Saturday, September 3, 2011

Medicinal Plants in Kerala

Kerala forests are rich with a variety of medicinal plants
that usually find its way to several ayurvedic medicines. From down south Agastyarkoodam to northern Nilamboor, there are different forests, which provide a rich supply of Kerala medicinal plants. The relative absence of side-effects also makes medicinal plants in Kerala forests a special attraction.

Medicinal plants in India counts to more than 2500. More than 1500 species of medicinal plants can be found in Western Ghats. The other belt in India with high concentration of medicinal plants is the heights of Himalayas. Medicinal plants are extremely sensitive to climate. The tropical medicinal plants you find in Kerala cannot be found elsewhere in the world. They are all confined to specific locations..

Kerala has different schemes to protect the medicinal plants and also to cultivate such plants on a large scale to sustain the supply. Now a concerted move is on to protect the natural supply of medicinal plants and to deliver to the global demands of medicinal plants from Kerala forests. Here are some of the important medicinal plants of kerala and its cultivation aspects along with its uses.



Medicinal Plants in Kerala



1.       Aanachuvady

Common name: Prickly leaved elephant’s foot

Scientific Name: Elephantopus scaber Linn.

Parts used: Whole Plant

Commercial importance: Anachuvadi is used for treatment of small pox, bronchitis. It is a very good brain tonic. It has also analgesic, anti bacterial, diuretic and astringent properties. Mucilaginous decoration of roots and leaves are used as emollient for dysuria, diarrhoea , dysentery , swellings and stomach pain. Root is prescribed to prevent vomiting. Powdered with pepper it is applied for tooth-ache. Leaves are used in applications for eczema and ulcers.It also used for the alignment of cardiac disorder.

How to cultivate

This herb can be propagated easily through seeds. The seeds are collected by enclosing the flowers with a piece of paper. The seeds are minute and very light and therefore during sowing they are normally mixed with loose dampen soil and then sprinkled on the nursery beds. Germination success is about 70-80%.

Within two weeks of sowing, the first leaf can be seen emerging out. The plant is then transferred to the field after a period of one month or when the seedling reaches the 4-5 leaf stage. It is a very hardy crop and needs minimal care and fertilizing. It can also adapt itself to a wide range of conditions. It is a relatively a slow growing herb and is susceptible to only insect attacks.

2.  Aaval

Common Name: Indian Elm, Jungle cork tree

Scientific name : Holoptelea integrifolia 

Parts used: Bark

Commercial importance:  The bark of Indian Elm is used in rheumatism. Bark and leaves are used for treating edema, diabetes, intestinal disorders, piles and sprue. The decoction of the bark of this plant is externally used in rheumatism. Oral application of the bark is used to treat intestinal tumors. Dried bark is useful as an oxytocic in pregnant ladies. Decoction of the leaves is orally given to regulate fat metabolism. Leaves along with garlic are externally used to treat ringworm eczema and cutaneous diseases. Leaves of the plant, Garlic (Allium sativum) and Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) are mixed and crushed to make tablet. One tablet per day can be given to the patient suffering from jaundice. Paste of the stem bark is externally applied to treat the inflammation of lymph glands. Holoptelea integrefolia stem bark powder is externally applied on the forehead of the patient suffering from common fever. Moreover, paste of the stem bark is externally applied in cases of ringworm and scabies. Stem bark acts as an anti-inflammatory agent specifically for eyes. Bark and leaf paste of Holoptelea integrifolia plant are applied externally on the white patches or leucoderma.

How to cultivate

It thrives in deep porous soil with good drainage but bcomes stunted and crooked on poor shallow soil. H.integrifolia is a moderate light-demander. Eventhough the trees are capable of growing on comparatively dry soils, the seedlings are killed by drought The tree is not frost hardy It coppices well

Nursery Technique :

The fresh seeds soon after collection are sown on the primary bed during April to May covered with a thin layer of soil. Stiff soil should be avoided and regular weeding and loosening of the soil should be carried out. Overhead shade is necessary. Seedlings are transplanted into the polybags in June to July. One year old seedling is planted out.

Direct sowing :

 The fresh seed is sown in April-May in the field at the of 2 seeds per stake in lines 3 m apart. The seed is lightly covered with soil. Weeding and loosening of the soil in the lines are necessary. At the time of weeding at the close of monsoon rains, the seedlings may be spaced 30-50 cm apart. Mulching and lateral shade is provided to seedlings to combat the hot dry season. Plantation areas are also protected against fire and grazing.

Seed collection and Storage :
Fruits are plucked off the felled branches, cleaned and dried in the sun. Seeds do not retain their viability more than 7 to 8 months.

Plantation Techniques : The seeds should be sown fresh as their viability is low The seeds can be sown in nursery beds in April- May The raised seed beds should contain soil, red soil and FYM in the ratio of 2:1:1 The nursery beds should be made in the shade The seeds germinate within 10 – 15 days Loosing of the soil, regular weeding and watering everyday is essential during the first 3 months The seedings can be transplanted in to polythene bags after 2 months

Stump planting The stumps can be made from 12 month old seed-lings They should contain 10-20cm of shoot and 20-25cm of roots, trimmed at the sides Field planting The seedlings can be transplanted into the fields after 12 months Field plantation should be done keeping a distance of 3m x 3m between plants during the rainy season. The growth of the seedling is fast in the first year The stumps can be planted into the field during the rainy season.

RATE OF GROWTH : The growth of seedlings is slow, but steps up after the second year. The annual diameter growth rate averages about 1 cm upto about 50 years of age, when the height attained may be about 30-35 m.

 Pest and Diseases : The tree is reported to be attacked by wood-borers of bostrychidae, buprestidae, cerambycidae and plalypodidae families.

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