Ethno Medicines of Kolli Hills!
Plants have been used in traditional medicine for several thousand years. The knowledge of medicinal plants has been accumulated in the course of many centuries based on different medicinal systems such as Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha.
In India, it is reported that traditional healers use 2500 plant species and 100 species of plants serve as regular sources of medicine. During the last few decades there has been an increasing interest in the study of medicinal plants and their traditional use in different parts of the world.
Documenting the indigenous knowledge through ethno botanical studies is important for the conservation and utilization of biological resources. Today according to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 80% of the world’s people depend on traditional medicine for their primary healthcare needs.
There are considerable economic benefits in the development of indigenous medicines and in the use of medicinal plants for the treatment of various diseases. Due to less communication means, poverty, ignorance and unavailability of modern health facilities, most people especially rural people are still forced to practice traditional medicines for their common day ailments.
Most of these people form the poorest link in the trade of medicinal plants. A vast knowledge of how to use the plants against different illnesses may be expected to have accumulated in areas where the use of plants is still of great importance.
In the developed countries, 25 per cent of the medical drugs are based on plants and their derivatives.
A group of World Health Organization (WHO) experts, who met in Congo Brazzaville in 1976, sought to define traditional African medicine as the sum total of practices, measures, ingredients and procedures of all kinds whether material or not, which from time immemorial has enabled the African to guard against diseases, to alleviate his/her suffering and to cure him/herself.
Traditional medical knowledge of medicinal plants and their use by indigenous cultures are not only useful for conservation of cultural traditions and biodiversity but also for community healthcare and drug development in the present and future.
Ethno botany is not new to India because of its rich ethnic diversity. Jain printed out that there are over 400 different tribal and other ethnic groups in India. The tribals constitute about 7.5 per cent of India’s population.
During the last few decades there has been an increasing interest in the study of medicinal plants and their traditional use in different parts of India and there are many reports on the use of plants in traditional healing by either tribal people or indigenous communities of India.
Apart from the tribal groups, many other forest dwellers and rural people also posses’ unique knowledge about plants.
There has been a resurgence in the consumption and demand for medicinal plants. These plants are finding use as pharmaceuticals, neutraceuticals, cosmetics and food supplements. Even as traditional source of medicines and they continue to play pivotal rule. Modern pharmacopoeia contains at least 25% drugs derived from plants.
Many other are synthetic analogues built on prototype compounds isolated from plants. Demand for medicinal plant is increasing in both developing and developed countries due to growing recognition of natural products, being nontoxic, having no side-effects, easily available at affordable prices.
Medicinal plant sector has traditionally occupied an important position in the socio cultural, spiritual and medicinal arena of rural and tribal lives of Tamil Nadu. Millions of rural households use medicinal plants in a self-help mode. Over 20,000 practitioners of the Indian System of Medicine in the oral and codified streams use medicinal plants in preventive, pro-motive and curative applications in Tamil Nadu.
There are estimated to be about 1000 manufacturing units in Tamil Nadu. In recent years, the growing demand for herbal product has led to a quantum jump in volume of plant materials traded within and across the countries. An estimate of the EXIM Bank puts the international market of medicinal plants related trade at US$ 60 billion per year growing at the rate of 7% only.
Though India has a rich biodiversity, the growing demand is putting a heavy strain on the existing resources. While the demand for medicinal plants is growing, some of them are increasingly being threatened in their natural habitat. For meeting the future needs cultivation of medicinal plant has to be encouraged.
According to an all India ethno biological survey carried out by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, there are over 8000 species of plants being used by the people of India. Analysis of habits of medicinal plants indicates that they are distributed across various habitats. One third is trees and an equal portion shrub and the remaining one-third herbs, grasses and climbers.
A very small proportion of the medicinal plants are lower plants like lichens, ferns algae, etc. Majority of the medicinal plant are higher flowering plants. The State of Tamil Nadu is endowed with a very rich flora. Due to the various physiographic features and physiognomic factors, different types of vegetation exists in the state 1. Coastal vegetation; 2. Island vegetation; 3. Vegetation of hills and mountains comprising of;
(1) Dry deciduous forests
(2) Moist deciduous forests
(3) Semi-evergreen forests
(4) Wet evergreen forests
(5) Sholas (Southern montane wet temperate forests)
The altitude varies from sea level to 2637 m including the well-known mountain ranges—the Nilgiri, the Anamalais and the Cardamom hills which harbours different types of ecological niches, ecosystem and innumerable medicinal plants.
A few ethnic tribes like the Irular, Kaanikkara, Karumpar, Palliyan, Paniyar, Sholagar, Thodarand others dwell in these ecosystems and still depend on naturally occurring or cultivated from the state.
Out of this, it is found that 1474 are medicinal plants. A total number are found to be used in Siddha system of medicine which is commonly practiced throughout the state.
Tampcol has two medicinal farms, one in Chennai city at Arumbakkam and at Valavandinadu, Kolli hills, Namakkal district.
In Chennai farm six varieties of medicinal plants are cultivated in five acres to meet the fresh herb requirements for the production of herbal hair tonic, other medicated oils and also supplied to pharmacy at Arignar Anna Govt. Hospital for Indian medicine and Homoeopathy, Chennai. Another 150 varieties of medicinal plants are maintained in the parts as reference material.
The farm is also visited by the students of all systems of Indian Medicine. Leading practitioners of Indian Medicine also make use of this farm as their reference for medicinal plants. This farm is very popular and has contributed for herbal awareness in Chennai city. The farm participates in the exhibitions conducted by Educational Institutions, Trade fairs and seminars/conferences in the city.
The public are also encouraged to buy the medicinal plants at low prices to enhance the importance and awareness of herbal medicines. The Kolli Hills medicinal farm is situated in Valavandinadu at the altitude of 3600 ft. The land is undulating with rocky slopes.
Out of 105 acres year-marked, the corporation has developed 55 acres and cultivating a dozen species of medicinal plants on large scale and another 50 varieties which includes trees, climbers and perennials are cultivated on bunds, hedges, fence line etc. as per suitability of the species.
Further, the farm has a large nursery in which seedlings/ saplings/cuttings/grafting’s are raised for own cultivation and to supply to the government institutions concerned and also to progressive farmers in the state and outside.