There are more than 14,500 species of flowering plants available in Malaysian forests and approximately 1,200 of these are reported to have medicinal properties. However, currently only 200 species are used in the preparation of various traditional medicines (FAO, 2002).
Most of the medicinal plant species are collected from the wild, a few are being cultivated. The commercial potential of these plants has not yet been exploited. Some of the 78 common medicinal and aromatic plant species used as major ingredients in local herbal products is given in Table 1. Many of the plants in the country are rich in aromatic compounds that can be used commercially as flavour and fragrance agents in beverages, food products, confectionery, toothpaste, cosmetics and medicinal preparations. The important ones include Curcuma domestica Valeton, Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf, Cymbopogon nardus (L.) Rendel, Pandanus odorus Ridl. and Polygonum minus Huds. Plants such as pepper, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, lemon grass etc. are exclusively used in the food and flavouring industry (Mohd Ilham et al., 2003). The economic potential of these species for commercial application is very promising because of the tremendous diversity in the country and the continuous demand for flavour and fragrance industries. Although various medicinal and aromatic plant resources are available locally for industry only a small amount is being harvested from Malaysian forests. The main supply of the medicinal plant material continues to come from China, India and Indonesia (FAO, 2002).