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India Yet to Tap Medicinal Plant Gold Mine

In Health
December 06, 2023

Even as the medicinal plant sector is poised to become a multi-billion-dollar global industry India is yet to fully utilise the opportunity, said Dr Thomas Jacob, former director of research at the Spices Board in a session at the Global Ayurveda Festival (GAF 2023) here today.

Speaking on the value-addition of medicinal plants, Dr Jacob pointed out that while Indian manufacturers are yet to realise such possibilities some enterprising foreigners have already come here and started their ventures.

Dr. Jacob cited the example of a 23-year-old French man who came to India recently and started producing wine made from amla, which is now exported to different countries. “The enterprising Frenchman realised there is a big market for this product in Indian restaurants operating in foreign countries, as all of them will have only French or Italian wines for diners,” Dr Jacob said.

“There is a market for Indian wines in such places, as the diners who come there would welcome an Indian wine to go with the Indian food,” he said.

Leveraging such opportunities will open a huge global market for India. With the demand for healthier food increasing, India has a great opportunity to introduce innovative products using plants like tulsi, and ashwagandha as ingredients in products ranging from yogurt to desserts.

There are a lot of such opportunities as India over the centuries has developed a treasure trove of wisdom, and all it needs is to recognise and realise the potential for value-added products from this information.

The use of kokum (kodampuli) in Kerala fish curry is such an example. Kokum contains an element called Hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is now recognised as a key component to beat obesity. Dr. Jacob said some old-timers told him that kokum is used while making fish curry during the spawning season, as the fish had more fat during that time.

This knowledge was tapped by a Kerala entrepreneur who started making kokum extracts in the 1990s. The company now sells its products globally as a healthier option than synthetically made HCA, and has blossomed into a multi-crore revenue enterprise.

According to the World Health Organization, the global herbal industry is set to generate US$5 trillion by 2050. Entrepreneurs in India are slowly entering this field.

As environmental policies restrict the exploitation of forest resources, this burgeoning demand is also paving the way for commercial cultivation of plants needed in both the medicinal and cosmetic sectors, the experts said, Dr Jacob added.