Herbs and Aromatic Plants of Nepal

The varied landscapes, altitudes and weather patterns in Nepal support a wide range of indigenous herbs and aromatic plants which have been used for their therapeutic properties for centuries among local people. With a growing interest worldwide in alternatives to conventional medicine, the demand for herbal remedies continues to grow, and this presents rural communities in Nepal with the opportunity to earn a living from growing herbs and aromatic plants.

According to the Nepal Herbs and Herbal Products Association (NEHHPA) up to 1.8 million Nepalis are currently involved in the process of cultivating, harvesting and trading herbs, as well as products made from herbs and other aromatic plants. NEHHPA Chairman Govinda Ghimire was recently reported as saying that thousands more people could be employed in this sector through commercial cultivation of herbs, particularly of the more rare species, and that this had the potential of being a large source of revenue.

Currently Nepal exports a total of 162 herbal products, earning NRs 870.4m ($10.06 million) in the fiscal year of 2011/2012. Among the herbs and plants most in demand are nettles, jasmine, mint, cinnamon, chiretta, Himalayan rhubarb, and what is commonly referred to as the “toothache tree” – the bark of Zanthoxylum armatum. A study carried out by the UN Environment Program and Nepalese government in early 2013 concluded that Nepal’s economy could benefit from the increased demand globally for medicinal herbs and aromatic plants. Among the problems faced by the sector is the fact that there are a limited number of processing plants for herbs, and there is no standardization certification agency in Nepal, forcing farmers to get their products certified as authentic by foreign certification organizations, which is generally an expensive process. It is hoped that these problems can be overcome with the assistance of government agencies.

Established in 2002, the Nepal Herbs and Herbal Products Association (NEHHPA) aims to unify isolated herbal producers and traders in order to promote the herbal sector of Nepal through marketing, advocacy and the development of a resource center to benefit both buyers and sellers.