Title : Importance of conservation and research on medicinal and aromatic plants used in health care and upliftment of rural economy in Eastern Part of India
In recent times, medicinal and aromatic plants are finding diverse uses as raw materials not only for medicines but also for many other articles of cosmetics and perfumery. According to WHO, medicinal plants constitute the principal health care for more that 80% of total population. India exhibits wide range of topography and climate which has bearing on its vegetation and floristic composition. Medicinal and aromatic plants are now on the decline due to deforestation, lack of scientific cultivation and conservation creating problems that demands our immediate attention for greater interest of nation. Survival of the forests leads to the survival of mankind. Somewhere in the forest, there are probably compounds that will alleviate and correct almost every ailment known to mankind. The world will be benefitted from conservation of these species and their proper utilization. The state of West Bengal (Eastern part of India) comprising plains and hills is gifted with enormous wealth of medicinal and aromatic plants due to its varied ecological conditions. These can be priceless resources with high potential for economic and ecological gains especially in the rural areas, if properly protected and promoted. In order to conserve the natural resources of medicinal and aromatic plants in West Bengal along with their sustainable use with commercial exploitation as nontraditional cash crops for the welfare of rural people, the present authors have attempted for scientific studies viz. survey, traditional use, assessment of depletion, selection of potential target species; agro-technology, photoperiodic and hormonal role on growth, development and metabolic status in relation to the synthesis of active principles; economics of cultivation and conservation strategy of the medicinal plants flora in West Bengal in different agro-ecological conditions. Eight species of medicinal and aromatic plants(Andrographis paniculata,Adhatoda vasica,Centella asiatica,Catharanthus roseus,Cymbopogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon martini, Ocimum basilicum andMentha piperita) have been identified as target plants widely used in South Bengal for common diseases and six species of specified antidiabetic medicinal plants(Gymnema sylvestre,Swertia chirata, Catharanthus roseus, Andrgraphis paniculata and Coccinia grandis) have been identified in North Bengal.
Specific agronomic inputs have been done successfully with the target species of South Bengal and North Bengal for ex-situ conservation. Conservation studies clearly showed that G.sylvestre flourished in Laterite soil and S.chirata in sub-Himalayan zone. Clinical studies clearly established that G.sylvestre proved to be most effective anti-diabetic plant which showed significant hypoglycemic and anti-lipidic activities. In South Bengal, the studies clearly established that all the eight species of medicinal and aromatic plants can be conserved with the specific agro-technology and also established that the specific requirement of fertilizers, light condition, and hormonal treatments are conducive for optimum growth, development and increased synthesis of essential oils. Also shown morphological and biochemical indexing of the synthesis of essential oils and active principles along with the increased synthesis of metabolites. Cost: Benefit ratio clearly revealed the economic feasibility of G.sylvestre, S.chirata and C.roseus in north Bengal and C.flexuosus and C.martini in South Bengal. Increased production of herbage yield and essential oil yield per hectare towards optimum treatments with specific agronomic inputs along with physical and chemical treatments and also the economics of cultivation of the two aromatic-cum-medicinal plants viz.C.flexuosus and C.martini clearly established that the plants would be attractive to the farmers to exploit them as non-traditional cash crops incorporating them in main cropping system in South Bengal utilizing waste land and uplifting of rural economy.
Audience Take Away Notes:
- Importance of herbal medicines which are mostly safe, natural origin,low cost and generally no side effects against synthetic ones which are costly and having side effects as regards dose, duration and interaction.
- Opens up enormous areas for research to find out new and unknown medicinal plants producing miracle biomolecules for unknown and dreadful diseases.
- To conserve the plants in ex-situ conservation for the greater interest of health care for poor village people and to save biodiversity.