The forest tracts around Chennai abound in herbs that were once commonly used to treat medical conditions. P. Oppili reports

Beyond the Guindy National Park (GNP), the IIT-M campus and Nanmangalam forest, the city has forested tracts that support around 30 species of plants known for their medicinal values. N. Muthu Karthick, a researcher with CareEarth, a Chennai-based biodiversity organisation, has identified these plants. And his research has brought surprising facts to light. For example, these plants were commonly used in the day-to-day diet.

Over 100 species of medicinal plants were found at Trisoolam hills, Vandalur Reserved Forest, Unamancheri and other forest tracts in and around Chennai. Those who stayed near these forest areas utilised the medicinal plants for minor ailments, skin allergies and common infections.

D. Narasimhan, Associate Professor, Botany Department, Madras Christian College, Tambaram, said 60 per cent of the flora found in the city were said to contain medicinal properties in them.

Primary Health Centres (PHC) in the city had a Siddha medical practitioner, who used to prescribe extracts from these plants for simple ailments.

Apart from a Siddha clinic, the civic authorities also created medicinal plant gardens within the PHCs, he said. P. Sudhakar of CPR Environmental Education Centre, who studied the flora in the parks in the city said about 50 per cent of flora in the public parks were ornamental flowers, while another 50 per cent were medicinal plants. Apart from this, a 28 per cent of weeds were also found in the parks.

The study revealed that the weeds also contained medicinal properties, Sudhakar added.

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