The GREAT HIMALAYAS are renowned for their vast storehouse of medicinal plants. It is one of the vast unexplored regions and a hot biodiversity spot, that lies at the crown of our country.

Hindus refer the quiet and peaceful Mount Kailash of the Himalayas as “the abode of Shiva”, where he feels at home and lives with his wife – Parvati, the daughter of Himalaya. This is the place where, he can meditate without being disturbed by human needs and desires, so he can achieve the highest of all human goals, i.e., Moksha.

The treasury of diverse medicinal plants available in the Great Himalayan Region has been recorded in ancient Indian scripts as far back as 1000 BC. The ancient religious scripture of Hindus, Atharvaveda is the earliest celebrated treatise mentioning the use of medicinal plants of the region. Atharvaveda contains 114 hymns or formulations for the treatment of diseases. Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent, originated in and developed from these hymns. In addition, there is a famous reference in Valmiki’s Ramayana, about the existence of rare medicinal plant Sanjeevani (Selaginella bryopteris) in Himalayas, which saved the life of Lakshmana. Over the centuries people have depended on these medicinal plants for treating daily ailments like cough, colds, indigestion, ulcers, sore eyes, etc.

Today, wild plant raw material is in great demand around the world for use by pharmaceutical companies, ethnomedicinal practitioners, and a variety of traditional and homeopathic medicines. India is one of the world’s major exporters of raw herbal drugs; with Himalayas being the major source for it. 

The Himalayas are among the youngest and most unstable mountain ranges in the world. They isolate the Indian subcontinent securely from the rest of Eurasia, thereby separating the monsoon climate of south Asia from the dry and cold climate of central Asia. The main Himalayan range runs west to east, from the Indus River valley to the Brahmaputra River valley, forming an arc 2,400 km long, which varies in width from 400 km in the western Kashmir region to 150 km in the eastern Arunachal Pradesh region. Most of the Himalayan ranges fall in India, Nepal and Bhutan. The northern slopes are partly situated in Tibet while the western extremity lies in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Himalayas between Tibet and Ganga Plain is a succession of three co-extensive parallel sub-ranges, while two other ranges which are:

  • The Greater Himalayas (or Inner Himalayas)
  • Lesser or Middle Himalayas
  • Shiwaliks or outer Himalayas
  • The Trans-Himalayas – Tibetan Himalayas.
  • The Eastern Hills – Purvanchal: A chain of hills in North-East India.

Also, the Indian Himalayan Region comprises of five major biogeographical zones:

  • temperate conifer, 
  • mixed (Himalaya moist and dry temperate), 
  • sub-alpine, 
  • subtropical (subtropical moist deciduous, swamp and subtropical pine),
  • broad-leaved (tropical dry deciduous and subtropical dry evergreen). 

The Himalayas are rich in biodiversity due to the variety of habitats available. This is evidenced by the presence of 21 vegetation types, 10 forest types and 11 forest formations. In the Indian Himalayan Region, there are over 1748 plant species; (1685 – angiosperms, 12 – gymnosperms and 51 – pteridophytes), including 1020 herbs, 335 shrubs and 330 trees of medicinal value (Samant et al., 1998). Berberidaceae, Saxifragaceae, Ranunculaceae, Rosaceae and Umbelliferae are some of the leading Himalayan families. 25 most commonly used homeopathic remedies from the Himalayas are described in the table under:

S. No.

Name of the Medicine

Family

Common Local Name

Common name in English

1.

Aconitum Ferox

Ranunculaceae

Vatsanabha

Monkshood; Leopard’s Bane

2.

Aesculus 

indica

Sapindaceae

Khanot;

Ban-akhrot

Indian horse Chestnut

3.

Artemisia nilagarica,

Asteraceae

Nagdona; Davana

Mugwort; Indian wormwood

4.

Berberis aristata

Berberidaceae

Daruhaldhi; Citra; Kashmal

Himalayan barberry; Tree turmeric

5.

Cannabis sativa

Cannabaceae

Bhang; Ganja

Marijuana; Hemp

6.

Chenopodium album

Amaranthaceae

Bathua; Bethu

Goosefoot

7.

Cinnamomum tamala

Lauraceae

Tejpatra

Indian Bay leaf

8.

Clematis

Ranunculaceae

Marorphali; Bel kangu; Churanhar

Virgin’s Bower

9.

Crocus Sativa

Iridaceae

Kesar;

Saffron

10.

Dioscorea deltoidea  

Dioscoreaceae

Shingli-mingli; Barahi

Nepal Yam

11.

Gentiana kurroo

Gentianaceae

Karu

Himalayan Gentian

12.

Eupatorium cannabinum 

Asteraceae

 

Hemp agrimony; Liverwort

13.

Juglans regia

Juglandaceae

Akhrot; Khor

Walnut

14.

Podophyllum hexandrum

Berberidaceae

Bankakri

Himalayan Mandrake; May Apple

15.

Ranunculus hirtellus

Ranunculaceae

Sarsaupatal

Softly hairy buttercup

16.

Rauwolfia serpentina

Apocynaceae

Sarpagandha

Indian Snakeroot

17.

Rheum australe

Polygonaceae

Rewand Chini

Himalayan Rhubarb

18.

Rhododendron anthopogon

Ericaceae

Atarasu; Talis 

Snow Rose

19.

Solanum nigrum

Solanaceae

Makoi

 Black nightshade

20.

Taraxacum officinale

Asteraceae

Dudhi; Kanphool; Kukraundha

Dandelion

21.

Taxus Baccata

Taxaceae

Birmi; Barahmasi

Yew

22.

Tinospora Cordifolia

Menispermacea 

Giloy

Moonseed

23.

Urtica dioica

Urticaceae

Bichchhu buti; Kali; Kandadli 

Stinging nettle

24.

Valeriana

Valerianaceae

Jatamansi; Nihanu; Mushakbala

Valerian

25.

Withania somnifera

 Solanaceae

Asgand, Ashwagandha

Indian Ginseng

There still remains concealed many unexplored medicinal plants. Some of the above mentioned plants are used in the form of medicines as the same species, while the others are used with same genus but different species. Obviously these require an extensive reproving.  I hope that the homeopaths wanting to work on medicinal plants will find this special article helpful in moving forward in their important quest of contributing in the area of medicine, drug discovery, and conservation of medicinal plants, etc.