India’s herbal medicine market is booming and, for now, it is still largely a niche market for those who want to supplement their diet with herbal products, but it is set to grow with new and emerging brands, according to a report released this week by the International Center for Plant Products Research and Education (ICPLRE), a U.S.-based research group.
The market has been largely overlooked by traditional producers and distributors, who are still struggling to get the word out about its potential.
“I was surprised by the size of the market,” said Mark Eades, a plant breeder at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
“I think it’s a niche, but I think there are more than the traditional growers that are trying to make their mark.”
The ICPLRE study, titled “Habitat of herbal products in India: A comparison of traditional and emerging herbal brands,” estimated that there are between 25 and 60 brands in India that offer some kind of herbal remedy, such as ginseng, or chamomile tea, and others that are pure herbal products.
But the report also noted that in 2017, India imported more than 1.3 billion pills of herbal remedies from abroad.
India also imports over 400 million pills of ginsens and other herbal preparations.
In 2018, India also imported nearly 1 billion tablets of herbal supplements, including over 200 million tablets of Ginseng and more than 20 million tablets containing Herbalife’s Ginkgo biloba.
According to the report, there are about 4,400 herbal products listed on the Indian market, and they range from herbal teas to herbal products that are sold as herbal supplements.
Many of these herbal products are sold in India under the brand names of “ganga” or “dosa,” which is a popular herbal beverage, or “bhakti” or a herbal tea, said Dr. Manish Tiwari, head of the department of medicinal sciences at ICPLPRE.
Although India has more than 2,000 registered herbal medicines, more than 400 of them are not registered in the country.
Dr. Tiwarian said the lack of information on the medicinal properties of these medicines has made it difficult for researchers to understand their potency.
He said there is no data on the efficacy of these products, which is why they are difficult to market and sell.
“It’s a real challenge for people to understand what the benefits are of these [herbal] products,” he said.
Tiwari said herbal products have been around for more than a century, and it is difficult for the public to understand the medicinal benefits of herbal preparations because of their vague label.
“What is the potency of this herb?
Is it the same as an oil, is it a tea, is the effect stronger or weaker?
It is very difficult for people in the public understanding the potential and the benefit,” he explained.
Another problem is that India is a country with an antiquated herbal medicine system, which can be extremely confusing for a consumer, he said, adding that the government needs to address the issue.
Gina Bhattacharya, the managing director of the BHIM, a global health, innovation and entrepreneurship program at ICPRE, said India has one of the lowest rates of oral and systemic disease in the world.
Bhattachary said she has worked on the issue for over 30 years, and she thinks the herbal medicine sector in India has potential to be a catalyst for change.
She said India needs to take a holistic approach to herbal medicine.
“We have to take the holistic approach.
We need to take it in the context of how herbal medicine is being used today, and how we are evolving,” she said.
The report said India’s health care system is not ready for herbal medicine, but that it is moving in the right direction.
It recommends that the Indian government ensure that herbal medicine does not become an industry, and that it focuses on making the herbal medicines available to people.