Medicinal Plant Harvesting, Sustainability and Cultivation in South Africa
Concerns regarding the conservation of medicinal plant species are receiving much attention due to overharvesting
and exploitation. Medicinal plant harvesting is a global concern as plants are the source of the majority
of medicines, either traditional or western, in the world. Millions of U.S. dollars of plant material are being
exported annually from developing countries to developed countries. The challenge in developing countries is
that, apart from the exports, the majority of people in those countries still use medicinal plant material for their
basic healthcare needs. Biodiversity loss is therefore a significant challenge. This review focuses on South Africa
as a developing country in which traditional medicines are highly valued, but also engages in exports of medicinal
plant material to developed countries. Medicinal plant harvesting, with reference to suppliers of medicinal
plant material, customary knowledge and the drivers of increased harvesting rates in South Africa is discussed.
General aspects of sustainability and the causes of unsustainable medicinal plant harvesting, as well as cultivation
to increase medicinal plant populations referring to its advantages and disadvantages and the challenges
regarding cultivation of medicinal plant species for the medicinal plant trade market are reviewed. The shift
from a cultural method of survival to a competitive trade business, South Africa's legislation regulating the
management of natural environments, legislation compliance and the regulation of African traditional medicine
are also reviewed.