> Medicinal Plants
Introduction to Medicinal Plants:
There has been a resurgence in the consumption and demand for medicinal plants. These plants are finding use as pharmaceuticals, neutraceuticals, cosmetics and food supplements. Even as traditional source of medicines and they continue to play pivotal rule.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 80% of the population of developing countries still relies on traditional medicines, mostly plant drugs, for their primary health care needs. Also, modern pharmacopoeia contains at least 25% drugs derived from plants. Many other are synthetic analogues built on prototype compounds isolated from plants. Demand for medicinal plant is increasing in both developing and developed countries due to growing recognition of natural products, being non-toxic, having no side-effects, easily available at affordable prices. Medicinal plant sector has traditionally occupied an important position in the socio cultural, spiritual and medicinal arena of rural and tribal lives of Tamil Nadu.
Millions of rural households use medicinal plants in a self-help mode. Over 20,000 practitioners of the Indian System of Medicine in the oral and codified streams use medicinal plants in preventive, promotive and curative applications in Tamil Nadu. There are estimated to be about 1000 manufacturing units in Tamil Nadu. In recent years, the growing demand for herbal product has led to a quantum jump in volume of plant materials traded within and across the countries. An estimate of the EXIM Bank puts the international market of medicinal plants related trade at US$ 60 billion per year growing at the rate of 7% only. Though India has a rich biodiversity, the growing demand is putting a heavy strain on the existing resources. While the demand for medicinal plants is growing, some of them are increasingly being threatened in their natural habitat. For meeting the future needs cultivation of medicinal plant has to be encouraged.
According to an all India ethno biological survey carried out by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, there are over 8000 species of plants being used by the people of India.
Culture & History of Siddha Medicine:
The science of medicine is of fundamental importance to man's well being and his survival, and so it must have originated with man and developed as civilization advanced. It is therefore rather pointless to try to determine the exact point of time when any system of medicine was evolved and codified. A system of medicine is not a discovery but a gradual evolution during successive periods of history. It owes its progress to great men, who have not only enriched the science, but also society and civilization as a whole.
There are two ancient systems of medicine in India, the Siddha that flourished in the South and the Ayurveda prevalent in the North. Instead of giving the name of any one individual as the founder of either system, our ancients wisely attributed their origin to the Creator. According to tradition, it was Shiva who unfolded the knowledge of Siddha system of medicine to his consort, Parvati, who handed it down to Nandideva and he, to Siddhars. Therefore it is called 'Saiva Sampradayam' (tradition of Shive), or 'Siddha Sampradayam'. In the case of Ayurveda it was Brahma, the Creator of the Universe, who taught the science to Prajapati, he to Aswini Devatas and they, in their turn, to Atreya etc. So this tradition is called the Brahma or Arsha Sampradaya (the tradition of Rishis). The inference to be drawn from these traditions is that, there is no exact point of time to which the beginning of these systems could be traced. They are eternal, without a beginning or end; they began with man .
The Tamils have a distinct civilization, which is not disputed by historians. The recorded history of the Tamils is thousands of years old. Apart from the literature of the first, the middle and the last Sangam periods which bears ample testimony to the extent of Tamil civilization and its eminence, mention is made even in contemporary Sanskrit literature about Cholas, Pandiyas and Cheras and their kingdoms. A civilized society must naturally have had a system of medicine which catered to the health needs of its people. This was the Siddha system. The term 'Siddhi' means 'achievement' and the Siddhars were men who achieved certain results in medicine, as well as in yoga or tapas. The results in medicine were achieved by the Siddhars through their mental powers, they bequeathed to their 'Chilas' or pupils, who preserved and propagated the science.
Eighteen siddhas seem to have existed. They should have lived at different periods and bequeathed their experiences in medicine and yoga to posterity. The names of these eighteen Siddhas differ from one source to another. It is not necessary to dogmatise which of these enumerations is correct. Some of the Siddhas, for example, Kapila and Kakabujanda have written treatises both in Tamil and in Sanskrit. It is possible that the originals were written in Tamil and that they were translated into Sanskrit later.
The following is the list of eighteen Siddhas according to one recension: 1. Nandi 2. Agasthiyar 3. Thirumular 4. Punnakkeesar 5. Pulasthiyar 6. Poonaikannar 7. Idaikadar 8. Bogar 9. Pulikai Isar 10. Karuvurar 11. Konkanavar 12. Kalangi 13. Sattainathar 14. Azhuganni 15. Agappai 16. Pambatti 17. Theraiyar and 18. Kudhambai.
Names like Bogar, Idaikadar and Theraiyar are of recent origin and these Siddhars lived probably in the middle ages. There are also authors of Siddha treatises like Sattaimuni, Yugimuni, Macha Muni, Kakabusundar etc., whose works are available in parts at the present day and are being used.
Distribution of Medicinal plants in Tamil Nadu:
Analysis of habits of medicinal plants indicates that they are distributed across various habitats. One third are trees and an equal portion shrub and the remaining one-third herbs, grasses and climbers. A very small proportion of the medicinal plants are lower plants like lichens, ferns algae, etc. Majority of the medicinal plant are higher flowering plants.
The State of Tamil Nadu is endowed with a very rich flora. Due to the various physiographic features and physiognomic factors, different types of vegetation exists in the state- 1. Coastal vegetation; 2. Island vegetation; 3. Vegetation of hills and mountains comprising of:
Dry deciduous forests
The altitude varies from sea level to 2637 m including the well known mountain ranges - the Nilgiri, the Anamalais and the Cardamom hills which harbours different types of ecological niches, ecosystem and innumerable medicinal plants. A few ethnic tribes like the Irular, Kaanikkara, Karumpar, Palliyan, Paniyar, Sholagar, Thodar and others dwell in these ecosystems and still depend on naturally occurring or cultivated from the state (N.C. Nair & A.N Henry, Flora of Tamil Nadu, India, - Analysis - Vol. I, 1983, B.S.I., Coimbatore). Out of this, it is found that 1474 are medicinal plants. A total number are found to be used in Siddha system of medicine which is commonly practiced throughout the state.
Tampcol has two medicinal farms, one in Chennai city at Arumbakkam and at Valavandinadu, Kolli hills, Namakkal district.
In Chennai farm six varieties of medicinal plants are cultivated in five acres to meet the fresh herb requirements for the production of herbal hair tonic, other medicated oils and also supplied to pharmacy at Arignar Anna Govt. Hospital for Indian medicine and Homoeopathy, Chennai.
Another 150 varieties of medicinal plants are maintained in the parts as reference material. The farm is also visited by the students of all systems of Indian Medicine. Leading practitioners of Indian Medicine also make use of this farm as their reference for medicinal plants. This farm is very popular and has contributed for herbal awareness in Chennai City. The farm participates in the exhibitions conducted by Educational Institutions,Trade fairs and seminars/conferences in the city. The public are also encouraged to buy the medicinal plants at low prices to enhance the importance and awareness of herbal medicines.
The Kolli Hills medicinal farm is situated in Valavandinadu at the altitude of 3600 ft. The land is undulating with rocky slopes. Out of 105 acres year-marked, the corporation has developed 55 acres and cultivating a dozen species of medicinal plants on large scale and another 50 varieties which includes trees, climbers, perennials are cultivated on bunds, hedges, fence line etc. as per suitability of the species. Further, the farm has a large nursery in which seedlings/saplings/cuttings/graftings are raised for own cultivation and to supply to the government institutions concerned and also to progressive farmers in the state and out side.
RAW DRUGS TRADING:
The corporation is handling 400 varieties of raw drugs of plant, metal/mineral, animal and marine origin for the production of its own products and to supply to four government pharmacies of ISM in the state and also for the outside sales. The corporation is well worsed in the All India raw drug trade and can source raw drugs for domestic and overseas markets.
The corporation has been manufacturing 50 medicines of Siddha, Ayurveda and Unani systems and supplying to all the ISM wings in PHC's/Dispensaries/Hospitals and Taluk/District hospitals in the state of Tamil Nadu apart from supplying to TNEB dispensaries and CGHS dispensaries in Chennai city. The products are also sold in the open market through dealers and Tampcol's outlets in Chennai and Palayamkottai .