CITES and Medicinal Plants


Historically, people have collected plants and used them for treating and preventing various symptoms and diseases. To this day, people in East Asian countries use medicinal plants for traditional health care treatments. The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the importance of traditional medicines

Approximately 60,000 plant species are harvested mainly for medicinal usage in the world. These harvested medicinal plants are not only a major source for traditional medicine, but are also used as an important raw material for modern medicine, perfume, cosmetic products, etc. Demand for and trade in these medicinal plants have been increasing. The global reported trade in plants for medicinal purposes alone(customs code HS1211, a subset of the custom codes analysed in the International Trade Centre study)was valued at over USD 3.4 billion in 2014 (United Nations 2016). Most of these precious plants resources, however, are harvested in the wild and easily traded across borders outside of CITES regulation. Many medicinal plant species are threatened with extinction through overharvesting, habitat loss, climate change, and illegal international trade. Sustainable harvest and legal trade are thus key to ensure the sustainable use of medicinal plants.

Recognizing all these conditions, CITES Secretariat adopted Resolution Conf. 10.19 (Rev. CoP14) on Traditional medicines with following recommendations to Parties.

<Recommendations to Parties>

a) Work closely with groups of traditional medicine practitioners and consumers in developing public education and awareness programmes towards the elimination of illegal use of endangered species. Developing awareness of the need to avoid over-exploitation of other wild species.

b) Promote the development of techniques, including the application of forensic science, for identifying parts and derivatives used in traditional medicines.

c) Encourage the further use in traditional medicines of alternative ingredients to specimens of threatened wild species. With such as synthetic compounds and derivatives of less threatened species.

d) Consider the application of artificial propagation to meet the needs of traditional medicines where this would relieve pressure on wild populations of species. 


Capacity building materials

Project title Case Study Region Country Year Reports
Annex on Dalbergia Dalbergia spp. Africa Madagascar 2013
Annex on Diospyros Diospyros spp. Africa Madagascar 2013
Ansellia (Leopard orchid). Kenya 2008
Ansellia (Leopard orchid). Kenya 2008
Aquilaria malaccensis (Agarwood). -- 2013


Mandates and guidance

Resolutions and Decisions

Conf. 3.4*                       Technical cooperation
Conf. 5.10 (Rev. CoP15)  Definition of 'primarily commercial purposes'
Conf. 9.5 (Rev. CoP16)    Trade with States not party to the Convention
Conf. 9.6 (Rev. CoP16)    Trade in readily recognizable parts and derivatives
Conf. 9.7 (Rev. CoP15)    Transit and transhipment
Conf. 9.9*                       Confiscation of specimens exported or re-exported
                                       in violation of the Convention
Conf. 9.10 (Rev. CoP15)  Disposal of confiscated and accumulated specimens
Conf. 9.19 (Rev. CoP15)  Registration of nurseries that artificially propagate specimens of Appendix-I plant species for export purposes
Conf. 10.4 (Rev. CoP14)  Cooperation and synergy with the Convention on Biological Diversity
Conf. 10.19 (Rev. CoP14) Traditional medicines
Conf. 10.21 (Rev. CoP16) Transport of live specimens
Conf. 11.3 (Rev. CoP16)   Compliance and enforcement
Conf. 11.11 (Rev. CoP15)  Regulation of trade in plants
Conf. 11.19 (Rev. CoP16)  Identification Manual

Conf. 11.21 (Rev. CoP16)  Use of annotations in Appendices I and II
Conf. 12.11 (Rev. CoP16)  Standard nomenclature
Conf. 13.2 (Rev. CoP14)    Sustainable use of biodiversity: Addis Ababa Principles
                                         and Guidelines
Conf. 13.7 (Rev. CoP16)   Control of trade in personal and household effects
Conf. 13.9                       Encouraging cooperation between Parties with ex situ breeding operations and those with in situ conservation programmes
Conf. 13.10 (Rev. CoP14)  Trade in alien invasive species
Conf. 14.3                        CITES compliance procedures
Conf. 14.6 (Rev. CoP16)    Introduction from the sea
Conf. 14.7 (Rev. CoP15) Management of nationally established export quotas
Conf. 15.2                      Wildlife trade policy reviews
Conf. 16.4                      Cooperation of CITES with other biodiversity-related conventions
Conf. 16.5                      Cooperation with the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
                                      of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Conf. 16.6                      CITES and livelihoods


Development of medicinal plant species web page was funded by SECO as a part of UNCTAD studies on CITES listed medicinal plant species.