Botanist on mission to save
rare Indian herbal remedies
By Shudip Talukdar
Nov 23 (IANS) Ethno-botanist Deepak Acharya has spent eight
years in the Satpura mountains in Madhya Pradesh, parts of
which lie cut off from civilisation, driven by a single goal
- documenting and salvaging India's traditional herbal remedies
before they are lost to the world.
as a 'modern day herb hunter,' 32-year-old Acharya has been
painstakingly tracking traditional healers, called Bhagats
in Dang (Sahyadri ranges) and Bhumkas in Patalkot (Satpura)
in central India whose repertoire of remedies is known to
cure some of the most unyielding human ailments.
also conducted my research to know about how tribals in Patalkot
are living happily by staying close to nature. How they are
involved in forest conservation," Acharya told IANS on
e-mail from Chhindwara where he is based.
by concerns that the priceless heritage of tribal medicine
residing within the ageing generation of healers would be
gone with them, he made up his mind to help preserve the pool
of knowledge, nurtured by oral tradition.
younger generation is leaving the impoverished valley in droves
the ravages of deforestation and modernisation are compounding
the problem. For example, gymnema sylvestre is a marvellous
herb for treating diabetes, which grew abundantly in the 1990s
but has now become a rarity in Patalkot. Being a climber,
it could not survive after the big trees were cut down.
accordingly familiarised himself with the local dialect to
gain the tribals' trust as they still remain deeply suspicious
of outsiders. He undertook hundreds of gruelling, four-hour
bumpy rides to Patalkot, from Chhindwara before climbing up
the steep inclines.
valley, located at a depth of 1,200 to 1,500 feet in the Satpura
ranges, has been aptly named as Patalkot, implying great depth
in Sanskrit, spread over 80 sq km. Locals inhabiting Patalkot
belong to the Bharia and Gond tribes.
young botanist's quest paid off years later. He painstakingly
built up a catalogue of hundreds of medicinal plants and tribal
treatments. Take, for instance, a herbal cigarette, based
on a tribal formulation. It has been observed to inhibit tumour
growth before eliminating it completely.
who holds a PhD in botany, recalls, "I came across many
interesting and potential herbal practices which can definitely
give direction to medical science. My research involved various
aspects of their healing methodologies," including amazing
cures for some deadly disorders.
who has also been featured on the covers of the Wall Street
Journal Asia, proposed that the knowledge of traditional healers
should be protected under intellectual property rights (IPR),
as a way of making them economically independent and self-reliant,
fully integrated with the mainstream.
the slew of proposed products based on traditional medicine,
Acharya says, are preparations to combat plant infections,
healing of wounds with a single application and irreversible
a multi-herbal formulation for kids and lactating women, would
act as a preventive tool for digestive problems, infections
in the mouth, cough and cold, tooth- and gum-related problems.
are formulations for removal of blood clots and treating kidney
disorders and a low cost yet efficacious cream for healing
cracked heels and palms.
to raise milk output by 20 to 30 percent is a cattle feed
based on tribal medicine from Patalkot, Dang and Sawai Madhopur
in Aravalli. This herbal feed sans side effects and known
to improve the immune system has passed toxicity, heavy metal
and steroid content analysis.
vital discovery of herbs and their role in healing would encourage
cultivation, generating direct and indirect rural employment
while redefining the economics and cultivation of these plants
in India," concludes Acharya.
Talukdar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)