Pithoragarh: 25 July, 2015

And here is Kumaon the land of awe-inspiring wealth of nature. Beautiful meadows, mercurial rivers, mighty Himalayas and rare wildlife abound, in the lap of its green and snowbound valleys existed a wondrous wealth of unique, miracle and life-giving herbs and medicines that are for sharing. This herbal wealth was largely unknown to the outside world as it existed in treacherous and inaccessible areas and was inherited by mystic tribals.

Kumaon has been traditionally known as a storehouse of miracle and life saving drugs (Mritsanjisvani). Besides Mritsanjisvani, other medicinal herbs found in the region from time unknown were Vishalakarni (eliminator of points of pain from the body of a patient), Suvarnakarni (beautifier), and Sandhani (healer of wounds). “These descriptions are elaborated in the Yudha Khand of Valmiki Ramayan,” said Ashoka Kumar Pant, scientific adviser to a local scientific NGO, named Pahal.

Kumauni people from time unknown used Kutki for stomach pain, blood purification and healing wounds while Dhup Lakkar was used as invigorator. “From ancient times, traditional Vaidyas used Thuner for treating cancer symptoms,” said Ashok Pant.

Besides precious Thuner, several other herbs such as Salam, Panja, Chirayata, Gulbans, Daruhaldi, Kachur, Brahmi, Shatavari, Punarnava, Samyo, Gurch, Timur, Pashan, Bhed, Hardjojan, Dhanai, Giloy, Gulpankh, Kakarsingi Masi, Kutki and Atis were used to treat loss of appetite, headache, teeth pain, virus, fever, skin diseases, and anaemia and enhancing mental capabilities. “Some of these traditional medicinal plants are now disappearing and need the government attention for survival and revival," said Ashok Pant.

Medicinal plants in Kumaon have been used for treatment of various diseases since ancient times. Rhizome of Haldi for cuts, burns and scalds, fruits of black piper for coughs and cold, fruits of Ajwan and resin of Heeng for stomach trouble and whooping cough and seeds of Til for ulcer and boils were common cures in remote valleys of the region. The practice of ayurvedic herbs began in Kumaon after Brahmins from other parts of the country reached the region in the 10th century. But even before that the region was full of knowledge of local medicinal herbs, most of which were used by Tibetan healers.

“The people in the Kumaon region used to get psychosomatic, besides herbal treatment for their ailments. The psychosomatic treatment was provided by local pujaris and ojhas who embody local deities in themselves and treat patients with Bhabhut applied on his forehead. “There are over 50 such mantras that cult healers used in Kumauni society to treat patients for various ailments,” said Padma Datt Pant, a local cultural historian.

Herbal practitioners over the years have resorted to a single herbal medicine which is unique and used only for treating a particular disease in a particular area. “Our forefathers discovered herbs to treat jaundice, paralysis, gout and asthma. We have been practising these herbal medicines for generations,” said Bhim Ram, a Vaidya at Matoli village in the Kanalichina block of Pithoragarh district.
Like Bhim Ram other Vaidyas practising traditional herbs for generations could still be seen in small towns of the hill region. “We are known for the traditional treatment we provide to anaemic women who come to our shop before and after delivery,” said Yogita Makhaulia, a Vaidya at Rai village in Pithoragarh district.

Experts say some of the traditional cures are no longer frequently practised as necessary herbs have either disappeared or their extraction has been banned. “Smugglers of these herbs are still active and despite a ban on Atis, Salampanja, Salam, Mishri and Mahaheda, these high altitude herbs are still available with street vendors,” said an official of the Bhesaj Sangh, a district-level cooperative federation of farmers who extract herbs, in Pithoragarh.

He says the extraction of Himalayan herbs has decreased mainly due to their over extraction over the years. “Even precious and banned Thuner, which even European companies are seeking for its anti-cancer properties, is at the verge of extinction. “We need a foolproof policy to save these dying herbs by building a database of herbs used in day-to-day medicinal practices on the basis of interviews with community elders, who have a family history of prescribing traditional herbs," said Ashok Pant.
The Uttarakhand Herbal Research and Development Institute at Gopeshwar in Chamoli district has identified over 26 traditional Himalayan herbs for agricultural production. “These herbs are traditionally used to treat fever, indigestion, leprosy, cough, hypertension, mental disorders, and insomnia and giving strength to the body,” said SK Singh, an expert at the institute.

Van Gujjars
Pathar chatta: The paste of leaves is applied externally on boils and sores

Andarbel: The paste of the plant is applied on person suffering from leperosy

Badi dudhi: Plant paste is applied on wounds

Badi ratti: Juice of leaves of plant and root are mixed and applied on leucoderma spots

Kali musli: Paste of leaves is applied on parts affected by skin allergy

Kappa: Leaf powder of the plant and mehndi are mixed and made into a paste and applied on cracked feet to cure wounds, especially during the monsoon

Dhoob: The plant paste is applied on cuts and wounds to stop bleeding

Babya: The plant juice is applied on cuts

Podhina jadi: The leaf juice is applied externally on cuts to stop bleeding


Gandayani plant is used in the Kumaon region to enhance appetite and cure headache. It is also used to treat a person who has consumed poison. The herb is grown at 3,300 m to 4,200 m high Himalayan valleys especially by tribal people in the Dharchula and Munsiyari regions of Pithoragarh district. Tribal traders sell the herb in villages of Kumaon.
Courtesy: The Tribune

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