1.4 Distribution of Medicinal Plants:
In terms of life form medicinal plants are equally distributed across habits viz trees,shrubs and herbs. Roughly one third of the known medicinal plants are trees and equal proportion is shrubs and the remaining one third comprises of herbs epiphytes, grassesand climbers. Very small proportions of the medicinal plants are lower plants like lichens,ferns, and algae. The majority of medicinal plants are higher flowering plants. The major families in which medicinal plants occur are Fabaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Asteraceae,Poaceae, Rubiaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Apiaceae, Convolvulaceae, Malvaceae, andSolanaceae.
The industrial uses of medicinal plants are many ranging from traditional medicines,herbal teas and health foods as nutriceuticals to galenicals, phytopharmaceuticals andindustrially produced pharmaceuticals.Medicinal plants also constitute a source of valuable foreign exchange for mostdeveloping countries as they are a ready source of drugs such as quinine and reserpine, of galenicals like tincture and of intermediates in the production of semi synthetic drugs.
2. India and its medicinal wealth:
India is well known as an Emporium of medicinal plants. Knowledge of medicinal use of plants in India is amassed over millennia by tribals. For thousands of years Indian plantshave been attracting attention of foreign countries. People from countries like China,Cambodia, Indonesia and Baghdad used to come to ancient universities of India likeTakshila (700BC) and Nalanda (500BC) to learn health science of India. Dioscoridesmentions many plants including datura smoke for treating asthma, nux vomica for paralysis and indigestion and croton as purgatives.It is evident that the Indian people have a tremendous passion for medicinal plants anduse them for a wide range of health related applications from common cold to memoryimprovement and treatment of poisonous snake bites to a cure for muscular dystrophyand the enhancement of body’s general immunity. There are estimated to be around25,000 effective plant based formulations available in the indigenous medical text used infolk medicine and known to rural communities all over India. Medicinal plants provideraw material for use in all indigenous systems of medicine in India namely Ayurveda,Unani, Siddha, and Tibetan medicines.
2.1 Indian Floral Elements:
India is a treasure chest of biodiversity which host a large variety of plants and has beenidentified as one of the eight important
centers of origin and crop diversity.Wide variation in climatic, meteorological and topographical conditions prevailing inIndia due to its vastness makes it the repository of perhaps the most varied and luxuriantflora growing anywhere on the surface of earth. Indian flora is not only rich but verycosmopolitan. There is naturally a preponderance of genera and species of the adjacentcountries. Chinese, Malayan and Burmese floral elements are seen in the eastern regionof the country while European and Middle Eastern flora occur in the north western parts.African, Australian and American elements occur in some part or the other. In the alpine