Medicinal Herbs in Assam

The medicinal plants sector in Assam is rapidly gaining attention in recent years. The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has entrusted a great responsibility to the Directorate to popularise commercial cultivation of medicinal plants in the non-forest areas among the farming communities to meet the rising demand of huge raw material for the AYUSH industry. A meticulous, planned, knowledge based and holistic approach is being devised by the Directorate to make farmers begin commercial cultivation of medicinal plants and also to receive good returns. Since government of India is supporting this sector through NMPB, this Directorate is planning to take advantage of the unexplored or little explored treasure of medicinal plants to augment the bio-economy option. Here is an analysis of a few of them.

            Bormanimuni, also called Gotukola is a creeping perennial herb flourishing on moist and damp areas of tropical regions and native of Asia and Oceania. It is known as a longevity herb and is used widely as part of traditional medicine in Ayurveda. Its roots and leaves are used for medicinal purposes and provide important health benefits related to healthy veins and blood vessels to treat skin disorders, help with better memory and brain function. Eating a few leaves daily is thought to strengthen and revitalise worn out bodies and brains. It is recommended as a treatment for mental troubles, high blood pressure, abcesses, rheumatism, fever, ulcers, leprosy, skin eruptions, nervous disorders and jaundice. It has acquired a considerable reputation as an aphrodisiac

This herb prefers a moist to wet soil in sun or under partial shade. It prefers marshy areas and river banks. It is found growing along canals and water bodies, in sandy river beds and in poorly drained soils. It prefers mild climate for its good growth. There are two varieties for commercial cultivation. It is propagated through stem cuttings comprising 3-4 rooted nodes and few leaves.100% sprouting is seen in 7-10 days. Land should be ploughed well and should be free from weeds. The field has to be leveled, dividing into convenient sized beds, providing channels and good drainage facility. About 5 t of cow dung manure is needed for 1 hectare of land. On the beds the stem divisions may be planted in the month of May-June. On establishment a plant gives off stolons which root easily on contact with soil and proliferate by producing several stolons.

            Light irrigation is needed right after planting till the plants are firmly established. Weeding should be done once in a month. It flowers in July-August which is pollinated by insects. Stems and leaves can be harvested 120-150 days after planting. Regarding post harvest processing, the herb is spread over ground in shade for air drying. They are exposed to 80 degree centigrade for 30 minutes and then shade dried. The dried material should be packed in bags/boxes and stored in cool and dried room having metalled flooring and away from walls. Precautions need to be taken to prevent fungal and insect infestations.

            Brahmi sak or jalnim is found in humid and warmer parts of the world. It is a common creeping succulent herb, branching profusely and rooting from nodes. It is found in marshy areas near streams and on the border of ponds throughout India. The plant is used as a nerve tonic and cure for epilepsy and insanity. It is also used to cure rheumatism, asthma, hoarseness. It bears good potency in controlling cough, fever, diabetes and snake bite. Due to its memory and vitality enhancing potential, this miracle plant is gaining attention for commercial cultivation.

This plant grows well on alluvial marshy soil zone. It is found growing along canals, water bodies and in poor drained soils. Its growth is faster at high temperature range of 33-40 degree centigrade and can be cultivated as summer or monsoon crop. There are two high yielding varieties. The land should be thoroughly ploughed after weeding and should be irrigated a day before planting for establishment of cuttings. It is propagated by stem cuttings with nodal roots. The plant is cut into small divisions having leaves and nodes which are planted directly in the beds and irrigation is provided right after planting. The plants may be transplanted in March-June. Watering the plants is essential during the hot and humid months till September. Weeding is needed once in a month till plants proliferate and form a dense mat of vegetation.

The plants may be harvested four months after planting. In post harvest management, the traditional method of drying is done by spreading the fresh herb on the ground under shade at room temperature. They may be dried at 80 degree centigrade in oven for 30 minutes just after harvest and may be stored in cool dried room packed in water proof bags, preventing from fungal and insect infestations.

            Bogy Champa or Common Ginger Lily is a perennial rhizomatous herb, growing 1-2 m tall and widely cultivated in Japan, China, India and South Asian countries. Its rhizomes have been used for treatment of headache, contusion inflammation and sharp pain due to rheumatism. The flowers are fragrant, pure white or tinged with yellow. This is a tropical to sub-tropical species found up to 300 m altitude. Air dried rhizomes on steam distillation produces essential oil necessary for treatment of diseases. It is used in the treatment of foetid nostrils.

            It is a perennial plant and grows up to 2 m from rhizome, which is horizontal and fleshy. It bears erect leafy shoots, having sessile leaves. It flowers continuously throughout the year and they may be in groups of one to six. Its fruit is an oblong many-seeded capsule. It is distributed throughout moist parts up to 1800 m in Himalayas. It grows in moist and damp areas. Its rhizome is largely used and grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas. It is propagated by dividing rhizomes into pieces and seeds. The propagation is very easy. It is propagated vegetatively by dividing the rhizome after cuttings of the aerial root. Fully mature seed-rhizome free from disease should be selected. Division is done by cutting and separating rhizomes into pieces containing two or more buds. Cuttings of aerial roots may also be used.

The seed rhizome is planted by spacing in April-May. The rhizome and roots need to be covered by loam and garden soil. It should be prevented from pests and diseases. After planting, it matures in second season in October-November. Leaves and stalks are removed when yellow and rhizomes are kept in soil for 20-25 days. They are carefully harvested, dried in shade and stored in containers in damp proof stores.

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