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According to an assessment  conducted by the Biological Survey of India  93% of the wild medicinal plants used in Ayurveda are threatened with extinction due to over exploitation.

The Botanical Survey of India recently prioritized 359 wild medicinal plant species and conducted an assessment throughout the country to determine their health.  Of the 359 species, 335 were categorized as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable or near-threatened.

The survey used criteria and categories established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its Red List of Threatened Species.

Begonia-tessaricarpa Image source: http://www.agricultureinformation.com

To help keep these plant species from going extinct, the Indian government in 2008 initiated a program ‘Central Sector Scheme for Conservation, Development and Sustainable Management of Medicinal Plants’ (pdf) to relocate species from the wild, study how to domesticate them, and promote sustainable harvest protocols. This survey is the latest step in that program.

Some of the endangered plants are:

Utleria Salicifolia – used in the treatment of ulcers.

Hydnocarpus Pentandra – used in treatment of diabetes, leprosy, and arthritis among other ailments.

Gymnocladus Assamicus – Tree found in eastern India.

Begonia Tessaricarpa – Known as Rebe and used to treat stomach aches and dehydration.

Agapetes Smithiana – Found in Sikkim, could not locate much details for this plant.

Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems. To find out that so many plants vital to curing human ailments in this system are endangered, is shocking. Hopefully, the government succeeds in promoting sustainable harvest protocols. Read more here.