New Delhi: Medicinal plant growers and forest officials in India must join hands to benefit the country's indigenous treatment systems, experts said Saturday.
The experts at a workshop held as part of the ongoing World Ayurveda Congress (WAC) in the capital emphasised that such give-and-take can happen only with the spread of administrative awareness that jungles are the primary source of medicinal herbs.
"As 90 percent of the country's herbal-cure products rely on plants found in forests, there is a need for maintaining the right balance between use of medicinal plants and their conservation in the jungles and cultivation in farmlands," said Nilanjan Sanyal, secretary in the Department of Ayush under the health ministry.
On integration between forest officials and medicinal plant growers, Sanyal said the integration of the work of the National Ayush Mission with Ayush as a whole would hugely benefit the nation.
However, he stressed the need for encouraging grassroots-level livelihood programmes for medicinal plant growers.
"We should also promote upkeep of the quality of herbs and standardise them so as to suit the general norms of medical practice," he said.
A recent study by Ayush revealed that there was a high demand for 178 species of herbs used for treatment.
B.S. Sajwan, technical member with the National Green Tribunal, said: "All levels of forestry staff in the country must consider medicinal plants as a key segment of natural resources.
"While conserving biodiversity is essential, it should not be a dampener on the use of herbs that are vital to traditional medicines," he said.
He said there should be efforts to reduce the role of middlemen in local herbal markets.
R.K. Ved from the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions in Bangalore said more than 5,000 of the 6,560 Ayurveda plants were found in forests.
Meenakshi Negi, deputy CEO of the National Medicinal Plants Board, said forest officials should not confine their preservation mission to fauna and general flora.
"Medicinal plants occupy a special place in a health-promoting nation like India," she said.