GS-1; SUB-UNIT- 3
The integral relation between medicinal and aromatic plants and the quality of human life has been there in our ancient scriptures and texts. Amongst the ancient civilization, India has been known to be a repository of medicinal plants. The Charaka Samhita and Sushurt Samhita (200-700 BC) has described the properties and the use of thousands of medicinal plants, and these are still used in the classical formulations in the Ayurvedic medicinal system.
In India the Himalayan states particularly the state of Himachal Pradesh is home to such medicinal and aromatic plants. In today’s context, the large majority of medicinal and aromatic plants’ raw material is still collected from their wild growth.
However, the demand grew due to the growth in the organized sectors of industries. The state of Himachal Pradesh covers an area of 55.538 sq. km. is phytogeographically quite important region due to abrupt changes in topography starting from tropical to the alpine zone is greatly reflected in the general vegetation pattern of the state particularly with regards to a variety of medicinal and aromatic plants and their abundance.
However, the rigid mountainous topography and extreme climate conditions are its limitations. Nevertheless, the states has made remarkable achievements in agriculture, horticulture, and the production of various cash crops besides being the major potato seed supplier of the country. The state has also an old tradition of dealing with medicinal and aromatic herbs as potential raw materials for the industry.
The ancient tradition of collecting large quantities of crude drugs is still continuing practice. Dioscorea deltoidea, Berberis asiatica, Saussurea lappa, and Juniperus macropoda are a few examples of scores of other such medicinal and aromatic plants.
The flora of Himachal Pradesh consists of about 1600 plants species. Of these, about 260 plant species are attributed to medicinal plants, and about 100 species are aromatic in nature. The earlier work has been empirical in nature and the descriptions in ancient books on the medicinal and aromatic plants of the Himalayan region deals with the curative properties of the plants either singly or in combination. Elaborating with a few examples:
|NAME OF THE PLANT||PROPERTIES|
|Acorus calamus Linn.||tranquilizer|
|Adhatoda vasica Medic.||bronchodilator|
|Andographis paniculata Nees.||Liver tonic|
|Artemesia vulgaris Linn.||Cardiac tonic|
|Azadirachta indica A. Juss.||Antibacterial, antiviral|
|Bacopa monnieri Linn.||Memory enhancer|
|Boerhaavia diffusa Linn.||Diuretic, anti-inflammatory|
|Cassia augustifolia vahl||cathartic|
|Centalla asiatica Linn.||Nerve tonic|
|Cissus quadrangularis Linn.||Heals bone fracture|
|Commiphora mukul Engl.||hypolipidemic|
|Curcuma longa Linn.||Anti-inflammatory|
|Holarrhena antidysentrica wall.||antidysentric|
|Picrorhiza kurroa royle ex. Benth.||Antihepatotoxic and antipyretic|
|Plantago ovata Forsk.||Mild laxative|
|Psoralia corylifolia||Vitiligo treatment|
|Sida rhombifolia Linn.||anabolic|
|Swertia chirata Buch. Ham.||febrifuge|
|Terminalia arjuna W.||Cardiac tonic|
OTHER TRADITIONAL USES OF ANCIENT MEDICINAL AND AROMATIC PLANTS
MUSHROOM/GUCCHHII (Morchella esculenta): The Morchella esculenta local name guchhi is a wild morels mushroom that grows in the deep Himalayan forest. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat indigestion, excessive phlegm, and shortness of breath. In Himachal, it is found in the hills of Shimla, Kinnaur, Kullu, Sirmour, Chamba district among other places.
The popular saying in the hill is if the spring in the hill is wet with frequent thunderstorms guchhi burst in plenty. It is found only during a few weeks.
Cannabis or bhang: It is very much a part of Indian history and culture. The plant is considered holy and is associated with Lord Shiva. Bhang has well documented as anti-nausea and anti-vomiting properties. This becomes especially useful during chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients.
Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera has been for medicinal purpose in several cultures for millennia. It contains essential vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, fatty acids, hormones, and other suitable agents for antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and other healing properties.
Sea buckthorn: In Himachal Pradesh, it is locally called chharma and grows in the wild in Lahaul and Spiti, and Kinnaur. According to the sea-buckthorn association of India, around 15,000 hectares in Himachal, Ladakh, Uttrakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachala Pradesh are covered by this plant.
It is a shrub that produces an orange-colored edible berry. As a folk medicine, sea buckthorn has been widely used for treating stomach, heart, and skin problems. Its fruit ad leaves are rich in vitamins, carotenoids, and omega fatty acids and it can help troops acclimatize to high altitudes. Sea buckthorn also has commercial value, as it is used to make juices, jams, nutritional capsules etc.
Nag chhatri (trillium govanianum): Nag chhatri is a rare Himalayan herb that grows at an altitude of 8500 feet mostly in India, Nepal, and China. In Himachal, it emerged out as a lucrative business for the villagers of Kullu, Mandi, and some other parts of it. A hormone called corticosteroid is extracted from the roots of nag chhatri which is used to prepare sex hormones, regulate menstrual flow and stomach-related problems.
For the promotion of medicinal plants and related activities in the hill state, the State Medicinal Plants Board has been functioning in the State under the aegis of Ayush Department. The focus is consideration of economic need and easy availability of medicinal plants for the manufacture of Ayurvedic medicines.
Financial assistance to farmers in different agro-climatic zones for the cultivation of medicinal plants:
- The State government has introduced policies to promote the conservation of medicinal plants and encourage farmers to cultivate them and supplement their incomes.
- To develop Himachal Pradesh as the hub of medicinal plants, the State government is providing financial assistance to farmers in different agro-climatic zones for cultivation of medicinal plants under the National Ayush Mission.
- Various farmer clusters have been prepared for this purpose.
- To get the benefit of financial assistance, a farmer cluster must have at least two hectares of land.
- A cluster can comprise three adjoining villages in a 15 kilometre radius.
- Mortgaged land can also be used for the cultivation of these medicinal plants.
- As many as 318 farmers have been provided financial assistance amounting to Rs. 99.68 lakh for the cultivation of medicinal plants from January 2018 onwards.
The National Ayush Mission (NAM) in the year 2019-20 has provided financial assistance of about Rs. 128.94 lakh for medicinal plants component in the state. Out of this, Rs. 25 lakh has been allocated for one model nursery and Rs. 12.5 lakh for two small nurseries, Rs. 54.44 lakh for the cultivation of Atis, Kutki, Kuth, Shatavari, Stevia and Sarpagandha, Rs. 20 lakh for construction of drying shed and storage godown and Rs. 17 lakh for flexible component.
The State government has established herbal gardens in Joginder Nagar in district Mandi, Neri in district Hamirpur, Rohru in district Shimla and Jungle Jhalera in district Bilaspur to promote production of medicinal plants in the State. Different types of medicinal plants catering to different agro-climatic zones are being grown in these herbal gardens which are used to prepare different types of medicines for various ailments.
National Medicinal Plants Board, Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India has established Regional-cum-Facilitation Centre of Northern Region at Research Institute in Indian Systems of Medicine, Joginder Nagar, district Mandi. This centre is promoting the cultivation and conservation of medicinal plants in six neighbouring North Indian states including Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh and propagating the mandate of the National Medicinal Plants Board.
To generate awareness among masses of the State about medicinal plants, the plantation drive, ‘Charak Vatika’ was carried out by the AYUSH department for two weeks in Phase-I, in which Charak Vatikas were established in 1167 Ayurvedic institutions and about 11,526 plants were planted. Phase-II of Charak Vatika has been started on 7th June, 2021.
The State, having diverse climatic conditions, is home to nearly 640 species of medicinal plants which are distributed along the four agro-climatic zones. Tribal districts like Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti, Kullu, a few areas of Kangra and Shimla districts located at an altitude of over 2,500 metres, produce enormously useful medicinal plants. Some of these include Patis, Batsnabh, Atis, Tragen, Kirmala, Ratanjot, Kala jeera, Kesar, Somlata, Jangli heeng, Charma, Khursani ajwain, Pushkar mul, Hauver, Dhop, Dhamni, Nechni, Neri, Kejavo, Dhop Chrelu, Sharger, Gaggr and Buransh.
Besides this, the State government has resorted to regular monitoring of habitats, establishment and conservation of species in situ conditions and replication of this approach in other parts of Indian Himalayan Region have been recommended. Awareness about the biodiversity values is being created among the inhabitants and participation of inhabitants in conservation and management of biological resources is being ensured.
- Diversification in Agriculture and allied activities, Land tenure and size of landholdings in Himachal Pradesh – HPAS Mains
- Himachal Pradesh State Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, Endangered and threatened species of Himachal Pradesh, Factors responsible for Biodiversity decline in Himachal Pradesh. – HPAS Mains
- Social, Economic and Cultural implications of Tourism in Himachal Pradesh – HPAS Mains
- Types of tourism: religious, adventure, heritage, Important tourist destinations in Himachal Pradesh – HPAS Mains
- Concept of Eco-Tourism and green tourism and their role in the sustainable development of the State of Himachal Pradesh – HPAS Mains