Common strategic intentions in the agricultural and food sector are co-participation of agriculture in preserving and developing the rural environment and maintaining rural settlement. The HERBS project (“Training material of herbs for supporting agricultural SMEs”) contributes to this intention, by supporting the diversification of activities in agriculture. The strategic interests of countries involved (Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia) in the present model are the preservation and further development of education and professional qualifications of workers in agriculture.
As it can be seen from the summary based on the country reports the production of herbal plants across Europe seems to slightly increase, both on large and small scale, therefore the existence of such training materials is needed.
There are more than 50.000 of herbs species o Earth. The world businesses count nearly with 2.500 species. The main producers of those plant species with proved medical effect or aromatic characteristic (a.k.a. herbs) are China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and the USA.
In the European Union there are about 2.000 different herbs species cultivated and produced. Germany is the most important producer in the EU – it produces about 1.500 herbs species. France produces ca. 900 species, Czech Republic ca. 300 species, and Hungary ca. 270 species.
EUROSTAT confirms that total world trade with HERBS was 3.172 mld. USD in 2009. The volume of imports was 1,651 mld. USD, the volume of export was 1.520 mld. USD.
There are several ways of utilising medicinal herbs adapting an extremely wide range of methods. The first – and perhaps most important – area of utilisation is associated with health: curing diseases as well as preserving health. Applying them in the form of various teas, tinctures, ointments, wet packs or compresses, medicinal bath waters and volatile oils medicinal herbs offer alternative ways for curing and preventing a wide range of different diseases. Phytotherapy by now has become the integral part of medical treatment based on natural science, and it is – at the same time – the best known and most widely adapted procedure of therapeutics. Medicinal herbs play a more and more important role in the production of cosmetics and household materials. The other major field of utilising herbs is the food processing industry, where the endeavour to produce natural products is perceptible, too, and the consumption of organic food is also becoming ever more popular. The well-known spice herbs used for seasoning food (e.g. Cumin, thyme, anise, coriander, garlic, etc.) are at the same time – without exception – also medicinal herbs.