Most people know orchids as either wild flowers or flowers which are sold at high rates by florists. However, apart from being an important part of ecology, orchids are also useful for humans. To popularise the usefulness of commonly available orchids as medicinal plants, the Herbal Research and Development Institute (HRDI) at Gopeshwar has established an orchid herbal garden. The aim of this initiative is to raise awareness on medicinal properties of orchids among various stakeholders and to sensitise the public about traditional knowledge related to medicinal orchids. The most fascinating groups of plants, orchids-apart from being well known for their beautiful and fragrant flowers, also have many members which are of great medicinal importance.
They are found growing on trees, rocks and ground and even on dead and decaying matter. Twenty-five thousand orchid species have been identified around the world. Some are dainty with monochromatic petals while others have big bulbous bodies and loud patterns like bright spots or stripes. Still others have the look, smell, and feel of a female bee or resemble a monkey’s face. With respect to their growth and development Mandal valley in the Chamoli district is well known for the wealth of orchids it sustains. Some species like Dendrobiumnobile, Eulophiacampestris, Orchislatifolia, Vanda roxburghiiand Vanda tessellatahave been documented for their medicinal value. Many orchids are reported to contain alkaloids, flavonoids and have antimicrobial activities.
Ashtavarga, a group of eight medicinal plants, is a vital part of Ayurvedic formulations like Chyvanprasha and four of these plants --Riddhi, Vriddhi, Jivaka and Rishbhaka belong to the family Orchidaceae. Dendrobiummacraei is another important orchid used in Ayurvedic medicine as it is reported to be the source of Jivanti.
The HRDI director Chandra Shekhar Sanwal states that orchid herbal garden developed by the institute at its Mandal campus aims to raise awareness among the common masses to promote the use of orchid for medicinal value. One can enjoy the beautifully landscaped garden and also learn how to grow them, their uses as herbal remedies.