India now has its highest altitude herbal park, which sits at a height of 11,000 feet near the Indo-China border in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district. The park primarily serves the purpose of
– Conserving various medicinally & culturally important plant species, trees & herbs
– Researching on their propagation
– Researching on their habitat ecology
The park has around 40 species found in high altitude alpine areas in the Himalayan region and other important medicinal herbs . It also has many plant species which are endangered and threatened as per the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and also State Biodiversity Board. It includes many important medicinal herbs also.
India’s Herbal Sector – Exports and domestic use
India is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity. It has 15 agroclimatic zones that comprise approximately 18,000 types of plants. Of these, 6,000-7,000 have therapeutic properties. These are used in making medicines in traditional medical practices such as Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Sowa-Rigpa and homeopathy. These are also used in plant-based pharmaceutical companies.
Medicinal plants have a great deal of importance for the country as these are not only a major resource base for India’s herbal and medicine industry but support livelihood and ensure health security for a large segment of Indian population. According to National Medical Plants Borad, AYUSH Ministry, roughly 1178 species of medicinal plants are estimated to be in trade. Of these, 242 species have annual consumption levels in excess of 100 metric tons/year.
The export of medicinal herbs and extracts has increased over the years. The ‘All India Trade Survey of Prioritised Medicinal Plants, 2019’ showed that the demand for high-value medicinal plants increased by 50%. Raw materials such has herbs and shrubs can easily be grown for making Ayurvedic medicines. But medicinal trees take even more than 10 years to get ready for harvesting. Therefore, conservation, cultivation, and research & development of medicinal plants is imperative.
Benefits for farmers & post-COVID opportunities
Cultivation of medicinal plants in a commercial mode is one of the most profitable agri-business for farmers in India. Sufficient land and knowledge of herb marketing can make one earn a high income with moderate investments.
India exports herbal products and extracts to more than 160 countries every year. And post-COVID, the demand for medicinal and herbal products has sharply increased globally. This presents a good opportunity to Indian farmers to flourish in the field and earn bumper profit. Major countries that import Indian herbal products are USA, Germany, Vietnam, China, Italy, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, UK, France, UAE, Japan, Korea, Belgium, Canada and many other nations.
Popular medicinal herbslike shankhapushpi, atis, kuth, kutki, kapikachhu and karanja are bringing change in the Indian agrarian ayurvedic scenes. These are capable of providing good opportunities to farmers to increase their incomes. Reportedly, there are 25 significant medicinal plants that are always in full demand. These include Giloe, Safed Musli, Long Pepper, Jatamansi, and Madhunashini, Isabgol the Indian Barberry, Bael, Liquorice, Atis, Brahmi, Guggal, Shankhpushpi, Kerth, Aonla, Chandan, Ashwagandha, Senna, Baiberang, Kalmegh, Satavari, Chirata, Katki, Ashoka, and Kokum. The demand of these are so high that probability of earning a good profit is naturally very high.
Steps by government to promote herbal exports
– National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB): Offers up to 75% subsidy to farmers apart from formulating promotional and commercial plans.
– Export promotion councils (EPCs): Set up by the Department of Commerce. Shellac & Forest Products Export Promotion Council. (SHEFEXIL) and Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (PHARMEXCIL) look after the export promotion of Herbs and Medicinal Plants.
– Market Access Initiative (MAI) Scheme: EPCs/trade bodies are provided with financial assistance to participate and organise trade fairs, buyer–seller meets, research & product development, market studies, etc.
– International Cooperation Scheme: Provides financial assistance to exporters to help them participate in trade fairs, meets, avail product registration reimbursements, etc.
– ‘Voluntary Certification Scheme for Medicinal Plants Produce (VCSMPP)’: It was launched by government in 2017. It enhances the availability of certified quality medicinal plants and raw materials in the country. It also helps in boosting exports and India’s share in the global export of herbs.
– The Ministry of AYUSH has also entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoUs) with a few countries to promote traditional medicines.
Four sections of the park
The herbal park has been divided into four sections.
Section 1: Species associated with Badrinath (lord Vishnu). This section includes Badri Tulsi, Badri Ber, Badri Tree, and sacred tree of Bhojpatra. Badri Tulsi’s scientific name is ‘Origanum Vulgare’ and it has multiple medicinal benefits. Badri Ber, which is scientifically known as Hippophae Salicifolia, is another nutrition-rich fruit and used widely
Section 2: Dedicated for Ashtavarga species which is a group of eight herbs found in the Himalayan region which are the most important ingredients of Chyawanprash. These herbs are Riddhi, Vriddhi, Jeevak, Rishbhak, Kakoli, Ksheer Kakoli, Maida and Maha Maida. Of these 8, four herbs belong to the lily family and four belong to the orchid family.
Section 3: Consists of Saussurea species and includes Brahmakamal which also happens to be the state flower of Uttarakhand. Other Saussurea species at the park are Phemkamal, Nilkamal and Koot.
Section 4: Consists of assorted alpine species which are i great demand and are known as important medicinal herbs. Some of these include Ateesh, Meethavish, Vankakdi, and Choru.
Besides, trees of Thuner, whose bark is used in making cancer drugs, Tansen and Maple trees have also been grown in the park.