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Herbal pharma set to open global avenues for India

herbal pharmaHerbal medicine has become integral to the healthcare business.India is one of the largest producers of medicinal herbs. Today, Indian herbal market registers an extremely significant growth and is likely to reach Rs 145 billion by 2012 and exports are estimated to reach Rs 90 billion with a CAGR of 20 percent, according a study conducted by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

Currently, the Indian herbal market size is estimated at Rs 70 billion and herbal raw materials and medicines worth more than Rs 36 billion are exported by the country. India, followed by China is the largest producer of medicinal plants, having more than 40 percent of global diversity. Therefore, there is obviously vast scope for Indian manufacturers for entering the growing worldwide opportunity of business in Herbal Pharmaceutical field..

The reasons cited for the herbal industry’s exponential growth comprises setting up of herbal farm clusters by the government for improving quality of drugs and promotion of exports, doubling the cultivation of medicinal plants by converting existing farmland, continuous focus for R&D on product and process development and effective marketing of herbal products.

India has 15 Agro climatic zones, 47,000 different plant species (nearly 20 percent of the global species) and 15,000 medicinal plants. The Indian Systems of Medicine have identified 1500 medicinal plants, of which 500 species are mostly used in the preparation of drugs. The states, which are major producer of herbal plants having the highest medicinal value, include Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh and the Himalayan Range. Of 700 plant species commonly used in India, only 20 percent were earlier being cultivated on commercial scale and 90 percent of medicinal plant used by the industries are collected from the wild.

The medicines that have established export demand in economies of scale and produced with international quality norms include psyllium husk, sema leaves & pods, sandalwood chips & dust, Jojoba seeds, psyllium seeds, pyrethrum, basil, hyasop, rosemary safe, svory, galangal rhizonmes and roots. The application of these medicines is multifaceted and cures even serious aliments with little precautions and that is why these are in great demand.

However, India’s share in medicinal plant export in global trade is just about 2.5 percent against 13 percent of China.


Research and Development


R&D is extremely important, as herbal phytoconstituents are difficult to detect and analyze in poly-herbal formulations, the main area of debate lies in qualitative and quantitative estimation of these formulations as compared to standardized allopathic formulations

Investment opportunities exist in this sector in the following industries:

  • Aloe vera gel extraction and spray dried powder manufacturing units.
  • Units to produce extracts of various herbs.
  • Fractional distillation units for value addition in essential oils.
  • Various ayurvedic drug formulation units.
  • Promotion of food and vegetable colour dyes.
  • Production of concentrates from flowers.
  • Primary processing of raw herbs.
  • Isabgol dehusking units.
  • Herbal cosmetics
  • Units to make perfumery compounds
  • Production of bio-diesel.



The major hurdle for cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants as a sustainable agricultural profession is the lack of organized and regulated markets in India. The regulated production on scientific lines, effective enforcement of licensing system and setting up of Export Promotion Zones (EPZ) in select states will push up exports of herbal material and medicines.

Although India is home to Ayurveda, one of the most popular forms of herbal medication only 30 percent are prescription drugs and almost 70 percent constitutes over-the-counter (OTC) products.

Although India is one of the largest producers of medicinal herbs, the market suffers from lack of clinical research, standardization and regulation.

Apart from that, the Indian herbal drug exporters face the stringent quality norms imposed by the EU through the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) and Food Supplement Directive (FSD). These directives encouraged the high quality products but subsequently the unorganized sectors sub-standard products are rejected by them.

Over 70 percent of the plant, collections involve destructive harvesting because of the use of parts like roots, bark, wood, stem and the whole plant in case of herbs.This poses a definite threat to the genetic stocks and to the diversity of medicinal plants if biodiversity is not sustainable used.




The farmers should be trained to handle the products and disseminate information about the prospects of cultivation, processing and marketing of medicinal plants.

Export promotion zones to accelerate herbal wealth exports are necessary for which grants and R&D support is a must through central allocations and resources.

The registration guidelines for every country are different and unique. Hence, a thought should also be given to the possibility of meeting such requirements before identification of market for our product.

The current scenario calls for regulatory data and proofs of regulations for every product to be exported. Thus standardization of herbal products has immense importance for various registration procedures in foreign countries.


Other area, which requires attention, is identification, collection, compilation, scrutiny, evaluation and dissemination of authentic market data regarding herbal products.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has developed nine herbal parks in nine of its zones. The herbal park has the first ever Rudraksh sapling planted by the corporation. It has more than 70 different species of plants.




Right from cultivation of medicinal plants to exports of value added herbal formulations to International markets; opportunity is knocking at India’s door. Recently, a new class of regulated products has emerged in the US and EU under the terms botanical drug products (BDPs) and herbal medicinal products (HMPs) respectively. This is an opportunity for the proponents of Ayurveda who constantly claim that ‘Ayurvedic products are medicines and not food supplements’.