Himalayas serves as an abode to a number of auspicious herbs and medicinal plants that has been used from time immemorial to ease and cure some of the deadliest diseases. The Indian Himalayas is home to more than 8000 species of vascular plants of which 1748 are known for their medicinal properties. The place has become the heart of Ayurveda treatment and holistic health for serious disease management from across the globe. The effectiveness and efficiency of treatment from some of these are undeniably the finest. Medical researches have proven the adequacy of herbs used traditionally by the people of mountains. Some of those being the bark of raisul (Abies pindrow), the roots of chura (Angelica glauca), the leaves and seeds of bhaang (Cannabis sativa), the fruit of amaltas (Cassia fistula) and many many more.
While kandali, solo, keedajadi and harad were discussed in another article, here is a list of other territorial Himalayan Herbs that are a must have in one's kitchen for general remedies and boosting one's immunity:
1. Kadwi || Kutki or Katuki
Scientific Name: Picrorhiza kurroa
The bitter roots of this perennial herb works magic for liver and spleen. It is a rare and traditional herb from the Himalayan heights. Katuki finds mention in the ancient Ayurveda texts from Maharishi Charak, compiled more than 2500 years ago. It acts as solution to problems relating to liver detox, fatty liver, uric acid, cirrhosis and bile disorders. Its major funtion is liver detoxification and degeneration. However, locals have been using it for its antipyretic properties as well. It soothes and fights the inflammation responsible for the sudden chills and body heat. Katuki is also known to help those with diabetes, psoriasis, vitiligo(research yet to be concluded), hormonal imbalance and asthma. Although kutki grows in upper Himalayas, far away from the community, its therapeutic importance has led people to cultivate it (with difficulty) in the lower Himalayas as well.
2. Giloy || Heart-leaved moonseed
Scientific Name: Tinospora cordifolia
This Ayurvedic root of immortality, as its Sanskrit name 'Amrita' suggests, is an elixir in the traditional remedy and healthcare zone. Giloy, also known as guduchi, is a climbing shrub and is indigenous to tropical regions of the Indian subcontinent. Its mythological origin is traced back to samudramanthan, where it is said to have germinated in places which were touched by the drops of amrit produced. Giloy is rich in antioxidants and therefore helps boost the immunity. It is consumed by people who catch typhoid fever and is quite effective. Giloy also helps purify blood, flush out toxins, combat liver and heart diseases, treat bowel related issues, constipation and asthmatic and arthritis patients. The herb also does wonders to skin and hair. Giloy acts an anti depressant for anxiety and stress. It is naturally a hypoglycemic agent that reduces high level of blood sugar and is apt for people with type 2 diabetes. Giloy can be made into juice or powder. The stem of the plant is the powerhouse of all the assets but the roots can also be used.
3. Silphoda || Fringed elephant's ears
Scientific Name: Bergenia ciliata
The Hindi & Sanskrit name for Bergenia ciliata is pashanbhed (पाषाणभेद), known commonly as pathar phod buti. The roots of the perennial, low-growing plant is harvested from the wild for its medicinal values. It can be made into a powder or juice for consumption. The herb gets the unique local name from its effectiveness on kidney stones in particular. It is, locally, a well accepted medication for dissolving stones of the kidney. It shows much potential in the treatment of fever, diarrhoea, cough, cold, asthama, urinary problems and gastrointestinal disorders. The plant has high antifungal, antiviral, anti plasmodial and antibacterial properties. B.Ciliata can also be considered for relieving backaches and earaches.
4. Dolu || Himalayan Rhubarb
Scientific Name: Rheum australe
Commonly called Himalayan rhubarb or red-veined pie plant, Dolu is grown in the Himalayas as a medicinal and vegetable herb. It finds mention in the Unani system of medicine and the European system of medicine where it was traded as Indian rhubarb. The Chinese appear to be familiar with the curative properties of Rhubarb since 2700 BC. Root of the plant is generally regarded as an expectorant and appetizer and is used for cuts, wounds, muscular swellings, tonsillitis and mumps, etc. It is known to cure a wide range of ailments related to the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, respiratory and skeletal systems as well as to treat several infectious diseases. Various ancient texts also mention it to help with blood purification, menstrual problems and liver diseases. The locals generally make a paste of its roots mixed with ghee and apply it on burns, wounds and cuts. Its extensive use by medical industries has rendered this magic herb endangered.
The folk medicines of the mountains are the treasure of the Himalayan people. They've been passed on this knowledge and application by their ancestors. The diversity concentrated in the Himalayan belt certainly needs to reach more people for a shot at natural quick fixes and good health. And with the same outlook, we promise to keep enlightening you with some more in the Himalayan Herb series!!