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Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: An Overview

Medicinal and Aromatic plants have been used for a long time for their medicinal properties and personal hygiene. About 2000 native plant species have curative properties and 1300 species are known for their aroma and flavour. The Indian systems of medicines popularly known as Ayurveda, Unani and Sidha have again emerged as popular medical systems. Majority of the medicinal plants are higher flowering plants, out of which 33% are trees, 32% herbs, 20% shrubs, 12 climbers and 3% others. Due to the spurt in the demand of plant based drugs, lately, many native species of medicinal values are being brought under systematic cultivation.

In case of medicinal plants, China and India are the two major production centres having more than 40% of global biodiversity. International market for medicinal plants is over US$ 60 billion per year, which is growing at the rate of 7% annually. China, besides meeting its domestic requirement, is earning US$ 5 billion per year from herbal trade. According to the recent estimates, India, at present, exports herbal material and medicines to the tune of over Rs. 300 crore, which is targeted to be raised to Rs 3000 crore by 2005. There is thus an enormous scope for India also to emerge as a major player in the global herbal products-based medicines. Recent years have witnessed a rapid growth in the world demand for essential oils and natural aroma chemicals used in drug synthesis, food flavouring, fragrances, perfumes, cosmetics and related products. The world essential oil production at raw material level is estimated at around Rs. 4500 crore annually. Out of this, 55-60% goes as food flavours, 15-20% as fragrances and the rest serve as raw material for the isolation of various aroma chemicals, which go into different uses.

Medicinal Plants

Medicinal plants, as a group, comprise approximately 8000 species and account for about 50% of all the higher flowering plant species of India. India is one of the richest countries in the world as regards genetic resource of medicinal and aromatic plants. It constitutes 11% of total known world flora though its total land mass occupies only 2.0% of the globe. Even though over 105 plants provide the basic raw material used in modern medicine the world over, the number of plants thus exploited in India is as small as 40.

At present, about 90% collection of medicinal plants is from the wild source and 70% of the plant collections involve destructive harvesting. Due to this, many useful plant species are becoming endangered or threatened. Similarly, marketing of raw drugs of medicinal plants being unorganized and unregulated, often quality is not maintained. Since medicinal plants sector has a number of stake holders having divergent interests, without proper co-ordination, sustained growth in medicinal and aromatic plants cannot be ensured.

In recent years, the growing demand for herbal products has led to a quantum jump in volume of plant material traded within and outside the countries. And estimate of the EXIM Bank projects international market of medicinal plants related trade at US$ 60 billion per year, growing at a rate of 7% annually. Though India has rich biodiversity, the growing demand is putting a heavy strain on the existing resources.

Scenerio of north eastern region

North eastern region of India with its vast land comprising hills, rivers, forest and varied climates is the store house of a number of rare flora and fauna. The total geographical area of this region is 265036 sq km out of which around 27% are under forest cover. This region is represented by 500 flowering plant species and constitutes 34% of the total flora of the country (Khashoo, 1992). It is the homeland of about 280 tribes and they are living in isolation in remote areas. Each tribe bears own identity, culture and socio-economic life. They are dependent to a great extent on the forest for livelihood, shelter, fuel etc. and also use different types of medicinal plants since ages to cure the ailment. The primary mean of livelihood of the people of this region is traditional agriculture.

The medicinal plants used by different tribes of the region to cure various diseases can provide ‘lead’ to get useful and active constituents for development of drug. This requires systematic survey, screening and evaluation of plants of different localities. In recent times efforts have been made for tapping and documentation of the medicinal plants of this region used by different ethnic groups with a view to utilize the traditional knowledge bases for drug development. For example, Clerodendrum colebrookianum  popularly known as ‘Nefafu’ in Assam ‘Origin’ in Arunachal Pradesh and ‘Phuinam’ in Mizoram is known to have hypotensive effect. Phytochemical investigations of the plant have been made and it was observed that ‘Phuinam’ grown in a particular altitude bears active component responsible for lowering the blood pressure. Systematic screening has also been made on a number of folkloric medicinal plants of this region to isolate and identify the active constituents presents in the plants. Till date a few plant species bearing medicinal value have been investigated and some of the plants are as follows:

As the forest of this region are rich for a number of medicinal plants of industrial importance, wild and indiscriminate collection of plants are continuing for along time mostly by the forest dwellers and economically backward classes. These people are neither educated nor trained for collection of the plants. It is reported that huge quantity of medicinal plants are being taken away places by indiscriminate collection. If the process continues unabated, depletion of medicinal plants is unevitable because of over exploitation. R serpentina of India is an example of this kind. The plant was collected wild and exported to USA. This has resulted over exploitation of the plant and the government had to impose an imbargo on its export. As the pharmacopoeia of USA requires only R serpentina of Indian origin when used it in crude form the country had to face major problem. Similarly, Coptis teeta of India, an endangered specis, has been also over exploited for export other Asian countries.

            The active constituents extracted from the plants can be used for production of semisynthetic drugs. For example the tubers of Dioscorea composita and D floribunda, abundantly available in this region, contain steroidal sapogenin which is in use as the starting material for production of a number of steroidal drugs like corticosteroids, sex hormones, oral contraceptives and anabolic agent. Presently, 50% of the raw materials for synthesis of these drugs are obtained from Dioscorea.

The most commercially exploited medicinal plants of East Khasi Hills:

Slno

Scientific Name

Slno

Scientific Name

Slno

Scientific Name

1

Achillea Millefelium

82

CentellaAsiatica/Hydrocotale

163

Origanum Vulgare

2

Agastache Rugusa

83

Cuscuta Hyalina

164

Oxalis Corniculata

3

Allamanda Cathartica

84

Croton Ablogifolius

165

Prunus spp

4

Azadirachta Indica

85

Crinium Latifolium

166

Parnasia Palustris

5

Acacia Melisima

86

Canavis Sativa

167

Polyganum Hydropiper

6

Abelmoschus Maschutes

87

Citrus Lemon

168

Piper Pupuloides

7

Aneilima Scapiflerum

88

Cinchona Elliptica

169

Piaris Ovalifolia

8

Alpinia Malaccensis

89

Carlina Acaulis

170

Phragmite Australis

9

Alpinia Gallanga

90

Cinnamomum Zeylonilum

171

Physalis Alkangi

10

Aralia Psede Ginsang

91

Clerodendrom Infortunatum

172

Plautago Erosa

11

Anephalis Mulgerrima

92

Carpinus Betulus

173

Piper Nigrum

12

Anthexythum Oderatium

93

Cucurbita Maxima

174

Phyllanthus Fraxternus

13

Achyranthes Bidentata

94

Commelina Suffruticosa

175

Pinus Kasia

14

Achyranthes Aspera

95

Calicarpa Arborea

176

Prunus Ovium

15

Ajuga Reptans

96

Cassia Sophera

177

Pisum Sativum

16

Andropegen Nardus

97

Curcuma Zedoria

178

Prunus Persica

17

Aralia Nudicaulis

98

Curcuma Longa

179

Passiflora Edulis

18

Albiziz Odoratissima

99

Crinus Sinensis

180

Phyllastachis Manii

19

Amora Cucullata

100

Cassia Mimosoides

181

Psidium Gauva

20

Agrimania Elipatoria

101

Cymbopogon Citratus

182

Piper Bettle

21

Agava augustifolia

102

Crotolaria Juncea

183

Plantago Major

22

Adanaphara Stricta

103

Crotolaria Prostrata

184

Phyllanthus Emblica

23

Angelica Arch-angelica

104

Citrullus Colocynthus

185

Piper Longum

24

Arundo Donax

105

Curcumis Melo

186

Phaseolus Calceratus

25

Ausculus Hyppocastamus

106

Dioscorea Bulbifera

187

Pueraria Phaseoloides

26

Anisemeles Erata

107

Drynaria Quencifolia

188

Rubus Molaccanus

27

Albizia Julibrissim

108

Dendrobeum Macraei

189

Rhodendrone Campanulatum

28

Adiantum Flabelulatum

109

Dolichos lab lab

190

Recinus Communis

29

Artocarpus Heterophyllus

110

Datura Fastuasa

191

Rumex Crispa

30

Anamirta Caculus

111

Dulenia Indica

192

Rumex Elipticus

31

Aster Crinervius

112

Discorea Pentaphylla

193

Rhus Semiliata

32

Artimisia Vulgaris

113

Desmodium Gangeticum

194

Rubia Tinctoria

33

Ananas Sativas

114

Emblica Officinalis

195

Rosa Aglenteria

34

Amonium Arematicum

115

Eupatorium Cannabinum

196

Rosa Lasiocarpus

35

Antidesma Bunius

116

Eupatorium Perfoliatum

197

Rosa Ellipticus

36

Aegle Marmeles

117

Erithryna Variegata

198

Rhus Succedona

37

Asparagus Raumosa

118

Erigeron Canadensis

199

Solanum Nigrum

38

Asparagus Filicinus

119

Equisetum hymale

200

Schisandra Chinensis

39

Alstenia Scholaris

120

Equisetum Arvens

201

Solanum Ferox

40

Asclepias Curassanica

121

Eriosema Chinenses

202

Solanum Xanthocarpum

41

Amerianthus Gangeticus

122

Eupatorium Odoratum

203

Salvia Elegans

42

Anemana Rivularis

123

Elaegnus Pyriformis

204

Sanseveria Zeylonica

43

Arnica Mentana

124

Elaegnus Latifolia

205

Symplocos Cratnagoides

44

Allria Petislata

125

Ficus Glomatra

206

Schima Wallichii

45

Atheo Afficinalis

126

Ficus Hispida

207

Senecio Densiflorus

46

Aquilegia Vulgaris

127

Ficus Elastica

208

Smilax Chinensis

47

Artimisia Abretanum

128

Ficus Infactoria

209

Sida Rhomboid

48

Artimisia Vulgaris

129

Frageria Vesea

210

Sesamum Indicum

49

Allium Tuberasum

130

Flemingia Vestica

211

Smilax Macrophylla

50

Albizia lebbak

131

Ficus Ratusa

212

Soraca Indica

51

Ameera Walichii

132

Gentina Lutea

213

Terminalis Catapa

52

Anisameles Malabarica

133

Gautheria Fragrantisima

214

Tagetes Patula

53

Adiantum Pedatum

134

Hedera Halix

215

Taraxocum Officinale

54

Aquilaria Agellecha

135

Helianthus Annus

216

Urena Labota

55

Brysphyllum Calycinum

136

Hibiscus Rosasorensis

217

Urtica Urrens

56

Bauhinia Variagata

137

Hydrococtyle Avanica

218

Urtica Deoica

57

Bauhinia Purpurea

138

Hiptage Acuminata

219

Viola Tricolor

58

Bombax Ceiba

139

Houttuynia Cordata

220

Vitex Nogundo

59

Batula Alneides

140

Kaemferia Galanga

221

Viola Odorata

60

Benanaya Reptans

141

Kaemferia Rotunda

222

Vitis Pedata

61

Brunella Vulgaris

142

Lycopus Vircinicus

223

Viscum Articulatum

62

Bletillia Stricta

143

Lycopodium Speciosa

224

Vitex Pendacularis

63

Bridelia Ratusa

144

Lantana Camera

225

Viburnum Foetidum

64

Bridelia Montana

145

Ligustrum Lucidum

226

Vinca Minor

65

Bichofia Javanica

146

Leea Crispa

227

Vigna Vexilata

66

Blumea Balsamifera

147

Mentha Arvensis 

228

Ipomea spp.

67

Brasenia Sachraben

148

Mucuna Monosperma

229

Chloranthus Brachystachys

68

Curcuma Caesia

149

Michelia Champaca

230

Litsea Chinensis

69

Celosia Agentina

150

Michelia Punduana

231

Cynomatra Polyandra

70

Castania Sativa

151

Mosla Dianthara

232

Trichosanthus Wallichiana

71

Codonopsis Tongshen

152

Mantha Spicata

233

Melothria Perpusilla

72

Curcuma Aromatica

153

Myrica Nagi

234

Siegesbaskia Orientalis

73

Cinnamomum Pauciflorum

154

Morus Indica

235

Toddalia Asiatica

74

Cucumis Sativus

155

Morus Alba

236

Hypericum Patulum

75

Citrus Maxima

156

Mimosa Pudica

237

Saccharum Spontaneum

76

Cinnamomum Glanduliforum

157

Mahonia Aquifolium

238

Coix Lachryma-Jobi

77

Chenopodium Ambroisoides

158

Milletia Pachycarpa

239

Zingiber Zerumbet

78

Cinchona Pulescens

159

Malva Sylvastris

240

Zanthoxylum Americanum

79

Coryca Papaya

160

Oxalis Acetosilda

241

Zanthoxylum spp

80

Curcuma Angustifolia

161

Oroxylum Indicum

242

Pterosparmum Acerifolium

81

Clausena Excavata

162

Osmunda Regalis

243

Taxus Baccata

 
 

 
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