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Role of Medicinal Plants
in the Rural Development Programs of India
Vice President, Product Development and Manufacturing SciClone Pharmaceuticals, San Mateo, CA 94404, USA Abstract
Conserve and cultivate rare and endogenous
India is clearly known to be the richest source of • Orient the government organizations and
medicinal plants. One of the estimates indicates that scientists to devote time and effort on rural the Andhra Pradesh State in India alone is a habitat development issues related to medicinal plants. for more than 1000 varieties of plants that are used in ayurvedic, unani, sydhi, homeopathic, J.J. Dechane, As the demand for medicinal plants is increasing, the or tribal medicine. In a “Weekend Warrior Survey” population of India is also increasing. The increase of rural areas, near Visakhapatnam alone yielded 50 in population causes encroachment, conversion of rural and forestland for living quarters and other uses. This alarming situation could wipe out some of the medicinal plants unique to this area, (and even When traditional allopathic treatments fail to cure an completely from the earth inadvertently) unless man ailment, western trained MD’s turn to alternative intervenes to protect them from extinction. This is medicines. Nowadays, more and more doctors are turning towards plant derived products to treat their patients. Clearly the demand for plant derived products has increased all over the world. The 1. Background
demand will continue to grow through the year 2020 according to reliable surveys. This means that The climatic conditions of the Visakhapatnam district scientists, doctors and pharmaceutical companies will support a number of plant species. Several of the be looking at countries like India, China and Egypt plant species are routinely used by tribal people for for their needs. Early recognition of the demand for treatment of pain, cuts and bruises, etc. In addition, medicinal plants and being able to utilize the local some of the plant extracts, fine powers of roots, and rural resources, such as land and people, to meet barks, leaves, flower, fruits or seeds are used in the future demands would benefit the Visakhapatnam ayurvedic medicine as well as in allopathic medicine (e.g. “Metamucil” is a brand name for psyllium husk). “Compound Q” was extracted from bitter There are untapped resources like unused barren land melons and used in the treatment of HIV infection, in the Visakhapatnam district. There is a good although unsuccessfully. There are a number of possibility that the government of Andhra Pradesh reasons why plants used in tribal medicine have not would provide the land to Rural Development entered the main stream. These include (a) lack of Projects that would benefit the local people. A efficient communication from tribal persons on the number of projects could be developed to address use of medicinal plants and (b) lack of basic and medicinal plant demands of the future. The topics of applied research on plants known to cure ailments. consideration for sustaining the medicinal plant products’ demand for the next 50 years and beyond The medicinal value of a given plant depends upon the conditions under which it is grown, the season in which it is collected and the methods adopted to • Improve the quality of plant products
harvest it. Farmers in rural/tribal areas can produce by standardization and ‘bioprospecting’ or collect high quality plant components provided • Educate the people in harvesting and
they receive appropriate direction, receive attention and gain knowledge from the experts in various fields of agriculture science, chemistry, botany and rural share some of my thoughts on plant species of the development sciences. In this presentation, I will Visakhapatnam district and opportunities for rural organization must work towards re-forestation to development projects. Well designed project plans provide opportunities to make a good living from re- and eagerness to participate in executing the plans, forestation and cottage industries in rural areas. coupled with proper utilization of natural resources 3. Utilization of Under-
(like land, trees, rivers, ponds, wells etc.) are developed or Waste Land by
necessary for successful rural development projects. Environment-preserving projects will benefit the Forestation
local ecological balance in long term. In addition, they offer immediate added value to plant products Waste/surplus/untapped land is available in the that would benefit the local farmers or girijans. Visakhapatnam distract. Under “Wasteland Development Programs,” the government can Rural development projects will contribute to consider proposals for utilization of the wasteland for increasing India’s G.D.P. and prescribed growth of rural development. Land allocation information for 7% of the Ninth five-year-plan period of 1997-2002. rural development projects can be obtained from the These projects would help subsequent five-year plans Land Bank of India, the Forest Department and the Land Commissioner. Development of wasteland for rural projects requires water and irrigation of land for 2. Population and Land
cultivation. This can be achieved by bore-wells, collection of rainwater into man-made ponds and The population of India has reached one billion in preservation. Education of rural/tribal persons in 1999. Survival requires natural resources such as utilization of water conservation techniques and food, water, firewood and living quarters. Although maximum utilization of available water through the number of people are increasing in India at a rate of 1.6% per year the available land mass remains the same. The population of India will surpass China by Value to the under-developed land can be brought by the year 2040. According to some statistics, 100 acres (a) promoting cultivation of existing plants of tropical forests are cut every minute to support the (b) providing employment to local people needs of growing people in the world. In 40 years, (c) preserving rare plant species of medicinal value there will be no more tropical forests in India unless (d) educating farmers in identifying and preserving the government or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) make an intensified effort to correct the NGOs can teach local farmers the methods of present rate of deforestation. For instance, many of improving the value of under-developed land. Under the people of India do not have enough firewood to “Waste Land Development programs,” the meet their needs for cooking and heating. According government can adopt sustainable and substantial to some estimates, five billion trees must be planted utilization of land for rural development. Examples each year until the year 2010 to catch up with the of available land for development are the Mudasarlova layout (about 200 acres), lands around Bhimanna dora palem (about 20 acres), etc. Seventy percent of the populations of India live in agricultural and rural areas. These persons should be 4. Standardization of Medicinal
informed of the reasons for plantation and forestation Plant Products
from a global as well as local viewpoint, through Rural Development Programs. Many of the rural or The commercial value of medicinal plant products in tribal persons are probably unaware of environmental the global market is very high provided the quality is issues such as depletion of rain forests and global maintained at a high level with consistency from warming. Although India’s ninth five-year plan harvest-to-harvest and lot-to-lot. The quality control (1997-2002) emphasizes rural development measures can be achieved by educating rural folk programs, the results of these programs will not be with a team of experts on methods of cultivation, evident for sometime (say, the year 2010). harvesting techniques and warehousing techniques. As the demand for medicinal plants is increasing, the population of India is also increasing. Increase in Recently, the demand for medicinal plant products the population causes encroachment, conversion has increased significantly and it will continue to (deforestation) of rural and forestland for living grow in the coming years. Physicians in the western quarters and other uses. This alarming situation could world are looking for alternative methods when they wipe out some of the medicinal plants unique to this can’t find a cure for ailments for a suffering patient. area unless man intervenes to protect them from Herbal drugs are one of the avenues scientists are extinction. This means NGOs and government using to look for new treatments. For example, scientists recently investigated the Phyllanthus amarus plant for anti-viral therapy. In 1998, In a “Weekend Warrior Survey” of rural areas, Thygarajan and Blumberg (a Nobel Laureate) Visakhapatnam alone yielded as many as 50 different reported that the phyllanthus has shown serum plant varieties. These can be broadly classified as: conversion rates for HbeAg and HBV/DNA around 65%. This means, in plain English, the plant has some clinical effects against hepatitis B virus. When other laboratories in America, Brazil and China repeated the studies, the results were confusing The data obtained is shown in tables 1-3 below. and did not reproduce the results of Thygarajan and Each plant in the tables is identified by its Telugu Blumberg. In the Chinese studies, the serum name, Sanskrit name, Latin name, and physiological conversion rate for HbeAg was 15% and for action, based on practices of doctors of ITM. It appears that all the plant products are orally studies showed no effect. One may wonder the administered to the patients. Some of these plants are reasons for such a difference in clinical findings for used of for more than one indication. The varied this herbal medication. However, the active physiological functions indicate that the plant ingredient (AI) of the plant has not yet been isolated. product’s effects are different in different systems of Since the AI has not been isolated there is no standardization (i.e. mg of AI / mg of bulk plant product). The non-standardization of the drug Plant products can contain more than one AI in them. possibly led to the variable clinical results. The To have a clearer understanding of the physiological amount of AI in a given plant product can vary action of each of the AI in a plant preparation, depending upon the conditions under which it is additional basic research and clinical research must grown, the season it is collected, the conditions under be done. Perhaps NGOs can identify and encourage which it is stored and the methods by which it is the research projects of importance and then fund prepared for clinical use. A variation in any of these them through private funds or the government. events can vary the AI in the product. The delivery of non-standardized herbal medication can thus lead to confusing results. This scenario clearly 6. Information Technology
demonstrates the important role of people at the grass-roots level in developing quality herbal drugs Identification of plants and commercial promotion of plant species can be achieved by utilizing information technology for database development, Ayurvedic medicine (AM), unani, sydhi, new cultivation techniques to improve quality and homeopathic, J.J. Dechane, or tribal medicines are cataloging procedures to organize the botanical collectively referred to, as Indian traditional medicine species. Further, the same information can be shared (ITM). ITM has been widely used in the treatment of with any other interested parties via the Internet. human ailments. The pharmacological mechanisms of the treatments await further definition and clarity. The advent of personal computers with large For example it is usually not known which organ memory-storage-systems has brought the computing system the herb is acting upon or whether multiple and database maintenance procedures to the desktop components of the herb are showing effects on of users. In recent years, the Internet has literally different organs. Further research is needed in this tapped into all desktop computers. The "Information area. There are three major forms of ITM: mixtures Highway" opened the doors of many remotely of various herbal plants, extracts or constituents of a located libraries or other information repositories to single plant, or mixtures of plants with oxidized data seekers by simply logging on to a web site. forms of minerals. Standardization of plant products for their AI is rarely done. Establishing NGOs can create information repositories on standardization procedures and minimizing batch-to- medicinal plants. They could develop data base batch variation improves the quality of plant products systems including the habitat status of the plants in that will be available for patient use. High quality the ecological system. Factors that enter this database plant products could be obtained from the rural or include: ideal growing conditions; best time for tribal areas, through local people, by educating them harvest; identified chemical compounds of the plant; in new cultivation techniques, product collection potency standardization methods; potential research techniques, storage techniques and interactions with projects; commercial value of the plant; methods of commercialization, potential vendors in India; potential customers; methods of setting uniform price 5. Categorization of Herbs and
for the standardization of medicinal plant products. This would be a highly valuable information source. Cataloging the data on electronic media and maintenance of a web site on medicinal plants would provide the necessary exposure to the world regarding the plant species of Andhra Pradesh in References
The database system can be developed by choosing R. K. Hotha, “Otha’s Liver and Spleen book”, one of any number of commercially available software systems such as EXCEL, ACCESS or R. Seshagirirao and K. Heymadri, “Medicinal Plants in Andhra Pradesh" Third Edition, 7. Cottage Industries
Medicinal Botany, Third Edition, Published Increasing the awareness of the commercial value of medicinal plant species among the rural farmers and tribal people will potentially increase their desire to care for the plant species. The efforts of NGOs will About the Author
go a long way toward developing the cottage industries of India, which would benefit the tribes Dr. Sriram Vemuri is Vice President of Product and local farmers. Table 4 shows a list of cottage industries that can be developed by preserving Pharmaceuticals Inc. in San Mateo, CA, USA. He received his B. Pharm degree from Andhra University. He earned his M. S. and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue 8. Recommendations
University and URI in USA. He has published over 30 articles in the peer reviewed journals and wrote After reviewing the present status of medicinal plant several book chapters. Prior to joining SciClone he cultivation in India and their demand in the world worked at Cooper Biomedical Inc, Cetus Corporation, now and in the coming years, I am convinced that Scios Inc., with increasing responsibilities. During his there is ample room for improvement. These career, his laboratory developed formulations for a number of peptides and proteins. They are rAAT, organizations as well as by NGOs. I recommend four rIL2, rbFGF, ANP, BNP and Thymosin Alpha 1. projects for NGOs to work on, to improve the quality Under his guidance several INDs and NDAs were prepared and filed with US FDA. He has developed aseptic process for Liposomes manufacture. He is Improve the quality of plant products by interested in working with non-profit organizations to standardization and ‘bioprospecting’ give back something from his life to the society. He is a co-founder of Eco Foundation. He is very much interested in preserving the medicinal plants of India, Conserve and cultivate rare and endogenous provide education on population growth rate of India and its adverse effects on the Environment and quality scientists to devote time and effort on rural Table 1: Precious Treasures of Herbs and Plants (Aromatics)

Telugu Name
Sanskrit Name
Latin Name
Physiological Function
Anti-spasmodic, astringent, Carminative, stimulant Guggilam Guggulu Somnifera rixburghi Anti-spasmodic, emmenagogue, Stimulant and tonic Karivepaku Kalasaka Phalugiumtutube rosum Karpooramu Karppora Camphora officinarum Stimulant, expectorant, Diuretic, anti-septic, Diaphoretic, aphrodisiac, and sedative and anti-spasmodic Maredu Bilva Aegale mormelos Astringent, Nimmagaddi Ghuyabija Andropongon citratis Digestive-aid Pennerugaddalu Aswagandha Withania coaggnlans Raktachanduram Raktachandana Paterocarpus santalins Anti-pyretic, astringent, bitter tonic, refringent, antipyretic Diaphoretic, diuretic, blood- purifier, refringent Vippa/Ippa Madhuka Madhuka indica Expectorant, anti-septic, anti- spasmodic, anaesthetic, parasiticide Tale 2: Treasures of Herbs and Plants (Green-Pesticides)

Telugu Name

Sanskrit Name
Latin Name
Physiological Function
Gingantic swallowart Anti-spasmodic, Aloe barbandensis (Aloe vera) Liver stimulant, emmenagogue, Spinal cord stimulant, respiratory system stimulant, antipyretic Hepatic stimulant, antipyretic, blood purifier, Anti-periodontosis Antipyretic, emetic, vermicide, expectorant Exadiracta indica Anti-periodontosis, Table 3: Potential for Cottage Industries based on
Medicinal Plant Species.
Type of cottage Industry
Collection and packing of nuxvomica seeds Controlled temperature storage facilities for plant derivatieves Grading and packing units of Semicarpus Anacardium (Nallageedi) Medicinal plants grading / powder packing / making units Strychno Potatorium grading and powdering unit
Table 4:
Treasures of Herbs and Plants (Medicinal an Nutrients)

Telugu Name
Heart and respiratory disease treatments, digestive-aid Duradagondi Kapikatchoo Mucuna pruriens Cause abortion, insecticide, hair growth-aid. Diuretic, anti dysenteric, remedy for diabetes mellitus Karakkaya Haritaki Terminalia chebula A remedy in respiratory and heart diseases, laxative, Kunkudu Aristaha Sepindus trifoliatus Shampoo Lodduga Chettu A remedy for hepatitis and nervousness, purgative Antipyretic, useful in respiratory disorders treatment Diuretic, blood-purifier, digestive -aid Tadi/Tani Haritaki Terminalia chebula Vitex nirgundo Anti-periodontosis,


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