Devil's Club    Non-timber Forests Products: No Easy Answers ~ The Commercialization of Traditional Medicinal Plants


 Cultural Considerations
 Sustainability Considerations
 Economic Considerations
 No Easy Answers
 Case Study

Non-timber forest products, or NTFPs, are all of the botanical (plant) and mycological (mushroom and fungus) resources and associated services of the forest other than timber, pulpwood, shakes, or other conventional wood products.

The forest has provided food, shelter and medicine for Aboriginal People throughout the world for thousands of years. Through their close association with the environment, Aboriginal people developed an extensive knowledge of plants, their medicinal and other uses, and their relationship to the natural environment.

As Western scientific research has demonstrated the efficacy of traditional plant medicines and the public's interest in medicinal herbs continues to grow, the commercialization of traditional medicinal plants has become an important issue for Aboriginal communities. Some communities/Nations are opposed to any attempts to commercialize medicinal and ceremonial plants, while others look for ways to address concerns while still benefiting monetarily from their traditional knowledge of medicinal plants. Perhaps no other issue related to NTFP development has the potential to create a similar level of conflict within and between Aboriginal communities, and between these communities and outside interests.

The intent of this learning object is to provide anyone working in the area of NTFP management with a balanced and sensitive representation of the different points of view and some of the underlying issues surrounding the commercialization of traditional medicinal plants. We will consider these issues through four themes:

Cultural Considerations - These issues concern the on-going importance and use of traditional medicinal plants by First Nations.

Sustainability Considerations - These issues relate to First Nations concerns about unsustainable harvesting methods.

Economic Considerations - These issues concern First Nations economic development based on the knowledge and production of medicinal NTFPs.

No Easy Answers - considers the broader context of ownership of medicinal plant knowledge.