Though the State has a great tradition of Ayurveda, fears loom large over the fast depletion of medicinal herbs.

Taking a cue from the success of vegetable cultivation among the student community, many schools are now reserving a small corner in the garden to grow herbs. As many as 50 more schools in the district will boast of their own medicinal garden in the coming months.

The project was first launched at the Karthika Tirunal Girl’s Higher Secondary School, Manacaud, last year. Since then, 15 schools have created their own herbal garden with funding from the Kerala State Medicinal Plants Board.

The plants are supplied by the Pharmacognosy unit under the Ayurveda Research Institute, Poojappura, which is the implementing agency for the project.

As many as 50 potted plants and 30 saplings of herbs, including Pavizhamalli, Nelli, Naga Poovu, and Njaval, are supplied to these schools.

“Experts from the research institute selected these schools based on the strength and land available for cultivation. The students are given training on growing these plants,” said G.R. Jayakumar, senior research officer at the institute.

They are also provided with three activity and guide books (Grihankanathil Oru Oushadhodyanam, Susthira Oushadha Sasyakrishi, and Oushadha Sasyakrishiyum Paripalanavum), which details the complete care and cultivation of medicinal plants.

According to a study report conducted by the Kerala State Medicinal Plants Board, only seven per cent of the raw materials are obtained from cultivated land, while the collection is mainly from wild. However, the increase in demand led to unscientific and destructive harvesting, thereby causing a depletion of the vast resources.

The project is also aimed at creating an interest among the younger generation about traditional medicines and conservation of herbs indigenous to the State. For this, the organisers have also taken care to provide laminated name board for each plant that is spotted in the garden. The name boards will contain details of each herb, including the biological name and its medicinal properties.

The organisers feel that it is important that the children are also aware of the present situation where there is lack of availability of medicinal plants for the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines.

According to an official, close to 450 species of medicinal plants are used for making Ayurvedic medicines, while approximately 200 species are used in the medical manufacturing industries.