The Medicinal Plants of India’s Paddar Valley

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Ethno-botanical study of medicinal plants of Paddar Valley of Jammu and Kashmir, India

Gupta SK, Sharma OM, Raina NS, Sehgal S
Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med
2013 May 16;10(4):59-65
PubMed Central: PMC3794392
Jammu and Kashmir, India
Jammu and Kashmir, India (Source: Wikimedia Commons user Shivansh.ganjoo)

Researchers from the University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology of Jammu and the Department of Forests, Government of Jammu and Kashmir undertook an ethnobotanical survey of the Paddar valley, gathering specimens and traditional knowledge regarding prescription and preparation of medicine by using local herbs in various villages.

The authors describe the region and its ethnobotanical significance in their introduction:

“Western Himalayas are considered as a storehouse of herbal wealth supporting the vast network of traditional Indian System of Medicine. There is a wealth of information on the identity and distribution of different plant species of the region in the form of regional floras, reports of botanical expeditions, monographic accounts of families, genera and similar other publications. Ethno-botanical studies on medicinal plants are of paramount importance, particularly in the harsh climates like cold arid regions wherein modern system of medicine is not so developed. Such indigenous system of traditional knowledge conserves cultural and ecological diversity besides community healthcare and drug development. Ethno-botanical studies are also expected to provide new material for the ever-expanding pharmaceutical industry. Paddar Valley is the farthest corner of District Kishtwar, comprising 32 villages on south-eastern side touching its borders with Himachal Pradesh, Zanskar Valley of Ladakh and Marwah-Wadwan Valley. Paddar is known for blue diamond ‘Sapphire’ deposits and other forest products like kala zeera and guchhi. The area is drained by the Chenab river system which, flowing in from neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, enters the area through Paddar, the trans-Himalayan trekking trails leading to the Suru and Zanskar valleys of Ladakh pass amidst breathtaking mountain sceneries. …

“The region provides a wide variety of plants (herbs, shrubs and trees) owing to its diversified landscapes. Every year, thousands of people undertake Machail pilgrimage along Bhot nala, a tributary of River Chenab. The local inhabitants largely depended upon the local flora for food and medicine. The information on these plant species is utilised to understand the human-plant relationship, as well as a guide for drug development under the assumption that a plant which has been used by indigenous people over a long period of time may have an allopathic application. Due to the remoteness of the area and dearth of doctors, the ‘hakims’ resorted to different medicinal plants as a treatment to different diseases. The decline in their cultural peculiarities and their traditional knowledge about the local floras are spontaneous and fast due to better facilities of transportation, communication and education.”

Hyssopus officinalis
Hyssopus officinalis (Source: Wikimedia Commons user H. Zell)

The team identified a number of plants used to treat a variety of conditions. The medicinal species included Bunium persicum, Arnebia euchroma, Inula racemosa, Codonopsis rotundifolia, Onosoma hispidia, Rheum australe, Aquilegia fragrans, Aconitum heterophyllum, Ephedra gegardiana, Hyssopus officinalis, Morina longifolia, and Picrrorhiza kurroo. Local use of the plant species, their local names and parts used are detailed in a table.

Noting that many of these species are endangered, the authors recommend conservation, development, and sustainable marketing of these valuable resources:

“Over-exploitation of these species has not only degraded the local vegetation and the disappearing of natural beauty but also endangered certain species, and one has to travel miles to find them. The direct causes such as cutting of forests for commercial and subsistence purposes and indiscriminate grazing, as well as indirect causes such as insecure land tenure, poverty and population growth, were the most vital factors affecting the local flora. Harsh climatic and high altitude conditions and inaccessibility are the factors which force the people to depend on wild flora for healthcare. There is a negligible attitude towards the cultivation of these herbs. Some of these plants are only found to grow in the forest and grassy slopes and very few find place in the people’s home gardens. Therefore, there is a dire need for the protection of this wealth of nature before it disappears from this planet. Moreover, this type of study would be essential for regeneration, conservation and reforestation of this niche area. The altitudinal variation in vegetation was also observed in the zone. The present study disclosed that the growing season was too small starting from April up to September only. The bottlenecks in enhancing the livelihood of the people by using traditional knowledge included inaccessibility of the area, lack of processing and adequate storage after harvest, legal restrictions due to forest legislations, inadequate market and assured prices.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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