Natural medicines. The western Himalaya is a wealthy source

Natural products have been an
important resource meant for upholding of life for ages. Already in the most
primitive written traditions, e.g. the Rigveda of South Asia (ca. 1500-900 BC), it is apparent
that plants played an important role in daily life. a well-known example is
Soma, a plant that was pressed to extract juice and was used as a medicine (Mukhopadhyaya, 1922-1929, Mahdihassan and
Mehdi, 1989). The interest in medicinal plants has never ceased since. Even
today, natural products become a potent source of pharmacotherapeutics, either
directly, for example , in treatment of chronic diseases as a herb drug or can
be used as raw materials from which more or less composite chemical structures
with particular biological activity are isolated.  Cragg et
al. (1997) reviewed the function of natural products in drug discovery,
and concluded that for the ailment indications, anticancer and anti-infection,
more than 60% of new approved drugs are derived from natural sources. World
health organization estimated that 80% population of the world relies on
traditional medicines.

 

The
western Himalaya is a wealthy source of plant bio-resources comprising of  huge economically important species that are
used in pharmaceutical as well as alternative system of medicines.  In India, 814 plant species have been recognized
as threatened and of these more than 113 taxa occur in Indian Himalaya (Nayer and Sastry, 1987, 1988, 1990).
Besides these a number of plant taxa deserve attention on account of their
dwindling population.

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Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth. (Scrophulariacae) is
one such taxon with limited distribution in sub-alpine regions/ alpine region
where its occurrence is restricted to specific habitats and is presently being
exploited on a commercial scale from the wild.  
Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth is a representative endemic,
medicinal herb, extensively distributed all through the higher altitudes of
alpine Himalayas from west to east (Thakur et al.,
1989),
between 3000 to 4500 m above mean sea level (msl).

 The plant
is self-regenerating but it is to be threatened to near extinction as a result
of unregulated over-harvesting (Subedi,
2000). Over exploitation ensuing degradation from natural habitat,
narrow distribution range, undersized population and high economical
value were major threats for its survival (Kala,
2000). More than 90% of the market
demand for this species is met from the wild. Uniyal et al. (2011)
reported that, as many as 300 to 400 individual plants are uprooted to get 1 kg
dry weight of P. kurroa plant. The species is one of the 37 identified top
priority species for conservation and cultivation in Western Himalaya.

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