Natural medicines. The western Himalaya is a wealthy source

Natural products have been animportant resource meant for upholding of life for ages. Already in the mostprimitive written traditions, e.g. the Rigveda of South Asia (ca. 1500-900 BC), it is apparentthat plants played an important role in daily life. a well-known example isSoma, a plant that was pressed to extract juice and was used as a medicine (Mukhopadhyaya, 1922-1929, Mahdihassan andMehdi, 1989). The interest in medicinal plants has never ceased since.

Eventoday, natural products become a potent source of pharmacotherapeutics, eitherdirectly, for example , in treatment of chronic diseases as a herb drug or canbe used as raw materials from which more or less composite chemical structureswith particular biological activity are isolated.  Cragg etal. (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. Worldhealth organization estimated that 80% population of the world relies ontraditional medicines. Thewestern Himalaya is a wealthy source of plant bio-resources comprising of  huge economically important species that areused in pharmaceutical as well as alternative system of medicines.  In India, 814 plant species have been recognizedas threatened and of these more than 113 taxa occur in Indian Himalaya (Nayer and Sastry, 1987, 1988, 1990).

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Besides these a number of plant taxa deserve attention on account of theirdwindling population. Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth. (Scrophulariacae) isone such taxon with limited distribution in sub-alpine regions/ alpine regionwhere its occurrence is restricted to specific habitats and is presently beingexploited 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 ofalpine Himalayas from west to east (Thakur et al.

,1989),between 3000 to 4500 m above mean sea level (msl). The plantis self-regenerating but it is to be threatened to near extinction as a resultof unregulated over-harvesting (Subedi,2000). Over exploitation ensuing degradation from natural habitat,narrow distribution range, undersized population and high economicalvalue were major threats for its survival (Kala,2000). More than 90% of the marketdemand 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 kgdry weight of P. kurroa plant. The species is one of the 37 identified toppriority species for conservation and cultivation in Western Himalaya.