MAPS (Medicinal and Aromatic Plants)
What are MAPs?
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) can be defined as botanical medicine or phyto-medicine to prevent disease, maintain health or cure ailments. These herbs virtually benefit everyone on Earth through nutrition, toiletry, bodily care, incense and traditional healing. Medicinal plants and herbs contain substances known to modern and ancient civilizations for their healing properties. Until the development of chemistry in the synthesis of organic compounds in the 19th century, medicinal and aromatic plants were the sole source of active principles capable of curing human ailments such as alkaloids, glycosides, terpenes and polyphenols. Plant parts used for medicinal purposes include seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark and flowers.
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants continue to be important to people who do not have access to modern medicines and modern pharmaceuticals also rely heavily on the same active principles; be it natural or synthetic.
Some of the highly valued MAPs which are included in our website so far are as below, you can click on the links to be guided on to the corresponding pages:
Historical and Traditional uses of MAPs
Plants have been used as medicines, from prehistoric times, many of which are used as culinary spices and herbs today. Spices have been used to counter food spoilage bacteria, especially in hot climates, and in meat dishes which spoil more readily. Flowering plants were the original source of most plant medicines. Human settlements are often surrounded by weeds used as herbal medicines, such as nettle, dandelion and chickweed.
The ancient Egyptian Papyrus lists over 800 medicinal and aromatic plants such as aloe, cannabis, castor bean, garlic, juniper, and mandrake. From ancient times to the present, Ayurvedic medicine as documented in the Atharva Veda, the Rig Veda and the Sushruta Samhita has used hundreds of pharmacologically active medicinal herbs and spices such as turmeric, which contains curcumin. The Chinese pharmacopoeia, the Shennong Ben Cao Jing records plant medicines such as chaulmoogra for leprosy, ephedra and hemp.
Uses of MAPs in folk and Chinese medicine
Medicinal and aromatic plants are used in various herbal remedies and preparations are described throughout human history representing the origin of modern medicine. Chinese herbal is the most dominant of the ancient herbal traditions. Chinese herbs are considered cooling and stimulating and are administered in combination according to the deficiencies or the excess of these qualities in the patient. For example, Valerian (Valeriana offininalis) is used to treat sleep disturbance or insomnia.
In many parts of the world, incredible knowledge on medicinal and aromatic plants is acquired in non-coded forms by tribes and rural communities, as is clear from evidences related to folklore medicines. For centuries, the tribal people living in and around forested areas have used medicinal herbs as their first line of defense against diseases. Many tribal healers are renowned for extensive knowledge of regional medicinal plants especially the use of single drug remedies. For example,
- The Khasi tribe of Meghalaya use Gotu kola (Centella aisatica) to help control blood sugar levels. The herb is steeped overnight in hot water, and the water is extracted and consumed the following day.
- The Bhils, Damor and Meena tribes of Rajasthan use kamarkas (gum extract of Butea monosperma) as a post-natal rejuvenate for women after childbirth.
Uses of MAPs in AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) and Allopathy
More than 90% of the formulations under the Indian Systems of
Medicine that are, Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, and
Homoeopathy (AYUSH), predominantly contain raw materials obtained from medicinal and aromatic plants. This sector has traditionally occupied an important place in the socio economic, cultural and spiritual arena of rural and tribal lives. About 8000 flowering plants, 650 lichens, 650 algae, 200 pteridophytes and 150 bryophytes are attributed with medicinal properties. The Indian coded systems of medicine encompass a large number of treaties on recognized on these recognized systems of medicines. The Ayurvedic system of medicine which cater to the health needs of a major segment of population, currently utilizes as many as 1000 single drug and over 8000 compound formulations of recognized merit. Other systems of medicine together utilize about 1800-1900 medicinal and aromatic plant species. Infusions, decoctions, tinctures, creams, syrups, ointments, poultices, washes etc are the usual forms of herbal medicines made from MAPs.
Herbal medicines aim to return the human body to a state of natural balance so that it can start healing itself. Different herbs act on different systems of the body, rather than taking a holistic approach such as being anti-inflammatory, haemostatic, and expectorant, anti- spasmodic, immuno- stimulatory properties etc. Few examples are:
- Garlic is used to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol. Anti- biotic and anti-viral properties of garlic mean it is also used to fight colds, sinusitis and other respiratory infections.
- Dong quai is used for gynecological complaints, menopause symptoms and period pain.
- Gotu kola is used for stomach related ailments and nervous disorders and treating leprosy.
- Aloe vera is used for treating skin conditions and healing wounds.
Scientific interest in medicinal plants has burgeoned due to increased efficiency of new plant derived drugs, growing interest in natural products. Many of medicines used in allopathic system of medicine are derived from plants. For example, aspirin is derived from bark of willow tree, diosgenin is derived from foxglove, quinine from the bark of cinchona and morphine derived from poppy etc. Standard extracts of many plants are widely used in health care (e.g. Aloe vera, Atropa belladonna, Capsicum annum etc).
Global demand for MAPs
As per WHO, globally, almost 6.3 billion people are directly or in-directly dependent on medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs), which is 85% of world population. In many regions of the world, people still rely on traditional plant-based medicines for their primary healthcare. Many rural and tribal communities in Asia, Africa, Central and South America use traditional medicines which are easily accessible and affordable. Even Urban communities today prefer household natural remedies to conventional medicines. Clinical trials and tests have recognized and improved scientific understanding of plants and their value in treating chronic conditions. The emerging field of herbs and plant-based products industry holds tremendous potential to the economic development of the Indian region.
Since millenia, indigenous natural remedies have attained highest standard and they were stalwarts in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Chinese Medicines and subsequently in Allopathy and Homeopathy. For years these herbs have proved their benefits through traditional and modern evidence-based research.
This industry is growing rapidly and the herbal medicines are becoming increasingly popular worldwide as the demand for plant based industrial products such as phyto-pharmaceuticals, galenticals, traditional medicines, herbal teas, intermediates of drugs and health foods has increased manifold.
The propagation material can be easily raised through seed and vegetative methods. But in commercial cultivation, propagation through seed is easy and economical. Argo- technique & Nursery Technique is a two-pronged approach to cultivation of Kalmegha.
- Sowing Season
Kalmegha is generally cultivated in the cooler months during or post monsoon (June to September) and harvested in 90-120 days.
- Land Preparation
As we know, Andrographis paniculata is one of the medicinal plants recommended for cultivation in India as there is great demand for the plant by the pharmaceutical industries mainly for export. Higher protein in the plant has been observed.
The land should be prepared well by repeated ploughing to make soil pulverized. For healthy growth and optimal yield, nutrients are extremely important in correct proportions from time to time. Organic manures, apart from improving physical and biological properties of soil, help in improving the use of efficiency of chemical fertilizers such as farmyard and poultry manure are known to improve the physical, chemical and biological conditions of the soil and their application ensures sustainable soil health. An experiment has proved that an optimum level of Nitrogen and Cow dung mix yielded maximum growth to the height, number of leaf and branch per plant of Kalmegh.
Another element is Biofertilizers. They are cost-effective, eco-friendly and renewable source of plant nutrients which play a vital role in maintaining long – term soil fertility and sustainability. This process of cultivation provides farmers and rural women with additional work yielding more income opportunities.
- Disease Management
Since it’s a hardy plant, it is not attacked by pest and diseases can be maintained easily.
In the Nursery technique, the seeds are soaked in water for 24 hours and sown in the nursery beds in early September. About 650-750 gm seeds are required for raising nursery for one hectare of land. The nursery is prepared with soil, sand and organic matter in 1:1:1 ratio and sown in early September at 5 cm spacing in rows and it takes 8-10 days for germination to commence.
4-6 light irrigation is required till harvesting the crop
- Weed Control Management
Since it’s an herbaceous plant, the field should be free from weeds. Intermittent weeding (2-3 times) are essential during the crop season at 20 days and 60 days after transplantation.
- Harvesting Methods
The crop matures after 120 days of sowing. It is harvested when most plants are in bloom. It is at this stage; the plants should be uprooted. However, a small lot of healthy plants should be left in the field for seed production.
When the fruits become mature, they are picked up and dried in the sun and seeds are collected. The seeds should be kept in open sun for complete drying.
- Grading & Packaging
This properly dried material is then packed in laminated gunny bags, lest it absorbs moisture. The harvested dry material is then stored in dark, airy and moisture-free places.
It is stored in dry places away from pests. The seed is stored for 1 year from the time of harvest.
It is available in Online and Medical stores. The climate as well as soil favors cultivation of some commercially important medicinal plants and Andrographis is one of the most viable and useful plants today used in modern drugs as well as traditional medicine. Various compositions of the plant have been discovered to control substance abuse. The combination of Biochemical fertilizers and organic manure have conditioned a significant growth of this medicinal plant.
WHO encourages, recommends and promotes the inclusion of herbal drugs in their national health care programs because such drugs are easily available at a reasonable price within the reach of common man and as such are time tested and thus considered to be much safer than the modern synthetic drugs. Andrographis paniculata is recommended for cultivation in India, as there is a great demand for the plant by the pharmaceutical industries mainly for export. The plant has huge market in US and the Paniculata extracts possess great value for export.