J&K has enormous potential to produce medicinal plants: Dir AYUSH

Jammu and Kashmir being a region of the Himalayas, it is known for its high diversity of species. Medicinal plants are traded as raw materials as well as processed products. These have provided an important source of income for the communities living in the region, especially in Kashmir.

To learn about recent advances in plant science, the use of herbal health products at J&K, AYUSH Director, Jammu and Kashmir, Dr. Mohan Singh in an interview with Rising Kashmir’s Health Correspondent Mansoor peertalks about medicinal plant gardens, the potential of high altitude medicinal plants and its role in job creation.

What is the potential of medicinal plants in Jammu and Kashmir?

J&K has enormous potential to produce high altitude medicinal plants. The demand for herbal medicines is always high in the industry not only in India but also abroad. J&K being a high altitude area, we have all high altitude species growing here.

Basically, we don’t have an organized system for growing these plants and supplying them. Once a farmer has grown a plant, he needs a micro-processing unit. But we opt for an end-to-end solution and have improved the Ayush sector at J&K.

What does Ayush do to encourage the cultivation of medicinal plants?

We are implementing two programs through the Jammu and Kashmir Herbal Medicine Council. One is under conservation of medicinal plants. In conservation, we usually take the forest department into consideration to opt for in situ and ex situ conservation to save these medicinal plants in the forests. In the conservation part, we are also developing gardens of medicinal plants.

Now we have a new proposal to develop herbal gardens to promote medicinal plants in common households for herbal home remedies. In this regard, we have presented a proposal to the Indian government. We take a thousand households from Jammu and Kashmir division.

Tell us about the school herb gardens you started?

We also promote school herb gardens. The Kashmir School Education Authority already has around 100 school herb gardens sponsored by the Union Government and recommended by the J&K Medicinal Plants Board.

We have more than 300 species of medicinal plants in UT of Jammu and Kashmir. In Kashmir division, we have selected clusters of Kulgam, Kupwara, Ganderbal, Shopian for empowering farmers through herbal medicine.

You develop gardens of medicinal plants in the hospitals of Ayush. How do you do this?

We are developing Ayush Health and Wellness Centers where we provide all facilities like Yoga, Panchkarma, Medicines and Ayurvedic and Unani Treatments. In these centers, we develop herb gardens, which are one of the mandatory components of the centers. The herb gardens aim to promote medicinal plants in the locality not only for medicinal purposes but also to promote a commercial scale.

Explain cash crop and the role of farmers?

We encourage farmers to cultivate for commercial purposes because we also need to preserve the forests. Our forests cannot last long. They can’t give us these herbal medicines for very long. We have also identified 161 hectares of land through J&K. The proposal has been submitted to the Indian government for funding. We have also identified clusters in almost all districts. Thanks to this, we can generate employment opportunities.

What is the update on the Institute of High Altitude Medicinal Plants at Baderwah?

We are in the process of establishing the Institute of High Altitude Medicinal Plants at Baderwah in the Doda District which will be a research institute for high altitude medicinal plants. It is a 100 crore project that has been approved. Work has started on some components.

This institute will serve farmers up to the research level. It is the first high altitude herbal medicine institute in the Indian subcontinent. We also submitted DRP in collaboration with Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine J&K. This has also been submitted to the Indian government for approval.

In Baderwah, we are establishing a nursery that will provide quality planting material to farmers and growers. We are also developing seed germplasm centers that will provide quality seeds to farmers and institutes.

We are also developing marketing mandis and storage ramps and sheds for medicinal plants. Thus, a farmer will have a complete setup as if he will get the planting material, seeds and even marketing.

Wherever we have a group of farmers who cultivate medicinal plants, we will provide them with micro-processing units of a specific species of medicinal plants to treat this. They can opt for the added value of these medicinal plants. They can also exchange it. This aims to conserve the medicinal plants of J&K and will also generate employment as well as income.

What is AYUSH’s role in Covid-19?

Our employees like doctors and paramedics worked hand in hand during Covid-19. Immunity enhancing drugs have played a typical role in the control of Covid-19 and for the post-clinical management of Covid patients.

How are Ayush hospitals operating in rural areas during the pandemic?

Most of our institutions are at the primary level, in remote and inaccessible areas. Ayush dispensaries are mostly located in remote locations. Our employees, outside of day-to-day work, held awareness camps in the community where people were given immunity-enhancing drugs.

They were also given medicine for coughs, sneezes, throat infections and respiratory tract infections (RTIs). We also distributed health supplements like iron, calcium which helped boost immunity. We also donated home remedies for Covid and other illnesses.

How do hospitals in Ayush treat home-isolated patients?

Our people have delivered Covid kits to people’s doorsteps with the help of the community. Even today, we receive calls from people requesting immunity-boosting drugs. Covid made Ayush more relevant because when there was no treatment, traditional systems of medicine worked better. Even WHO has certified that Ayush medicines have more benefits to boost immunity.

What was the role of ancient medicines during the Covid?

We have taken projects from the Government of India to do research on certain drugs. The study found that a patient would recover from Covid within a week after taking Ayush medication. This is documented with us. It’s not hearsay.

What has improved in your service since the start of Covid-19?

Ministry of Ayush, Government of India has granted permission to start a group of 60 students at Unani Medical College, Ganderbal. We spent a lot of funds granted by the Indian government and the J&K government. We have hired manpower for the proper functioning of the faculty of medicine. The Unani system has been revived in J&K. We have also made improvements to Akhnoor Ayurvedic Medical College, Jammu.

You have started to improve the dispensaries. What has been done in this regard?

All Ayush dispensaries, numbering 571, have been gradually transformed into Aysuh Health and Wellness Centers. Of 571, 194 are approved. Of 194, at least 170 are operational and have been upgraded. These will provide comprehensive primary health care according to the principles of Ayush. Yoga is an additional component in these centers. There we will grow locally grown herbs and plants for public treatment and educate people with home remedies.

At the secondary care level, there are five integrated Ayush hospitals (50 beds each) which have been upgraded to fill this gap in terms of manpower and infrastructure.

Out of five hospitals, we have started construction work on three hospitals. Within about a year, we will be able to establish these integrated Ayush hospitals.

Today our nomenclature has changed with the Covid. We will also create herb nurseries; one in Gurez (high altitude) and another in the subtropical district of Samba. So, with this, we will be able to provide seeds and plants to farmers.

There is a lack of staff in the department. How do you take it?

There is a shortage of manpower but, in the meantime, we are projecting it to the government for the creation of positions. In one year, we have added nearly 100 people. The ISM was supplemented and supplemented by the National Ayush Mission. Under this, we hired people in Jammu and Kashmir. At the district level, we have added manpower.

Approval was given to add 50 additional Ayush doctors for remote and inaccessible areas through NAM. We have nearly 250 dispensaries that are run alone. We projected all labor issues. We have also raised the issue of paramedic shortages with the JKSSB.

Alvin J. Chase