INTRODUCTION

 Since time immortal, people have been using herbs in their surroundings for remedies to cure various diseases. The history of medicine in India- the holy land of Ayurveda, can be traced to the remote past. The earliest mention of the medicinal use of plants is found in the Rigveda, perhaps the oldest repository of human knowledge, having been written between 4500 and 1600 BC. The classical texts of Ayurveda are abound with information on medicinal plants, Susruta Samhita which was written not later than 1000 BC, contains  a comprehensive chapter on therapeutics and Charak Samhita written about the same period, gives a remarkable description of the 'Materia Medica' as it was known to ancient Hinduas.

  Ayurveda (1500 BC) is considered as science of life, this very ancient and typically Indian Classical System of Medicine treats complete health to be a blend of physical, mental, social moral and spiritual well being.

  India is one of the richest countries as far as biodiversity of medicinal plants is concerned. About 30,000 species of higher plants are used in Traditional System of Medicine the world over. In India alone an estimated 7500 species of higher plants are used as medicine in folk traditions. As India is a large country having many ecological and climatic zones with their corresponding biodiversity, the plant varies from region to region as does its use.

  Habitwise Analysis of Medicinal Plants :

 

 

Medicinal Plants used in different systems of Medicines.

 Medical System                                    Medicinal Plants used

Ayurveda                                                          1773 
Folk Tradition                                                   4720
Homeopathy                                                     296
Modern Science                                                105
Siddha                                                              1122
Tibetan                                                             280
Unani                                                                751

 (Source : FRLHT, Research Division)

    Ancient Texts and Medicinal Plants

Text Period  No. of  plants referred 
Atharvaveda 1400 BC    289
Charak Samhita         300 BC  600
Susruta Samhita 200BC 793
Astanga Hrdaya 6AD 420
Raj niganthu 16AD 750
Ramayan 400BC 180

The family and genera analysis of 7195 medicinal plants shows that 387 families and 2220 genera are included.

  Major families of  Medicinal Plants :

 

Major family                                                       No. of Plants    

Asteraceae                                                                    424

Euphorbiaceae                                                              219

Lamiaceae                                                                    218

Fabaceae                                                                     217

Rubiaceae                                                                    210

Poaceae                                                                       169

Papilionaceae                                                               167

Acanthaceae                                                                 143

Rosaceae                                                                     130

Apiaceae                                                                      118

  
Break-up by parts used :

 

 

Many medicinal plants mentioned in ancient texts baffle recognition and identification, as it was not possible to state with certainty from the description given in the literature whether the plant in actual use as drug is the one described. Verbal description given in old books are inadequate to the botanist for identifying the plants. There had been a good deal of confusion in vernacular names. This was due to lack of color photography at that time.

The research and survey work pertaining to medicinal plants , their identification and color photography were carried out by the Author. This web site will be useful to Ethno botanists, Ayurvedic Physicians and Research workers in this field.