News on Health & Science

Magic Shrub To Get a Revival

It’s a wonder shrub that is giving India’s Rs 5,000 crore-worth ayurveda industry sleepless nights. Guggul, a four-metre shrub, known for its powers of reducing high cholesterol levels besides bringing relief to patients suffering from rheumatic arthritis and thyroid, has started to disappear from India.

Even though the gummy resin, harvested from the plant’s bark through tapping, is used in over 100 ayurvedic formulations, 90% of the industry’s requirement for the plant is met by Pakistan.

While the Indian ayurveda industry requires over 1,000 tonnes of the resin annually, only 10% of it is generated here. This has now made the country’s National Medicinal Plants Board declare the cultivation of Guggul a priority. Union health minister A Ramadoss recently sanctioned a Guggul revival project which will conduct research on the plant besides finding ways to popularise its cultivation among Indian farmers.

Four institutes — National Research Centre for Medical and Aromatic Plants (Gandhinagar), Central Arid Zone Research Institute (Jodhpur), Agricultural Research Institute (Gujarat) and Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (Lucknow), have been asked to start research on this plant. Scientists will look at how to make this plant grow across India (at present it only grows in arid zones), how to make it produce the resin at regular intervals (at present, it exudes gum every 10-12 years), how to extend its lifespan (it dies after the gum is extracted) and how to improve its germination.

Speaking to TOI, B S Sajwan, CEO of NMPB, said, “With such a huge requirement, we can’t depend solely on its import from Pakistan. For its largescale requirement, the plant has to be available in large quantities across India. We have, therefore, decided to revive the plant.”

There has been a surge in the interest over Guggul in the West. Dr David Moore from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston recently reported that “the 2,500-year-old traditional Indian medication for lowering cholesterol really works”.

The Central Drug Research Institute had developed drugs to reduce cholesterol with Guggul in the 1970s. Sushruta Samahita — the ancient text on ayurveda — also refers to Guggul, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent too.

It was over 40 years ago that Dr G V Satyavati, former DG of the Indian Council of Medical Research, first reported the hypolipidemic action of Guggul in a thesis submitted to the Benaras Hindu University. She also discovered that it lowered serum cholesterol level and cut down on obesity.

Source:The Times Of India

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