Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) -Does It Ensure a Perfect Supply of Medicinal Herbs for Research and Drug Development?

P C Leung, K F Cheng


Summary: While users of herbal formulae have been disappointed with the lack of uniformity with the quality of herbs provided by the herb suppliers of different standings, they do not have better means of supply.  The tradition of identifying special geographic regions, as being specific for the best supply of certain herbal items is no longer reliable since the large demand for large quantities of quality supply could not be satisfied by limited plantations in those regions. A comprehensive recommendation of agricultural practice: from seedling, planting, fertilizing, harvesting, storage to distribution, can be offered as a compromise.  There is good prospect of an excellent supply of quality herbal products with uniformity, if Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) could be practiced and enforced.

Although the need for GAP is urgent, and Japan, China and World Health Organization, have one after the other, written up their recommendation, to put GAP into real practice would need special efforts and takes time. GAP in China is particularly difficult, not only because the herbal items involved are of great numbers but because the current practice of growing medicinal herbs, their marketing and distribution, have been counterproductive to the introduction of the new system of GAP.

At this stage, GAP will not be able to satisfy the extensive need for quality and uniformity.  Short of the knowledge of the exact, accurate nature of the active components within a herb, there will be no perfect guarantee on the quality supply.  Henceforth, even when GAP becomes a mature practice, what is required for quality control, viz, different levels of authentication, from chemical finger printing to molecular, DNA identification, will remain necessary as cross-checking mechanisms to make sure that uniformity in scientific experiments and drug development could be maintained


Agriculture; Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); Herb Quality; Good Agricultural Practice (GAP)

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