Endangered Medicinal Plants of Nepal

– N.P. MANANDHAR

Botanical Survey and Herbarium, Godawari, Lalipur, Nepal

 

ABSTRACT:  Forty-five  endangered  medicinal  plants  of  Nepal  are  mentioned  in  this paper. Some recommendations for their preservation are also discussed here.

Introduction

The creation of nature is thoughtful and meaningful.  It  is  important  to  maintain the  balance  between  plant  and  animal kingdom.    But    because    of    various reasons,    the    plant    resources    were destroyed in last few decades, and many species   were   rendered   threatened   or extinct.  This  is  the  global  problem.  In Nepal,  a  major  portion  of  its  area  is covered    with    hills    and    mountains, occupying     the     central     portion     of Himalaya.  This  is  the  reason  for  the country  being  the  richest  depository  of diversity  in  plant  wealth  life.   In  this regard,        the        altitudinal        range, temperature,  rainfall  and  soil  have  also important role. The medicinal plants are forest  based  natural  resources  and  have important    contributions    in    Napalese health     care.     About     90%     of     the population in Nepal depends upon local healers      and      Ayurvedic  medical treatment, as they are less expensive and easily      available.       Besides,       these medicinal plants are export commodities and     sources     of     national     income (Manandhar, 1980).

 

Causes of threat

More   than   500   species   of   medicinal plants used in traditional medicine grow in  forests  and  surrounding  areas.  About 50  species  are  commercially  exploited from the natural resources   (Manandhar,1980). The forest, which is the natural habitat of medicinal  drugs,  is  being  depleted  each year. Till two decades ago, one-third of the total land of the country was covered with forests and this green forest was its pride  and  wealth.  But  because  of  the disturbances  of  natural  habitat  of  these plants only about 20% of forest remains (Dali   1983).   It   may  owing  to   illegal cutting  of  plants  for  timber,  fuel  wood, unauthorized settlement, deliberate setting of fire by cattle grazer inquest of fresh patches of grazing land. These     medicinal     plants     are     also destroyed   for   commercial   exploration and   collection   of   entire   plants,   roots rhizomes   barks,   tubers,   corms,   seeds, flowers and fruits. The   plant   species   are   also   destroyed indirectly    because    of    various    other human  activities  viz.  over  grazing  of domestic animals in the forest. The  natural  calamities  like  uplifting  or sinking  of   land,   flooding,   glaciations, droughts,    landslides    and    fire    have significant  contribution  to  lead  the  drug plants   in   endangered   and   threatened stage. Diseases    insect    attacks    absence    of pollination  and  inadequate  reproductive mechanism   are   also   some   additional factors, which cause harm to plants.

Endangered Medicinal plants

The plants, which are exploited for their roots,  seem  to  be  severely  threatened. Their roots of these plants are collected by removing the whole plant these plants are:   Aconitum   ferox   Wall   Aeginetia Indica  L.,  Asparagus  racemosus   willd., Brachycorythis      Obcordata      (Lindl.) summerh.,   Dactylorhiza   hatagirea   (D. Don)    Soo    and    Dioscorea    deltoida D.Don.

 

The plants like podophyllum hexandrum Royle  and  Paris  polyphylla  Sm.  Have limited  distribution  and  medicinal  roots are  collected  digging  the  whole  plant. Mesuaferra   L.   is   also   limited   in   its distribution  with  extensive  collection  of its  flowers.  The  same  is  the  case  about the distribution of Rauvolfia serpentians (L)  Benth.  Ex  Kurz  where  its  root  and stem is collected for medicinal purposes.

The  same  method  is  followed  in  the collection   of   the   rhizome   of   Rheum australe  D.Don,  bergenia  eiliata  (haw) Sternb.,   Nardostachys   grandiflora   DC Picrorhiza  Scrophulariflora  pennel  and Valeriana jatamansi Jones.

In   case   of   tree   species   the   bark   of Alstonia  Scholaris  (L) R.BrBetulautils D.Don,    Cinnamomum    tamala    (Buch Ham)        Nees        &        Ebrn.        And Myricaesculenta  Buch-Hum.  Ex  D.Don is  used  for  construction  as  well  as  for fuel. The leaves of Cinnamomum tamala are extensively collected for species and export.

Wood fordia fruticosa (L) Kurz is felled to  collect  its  medicinal  flowers  or  the branches    for    fuel.        The    fruit    of Zanthoxylum    armatum    DC    and    the flowers   of   Bauhinia   variegta   L.,   is generally    collected    by    cutting    its branches  while  the  later  is  also  lopped for  cattle  fodder.  The  flowers  of  Butea Monosperma (Lam.) Kurz., the fruits of terminalia  belerica  (Gaertn.)  Roxb. And T.Chebula  Retz  are  export  commodities of  Nepal  and  are  collected  by unskilled villagers. Besides, the use of their timber for  various  purposes  in  another  cause. There  are  some  trees,  which  are  also extensively   used   as   timber,   fuel   and fodder.  They  are:  Acacia  catechu  (L.f.) Willd.,    Adina    cordifolia    (Willd,    ex Roxb.)  Benth.  &  Hook.  F.  ex  Brandis, Aesandra    butyracea    (Roxb)    Baehni, Bombax   ceiba   L.,   Callicarpa   arborea Roxb.,  Cedrus  deodara  (Roxb.  Ex  Don) G. Don,   Dalbergia sisso (Roxb. exDC., Dillenia  indica  L.,  D.  pentagynaRoxb., Elaeocarpus    sphaericus    (Gaertn)    K. Schum.,    juglans    regia    L.,    Madhuca longifolia  (Koenig)  Macbride,  Michelia champaca   L.,   Oroxylum   indicum   (l.) Kurz,    Rhododendron    arboreum    sm., Sapindus   mokorossi   Gaertn.,   Schima wallichi (DC) Korth., Schleichera oleosa (lour.)   Oken,   Shorea   robusta   Gaertn., Terminalia   tomentosa   Wight.   Et   Arn. And Trichilia connaroides (wight&Arn.) Bentvelzen etc.

 

Recommendations

There     are     different     agencies     and institutions,    which    are    engaged    to conduct   research   programmes   for   the development of medicinal plants.   Most of  these  plants  grow  in  nature  and  for this  there  is  a  lack  of  substantial  works to   pay   attention   towards   endangered flora.  Obviously,  it  is  hard  task  to  stop the    over    progressive    destruction    of various species of drug plants. Though it is   not   easy   from   the   viewpoint   of technical  and  economical  condition  its avoidance  cannot  be  justified.  It  is  time to    frame    some    agenda    for    their conservation.      The      following      few suggestions    may    be    considered    the beginning steps to protect the threatened species.

  1. The preservations    of    natural habitat   may   be   given   priority. The virgin  forest  area  should  be protected  from  grazing,  fire  and cutting down of plants.
  2. The collection    of    medicinal plants  should  be  in  appropriate season,  in  proper  way  and  on rotation basis. This will not only improve the quality of drugs, but also   ensure   dispersal   of   their seeds.
  3. Areas representing  the  particular species   should   be   demarcated and   guarded   from   cattle   and human influences.
  4. The list  band  systematic  survey of          threatened   plants   may   be conducted    with    a    view    for mapping     species     ranges     to determine     the     localities     of endangered species. It may be of considerable           value           in determining     and     establishing properties    for    preserving    the habitats of endangered plants.
  1. At present  there  is  a  large  trade of endangered drug species, which are collected from forests. It is important to enforce control on trade of such plants.
  2. The illustration   of   endangered and commercially exploited species should be made available to the public so that they may be encouraged  to  leave  threatened species   undisturbed or only to photograph them carefully.
  3. Apart from some prevailing limit-actions there are some more measures,  which  may ensure  the conservation of endangered plants. They are:

a. Introduction of growing plants in the Botanical garden.

b. Propagation of  plants  through tissue culture method.

c. In this  regard  there  are  the  need of  rules  and  regulations,  which should be followed strictly.

 

REFERENCES

Dali,  Mathura  Depleting  Forests.  The  Rising  Nepal  (English  daily),  October  7, Kathmandu, Nepal (1983).

Manandhar,  N.P.  Medicinal  plants  of  Nepal   Himalaya.  Ratna  Pustak  Bhandar, Kathmandu, Nepal (1980).

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