Medicinal Plants in India

The epiphytic orchids found in the Dooars and Darjeeling hills are dying out because of deforestation in their natural habitat.
  • Orchids are natural gauges of air quality and they draw pollinators like bees and other insects to their nectar and thereby help cross-pollination.
  • The death of orchids is a measure of health of ecosystem.
Historical Background:
  • Long before the prehistoric period, plants were used for medicinal purposes.
  • Herbs were described in ancient Unani manuscripts, Egyptian papyrus, and Chinese writings.
  • India was known to be a rich repository of medicinal plants among ancient civilisations.
  • The Indian forest is the primary repository of a large number of medicinal and aromatic plants, which are primarily collected as raw materials for the production of drugs and perfumery products.
  • In India, approximately 8,000 herbal remedies have been codified in AYUSH systems.
  • The major indigenous medicine systems are Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Folk (tribal) medicines.
  • Ayurveda and Unani Medicine are the most developed and widely practised of these systems in India.
Medicinal Plants in India:
  • Botanical Survey of India (BSI) an organization working under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, who are mandated for survey of plant diversity of the country; its documentation, including traditional knowledge associated with it at National, Regional, State and Ecosystem level and its conservation in different parts of the country has been carrying out survey and documentation of all plant resources of the country including medicinal / aromatic plants and herbs.
  • The survey is the nodal repository for Reference Plant Collections and at present houses about 2 million specimens in its different herbaria, which help in taxonomic characterization and monitoring of species, including medicinal plants.
  • It is estimated that, more than 8,000 species of medicinal herbs and medicinal plants are found in the country.
  • A study was got conducted by the National Medicinal Plants Board of Department of AYUSH through the Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Tradition (FRLHT), Bangalore.
Data: According to the report of study published in year 2008, total traded quantity of medicinal plants in the country was estimated to be about 3.19 lakhs metric tonnes for the year 2005-06.
  • In all, 960 medicinal plants are traded; out of which 178 species have annual consumption of more than 100 metric tonnes (MTs).  However, State / UT-wise findings are not available in this regard.
 Importance of Medicinal Plants:
  • Many tribal communities depend on wild flora and fauna to make their own medicines and the wild orchids are used to treat a range of diseases — cuts and fractures, skin diseases, aches and pains, gastrointestinal acidity and so on.
  • WHO report that says 80% of people on this planet depend on traditional remedies and epiphytic orchids add to the value chain of herbal healing.
National Mission on Medicinal Plants:
  • This scheme is primarily aimed at supporting cultivation of medicinal plants on private land with backwards linkages for establishment of nurseries, for supply of quality planting material etc. and forward linkages for post-harvest management, marketing infrastructure, certification in a mission mode.

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