Tripura’s traditional practitioners take steps to conserve herbal biodiversity to revive Ayurveda

Kanchanpur (North Tripura), Sept.30: Ayurveda, which literally means the science of life, is an ancient Indian system of natural and holistic medicine.

The Atharvaveda, one of the four Vedas in Indian civilization, is the origin of Ayurvedic practices which includes the use of herbal medicines along with mineral or metal supplementation, surgical techniques, opium, and application of oil by massages.

Once lost in the fame and development of allopathy and medical science, Ayurveda is gradually reviving again and getting popular since it has negligible side effects and is a totally natural form of treatment.

But the biggest hurdle in this process of rejuvenation is getting the right herb at the right time, as due to the shrinking of forests and climate change, there is a constant threat of herbs gradually getting extinct.

To overcome such hindrances, 55 traditional Ayurveda practitioners residing in remote Kanchanchanpur sub-division of North Tripura have come together under the banner of the Vaidyaraj Herbal Growers Society (VHGS) and formed ten herbal gardens at various spots.

The members of the society, with some financial and technical help from the Centre for Forest Based Livelihood and Extension, have collected hundreds of rare species of herbs useful in preparing Ayurvedic medicines from far flung areas and are growing them in these gardens.

The idea behind the herbal garden besides preservation is to get access to various herbs at one spot as and when necessary or required.

One such garden has come up in the house of Amiya Choudhury, an Ayurvedic practitioner at Netajinagar village in Kanchanpur.

The garden, spread over an area of two hectares, has over 500 species of herbs, all collected by members of the society from various places during the last year.

These Ayurvedic practitioners from various religions and tribes gather at the herbal garden at regular intervals to nurture their collection of herbs and share their traditions and knowledge.

“We are collecting medicinal plants from far-flung places and growing them in our herbal gardens. At present, we have 500 species of medicinal plants for various diseases right from stomach problem, flu, fever, broken bones, snake bite, liver problem, jaundice and many others in our garden. We wanted to collect and share this traditional medical knowledge from various tribes and communities of this area like the Chakma, Bengali, Reang, Mog and formed a committee. Now, with the reduction of forests, these plants are getting less. So, we took this initiative to collect them here and the CFLE has helped us in this,” said Amiya Choudhury, the group’s leader.

Beside collecting herbs, the group is also documenting their ancestral knowledge on Ayurveda passed down by their ancestors through the oral route. At present, they are in the process of giving it the shape of a book so that the knowledge can be preserved and passed on to the future generations.

“We want to pass this knowledge to our future generations, and for that, along with the herbal garden, we are also documenting and compiling knowledge of all the communities in the form of book, with all information about which plants are useful for which particular disease,” said Chowdhury.

Punyamani Chakma, an aged Ayurvedic practitioner, said : “I practice Ayurveda to earn a livelihood and this has been my forefathers profession. Earlier, we use to get all these medicines from the forest, but now, we get them from this garden and it is very useful for me.”

The practitioners said that currently they are practicing Ayurveda in their homes, but are hopeful that in the coming days, they get regular Ayurvedic licenses so that they can open up centers at various places in the Kanchanpur and help people to get better treatment and at the same time earn a better livelihood.

Ratneshwar Chakma, a member of the VHGS, said, “Since these medicinal plants are gradually getting extinct in the jungle, so we are collecting them from there and growing them here at one place. We are growing them here so that we may get whatever we need at any moment. If we get a license, then it will be very beneficial, because it will allow all 55 of us to sell our products in the Kanchanpur market. Now, without a licence, we are not allowed to sell in the open market.”

According to an estimate, up to 80 percent of people in India use some form of traditional medicine, a category which includes Ayurveda.

The Indian Government supports research and teaching in Ayurveda through many channels at both the national and state levels.

The state-sponsored Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) is designed to do research on Ayurveda.

As of now, India has over 180 training centers those offer degrees in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.