India is one among the twelve mega diversity countries, commanding 7% of the world’s biodiversity and supporting 16% of the major forest types, varying from alpine pastures in the Himalayas to temperate, subtropical, tropical forests, and mangroves in the coastal areas. Three of the world’s 18 hotspots of bio-diversity are found in India and thus have supremacy over 89,451 animal species, accounting for 7.31% of the faunal species in the world and the flora accounts for 10.78% of the global total. India possesses rich heritage of valuable ‘fauna’ and hence, has been considered as a ‘treasure house of valuable medicinal and aromatic plant species. The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India have identified and documented over 9,500 plant species, considering their importance in the pharmaceutical industry. Out of these, about 65 plants have large and consistent demand in world trade.
Here is the list of medicinal plant found in India which requires urgent attention for conservation:
Amla – Phyllanthus emblica
Also known as emblic, emblic myrobalan, myrobalan, Indian gooseberry, Malacca tree, or amla from Sanskrit amalika, is a deciduous tree of the family Phyllanthaceae. It is known for its edible fruit of the same name.
In traditional Indian medicine, amla is used to promote longevity, and traditionally to enhance digestion, treat constipation, reduce fever, purify the blood, reduce cough, alleviate asthma, strengthen the heart, benefit the eyes, stimulate hair growth, enliven the body and enhance intellect.
Ashok – Saraca asoca
Saraca asoca (the ashoka tree;”sorrow-less”) is a plant belonging to the Caesalpinioideae subfamily of the legume family. It is an important tree in the cultural traditions of the Indian subcontinent and adjacent areas.
As a wild tree, ashok is a vulnerable species. It is becoming rarer in its natural habitat, but isolated wild ashoka trees are still found in the foothills of the central and eastern Himalayas, in scattered locations of the northern plains of India as well as on the west coast of the subcontinent near Mumbai. The dry bark of ashok tree have major medicinal significance in curing menstrual pain, uterine disorder and diabetes.
Bael – Aegle marmelos
Aegle marmelos, commonly known as bael, Bengal quince, golden apple, stone apple, wood apple, bili, is a species of tree native to India. It is present throughout Southeast Asia as a naturalized species. The tree is considered to be sacred by Hindus. Its fruits are used in traditional medicine and as a food throughout its range.
In the system of Ayurveda, this drug finds several and frequent therapeutic uses in different forms and recipes. They are prescribed in a number of diseases such as gastro intestinal diseases, piles, oedema, jaundice, vomiting, obesity, pediatric disorders, gynecological disorders, urinary complaints and as a rejuvenative.
Aswagandha – Withania somnifera
Withania somnifera, known commonly as ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, or winter cherry, is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Several other species in the genus Withania are morphologically similar. It is used as a herb in Ayurvedic medicine.
The plant’s long, brown, tuberous roots are used in traditional medicine. In Ayurveda, the berries and leaves are applied externally to tumors, tubercular glands, carbuncles, and ulcers. The roots are used to prepare the herbal remedy ashwagandha, which has been traditionally used for various symptoms and conditions.
Sada Bahar – Catharanthus roseus
Catharanthus roseus, commonly known as the Madagascar periwinkle or rosy periwinkle, is a species of Catharanthus native and endemic to Madagascar. In the wild, it is an endangered plant; the main cause of decline is habitat destruction by slash and burn agriculture. It is also, however, widely cultivated and is naturalized in subtropical and tropical areas of the world.
In Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) the extracts of its roots and shoots, though poisonous, is used against several diseases. In traditional Chinese medicine, extracts from it have been used against numerous diseases, including diabetes, malaria, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
India has 16 Agro climatic zones, 45,000 diverse plant species, out of which 15,000 are medicinal plants. The Indian Systems of Medicine have identified 1500 medicinal plants, of which 500 species are mostly used in the preparation of drugs. The Indian Systems of Medicine, particularly Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, & Homoeopathy medicines largely use plant base materials, minerals, metals, marine and products of animal origin. Increasing commercialization, International patent, deforestation, preservation and cut throat competition in the international drug and cosmetic industry have put a big question mark on the existence of these plants.
Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd urges corporations and government organizations to join hands in conserving these endangered medicinal plants so that the medicinal utility they provide to the living beings should continue to exist. It is high time that India drafts legislations that will ensure protection for its medicinal plants and lays down policy guidelines for the commercial use and exploitation of this resource.
- Odisha Forest Development Corporation
By : Anand Kumar
Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt.Ltd