Good Agricultural And Collection Practices For Medicinal Plants

Good Agricultural And Collection Practices For Medicinal Plants: Good Agricultural and Collection Practices for Medicinal Plants (GACP) are a set of guidelines developed in 2003 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), with the view to improve the quality of medicinal plant material being used in herbal medicines.

As per WHO reports, (65-80%) of the world’s population seek plants or plant-derived natural products for various diseases. Therefore to maintain the consistency in demand and medicinal effects of plants GACP provides suitable collection practices for each medicinal plant species and plant part used (roots, leaves, fruits, etc.) Good Agriculture and Collection Practices (GACP) ensure to achieve the best collection practices and maintaining the long-term survival of wild populations and their associated habitats. It also promotes the conservation of endangered medicinal plants. The quality of herbal medicine is somehow directly related to the quality of raw medicinal plant materials. Raw medicinal plant materials should meet all applicable national and/or regional quality standards. The guidelines therefore may need to be adjusted according to each country’s situation.

The Main Objectives Of The GACP Guidelines, As Stated By The Who, Are As Follows

  • To contribute to the quality assurance of medicinal plant materials used as the source for herbal medicines to improve the quality, safety, and efficacy of finished herbal products;
  • To guide the formulation of national and/or regional GACP guidelines and GACP monographs for medicinal plants and related standard operating procedures; and
  • To encourage and support the sustainable cultivation and collection of medicinal plants of good quality in ways that respect and support the conservation of medicinal plants and the environment in general.

Some Definitions

ContaminationThe undesired introduction of impurities of a chemical or microbiological nature, or foreign matter, into or on to a starting material or intermediate during production, sampling, packaging, or repackaging, storage, or transport.
Cross-contamination Contamination of a starting material, intermediate product, or finished product by another starting material or product during production.
ErosionThe process whereby water or wind moves the soil from one location to another.
Integrated pest management (IPM)The careful integration of several available pest-control techniques that discourage pest-population development and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and safe for human health and the environment.
LandraceIn-plant genetic resources, an early, cultivated form of a crop species, evolved from a wild population and generally composed of a heterogeneous mixture of genotypes.
PropaguleAny structure capable of giving rise to a new plant by asexual or sexual reproduction, including bulbils, leaf buds, etc.
Standard operating procedure (SOP)An authorized written procedure giving instructions for operating.  

WHO Guidelines on Good Agricultural and Collection Practices for Medicinal Plants

Figure: Components of Good agricultural and collection practices for medicinal plants

a. Permission to collect

  • In some countries, before collecting any plants from the wild, documents from government authorities and landowners must be obtained and then permits collection. National legislation, such as national “red” lists, should be consulted and respected.
  • When required, various permits such as export permits, phytosanitary certificates, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permit) (for export and import), CITES certificates (for re-export), and other permits must be obtained, for medicinal plant materials intended for export from the country of collection.

b. Technical planning

  • Before initiating a collection expedition, the geographical distribution, and population density of the target, medicinal plant species should be determined. Distance from home base and quality of the target plant(s) available are factors to be considered. When the collection sites have been identified, local and/or national collection permits should be obtained.
  • Essential information on the target species (taxonomy, distribution, phenology, genetic diversity, reproductive biology, and ethnobotany) should be obtained.
  • Data about environmental conditions, including topography, geology, soil, climate, and vegetation at the prospective collecting site(s), should be collated and presented in a collection management plan.
  • Research on the morphology of the target medicinal plant species and the variability of its populations should be carried out to develop a “search image” for the species.
  • Copies of photographs and other illustrations of the target medicinal plant(s) from books and herbarium specimens, and ethnographical information (common or local names) of the target species and plant parts are useful field instruments, especially for untrained workers.
  • Botanical keys and other taxonomic identification aids are useful at collection sites where either related species, or unrelated species of similar morphological, characteristics, may be found.
  • Rapid, safe, and dependable transportation to carry personnel, equipment, supplies, and collected medicinal plant materials should be arranged in advance.
  • A collection team familiar with good collecting techniques, transport, and handling of equipment and medicinal plant materials, including cleaning, drying, and storage, should be assembled. Training of personnel should be conducted regularly.
  • The responsibilities of all those involved in the collection should be set out in a written document. All stakeholders, in particular, manufacturers, traders, and government are accountable for the conservation and management of the targeted medicinal plant species.
  • The social impact of field collection on local communities should be examined and the ecological impact of field collection activities should be monitored over time.
  • The stability of the natural habitat(s) and the maintenance of sustainable populations of the target species in the collection area(s) must be ensured.

c. Selection of medicinal plants for collection

  • Where applicable, the species or botanical variety selected for collection should be the same as that specified in the national pharmacopeia or recommended by other authoritative national documents of the end-users country, as the source for the herbal medicines concerned. (Collected botanical species must be matched with species which is mentioned in national pharmacopoeia or official book).
  • In the absence of such national documents, the selection of species or botanical varieties specified in the pharmacopeia or other authoritative documents of other countries should be considered. ( If data is not available regarding collected species in national documents then the official book of other countries can be considered.)
  • In the case of newly introduced medicinal plants, the species or botanical variety selected for collection should be identified and documented as the source material used or described in traditional medicine in original countries.
  • Collectors of medicinal plants and producers of medicinal plant materials and herbal medicines should prepare botanical specimens for submission to regional or national herbaria for authentication.
  • The voucher specimens should be retained for a sufficient period and should be preserved under proper conditions.
  • The name of the botanist or other experts who provided the botanical identification or authentication should be recorded.
  • If the medicinal plant is not well known to the community, then documentation of the botanical identity should be recorded and maintained.

d. Collection

  • Collection practices should ensure the long-term survival of wild populations and their associated habitats.
  • The population density of the target species at the collection site(s) should be determined and species that are rare or scarce should not be collected.
  • To encourage the regeneration of source medicinal plant materials, a sound demographic structure of the population has to be ensured. Management plans should refer to the species and the plant parts (roots, leaves, fruits, etc.) to be collected and should specify collection levels and collection practices.
  • Medicinal plant materials should be collected during the appropriate season or period to ensure the best possible quality of both source materials and finished products.
  • The best time for collection (quality peak season or time of day) should be determined according to the quality and quantity of biologically active constituents rather than the total vegetative yield of the targeted medicinal plant parts.
  • Only ecologically non-destructive systems of collection should be employed. These will vary widely from species to species. For example, when collecting roots of trees and bushes, the main roots should not be cut or dug up, and severing the taproot of trees and bushes should be avoided. Only some of the lateral roots should be located and collected.
  • When collecting species whose bark is the primary material to be used, the tree should not be girdled or completely stripped of its bark; longitudinal strips of bark along one side of the tree should be cut and collected.
  • Medicinal plants should not be collected in or near areas where high levels of pesticides or other possible contaminants are used or found, such as roadsides, drainage ditches, mine tailings, garbage dumps, and industrial facilities which may produce toxic emissions and riverbanks downstream from pastures (land with grass), should be avoided to avoid microbial contamination from animal waste.
  • In the course of the collection, efforts should be made to remove parts of the plant that are not required and foreign matter, in particular toxic weeds. Decomposed medicinal plant materials should be discarded.
  • In general, the collected raw medicinal plant materials should not come into direct contact with the soil. If underground parts (such as the roots) are used, any adhering soil should be removed from the plants as soon as they are collected.
  • Collected material should be placed in clean baskets, mesh bags, other well-aerated containers, or drop cloths that are free from foreign matter, including plant remnants from previous collecting activities.
  • After collection, the raw medicinal plant materials may be subjected to appropriate preliminary processing, including the elimination of undesirable materials and contaminants, washing (to remove excess soil), sorting, and cutting.
  • The collected medicinal plant materials should be protected from insects, rodents, birds, and other pests, and livestock and domestic animals.
  • If the collection site has located some distance from processing facilities, it may be necessary to air or sun-dry the raw medicinal plant materials before transport.
  • If more than one medicinal plant part is to be collected, the different plant species or plant materials should be gathered separately and transported in separate containers.
  • Cross-contamination should be avoided at all times.
  • Collecting implements, such as machetes, shears, saws, and mechanical tools, should be kept clean and maintained in proper condition. Those parts that come into direct contact with the collected medicinal plant materials should be free from excess oil and other contamination.

e. Personnel

  • Local experts responsible for the field collection should have formal or informal practical education and training in plant sciences and have practical experience in fieldwork. They should be responsible for training to perform the various tasks involved in the plant collection process. They are also responsible for the supervision of workers and the full documentation of the work performed.
  • Field personnel should have adequate botanical training, and be able to recognize medicinal plants by their common names and, ideally, by their scientific (Latin) names.
  • Local experts should serve as knowledgeable links between non-local people and local communities and collectors. All collectors and local workers involved in the collection: operation should have, sufficient knowledge of the species targeted for collection and be able to distinguish target species from botanically related and/or morphologically similar species.
  • Collectors should also receive instructions on all issues relevant to the protection of the environment and the conservation of plant species, as well as the social benefits of the sustainable collection of medicinal plants.
  • The collection team should take measures to ensure the welfare and safety of staff and local communities during all stages of medicinal plant sourcing and trade.
  • All personnel must be protected from toxic and dermatitis-causing plants, poisonous animals, and disease-carrying insects. Appropriate protective clothing, including gloves, should be worn when necessary.
Make sure you also check our other amazing Article on : Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) For Herbal Drugs
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