Article Explores Plant Alternatives to Use of Endangered Animals in Traditional Medicine

In many parts of the world, people rely on animal-derived products as important healthcare options. Unfortunately, such medicinal use can threaten species’ survival. A recent article published in HerbalGram, the quarterly journal of the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC), examines how various researchers and organizations have been promoting botanical alternatives in place of some medicinally-used animals—particularly those already considered threatened or endangered.

HerbalGram 86, which features the article “Medicinal Use of Threatened Animal Species and the Search for Botanical Alternatives,” was posted online and distributed to ABC members last week. The peer-reviewed magazine/journal is also available in select bookstores and natural food stores.

The 16-page illustrated article profiles the situations of four medicinally-used animals: tigers, rhinoceroses, bears, and turtles/tortoises. Use of tiger bones and rhino horns as medicinal ingredients is now banned through many international and national regulations, but continued medicinal demand has encouraged poaching and black market trade of these animals. Numerous bears and turtles, meanwhile, are trapped within “farms” in various Asian countries. The bears are tightly confined within cages and their bile crudely extracted for medicinal products, and turtles are slaughtered to create “turtle jelly” and other commodities from their shells.

The article quotes many notable animal welfare advocates and cites numerous research articles, examining the historical and current uses of these animals and attempts that have been made over the years to identify and promote substitute ingredients. Surveys of practitioners and/or scientific studies have suggested botanical alternatives for all four animals.

In addition to explaining the situations of these specific animals, the article delves into health and safety concerns related to use of animal-based medicines, challenges associated with stopping illicit trade and promoting botanical substitutes, and recent efforts in Asia to increase knowledge of conservation issues related to medicinal use of threatened animal species. The full HerbalGram article has been posted to ABC’s website and is freely available to ABC members and the general public here.

About the American Botanical Council
Founded in 1988, the American Botanical Council is a leading international nonprofit organization addressing research and educational issues regarding herbs and medicinal plants. ABC’s members include academic researchers and educators; libraries; health professionals and medical institutions; government agencies; members of the herb, dietary supplement, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries; journalists; consumers; and others in nearly 70 countries. The organization occupies a historic 2.5-acre site in Austin, Texas where it publishes the quarterly journal HerbalGram, the monthly e-publication HerbalEGram, HerbClips (summaries of scientific and clinical publications), reference books, and other educational materials. ABC also hosts HerbMedPro, a powerful herbal database, covering scientific and clinical publications on more than 220 herbs. ABC also co-produces the “Herbal Insights” segment for Healing Quest, a television series on PBS.

ABC is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. Information: Contact ABC at P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX 78714-4345, Phone: 512-926-4900. Website:

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.