Although four out of five Ecuadorians rely on traditional medicine for healthcare, little attention is being paid to the use and conservation of the medicinal plants on which traditional medicine, and therefore Ecuador's people, depend.
Government and NGO representatives l met recently to discuss these and other findings detailed in TRAFFIC's report Ecuador: uso y comercio de plantas medicinales, situación actual y aspectos importantes para su conservación, released earlier. "Medicinal plants are critical components of Ecuador's healthcare systems and ecosystems", notes Ximena Buitrón, TRAFFIC International Plants Officer and author of the report. "Urgent and cooperative action is required on the part of the health, development and environment sectors to address problems including unsustainable harvest of key medicinal species and inadequate controls on the production of some plant-based medicines."
TRAFFIC's study documented over 200 medicinal plant species in use in Ecuador today. Among these is Cascarilla Cinchona pubescens, the original source of the potent anti-malarial drug quinine, which is used in Ecuador for ailments ranging from upset stomach to activation of immune system. There are concerns that populations of this and other medicinal plant species could be threatened in Ecuador owing to overexploitation.
Convened by TRAFFIC the three-day workshop aimed to identify actions necessary to address the linked health and conservation concerns related to Ecuador's medicinal plant use and trade, including changes to current government policies and regulations. Participants included representatives from Ecuador's Health, Environment and Social Ministries, health and environmental NGOs, plant-based medicine manufacturers, indigenous communities, and others.