Traditionally in Sri Lanka Medicinal plants serve the primary healthcare in most rural areas and there is an increasing awareness and demand for medicinal plants for healthcare and dietary supplements that often help to save lives.
The majority of these medicinal plants grow wild as natural habitats in most parts of the country are degraded, over exploited and destroyed; however, many medicinal plant species face threats to their survival. The role of local communities in conserving these species and preserving traditional knowledge of their uses is vital.
Atleast 189 of the 1,414 medicinal plants used in Sri Lanka are specific to the island-or geographically restricted to the Indian subcontinent-including 79 species that are threatened with extinction. Current methods of collecting medicinal plants, destruction of habitats due to demand for agricultural land, and over harvesting continue to threaten many Plant species.
Sri Lanka’s long heritage of traditional healing with medicinal plants is also at risk of disappearing. Because little has been done to document their knowledge, the death of a practitioner of local medicines signifies the loss of a pool of knowledge developed through many generations.
CIK’s actions related to the medicinal plants conservation forces on restoring traditional health knowledge and folk traditions associated with medicinal plants through promoting sustainable use of threaten medicinal plant species.
A medicinal plant arboretum and herbarium have been developed at the Forest Heritage Managed by the CIK under the guidance of experts from the National Institute of Traditional Medicine. Some 100 medicinal plant species were introduced into the one acre garden at the centre with the objective of propagating these rare plants amongst surrounding communities. Some plants are also cultivated for education, demonstration and field research purposes. A medicinal plant house was also constructed to house 21 severely threatened plant species typical to the area. Some of the plants are used by surrounding communities to generate herbal medicines for minor health problems.