Reviving Indian systems of medicine

SPECIMEN: One of the medicinal plants collected from a forest in Belgaum district.

SPECIMEN: One of the medicinal plants collected from a forest in Belgaum district.  

Vijaykumar Patil

Belgaum: The Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) set up here by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has begun the task of preparing an authentic database on medicinal plants in the Western Ghats. This will boost ongoing efforts to revive traditional Indian systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani.

According to Sanjiva D. Kholkute, officer-in-charge of the RMRC, the ICMR felt the need to study the medicinal plants in the Western Ghats, one of the 27 hotspots of biodiversity in the world because 80 per cent of the world's population still relies on traditional herbal medicines for primary healthcare. Also, herbal medicine is an integral part of Indian culture, which must be preserved. It is necessary to conduct a scientific study and evaluate traditional medicinal plants for global acceptance, ascertain their utility in contemporary medicine, discover new therapeutically active bio-molecules and obtain intermediate metabolites for the improvement of existing drugs and synthesis of new bio-molecules leading to the development of herbal drugs, he said.

A multi-centric study was conducted from August 2001 to August 2004 to collect and document information on known and unknown medicinal plants of the Western Ghats by scouting and interacting with the local healers, practitioners and tribal people. The study was done to collect seasonal and non-seasonal plants, prepare and preserve voucher specimens, establish their botanical identity, document them with the help of photographs, diagrams and drawings and set up a herbarium, Dr. Kholkute said.

The database being prepared will have search options based on botanical name, family, vernacular name, synonyms, plant parts, description, photographs, distribution, medicinal uses, formulations, chemical composition, pharmacological/clinical data, references and diseases. The database will be thrown open to all, mainly pharmaceutical research laboratories, the drug industry, educational institutions, traditional healers and practitioners.

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