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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 333: WOCMAP I - Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Conference: part 1 of 4


Authors:   Ch. Franz, R. Seitz, N. Verlet, P. Tétényi
The First World Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, organized to recognize the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus to America, focused attention on pioneering discoveries in the medicinal and aromatic plant area as related to human health and welfare. Yet, like the arrival of Europeans in America, the importance of medicinal and aromatic plants in history, natural resource development, and economic activities has sometimes been clouded by other perceptions in culture and pharmacology. While the new path between the two continents provided for an enormous exchange of genetic resources, the continued development, and utilization of this plant material provides for the great contribution in agriculture, industry, and health. Numerous members of the Solanaceae family (such as potatoes, tobacco, chillies, and Datura species) and representatives of other genera (such as Cinchona, Dioscorea, and Echinacea) came from the “new-world”, whilst e.g. Coffea arabica, Indian pepper, and German chamomile went to be cultivated on a large scale in Central and South America, Brazil, and Argentina, respectively.

The continued exchange of genetic resources and joint efforts of specialists at this Congress to create a better understanding and utilization of medicinal and aromatic plants make the colloquial term “one world” more than a collective phrase. Matching the need for economically attractive alternatives in rural development with the need to preserve ecological and cultural diversity suggests that the wise use of natural resources, especially secondary plant products, holds considerable promise. The challenge is of highest importance for numerous programmes for the development of medicinal and aromatic plants which have been already planned throughout the world. Progress in these development programmes have been variable with success and failures frequently related to the items discussed in this volume.

In this text, the industrial and economical aspects, the quality and phytochemistry, and, to a limited extent, the use of herbs in animal husbandry are closely examined. The first two of the contributions concern the activities of UNIDO in promoting industrialization of medicinal and aromatic plants in developing countries, and emphasize the value of international cooperation and technology transfer. These presentations are followed by some examples of industrial applications of medicinal and aromatic plants. Since medicinal and aromatic plants are noted mainly as matrices for active chemical compounds, however, the largest part of this volume is related to phytochemical investigations and quality problems.

Editorial efforts in assembling this work were limited to reviewing and grouping the manuscripts. We hope that this volume may express and bring acceptance to others the “one world” attitude already realized within the scientific community dealing with medicinal and aromatic plants for human welfare.

Ch. Franz
R. Sietz
N. Verlet


Having come to this impressive Congress Center, we bring with us various expectations about this coming event, the First World Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants for Human Welfare. No matter how individual these expectations are, we can categorise them according to their main aspects.

The most direct personal aspect is the desire to give and receive information about specialities of the profession, thus hand over new data of accumulated experiences, of valuable conclusions, of theoretical ideas and general hypotheses. This means not only a demonstration of being active in the specified field of science, but also publishing some personally added value to the building of knowledge. Everyone hopes that this new brick will fit well in the development of the data concerning medicinal and aromatic plants, but this is the question which must and can only be cleared up through discussions here. Since it is rare for brand new ideas to be accepted by the scientific public opinion at once, it is best to float an idea and let it ripen. Sessions' chairpersons will make it possible for everyone to teach and learn from the sometimes rather different scientific approaches in the debates of this meeting.

The second aspect of expectations can be just this, the scientific advance of traditionally proven methods as well as of pure and practical knowledge on medicinal and aromatic plants. The first step to use wild plants for healing was surely a spontaneous one, which was followed by domestication with the consequence that the neolithic man became aware of the need of plants too. This knowledge - being transmissible - was a kind of heritage, thus a valuable familiarity with the collection, cultivation and manual preparation for use of medicinal plants; therefore this type of production of healing material remained a family or healers' secret until the 19th century. The development of basic biological knowledge could better and better meet the requirements of man, and led to medicaments of plant origin as well as to new culture practices of medicinal plants. It is a pity, that at the same time growing industrialization became a danger to both sides: mankind suffers from environmental problems, and plants - in turn - from loss of bio-diversity. WOCMAP's purpose is evident in this respect: the introduction of special experiences into seemingly remote branches of science. The 25th Nobel Symposium was e.g. epochmaking by introducing Chemistry into the Botanical Classification, in 1973. A similar development can be realized during this congress, when experts can widen their narrowly-concentrated research fields by participating in seemingly distant, yet essentially connected workshops dealing with the promotion of human welfare.

The third aspect of expectations could be the cooperation among international, regional and national authorities as well as professional associations. This was a promising approach at the beginning of the 80-ies, when officials in FAO, UNIDO and WHO yearly arranged their projects in the field of medicinal plants. The regional symposium of ASOMPS in Bandung, 1989 also gave an excellent chance to express the aims of UNESCO, UNIDO and for national representatives to express their views with respect to environmental protection and to developing utilization of local medicinal plant resources. WOCMAP thanks its preparation to common efforts of 4 UN-organizations, 3 regional unions and 4 scientific professional associations. This means consequently the best opportunity for integrating common aims into long-distance workshops like International Cooperation - with horticultural profile - on Tuesday afternoon, and the ESCOP mini - symposium - with medicaments' processing regulations - on Friday. Both meetings not only have to plan particular projects and agree on the division of tasks, but can try to list and to join forces with those associations-organizations who are dealing with the same issues too. I think e.g. the GATT, which gave the first lecture at the symposium in Weihenstephan, 1977 when the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants grouping started, or the GA, which was the first to organize a common symposium with the ISHS Section in Budapest, 1979.

Having reached the Section now, this is the next subject of expectations concerning WOCMAP. Business meetings of Working Groups give possibilities for discussing future activities, agreed upon at the ISHS Executive meeting last week, and for regenerating their own organization. Working Groups are well guided, however they need young and agile leadership for bringing forward solutions to professional - scientific problems, which will surely arrive in the future. Concerning the Section itself - this is like a policy determining Committee, because it meets at scientific events only - the main duty would be to complete the number of countries represented in this organ, to the majority of ISHS member nations, because the task of regionalisation must be realized. Since we have experts of more than 70 countries at the WOCMAP, this could be executed easily. The business meeting of the Section gives voting right for representatives agreed-accepted by the Council of ISHS only, thus it is of primary importance to become a determining force when preparing solutions for matters like the medicinal and aromatic plant profile at the next, 24th International Horticultural Congress in Japan, already only two years away. The voting of the Section is also needed for the election of its new chairman, who can promote and direct all planned activities until and after the Kyoto Congress.

Last but not least, the fourth aspect of expectations of WOCMAP can be found in the hope, that it will be of a friendly, attentive and helpful atmosphere in regard to all events during the whole week. This was the main purpose of the organizers since the beginning of their preparatory work, thus this is the real place to mention the circumspect and careful activities of ISHS headquarters' officers, of members involved at various committees and of the guiding force, the Secretary General.

Thanks for their valuable efforts, which assure the successful realization of this unique and long-awaited programme, with its trailblazing results.

Maastricht, 19 July 1992


The 350 participants of the first "World Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants for Human Welfare" held at Maastricht, Netherlands in July 1992, took the opportunity to exchange research results as well as opinions.

Through the hundred lectures, an equal number of posters and in the well attended workshops with topics like genetic resources of medicinal plants, industrial aspects, raw material production, biotechnology, pharmacology and international co-operation, a common understanding was reached. The overall setting in which production, trade and usage of medicinal plants material takes place was highlighted.

The assembled scientists from 56 different countries from all continents, covering various academic fields including botany, agronomy, pharmacology and medicine expressed the need to promote scientific studies in all of these fields.

Currently 1500 species of the estimated total of 300,000 higher plants are known to contain pharmaceutical active compounds. Only 95 species are used therapeutically worldwide. The production of these commercially handled medicinal plants is still largely gained by indiscriminately collecting from the wild, even when the crude drug will eventually be used for industrial purposes. Domestication and breeding programmes are needed to assure the survival of many useful plants as well as to meet quality requirements based on pharmaceutical standards.

A recognized source of market information concerning medicinal and aromatic plants was observed to be lacking. Participants of WOCMAP expressed the need to safeguard the free exchange of genetically high-rating material together with provisions to transfer benefits also to the countries of origin.

Education in and regulation of phytotherapy was another point of major concern of the participants from both developing and developed countries. At the closing session it was agreed that a second WOCMAP be organized within the next four years. The suggested venue is in Latin or Central America. During the Congress more than 80 recommendations were drafted. The following are felt to be the most conclusive by members of the Organizing Committee.

International Organizing Committee
November 1992
Wageningen, Netherlands


Genetic resources and diversity of medicinal and aromatic plants must be classified and conserved through protection of natural sites and through development of tissue culture and other preservation techniques.

A new legal and ethical framework that will protect and regulate the use and management of genetic material of medicinal and aromatic plants needs to be established.

Quality plant material from sustainable production systems should be assured through the development and use of Good Agricultural Practices.

A standardized "way bill" for medicinal and aromatic plants needs to be developed and utilized to provide a verifiable record of plant material.

More financing and research should be directed towards enabling producer countries to locally process medicinal and aromatic plant material.

National acceptance and approval of herbal medicines should be based on the "Guidelines for the Assessment of Herbal Medicines" as developed by WHO.

Pharmacological and clinical trials should be conducted according to the directives outlined in the "Good Laboratory Practice" and the "Good Clinical Practice" of WHO.

Phytopharmaceuticals available to physicians should be botanically and phytochemically defined.

The preparation and publication of national herbal pharmacopoeias and the location of information data bases pertaining to medicinal and aromatic plants needs to be supported.

An international board for medicinal and aromatic plants should be established to stimulate cooperation among various international organizations working with medicinal and aromatic plants.

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