The following points highlight the top eight medicinal plants that are chiefly found in India. The plant are: 1. Sarpagandha 2. Opium Poppy 3. Belladona 4. Datura 5. Quinine 6. Ashvagandha 7. Ocimum 8. Ephedra.
Rauvolfia serpentina (L.) Benth.ex Kurz.
1. It is a small shrub with long leaves, white or pinkish flowers, and small dark purple to black fruits (Fig. 87).
2. It is an age-old well-known medicinal plant in the Indian medicine, mentioned even in Charak Samhita.
3. The drug is obtained from air died roots.
4. It is well known for reducing high blood pressure and also as a sedative and hypnotic. The alkaloids found in its roots have tranquillizing effects.
5. Due to the tranquillizing effects of the drug it is also used for chronic mental illness.
6. Extracts of roots are useful for treatment of intestinal disorders.
7. Roots mixed with some other plant extracts, are used in the treatment of cholera and fever.
8. Its roots stimulate uterine contraction and are thus used during child birth.
2. Opium Poppy (Hindi – Afim or Post):
Papaver somniferum L.
1. It is a herb, now grown on a large scale in UP., Jullundur and Hoshiarpur districts of Punjab, M.P. and Rajasthan.
2. Opium is the dried juice which exudes from the injured immature capsules (Fig. 88) of this plant.
3. It is highly useful for mankind in relieving the pain, if used in limited doses, mainly due to the presence of some alkaloids. But its heavy doses and to take it as a habit can be so fatal that no other drug has caused so much corruption and tragedy as opium.
4. Opium is used to induce sleep, relieve pain and relax spasm.
5. Besides other resins and oils, the important alkaloids obtained from the dried latex of the opium plant are morphine, codeine, papaverine and narcotine.
6. Morphine is a powerful analgesic, narcotic and stimulant.
7. Besides many European countries, India and China are two great sufferors of opium.
3. Belladona (Hindi – Angurshefa):
Atropa belladona L.
1. This plant (Fig. 89), the roots of which are used as sedative, stimulant and antispasmodic, is cultivated in Kashmir and some other Indian states.
2. Roots and leaves are also used as tonic.
3. The drug atropine, obtained from this plant, is used to dilate pupils of eye at the time of eye testing.
4. In certain poisoning cases of snakebites and scorpionbites, it is used as an antidote.
5. Two famous alkaloids found in this drug are atropine and hyoscyamine.
4. Datura or Stramonium (Hindi – Datura):
Datura stramonium L.
1. It is an annual plant, the leaves (Fig. 90) and seeds of which are narcotic.
2. The drug, obtained from its dried leaves, flowering tops and seeds, is used in treatment of asthma.
3. Atropine, an alkaloid obtained from Stramonium, is used to stimulate central nervous system and also for dilating the pupils of the eye in eye testing.
4. Leaves and seeds are used sometimes for criminal poisoning.
5. Kanaka Asava, an Ayurvedic medicine prepared from Stramonium, is used as an antispasmodic, expectorant and demulcent.
6. Its seeds are smoked by the patients suffering from asthma.
5. Quinine (Hindi – Cinchona):
1. Quinine, a well-known medicine for malarial fever, is obtained from the dried bark of Cinchona calisaya (Fig. 91), C. officinalis, C. ledgeriana and C. succirubra.
2. In India, C. calisaya is found in Nilgiris and Sikkim, C. ledgeriana in West Bengal, Khasi Hills and South India, and C. succirubra in hilly regions of Sikkim and South India.
3. Quinine also checks certain bacterial infections, and some of its preparations are useful in amoebic dysentry.
4. Quinine, if used in high quantity, may cause deafness, blindness and nausea.
5. Its use should be avoided by heart patients and pregnant women.
6. Ashvagandha (Hindi – Asgand):
Withania somnifera L. Dunal.
1. It is a small under-shrub with ovate leaves and pale green small flowers (Fig. 92) arranged in axillary clusters.
2. From the roots of the plant, the drug Ashvagandha is obtained.
3. It is useful for sexual weakness.
4. It is also used in rheumatism and general weakness, and functions as a narcotic and diuretic.
5. Roots and leaves are antibacterial and antibiotic in activity.
7. Ocimum or Holy Basil (Hindi – Tulsi):
Ocimum sanctum L.
Labiatae or Lamiaceae
1. The Sacred basil or Holy basil is a well-known sacred plant of Indian houses, gardens and temples all over the country.
2. An infusion of its leaves in hot water, and specially along with tea, is useful in cold, bronchitis and digestive disorders.
3. The oil present in its leaves has the ability to destroy bacteria and some insects.
4. A poultice of its fresh leaves in applied on ringworm and other diseases of skin.
5. Its seeds are used in disorders of the urinary system.
6. Seeds are also useful in dysentery and chronic diarrhoea.
8. Ephedra (Hindi – Khanda):
Ephedra gerardiana Wall., E. major Host.
Ephedraceae (Gnetales, Gymnosperms)
1. Ephedra is a small xerophytic shrub of Gymnosperms found in the drier regions of Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim.
2. The plants (Fig. 93) resemble Equisetum in their external morphology and bear profusely branched jointed stem which bears nodes and internodes. Foliage leaves are absent. Scaly leaves are present only on the nodes.
3. The famous antibiotic drug ephedrine, is obtained from its dried stems.
4. Ephedrine is used to treat asthma, cold and hay fever.
5. It is also effective as a good cardiac stimulant.
6. Nasal spray, prepared from ephedrine, is effective in inflammation of mucous membrane and also in asthmatic attacks.
7. Stems of E. major are the richest source of ephedrine.