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International Trade Centre Market News Service Launches Reports on Worldwide Herb Markets

The International Trade Centre (ITC) Market News Service (MNS) now produces quarterly reports on Medicinal Plants and Extracts. ITC is the Geneva-based technical cooperation agency of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) for operational, enterprise-oriented aspects of trade development.

The report covers market conditions, regulatory news, and conservation issues in North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Japan, China, and India. The section for each geographical region includes market trends and statistics on specific raw botanicals and extracts, a brief profile on a key herb in that region that includes trade specifications commonly used in that region, plus other related data, including trade fairs, conferences, and symposia.

This report also includes a profile on the United Plant Savers (UpS), an American organization that identifies at-risk medicinal plants in the United States. Each edition highlights news in the field of medicinal plant conservation worldwide, prepared by TRAFFIC International, the worldwide flora and fauna monitoring organization.

The Report also includes a special profile on American Ginseng Root (Panax quinquefolius L., Araliacea), a profile on the regulatory process and situation in Canada, and a regional focus on the market conditions in South Africa � featuring a Botanical Product Specification on the popular tea herb Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis (Burm. f.) R. Dahlgren, Fabaceae). Past and future reports feature other botanicals, the regulatory processes in various countries, and regional focuses on specific countries not usually covered in the report series.

The Medicinal Plants and Extracts report was prepared by ITC consultant Josef Brinckmann, an independent consultant in the botanical products industry and former research and development manager at Traditional Medicinals, Inc. Mr. Brinckmann is also a co-editor of The American Botanical Council's Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs (2000) and ABC's new book, The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs (in press).

In addition to the quarterly Medicinal Plants and Extracts report, ITC MNS also issues reports on:

� Fresh Tropical and Off-Season fruit and vegetables (85 tropical and off-season products in 12 European markets and five Middle Eastern markets, weekly);

� Fresh Cut Flowers (65 varieties in four Asian markets, 94 varieties in 12 European markets, 26 varieties in six North American markets, each weekly);

� Tropical and Ornamental Young Plants (5 varieties in five European markets, every two weeks);

� Bulk-Packed Fruit Juices (11 products in the European and U.S. market, every two months);

� Spices, Spice Seeds and Herbs (30 products in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States, weekly);

� Rice (more than 15 different varieties and grades in world markets from South East Asian, American and European origins, every three weeks), and

� Pharmaceutical Starting Materials/ Essential Drugs (more than 300 of the most used substances in the production of essential drugs [generics] in major markets, monthly).

MNS seeks to improve its service and expand its information network and market coverage. Companies and organizations willing to join its Information Providers' network may contact<>.

Subscription rates for reports ranges from $100 to $500, depending on how delivered and where subscribers are located. Details are available on the ITC MNS website, <>. Other contact information for ITC MNS: Street address: ITC, 54-56 rue de Montbrillant, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Postal address: ITC, Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. Telephone: +41-22-7300111. Fax:+41-22 730 0572/ 730 0906. E-mail <>.

The accompanying article is the section on North America (MNS No. 3, June 2002), printed verbatim, except for minor stylistic changes and where noted in brackets (e.g., the report does not italicize Latin binomials in some places or the names of publications).

North America

The most important medicinal plants cultivated in North America for domestic use in dietary supplement products (US) and/or natural health products (Canada) as well as for export include aloe, American ginseng root, cayenne fruit, Echinacea purpurea flowering tops, Echinacea purpurea root, evening primrose, feverfew leaf, flax seed, garlic bulb, hop strobile, and peppermint leaf. The most important wild-collected medicinal plants in North America include black cohosh rhizome, cascara sagrada bark, Echinacea angustifolia root, Echinacea pallida root, goldenseal root, passionflower herb, slippery elm bark, and saw palmetto fruit. [Editor's note: Recent taxonomic studies have provided genetic and phytochemical evidence to support the 1955 conclusion of the botanist of the famous American botanist, Arthur Conquist (1919-1992), that Echinacea angustifolia DC. should be renamed as E. pallida (Nutt.) Nutt. var. angustifolia (DC.) Cronq.]

The supply for most North American botanical raw materials has been steadily tightening up. Presently, both the wildcrafted and cultivated supply chains have some common and different issues affecting them. The supply of wildcrafted medicinal botanicals is increasingly impacted by a number of factors including loss of habitat from development, logging operations, conversion of prairie to pasture, [collection constraints imposed by environmental and] government agencies concerned with threatened or endangered species, collection by the ornamental plant trade, and to a lesser extent from the medicinal plant wildcrafters themselves. Many experienced wildcrafters have given up the trade in recent seasons due to some or all of the aforementioned obstacles to trade. There is also concern that very few young wildcrafters are learning the trade as the older experienced collectors are retiring. The quantity and quality of North American wildcrafted medicinal plants is expected to decline if these trends continue.

Growers of medicinal botanicals for the phytopharmaceutical and dietary supplement industries, respectively, are also experiencing some hard times at the moment. During the industry's high growth years of the mid to late 1990's many growers planted, cultivated and harvested crops under contracts (mostly perennial crops taking more than one year before realizing a return on investment). Subsequently, a number of end-user companies did not honor their contractual commitments as the boom years came to an end. Experienced growers with a diversity of crop offerings are surviving the continuing industry slowdown but many newer farm operations did not diversify sufficiently and are struggling to stay afloat, while some who depended too heavily on single medicinal plant crops have lost their farms entirely. As a result, some farmers will not be replanting medicinal plant crops after this season. In general, the forecast for North American wildcrafted and cultivated medicinal plants for the coming season is an unpredictable supply and demand with significant price variations.

American Ginseng Root

U.S. First Quarter Ginseng Exports and Imports

In the first quarter of 2002, the US exported 71,055 kg of cultivated American ginseng root with an FAS [Food and Agricultural Service] Value of US $2,771,000 ($39.00/kg) as well as 43,522 kg of wild American ginseng root with an FAS Value of $6,057,000 ($139.00/kg). Approximately 74 percent of the cultivated root and 87 percent of the wild root materials were exported to Hong Kong. The second largest destination was the People's Republic of China (PRC). Conversely, during the same period, the US imported 99,734 kg of cultivated Asian ginseng root (PRC, Hong Kong, South Korea) with a Customs Value of US $1,939,000 ($19.45/kg) and 16,291 kg of wild Asian ginseng root (PRC, South Korea) with a Customs Value of US $1,007,000 ($61.80/kg).

Late Frost Damage Threatens American Ginseng Crop

Canada is the world leader in American ginseng root production (ca. 60 percent) followed by the US (ca. 30 percent) and the People's Republic of China (<10 percent). Canada's ginseng production is concentrated mainly in two Provinces, 66 percent in Ontario (3,600 acres) and 28 percent in British Columbia (2,000 acres). In late May, a frost lasting 3�6 days caused crop damage ranging from light to severe. The frost injury has caused widespread physical damage to seedlings as well as to two-year and older plants. American ginseng root is usually harvested in Ontario after three years and in British Columbia after four years. The extent of damage and correspondingly the impact it will have on harvest yields, pricing and availability for the 2002 through 2006 harvests is not yet known. Statistics are being compiled and reported to the Minister of Agriculture by the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association.

New U.S. Regulations Affect the Use of the Name "Ginseng" in Trade

[Editor's note: This section contains a brief description of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 passed by the U.S. Congress in May 2002 limiting the use of the common name "ginseng" on herb product labeling and in advertising to botanical ingredients from the genus Panax (e.g., American ginseng root, Panax quinquefolius L., Araliaceae). Several botanicals presently sold in commerce as varieties of "ginseng" will be deemed misbranded under the new law, e.g., eleuthero root (a.k.a. Siberian ginseng; Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. & Maxim.) Maxim., Araliaceae). A more detailed discussion of the terms and impact of the Farm Bill is available in the Legal and Regulatory section of HerbalGram 56.]

Other North American Medicinal Plants

FDA Final Rule Affects the Legal Status and Trade of Aloe and Cascara Sagrada

Editor's note: This section contains news on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's new rule stating that the medicinal plants aloe (Aloe ferox Mill., and Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f., Aloaceae), including aloe extract, and cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana (DC.) J.G. Cooper, Rhamnaceae; syn. Rhamnus purshiana DC.) (including several derivative products) used in over-the-counter (OTC) drug products are "not generally recognized as safe and effective" or are misbranded. A detailed discussion of this topic is available in the Legal and Regulatory section of HerbalGram 56.]

Proposal for Inclusion of Cascara Sagrada in CITES Appendix II

April 2002: The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided not to submit a proposal to list cascara sagrada in CITES [Convention in Trade in Endangered Species] Appendix II (species that are not threatened with extinction but may become so if international trade is not controlled) unless they receive additional new information supporting the proposal. The USFWS stated that the intensity of collecting, and therefore the degree of threat to the species, is speculative and requires additional documentation. Estimated average annual harvests of cascara sagrada bark range anywhere from a few hundred thousand kilos to millions of kilos (dry weight), mostly wild collected.

In related news, the USFWS announced that it intends to review and consider listing other US native medicinal plant species in CITES Appendix III (requires the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation) including black cohosh rhizome (Actaea racemosa), echinacea root (Echinacea spp.), and osha root (Ligusticum spp.).

Predicted Shortage of Slippery Elm Bark

Cultivated and wild collected Elm USP, the dried inner bark of Ulmus rubra, is reported to be in short supply with some vendors stating that they have sold off the last of their inventories and may remain out of stock until the fall of 2002. Some plantings have been lost to Dutch elm disease, which is causing some growers to reconsider whether they'll replant this crop in the future. Elm USP is used as an OTC demulcent active ingredient in sore throat remedies (lozenges, syrups and teas).

New Record Low Demand for US Cultivated Hops

As of March 1, 2002, the sold ahead position for the US hop industry set a new record low with only 66.57 percent of the total projected yield contracted. Consequently, acreage reduction efforts are underway which are expected to significantly lower 2002 production compared to 2001. A target reduction of 6,500 acres represents about 4,535,970 kg of hops that would not be produced this year. In 2001, 30,314,841 kg were harvested. While most hops are cultivated for breweries, a small amount is sold into the medicinal plant trade for use in sedative products.

First Quarter US Imports and Exports of Herbal Teas

In the first quarter of 2002, the US imported 360,257 kg of herbal teas representing a Customs Value of US $2,216,000. The main herbal tea exporting countries, in order of predominance, were Canada, China, South Korea, Thailand, Germany, and India. During the same period, the US exported 1,547,428 kg of herbal teas representing an FAS Value of US $11,689,000. The main US herbal tea destinations were Canada, Japan, the U.K., Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, China, Israel, and the Netherlands. During all of 2001, Canada imported 733,898 kg of herbal teas, primarily from the US and the UK, followed by Germany, France, and China.

More Trade Problems for Chinese Ephedra Herb in North America

In Issue No. 2, we reported that Health Canada requested a voluntary recall of unapproved ephedra-containing products, specifically those with weight loss or stimulant claims (traditional nasal decongestants were exempt from the recall). In the meantime, in the US, many botanical raw material suppliers have discontinued carrying ephedra due to significant increases in product-liability insurance expenses. In some cases six-fold increases have been reported while some insurance carriers have threatened to discontinue coverage altogether unless the suppliers discontinue stocking ephedra. Many companies have announced that they may decide to remove ephedra from their products because insurance coverage has become prohibitively expensive. Another complication is that China is requiring US importers of ephedra to obtain so-called Letters of No Objection (LONO) from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) before Chinese exporters can release shipments.

Meanwhile, on Friday, 14 June 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced "new efforts to expand scientific research on the safety of ephedrine alkaloids," and referred to its recent funding of the Rand Corporation "to conduct a comprehensive review of the existing science on ephedrine alkaloids, particularly those in dietary supplements." This action is viewed as being supportive of long-standing American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) policies for the marketing of ephedra products but the announcement was disappointing to foes of the dietary supplement industry who have been lobbying for the removal of ephedra from the market. The HHS Press Release can viewed at: <>.

Quality Standards: Official monographs providing quality standards and tests for Cascara sagrada and Elm bark are published in the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP 25th revision 2002). Official standards for Garlic, Ginger, Peppermint, and Saw palmetto are published in the U.S. National Formulary (USNF 20th edition 2002). Standards for American Ginseng root are published in the Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China (PPRC English Edition 2000). Standards for Black Cohosh can be found in the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP 2002) and for Wild Cherry bark in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP 1996).

PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS (Saw palmetto fruit soft extract)

[Editor's note: This section includes nomenclature, physical and chemical parameters (including solvent information, pesticide residue limits etc.), microbiological data, storage conditions (including packaging and shelf life), and therapeutic and regulatory information.]


[Editor's note: The report includes a list of upcoming conferences, symposia, and related events of interest to the medical plant community.]

This report was published with permission of the Market News Service of the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO.For further information, please contact <> or visit <>.