Medicinal and dietary supplements: specialty forest products with a long tradition
Over the last five years forest products other than timber-based products have received a great deal of attention. The markets for medicinal plants that are collected from the forests are growing rapidly. Some reports suggest this segment of the non-timber forest products industry is expanding faster than the timber-based industry. Plants used for their therapeutic value are marketed either as medicinals or as dietary supplements, depending on the US Food and Drug Administration rulings. Though many of these plants have been used by people for hundreds of years, they can not be marketed as medicinal unless shown to be safe and effective. Even with this constraint, the market potential for dietary supplements may be greater than that for medicinals as peoples preferences? are shifting toward ?natural products.? To realize this potential, critical issues such as management of the resource and sustainable production must be addressed. This may require, among other things more judicious regulation of harvests or development of cultivation practices for plants traditionally collected from the forests. This paper examines the trade and use of forest products that are marketed as medicinal and dietary supplements. It provides an historical and current perspective of a segment of the non-timber forest products industry that is experiencing tremendous growth and which is projected to continue. Critical issues and research needs that could affect the sustainable development of this segment are identified and discussed.