Healing Herbs from the Himalayas


The Himalayas, the tallest mountain range in the globe, is home to Mount Everest and nine out of the ten highest peaks in the world. These mountains, sometimes known as the Third Pole, are the source of several of Asia's major rivers and have a role in controlling the climate of the world. Over the years, locals have created a distinctive culture that integrates nature and people into one fabric of existence.

The area is home to numerous holy natural landmarks that predate ancient Hinduism, including high mountain lakes and secret valleys, where the Buddha was born.

There are many difficulties in the Himalayas, and governments are under pressure to protect their natural heritage and care for their citizens. As the need for timber and food crops rises, forests are under pressure. Protected regions are transforming into isolated pockets, and criminal groups are clearing forests of endangered wildlife. The once-powerful Himalayas are melting as a result of global climate change at a rate that is quicker than any time in human history, putting a crucial Asian source of freshwater in jeopardy.

It is well known that the Himalayan region's geographic characteristics, altitude, ecology, topography, and climatic circumstances play a major role in why it is such a rich reservoir of biodiversity, particularly in plant life. The Eastern Himalayan region is commonly known as the "Cradle of Flowering Plants," and what makes it so intriguing is that it is home to more than 400 species of medicinal plants.

In the Himalaya, local and traditional medicinal herbs are frequently recorded to be used in the prevention and treatment of infected wounds and for promoting wound healing. However, aside from their use in their natural state, some species identified from regional pharmacopeias have demonstrated their potential to be a significant source of new pharmaceutical leads, such as ingenol 3-angelate (used in dermatology) or galanthamine (used to treat cognitive decline). These leads are still largely underexplored but may help to develop safe, effective, and affordable first-line treatments of wounds that are prone to infections while also preventing overuse.

Although the exact number of medical plants in the Himalayas has not been determined, the mountain range is home to about 10,000 plant varieties. Five nations make up the region: Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Each of these nations has a robust system of traditional medicine, such as the well-known and rising in popularity Ayurveda (India) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) (China). Bhutan has tall mountains and is located in the Eastern Himalayas. Sowa rigpa, Bhutan's official system of traditional medicine, combines elements of Tibetan and Indian medicine with practices from ancestors. With approximately 6000 known vascular plants, Nepal has a distinctive mix of flora due to its location between the Western and Eastern Himalayas. Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine, and regional ethnomedicines are now combined in Nepalese traditional medical practices as a result of the influence of China and India, who are neighbors.

Popular medicinal herbs of Himalayan Region:

Aconitum Ferox:

One of the most well-liked and effective medicinal plants is Aconitum Ferox which is a high-value biennial plant and often known as "Atis,". It is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent's northwest and east Himalayan areas. In the Traditional Chinese and Indian Medical Systems, its nontoxic tuberous roots are frequently utilized as a therapeutic component to treat dyspepsia, abdominal pain, diabetes, and diarrhea. This specific medicinal herb is employed as a poison antidote. Aconitum Ferox is used to treat poisons as well as various types of body pain, anxiety, and breathing problems. It also lowers fever. Additionally, it helps in the treatment of conditions including gout, asthma, and diabetes. The finest thing about aconitum ferox is that it provides prompt relief for all of your medical problems.

Clematis Buchananiana:

The common garden plant Clematis Buchananiana is mostly used to cure dyspepsia, toothaches, headaches, and sinus discomfort. This plant differs from other medical plants found in the Himalayas by having stunning, aromatic blossoms that are bright yellow in color. This plant's roots are used to make a paste that aids in reducing inflammation, and if the juice can be put to wounds, it quickly relieves pain.

 West Indian Chickweed:

Similar to the name, the plant is intriguing. The leaves of this plant, also known as Drymaria Cordata, are wrapped in banana leaves and used to relieve inflammation and blocked sinuses. Chinese folks regard this plant to be a miraculous herb because they also use its leaves to treat snakebites in their country. This herb can also be used as a stimulant and a laxative for medical purposes. This plant can be found practically everywhere in the Himalayan region.

Rhus Semialata:

Rhus is a common deciduous tree in the Northeastern region of India, although it is also found close to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the foothills of the Northeastern Himalayas. It is reputed to have extraordinary therapeutic effects. The fruit of this shrub is used by Himalayan locals to treat diarrhea and dysentery. It was discovered a few years ago that this fruit supported conventional beliefs, reaffirming the medicine's efficacy.

Hemp Agrimony:

This plant is widespread, but it has a special value as a medicinal herb in the Himalayan region. It is an effective treatment for blood purification due to its cathartic, diuretic, and antiscorbutic qualities. In this area, the plant's extract is used as a poultice to treat cuts and bruises. The plant's juice is also used topically to halt bleeding. Additionally, a quick-curing tincture and tea made from the leaves of this plant can treat influenza.

Arnebia Euchroma:

The Himalayan highlands are home to the extremely valued medicinal herb Arnebia euchroma. This plant has garnered interest from all around the world due to its extensive list of medical characteristics. The primary metabolite identified in various regions of Arnebia euchroma is Shikonin. Euchroma adds to its therapeutic value. Shikonin is in increasing demand in industry, however despite several efforts, it is not possible to meet this demand. Finding other means to provide the raw materials for industry is therefore urgently needed. Due to overexploitation, this plant is listed as an endangered medicinal plant. Uncertainty surrounds the biosynthetic process for the secondary metabolites found in this extraordinarily valuable plant. Around the world, omics-based research on Arnebia euchroma is currently being conducted in order to understand in vitro culture techniques, biosynthetic pathways, conservation tactics, pharmaceutical evaluation, and other topics.

Dactylorhiza Hatagirea:

A medicinal orchid species known as Dactylorhiza hatagirea is only found in the North-Western Himalayan region, which spans Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, and Bhutan. The underground, or tuber, portion of Dactylorhiza hatagirea is primarily in charge of enriching chemical components like dactylorhiza, which has a high medicinal value for treating a variety of disorders and maladies. Along with additional advantages including neurostimulant, antimicrobial, immunomodulator, and numerous nutritional qualities, dactylorhiza has mostly demonstrated aphrodisiac nature.

The development of molecular markers, next-generation sequencing for genomic as well as transcriptomic characterization, and in vitro propagation are some of the major biotechnological interventions that have been documented up to this point, mostly for management and conservation strategies for this amazing Himalayan orchid. It is anticipated that in the years to come, more attention will be put on making the most of the natural resources, including Dactylorhin hatagirea and other medicinal herbs, that are present in the Himalayan region. Prioritizing research will help scientists and local growers collaborate and use Dactylorhin hatagirea to its full potential. Comparing Dactylorhin hatagirea to other Himalayan medicinal plants, there are generally fewer repositories available, but every effort has been made to present.

Fritillaria Roylei:

A crucial Himalayan medicinal plant in danger of extinction, Fritillaria Roylei is prized for its potential in medicine. The bulb of this plant is a common treatment for bronchial illnesses and a key component of Chyavanprash, an Ayurvedic preparation, and other Astavarga (a set of eight medicinal herbs) products used in Indian medicine. Bulbous herb is overused for medicinal uses and classified as a rare, endangered, and threatened species as a result of being taken out of its natural habitat. Therefore, to close the demand-supply gap in the production of bioactive molecules as well as for widespread applications in the traditional medicine system, captive cultivation strategies, conservation (in situ and ex situ) measures, rapid medicinal plant cultivation, and traditional knowledge validation are required.

Additionally, technological advancements like metabolic engineering, molecular taxonomy, molecular phylogeny, and omics sciences (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and phenomics) offer fresh perspectives on metabolite upscaling in relation to the elucidation of secondary metabolism biosynthetic pathways. Omics-based technologies identify important regulatory genes/proteins, metabolic fluxes, etc. to provide molecular cues for the targeted metabolite increase.

Picrorhiza Kurroa:

A high-altitude medicinal plant called Picrorhiza kurroa has hepatoprotective, antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, and a number of other therapeutic qualities. The primary chemical components of this plant that have been used in numerous commercial herbal medication formulations are called picroside-I (P-I) and picroside-II (P-II). It was classified as an endangered medicinal plant species as a result of extensive, haphazard collecting and unlawful trade. Additionally, omics-based methods utilised to clarify the biosynthetic pathways and important genes involved in the formation of picrosides have been reviewed for their possible implications in Picrorhiza kurroa metabolic engineering and molecular breeding.

 Podophyllum Hexandrum:

Podophyllum hexandrum, a member of the Berberidaceae family, is a valuable temperate medicinal plant that is in high demand on both the domestic and international markets because it contains a substance called podophyllotoxin that is used to cure some types of malignancies. The species has been indiscriminately taken from the wild to satisfy the rising demand of the pharmaceutical industry, and as a result, it is in grave danger since the rate of regeneration is lower than the pace of harvesting. Therefore, quick action is required to safeguard and conserve this species. To lessen the severe biotic strain in the natural habitat, it is urgently necessary to design user-friendly packages and procedures for its proliferation, in situ, and ex situ cultivation.

Rauwolfia Serpentina:

Indian snakeroot, also known as Rauwolfia serpentina is an Apocynaceae family medicinal shrub that is in danger of extinction. The presence of the monoterpene indole alkaloids (MIAs) reserpine, ajmaline, ajmalicine, serpentine, and yohimbine is largely responsible for the wide range of pharmacological effects it contains. It works well for treating schizophrenia, anxiety, sleeplessness, and psychotic disorders such hypertension and schizophrenia.

Saussurea Lappa:

The well-known high-altitude medicinal herb Saussurea lappa has been utilized all over the world as a crucial part of traditional medicine for a variety of diseases. The rationale behind its use in various herbal medication compositions has been successfully proved by several analytical and pharmacological investigations. Additionally, it offers possibilities that can be investigated for the best utilization, conservation, and yield improvement of this priceless medicinal herb.

 Trillium Govanianum:

Trillium Govanianum is herbal plants that grow in Himalayan regions that exhibit extensive genetic diversity. Herbal medicine is abundantly available worldwide, especially in developing nations because of medicinal herbs. In-depth knowledge of genetics, proteomics, and metabolomics is required for the research of medicinal plants with potent therapeutic capabilities, such as "Nag Chhatri," as its common name suggests. The majority of this plant species is used as herbal medicine to treat a variety of illnesses, including diarrhea, wound healing, anti-inflammation, menstruation problems, as well as antiseptic, antifungal, and anticancer properties.

 Withania Somnifera:

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera is a very valuable medicinal plant from the Solanaceae family. Along with the drier regions of India, it can reach heights of 1700 meters in the Himalayan region (mainly Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir). Due to the presence of various bioactive metabolites, primarily Withanolides (a class of steroidal lactones with a fundamental C-28 framework), which have repeatedly been found useful against some of the major human illnesses, it has a wide range of health advantages.

The primary difficulties in this crop (poor seed viability, losses from pests and diseases, quality maintenance of herbal goods, etc.) need to be handled in a systematic manner given the expanding market for herbal treatments and the rise in Ashwagandha's market demand. Numerous attempts have been undertaken to investigate the genetic, morphological, and chemotypic diversity in its germplasm as well as to pinpoint the essential genes for the withanolide biosynthesis pathway.

 Zanthoxylum Armatum:

The Rutaceae family includes Zanthoxylum armatum, a sub deciduous fragrant, branching, scandent, or upright shrub or small tree that reaches heights of 6-7 m. It is prevalent in the hot Himalayan regions from Jammu to Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan. Zanthoxylym armatum plants cover a sizable portion of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh in India. This plant is carminative and antiseptic and is used to treat scabies, chest infections, dental difficulties, digestive problems, and stomachaches.

Valeriana Jatamansi:

The Valerianaceae family includes Valeriana jatamansi, sometimes known as "Indian Valerian." It is a perennial aromatic herb that is utilized in many traditional and medical systems. It grows naturally at altitudes between 1200 and 3000 m above sea level (amsl). The plant's leaves, stems, rhizome, and roots all contain significant amounts of high-value biological active substances. The principal and commercially significant chemicals, however, as well as the essential oil, were only to be found in the roots and rhizome portion. Rhizome's native environment has been overly exploited in recent decades, severely reducing the natural population. Although industrial demand is still high, there have been numerous initiatives made to boost production and practice conservation.

Swertia Chirayita:

The plant Swertia chirayita has tremendous medicinal potential and produces a number of secondary metabolites that are utilised in numerous medical systems to treat a wide range of illnesses. The plant's current condition is not excellent, and populations of this species are rapidly dwindling. According to the literature, if prompt action is not taken, it is impossible to avoid this species' extinction in the near future. In order to reap the rewards and benefit from this very significant plant's therapeutic properties in the future, it is imperative that both ex situ and in situ conservation of this species be accomplished.

Rhodiola Imbricata:

Due to its enormous medicinal and therapeutic potential, the rich plant variety of the high-altitude Trans-Himalayan region has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. One such highly acclaimed plant that is well known in both the scientific and medicinal communities is Rhodiola imbricata. Along with treating a wide variety of illnesses, the plant has an amazing array of qualities including antioxidant, anti-aging, radioprotective, etc. Due to the abundance of traditional knowledge, the plant's short growth season, and the availability of unique bioactive chemicals, local farmers have been overharvesting the plant.

According to researchers, a Himalayan herb is today's sanjeevani.

Due to their high economic value, medicinal and aromatic plants have received priority attention for conservation worldwide. These medicinal plant’s components can be purchased for between Rs 20 and Rs 12,000 per kilogramme on the open market. The main problem is that for these plants to thrive and maintain their medical characteristics, they require highly particular environmental conditions. Currently, 7% of endangered medicinal plants are being protected ex situ, or away from their natural habitat. However, while area-specific actions may be necessary, conservation strategies that translocate plants, such as gene banks, seed banks, or seed herbaria, are crucial. A plant's location determines its habitat, which is distinct in particular for high-altitude plants surviving in harsh conditions. Because of this, location is crucial in determining how much threat a plant faces. These plants could not thrive in an alien environment.

Bhavleen Kaur Sethi