Medicinal resources: Cures at hand, finally being tapped

Jammu and Kashmir, known for its variety of flowers, is yet to fully explore these potential medicinal resources. Of late, however, young entrepreneurs have been making a start. Hundreds of youths across the Valley have set up farms where they cultivate various plants of medicinal value.

Gazalla Amin, a doctor-turned-entrepreneur, has set up a vast lavender farm at village Ashem on the outskirts of Srinagar. "There is a great demand for these plants, especially iris, rosa, and lavender at both domestic and at international levels,'' she said. "There should be legislation to allow public-private partnerships and efforts to involve more and more young people in this field."

The department of Ayush, which promotes Indian systems of medicine, in Kashmir is planning to register farmers in coordination with the horticulture and forestry departments so that they can plant and market medicinal plants.

"We have set a five-year deadline for implementation of an action plan and earmarked Rs 3 crore for the project," director Dr Kabir Dar said. "It is a very promising field growing at the rate of 7-10 per cent annually. This field has a vast growing potential throughout the world, particularly the species indigenous to Kashmir."

Experts say 46 per cent of the plants found in the state are endemic to the region. Apart from saffron, plants such as lavender, rose, artemisia, iris, podphylum, and piccorhiza grow in abundance in the Valley.

Dr Irshad Nawchoo, who heads the department of botany in Kashmir University, says the state has about 700 plants of aromatic and medicinal importance. "For ages, forests have been an important part of the lives of the Kashmiri people," he said. "We can easily find many plants of medicinal importance in our kitchen gardens. For instance, tethwan is used as a great wormicide."

Nawchoo said the plants found in the state are rich in alkaloids, glycoside and volatile oil. "If exploited fully, the medicinal plants can help many youngsters earn employment, while the state can gain in revenue."

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