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Plant Oils Provide Great Medicinal Value
A broad market for oils is set to enhance Nepal's economy
Bishnu K.C. (bishnuji)     Print Article 
Published 2006-01-23 15:04 (KST)   
©2006 www.nepal-dia.de
Nepalese people are proud to be in a country that is naturally endowed with special wonders within its small area. It enjoys rich biodiversity, having more than 700 plant species, of which more than 300 have medicinal value. The most attractive thing is the availability and quality of natural raw materials for the extraction of essential oils for numerous purposes.

Oil -- the name is familiar to all of us as it is common in our daily life. When we talk about oil, generally we think of cooking or hair oil. But we know less about the types of oil extracted from natural raw materials that have great medicinal value. So putting aside basic needs, different varieties of oil can be found for different purposes.

Oils can be used to grow hair, iron out wrinkles, sort out digestive problems such as diarrhea or irritable bowel syndromes and bring back to life a person suffering from cardiac arrest. Oils are strong in action in the same way as the herbs from which they are extracted. They have to be strong to survive the inclement conditions of the mountainous region of their original habitat.

Among these, one of the more interesting Nepalese essential oils is from the rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal, which is found at an altitude of 3300-4000 meters. The oil is obtained by steam distillation of the aerial part of this shrub. It is a fluid liquid of a pale yellow color and sweet-herbal, faintly balsamic aroma. Due to altitudinal and regional variations, some oils are soluble in 95 percent alcohol and some are not. Rhododendron can be used for gouty rheumatic conditions. The essential oil is a stimulant and affects fibrous tissue, bones and the nervous system.

Some Important Medicinal Oils

Name: Botanical Name

1. Rhododendron Oil: Rhodendron Anthopogonoides
2. Artemisia Oil: Artemisia Valgaris
3. Calamus Oil: Acorus Calamus
4. Citronella Oil: Acorus Calamus
5. Chamomine Oil: Matricaria Chamomilla
6. Zedoary Root Oil: Curcuma Zedoaria Roscoe
7. French Basil Oil: Ocimum Basilicum
8. Eucalyptus Oil: Eucalaptus Globulus Labille
9. Jatamasi Oil: Nardostachys Jatamansi D.C
10. Juniper Berry Oil: Juniperus Communis
11. Lemon Grass Oil: Cymbopogon flexuosus
12. Mentha Arvensis Oil: Mentha Arvensis
13. Palmarosa Oil: Cymbopogon Martini Motia
14. Sugndha Kokila Oil: Cinnamomum Glaucescens
15. Winter Green Oil: Gaultheria Fragrantissima Wall
16. Zanthoxylum Oil: Zanthoxylum Armatum
17. Valerian Oil: Valeriana Officinalis
One of the most used in the clinic is jatamasi oil, which belongs to the family called valerianaceae. It is the only species of this genus found in Nepal (HMG/Nepal 1976). Jatamansi grows in the Himalayan regions at an altitude of 3300-5100 meters. This plant is about 45 centimeters high with scented roots scattered underground. Its name is derived from the Tamil language. Its roots and stem can be used for curing head, eye, stomach and kidney pains.

Jatamansi oil can be employed in the treatment of many varieties of convulsive conditions. It is used in cases of heart palpitations (even as a substitute for valerian). Tibetan herbalists use jatamasi oil for the purpose of hair growth and color restoration. The herb is used in tribal medicine for incurable skin conditions and is believed to contain anti-aging properties.

The appropriate time for harvesting jatamansi is October through December. Jatamansi oil is obtained by steam distillation of dried rhizomes of nardostachys jatamansi D.C. The oil of jatamansi varies from amber to deep blue or greenish blue. Due to its great importance, the market value of jatamasi varies from U.S.$150 to $200 per kilogram, according to one seller of this product.

We have to realize that, according to the World Health Organization, over 80 percent of the world's population relies on traditional forms of medicine, largely plant-based, to meet primary health care needs. Almost 75 percent of raw materials in the pharmaceutical industry utilize natural medicinal plant matters.

More than 90 percent of people depend on agriculture for food, but are always below the sustainable level. The farmers of Nepal can generate a good income by practicing the farming of medicinal plants. For this they need proper guidelines and help from both economic and technical points of view. Therefore, governments should make strategies for the conservation and management of our natural resources. They need to implement a workable framework so that short and long-term planning can be put into practice.

Related Articles
Biodiversity: a Valuable Part of the Bounty of Nature
Rhododendrons the Soul of Nepal

©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Bishnu K.C.

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