education, research and industry by exploiting the ICT tools. The database will consist of the following fields; botanical name, vernacular names, synonym, family, geographical distribution, description, ecology/cultivation and line drawings. Other information for this site includes information on herbarium facilities and programmes related to herbarium and its activities.