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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 33  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 92-96

The folklore medicinal orchids of Sikkim

1 Departments of Ayurveda, National Research Institute of Ayurveda Drug Development, Kolkata, West Bengal; Ayurveda Regional Research Institute, Tadong, India
2 Department of Floriculture and Horticulture Management, Sikkim University, Gangtok, Sikkim, India

Date of Web Publication18-Aug-2014

Correspondence Address:
Ashok Kumar Panda
National Research Institute of Ayurveda Drug Development, CN 4, Bidhan Nagar, Kolkata 91, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0257-7941.139043

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Background: Orchids are well-known for decorative and aromatic values than its medicinal properties. Jīvantī, Jīvaka, R.s.abhaka, Rāsnā, Mānakanda, Pañcagula are used in Ayurveda are said to be orchids. There are 50 species of orchids in medicine. Sikkim has identified 523 species of wild orchids so far.
Aim: The aim of this study is to determine the folklore medicinal use of orchids in Sikkim.
Materials and Methods: To assess the traditional medicinal uses of orchid species, close contacts were made with native people particularly, traditional healers, religious leaders, nursery growers and villagers of Sikkim. The information was gathered with the help of the questionnaire and personal interviews with various knowledgeable respondents during the field visit in between August 2009 and December 2011.
Results and Conclusion: We found that 36 species of orchids are used as medicines for different purposes of health. The botanical and ayurvedic name, phenology, parts used and medicinal uses of 36 orchids are presented in this paper along with its local distribution.

Keywords: Analgesic, aphrodisiac, folklore medicine, orchids in medicine, orchids of Sikkim, wound healing

How to cite this article:
Panda AK, Mandal D. The folklore medicinal orchids of Sikkim. Ancient Sci Life 2013;33:92-6

How to cite this URL:
Panda AK, Mandal D. The folklore medicinal orchids of Sikkim. Ancient Sci Life [serial online] 2013 [cited 2023 Apr 1];33:92-6. Available from: https://www.ancientscienceoflife.org/text.asp?2013/33/2/92/139043

  Introduction Top

Orchids are the most attractive and diverse group among monocots in angiosperms. They are widely cultivated for their beautiful flowers, mainly used in decoration, floral arrangements and gardening, but very less for their medicinal properties.

The very common drugs of Ayurveda Jīvantī and Rāsnā are orchids, which are used in ayurvedic drug preparation from the past centuries. [1] Dendrobium nobile, Gastrodia elata, Bletilla striata, etc., are used in Chinese medicines. [2] The total number of orchids present in India is around 1229, out of which 523 species reported from Sikkim and 620 species from Arunachal Pradesh. [3] Today, nearly 50 varieties of orchids are widely used in different systems of medicine. Some of the species like Vanda roxburghii, Orchis latifolia, D. nobile have been already documented for their proven medicinal values. [4] The major chemical constituents reported from orchid species are alkaloids, triterpenoids, flavonoids and stibenoid. [4] Vanilla planifolia is one of the commercially important orchid as a source plant for Vanillin, which is used as a food flavoring agent. [5] Pharmacological studies show antimicrobial, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic and wound healing properties of some orchids in pre-clinical studies. [9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14]

The word "orchid" originated from the Greek word "orchis," which literally means testicles. This may account for the use of orchids as aphrodisiacs in ancient civilization. It was Theophrastus who first used the Greek word "orchis" to classify a particular group of plants whose roots were dried and chopped, and were used, traditional medicine as antidepressants, sex stimulants and in nutritive drinks. [5]

Reinikka reports a Chinese legend that Shen-nung described B. striata and a Dendrobium species in his Materia Medica of the 28 th BC. [5] Aṣṭavarga (group of eight medicinal plants) is the important ingredient of CyavanaprāŚa, out of eight four plants Jīvaka, ṛṣabhaka, ṛddhi and Vṛddhi have been considered as possible members of family orchidaceous. [6]

People living in Sikkim depend partially or completely on forest resources to meet their needs of food, fuel, fodder, medicine, etc. These people have limited modern facilities such as transportation, good hospitals, trained doctors and medicine. Hence they mostly depend on traditional medicinal treatment for their health-care. [7] The folk healers and elderly people of Sikkim have been using different orchids for their primary health-care. [8] This is an attempt to explore the application of various medicinal orchid of Sikkim with their uses.

  Materials and Methods Top

To assess the traditional medicinal uses of orchid species, close contacts were made with native people, particularly traditional healers, religious leaders, nursery growers and villagers of Sikkim in the Districts of East, West, North and South Sikkim. The search was conducted in the nearest alpine meadows of blocks like Lachung, Lachen and other tropical and temperate forests such as Dikchu, Jorethang, Samdong, Rangpo, Rongli, Rorathang, Yuksom and Melli and famous religious shrines of Sikkim. Information was gathered with the help of questionnaire and personal interviews conducted with various knowledgeable respondents during the field visits. The study was conducted between August 2009 to December 2011.

  Results and Discussion Top

See [Table 1], [Table 2].
Table 1: Observational details of medicinal orchids of sikkim

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Table 2: Medicinal properties of 36 studied wild orchids of Sikkim

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  Conclusion Top

In the present study, it is found that 36 species of orchids in Sikkim were widely used for food and medicine. Among 36 species, nine taxa show wound healing properties, eight taxa are used in inflammatory conditions, six for cough and cold, five as tonic and aphrodisiac and eight for other uses such as constipation, gastritis, bleeding, tonsillitis and piles.

The continuous exploitation of several orchids species from wild, substantial loss of habitat of these orchids and weakening of customary laws to regulate natural resources have resulted in the decline of many orchid species and the loss of knowledge. Orchids are very sensitive to ecological changes. Therefore, it is very urgent to protect these valuable orchids and traditional knowledge for further pharmacological study in their medicinal properties.[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]
Figure 1: Cymbidium eburneum

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Figure 2: Dendrobium densiflorum

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Figure 3: Vanda cristata

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  References Top

1.Uniyal MR. Astavarga - sandhigdha? Sandigdha Vanaushadhi. Dhanwantri Partrika. Aligarh: Sri Jwala Ayurevd Bhawan; 1975. p. 123-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Bulpitt CJ, Li Y, Bulpitt PF, Wang J. The use of orchids in Chinese medicine. J R Soc Med 2007;100:558-63.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Kal CP, Dhyani PP, Sajwan BS. Developing the medicinal plants sector in North Eastern India: Challenges and opportunities. J Ethno Biology and Ethnomedicine 2006;2:32.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Kong JM, Goh NK, Chia LS, Chia TF. Recent advances in traditional plant drugs and orchids. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2003;24:7-21.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Balpitt CJ. The uses and misuses of orchid in medicine. Q J Med 2005;98:625-31.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Singh A, Duggal S. Medicinal orchids: An overview. Ethnobotanical leaflets 2009;13:351-63.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.King G, Pantling R. The Orchids of the Sikkim Himalaya. Calcutta: Royal Botanic Garden; 1898.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Medhi RP, Chakrabarti S. Traditional knowledge of N.E. people in conservation of wild orchids. Indian J Tradit Knowl 2009;8:11-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Duggal SC. Orchids in human affairs (a review). J Pharm Biol 1971;2:1727-34.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Nayak BS, Suresh R, Rao AV, Pillai GK, Davis EM, Ramkissoon V, et al. Evaluation of wound healing activity of Vanda roxburghii R.Br. (Orchidacea): A preclinical study in a rat model. Int J Low Extrem Wounds 2005;4:200-4.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Basu K, Das Gupta B, Bhattacharya. Anti-inflammatory principles of Vanda roxburghii. Curr Sci 1971;40:4-86.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Kumar S, Subramoniam A, Pushpangadan P. Aphrodisiac activity of Vanda tessellata extract in mice. Indian J Pharmacol 2000;32:300-4.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Ahmed F, et al. Antimicrobial activity of extracts and a glycoside from Vanda roxburghii R. Br. Pak J Biol Sci 2002;5:189-91.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Jain SK. Conservation of orchids in India. In: Chadha KL, Singh H, editors. Progress in Orchid Research. Banglore: IIHR/UNDP; 1995.  Back to cited text no. 14


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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